Extra! Extra! Read All About It...
Updated: Nov 3, 2019
If you’ve read any of my personal family history stories (featured in my
52Ancestors blog category), you may have picked up on how much I love old newspapers.
When records simply don’t exist or have been lost in the time and place your ancestor lived, historic newspaper collections may be your best chance at finding them. More frequently, you may have a few records for an individual, but the information in the records barely scratches the surface in telling their real story. Newspapers are authored sources, so they may not be 100% accurate; however, I have found that in addition to providing great details, they often give you the most personal insight into really getting to know your ancestor.
Newspapers are absolute treasure troves for family history research! So how do you find these gems?
Source: “Lititz Man Reunited With Sons He Had Not Seen for 21 Years,” The Lititz Record (Lititz, Pennsylvania), page 1, cols. 4-5; digital image, Power Library: Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library (http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slchs-lnp1/id/19796/rec/1: accessed 13 April 2018).
Location, location, location
It is key to know the specific location and time period you would like to search. After all, most of our ancestors were not national celebrities, but ordinary citizens were quite likely to be mentioned in their local newspapers.
Did you know that some of these newspapers have been digitized and may be available through local libraries and historical societies? For example, my local library provides a link to our town’s newspaper. There is even a cheat sheet that provides step-by-step instructions on how to search.
Entry portals and collection lists
If you’re not sure which newspaper you need to search, here are a few of my favorite entry portals. Maybe some of these are new to you; if so, they are worth a try!
Free digital collections
You have probably heard of the major digital newspaper collections that require subscriptions (Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank.com, NewspaperArchive.com, etc.), but did you know there are many FREE digital collections? My top three:
Don’t forget about specialized newspapers such as foreign language, religious, or school groups. The more localized and specialized, the more in depth information you are likely to find! Happy searching!