Collection Information

Although the most important piece of information you should know in starting your newspaper search is where your ancestor resided, the search engine becomes especially helpful. Being able to research online databases allows us to discover long-lost relatives who were living in unexpected places and involved in stories we never imagined. Small town dailies are often the only place where the lives of so many are so closely detailed. In the years before international and national news filled big city papers, even they had room to tell about the local heroes, creditor’s claims to estates, stories of local businesses, voter lists, visitors, a duel, a stolen watch, a broken leg or other surprising stories. There simply isn’t a better place to see what was going on in the lives of individuals and families in your family tree and in your ancestor’s community.

Historical newspapers give us the remarkable ability to see history through eyewitness accounts.

They are the day-to-day diaries of community events and include stories of the famous and ordinary people. Beyond much-sought obituaries, newspapers tell us about births, marriages, engagements, school, sports and organizational events, accounts of accidents, and what was going on in the local courts and more.

Sample Images

Search Tips

  • To learn what newspapers are available, go the Card Catalog and select Newspapers and Periodicals, then Newspapers from the filters on the left. Use the Filter by Location options to focus on the area where your family lived. If your family lived in a small town, look for a nearly larger nearby city newspaper which might have included local news.
  • Don’t limit your search to your ancestor’s hometown paper. News stories may have been picked up by newspapers across the country, and often you’ll find obituaries were picked up in former hometowns and in places where other family members lived.
  • If you find too many results, try searching a smaller location such as a county or city name instead of a state. For more results, change to a larger location like a country, or remove the location entry to see all results for the name you entered.
  • Don’t limit your search to your direct ancestors. Search for the names of cousins, siblings, in-laws, and other family members who lived in the same area.
  • Browsing a specific newspaper issue can be a useful way to find information when you know the date and place of a particular event in your ancestor’s life. Use the Card Catalog to find a newspaper you want. Use the "Browse by date" on the newspaper’s main page to display the years of available issues. Find the month and year that matches the event you want, then browse through the newspaper until you find the appropriate section, such as birth or death announcements. You may want to check newspapers for several days around the event.