NMy A2Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

N is for Newspapers

Once upon a time, in those dark, pre-digital days, I wore my eyes out looking at microfilm after microfilm of newspapers like all good family historians.
  • Searching them was dependent on cross-matching clues:
  • Did they advertise a child’s birth?
  • Was there a story about their wedding?
  • What was the weather like that day and dId the bride have to worry about the rain?
  • What did the paper say about them after their death…not to mention if it was accurate.
  • Was their funeral advertised in the public notices and did it mention the surnames of married daughters?
  • How did major regional, national or international events affect them?


One clue led to another as we would weave our way from archive sources and BDM indexes to and from the newspapers. Imagine the time it would have taken to roll through page after page sleuthing for anything else, though occasionally we dabbled in that.Missing friends

We still ask these questions in our research, but what we had no hope of finding before was those blissfully random stories that we can now find, thanks to digitisation. For example, an advertisement by my 2xgreat grandmother looking for her sister; family in the old country seeking “missing friends”; the story of an agricultural show where one great-grandfather exhibited a range of local timbers and another’s baking took out a prize.

(above right) MISSING FRIENDS. (1864, February 17). Freeman’s Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1932), , p. 6.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128802223  

And then there are the advertisements for claimants to estate like this one, or the astonishing 50,000 names mentioned below. You can see that there’s plenty of US news in Australian newspapers.

Missing friends 50000 names cropAMERICA. (1879, February 8). Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954), , p. 7. Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article170496665

Most nation’s have digitised at least some of their papers, but I honestly believe Australia’s program, Trove, is a world leader for all sorts of reasons: crowd-sourced editing of the OCR (Optical Character Recognition); providing highlighting of the search words; and the ability to tag or include in a list to suit your own research. Family historians, as well as academic and ordinary researchers, use it to research a wide variety of topics from life-saving clubs to dolls’ houses.

Incredibly our national government thinks this is not a priority to fund and thus diminish the preservation of our national heritage. There’s been a concerted social media campaign (#fundtrove) on Twitter and Facebook to fight this.

A few other online newspaper collections are as follows:

I’ve found some German newspapers available through Google Books – they’re very difficult to use but perhaps my tips from an earlier post may help.

Papers Past (for New Zealand)

British Newspaper Archives (includes Irish papers) is available through some subscription sites or sometimes, your regional library.

Chronicling America

The Scotsman (a pay-to-view site)

What others would you add? Thanks to my readers for these additions. Also read the comments for further tips, now included below.
Welsh Newspapers Online

Danish Newspapers (>100 years old)

Old Fulton Post Cards

While these focus on papers from their own country/region you might be surprised how often they reference events in other countries (the equivalent of an AAP syndication).

If I had to limit myself to one online resource I think it would have to be digital newspapers. Other records are available elsewhere, but the intimate stories in newspapers about ancestors are so random and found almost entirely thanks to digitisation.

For some handy hints on searching online newspapers try these tips from Ken at The Ancestor Hunt blog.

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

 There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 1500-1599.



32 thoughts on “N is for NEWSPAPERS

  1. Thanks for reminding us about ye ol’ microfilm days! Although I didn’t enjoy the process much of getting seasick, scrolling through the films, I can still remember the excitement of finding an ancestor or two!


  2. I have always found old newspapers fascinating in that they portray the lives of ordinary people at the time. The availability of them online has been a huge advance over trawling through unindexed microfilm versions at archive centres, and I have found reports relating to my family. I live in a rural area, but even our weekly local newspapers are now on the key sites such as Find My Past and Genes Reunited and a great boost to my local history activities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been at it for 30 years this year Rhonda and started back in the days pre-digitisation and pre-Ordinary computers. It was a good way to learn.


  3. I have a couple newspaper subscriptions that have proved very beneficial, but my local newspapers are not included in any of them. I can look at old papers on microfilm at the local library, but the newspapers are not indexed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indexing makes such a difference with newspapers which is why many genealogy societies used to do this “in the olden days.” A long slow haul unless you have a date.


  4. I was just looking for Danish newspapers today – they have been digitised, but they are only accessible to registered users, and “You can register as a user if you have a Danish civil registration (CPR) number and a yellow health insurance card.” And then, according to a Danish member of the facebook group I was discussing this with, even Danish people can only view papers over 100 years old from their own computers – but for less than 100 years, they can only be viewed at 3 locations (one in Aarhuus, 2 in Copenhagen), although apparently schools have some access. Talk about restrictive, and frustrating! Trove and the digitised, OCRed, open access newspapers are just that, a treasure trove, and I wish the politicians would understand what a wonderful, world-leading resource it is.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Rebecca….it is a treasure trove! It must be so frustrating for the Danes and it seems quite contrary to their usual openness. Helpful for those with Danish ancestry.


    2. The Newspaper Collection at The State and University Library, Denmark is based on the Danish Legal Deposit Law. That mans the library receives two copies of every newspaper printed in Denmark – one is kept at The State and University Library and the other one is kept at The Royal Library in Copenhagen.

      By law we have the obligation to preserve the newspapers for the future, but we do not have the right to make them available for free online. The contents of the newspapers are covered by the Danish copyright law, and that means the journalists/photographers/writers etcetera have a right to their works 70 years after the day of their death.

      The Danish newspapers are full of articles and photographs where the name of the journalist/photographer/writer is clearly stated, and we would be breaking the law if we just gave our patrons free access to the information/newspapers in question. We have tried to reach an agreement with the organisations which represent the copyright holders in Denmark in provide free access to newspapers published less than 100 years ago, but we didn’t have any luck.

      All the newspapers in Mediestream Aviser/Newspapers are fully accessible at The State and University, The Royal Library and The Danish Film Institute. All three institutions are legal deposit institutions, and that gives us the opportunity – and right – to make the newspapers available for everybody on those three locations.

      Please feel free to contact me at info@avisdigitalisering.dk, if you have any questions regarding the digitisation of the Danish newspapers, Mediestream Aviser/Newspapers or our Newspaper Collection in general.


  5. I have found so much important family news in the newspapers. It especially helps if they lived in a city that had a column “News for Colored People” or even, in bigger cities, a whole newspaper published by African Americans.

    Finding Eliza

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I had been trying to find the death date of my 2x great grandfather in Liverpool for a long time…. I had no clue! Then I found an ad much like you describe – it was a from a solicitor in a Liverpool paper of 1915.
    “WANTED to know the whereabouts of Tait (Martha Elizabeth), the daughter of the late George Singleton of Liverpool; last heard of about 18 years ago at Montreal.”
    Martha was my ggm. So that gave me the latest date her father’s death could be. I thought the solicitor wanted to tell her of her father’s death, but as I soon discovered her parents had already been dead 9 years! So I think it was to inform her of the illness of her only remaining sibling, her brother who died within the year at age 44.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Trove is definitely the best! I hope that the finances will allow them to continue digitising newspapers. I would be happy to pay a subscription if it means continued expansion!
    Thank you for the Scottish newspaper link. This is new to me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me too Sharon…would be worth every cent. I’ve got some good info from The Scotsman but some may be available in the Brit News Archives…depends on dates.


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