Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Find Digitized Newspapers 

Newspapers often tell us where and when our ancestors were born; they provide elaborate descriptions of marriage ceremonies; and they print those florid obits we love to find. But that’s not all we can discover in their pages. Graduation exercises, school plays, county fair prizes, visits by other relatives from far and near, legal notices of tax arrears, fraternal lodge meetings, participation in sports teams, church socials—town newspapers chronicled every event in our ancestors’ lives.

image: Wikimedia Commons

Which of the following two sentences makes you feel that Patrick Hanlon was a real person? “In 1901 Patrick Joseph Hanlon played baseball on the local businessmen’s team,” or “One of the most interesting events of the ball game between the Fats and the Leans was when the Hon. P. J. Hanlon caught a swallow as it passed over center field thinking it was a fly ball.” The first example comes from an automated genealogy program biography. The second example comes from a newspaper article in the May 31, 1901 issue of The Sioux County Bee, which describes the ball game, inning by inning (the Fats won, 21 to 16). If you want to make your genealogy more interesting, use newspapers to do so.

Thousands of small town newspapers were published during the 18th and 19th centuries, and many of these papers are now available online. Some companies require subscription fees to access what they have digitized, while other organizations offer their newspaper images for free.

Begin with Wikipedia’s article about online newspaper archives. It tells you which repositories offer their images for free and which require payment to view their images online. It also tells you about newspapers at library sites and lists newspapers from all over the world from Algeria to Venezuela. External links to other collections of old newspapers are at the end of the article which is available at

The Ancestor Hunt has a good collection of links to connect you with newspapers at

Historical Newspapers and Indexes On The Internet is available at

Historical Newspapers Online is at

The Library of Congress has browsable newspapers listed by state at

If you are looking for newspapers published outside the United States, search the world’s historical newspaper archives at Elephind

ICON’s page links to past, present, and prospective digitization projects of historic newspapers. The focus is primarily on digital conversion efforts, not full-text collections of current news sources, but it is an interesting website to visit if you want to know about future projects being planned at

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