Explore the Past With These 3 Free Newspaper Archives

Whether you’re looking for an elusive obituary or a family scandal, free newspaper archives are an excellent resource for filling out your family tree. In fact, many online archives make it so easy to search decades of ‘dusty’ old papers, you might find that it’s awfully easy to lose yourself in the past.

We’ve gathered together a list of three of our favorite places to find free access to old newspapers. Each is worth checking out since they all have their own collections and dates of publication to offer (with some overlap). Of course, there are many good paid services that offer newspaper records as well but we have focused on including resources below that require no payment for access.

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3 Free Newspaper Archives to Help You Grow Your Family Tree

Free Newspaper Archives

Google News Archive:  This is probably our favorite free newspaper archive because it is so expansive. Records are available from across the globe and many predate the 19th century. Specific articles that your search term appears in are highlighted in blue on the scanned page–making finding those missing details on the family tree quite efficient. Unfortunately, the future of this resource has been at question more than once, and this fact is reflected in the poor search options and structure. Still, it is a valuable archive and regular usage shows Google that it’s one worth investing in.

Chronicling America: With records stretching from 1836 to 1922, this massive archive from the Library of Congress is not to be missed. The millions of digitized records in this collection have been pulled from a much larger archival initiative, the United States Newspaper Program, which has worked to save newspapers across the US dating back to 1690. Search for an ancestor, or spend some time learning about what their lives were like, by reading through the fascinating stories in these old papers. You’ll want to take a look at their interesting data visualization for these historic records as well. Read our detailed how-to for using this archive here.

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Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection: This excellent resource from the University of Illinois offers more than a million scanned pages from 45 newspapers across the US. The earliest pages are from 1831. The site is easy to use and a transcript of the text is available to the left of every image. Like Google News Archive, the article containing your search term is highlighted on the page to make finding what you’re looking for simple.

Update – here’s a 4th archive we recommend. 

Fulton History: A huge resource with over 35,000,000 pages for the US and Canada. This collection was put together by a passionate researcher and although it is a bit oddly laid out, the archive offers many newspapers found nowhere else.

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Looking for a country, province or state specific historic newspaper archive? Wikipedia has a huge list of free and pay for access newspaper services from around the world here. They also have listed some fascinating free collections for specific historical events, time periods and topics of interest — such as the Densho Japanese internment camp newspapers from the 1940s and the Handwritten Newspaper Project (with records dating back 59 BCE).

Note on Searching Old Newspapers:

When searching, it’s always important to remember that your ancestors’ names may have been spelled incorrectly, or variations may have been used that were common at the time. Newspaper record searches don’t often do a very good job of accounting for these variations, so you may need to spell out the possibilities one by one yourself.

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In addition, items of regional interest could sometimes spread nationally, so check papers beyond your ancestors’ home towns–especially if you think they may have been mentioned in a scandal or trial. Take advantage of phrase and Boolean searches as well (which many archives support) by placing the “exact phrase or name you are searching for” in quotation marks and/or using AND, OR and NOT to refine your results. This is especially important when seeking out individuals in your tree with common surnames.

What newspaper archives have you used?

You might also like: This Revealing Newspaper Section May Hold Fascinating Details About Your Ancestors

Originally published March 2015

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15 thoughts on “Explore the Past With These 3 Free Newspaper Archives”

  1. Can you please assist me with free sites for Chattanooga, Tennessee l Marion County, Tennessee l Tennessee State ?

  2. ISO fathers birth family. He was told he was born in Hennepin Co. MN. Jan 1, 1910. His adopted parents were Oren Haskins and Sadie Hinds Haskins. He believed his birth surname was some form of Martinson. His adopted name is Roy Haskins.

    I did find a Roy Martinson age five months in the 1910 census living with several other infants all with different last names in the Addie K. Bliven residence. Mrs.A.K. Bliven was listed in the 1910 Minneapolis City Directory under Asylums, Homes and Hospitals. I have not been able to find any records for this home and I was told the state didn’t require adoptions to be recorded before.1915.

    I have received some really strong DNA matches (99%) with names unfamiliar to me. Christopherson, Christofferson, Larson, Pederson, Larsdatter. Does anyone with theses names have knowledge of an adoption at that time?

  3. I’m looking for adoption records for a baby boy born March 23, 1896 either in or near Stockton, CA, San Joaquin County or Santa Rosa, CA, Sonoma County. He was adopted and raised by Newton and Anna Wyatt and was given the name Lyston Wyatt. He is my grandfather and we would really like to know more about his biological parents. Is very possible his biological father was of Jewish decent and his mother French. Also most likely there is a connection to the Seventh Day Adventist church.

  4. Am looking for the grave site for Frank Taubert. He was born 5-17-1910 in Aberdeen, SD and died in a Sioux City, IA hospital on 6-29-1926. He was 16 years old and died from a gunshot wound. The Sioux City newspaper said he was to be buried in Ponca, NE but I cannot find where he was buried anywhere. I checked the cemeteries in and around Ponca and the entire Dixon County and could not find a listing. He was orphaned at a young age and was living with an aunt and uncle, Frank & Susie Rust, in Ponca, when he was shot. The Rusts are buried in Ponca but Frank is not buried by them…I thought maybe in an unmarked grave, but the cemetery doesn’t have him listed either. Can you help?

    1. Thanks for your response. I finally received his death certificate from the state he died in (Iowa). It states he is buried in Elk Point, SD but so far, have not found out where. There is a family plot there, but Frank is not listed there.

  5. Trying to find a newspaper in or near Ipswich Mass between 1920-1926 regarding a crime or something like it pertaining to a ancestor of mine but don’t know how to go about it….Help!!!!!!

      1. If you are local to Ipswich, try the local library. Some libraries may still have access online thru ProQuest for newspapers. Good Luck.

      2. Thanks so much I will check it out!!!!! Discovered my fathers name isn’t what he was known as in our family & he always said he didn’t know why his family kept calling him Uncle Willie as he went by Alexander ,,Found in census there is no Alexander but same year as he was born & 2 years younger then his sister is William no Alexanders anywhere,,,,,Found out he left home between 1920-1930 and family were not to speak of him!!!!……There was something that accured in those years and I won’t stop til I find out what but I’m 75 & live inNC now so there is no way I can get to Mass.,,Thanks for your help

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