Newspaper Finding Aid for Genealogists
Old newspapers are one of a genealogist's most useful sources. We can sometimes learn more about our ancestors by reading notices about them in their local newspaper than we can learn from official public records. Just as important, we can put them in the context of their time by reading news of their day.
The problem is not finding the ancestor in the newspaper; it's finding the newspaper in which the ancestor might appear. Of course, we are happiest when we can find newspapers without paying for the privilege of perusing them. The University of Pennsylvania has published an extensive list by state of U.S. newspapers found online with links to appropriate websites, http://guides.library.upenn.edu/historicalnewspapersonline.
The listings are by state, with the newspaper titles and time period for which they are available. Clicking on the title link takes you to that newspaper's digitized images. For many of the newspapers there are significant gaps in dates available. Seldom is the entire library of a newspaper offered.
Since each of the available newspapers is available because some local entity did the digitizing and placed it online, there is no consistency among them. You may find a search box accepts a date, key word, or both. You may find only images of the front page of the paper.
Some display a list of dates available from which you can choose which images to display. If you are fortunate, a search may produce an image of the relevant article or an image of the entire page with the article highlighted in some way to help you find it.
Images vary in quality, from illegible to extremely readable. Usually, there will be a way to magnify the image until the type is legible, but you may need to hunt around the page to find the secret. The collection includes some foreign language editions, such as Chung Sai Yat Po (1900-1904) and El Clamor Publico (1855-1859), both in California in Chinese and Spanish respectively.
If this database lacks the newspaper(s) you need, check out GenealogyBank. While this is a subscription site, http://www.genealogybank.com/, it is the best source available for genealogists. A 30 day trial is only $9.95. After that the cost is $19.95/month or $69.95/annually for unlimited access to over 6500 historical newspapers published between 1690 and 2012.
There are quick links to obituaries, birth and marriage announcements, and passenger lists. There is a clickable list by state and city of available newspapers showing titles and dates available. For Cleveland, Ohio, for instance, the Plain Dealer is archived from 1845 through 1991. Entry of a surname and/or first name and date range, if known, quickly returns any relevant article(s).
When you find your target article, you will see an image of the newspaper page with the search terms highlighted. The image can be manipulated as to size and position on the page or presented as a PDF file and downloaded.
If you wish to print the article, clicking "Print" will display the entire page with a box around the highlighted section. This box can easily be resized to include only the portion of the page you want to print. When you print you can designate "Image and Citation," or "Image Only," or "Citation Only." Being able to print the citation on the designated article is a great convenience all databases should adopt.
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15 April 2013