Newspapers: A Genealogist's Best Friend


If a dog is man’s best friend, certainly newspapers are the genealogist’s best friend. Nearly ubiquitous as a source of information often common in style, format and content, newspapers have been produced for years on national, regional and local levels. The vital historical documents are snapshots of time that identify deaths, birth, marriages, religious and military service. They report crime, arrests, candidates for office, and election results. Legal notices, delinquent tax rolls, casts of local theatrical productions and announcements of business and social events are all carried in newspapers.

Internet sources for historical newspapers, described by Stephen K Ehat, former Director of the Lindon Utah Family History Center, at the 2015 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, could save researchers hours of pouring over brittle, yellowed pages of newsprint or scrolling through reels of microfilm. In many cases the sources are free of charge and, maybe best of all, available online anywhere.

Wikipedia now has links to newspapers in 91 countries. Many of those countries are broken down even further to states or provinces. For example: United States, Iowa, Carroll (Carroll County) historical newspapers, covering dates between 1884 and 2012. Another option is to simply google the location and “digital newspapers,” without quotes, for example: Colorado digital newspapers. Several options are returned, some free and some through subscription, from which you may choose.

Researching in a country other than your own; a country that speaks another language? Submit a query through a translator, like Google Translate to complete your search. How? Simply enter your query into the translator with your native language selected and ask for a translation into the language you want. Example: If I speak English and I want to search for the family name of “Decker” in German newspapers I would go, select English and enter “German digital newspapers” (without quotes) in the box on the left. I would then select German from the pull down menu above the box on the right and I see that German digital newspapers is translated to Deutsch digitalen Zeitungen. I can cut or copy and paste Deutsch digitalen Zeitungen into a search engine and see the results. Google also offers an option to translate the results into the language of the original query, in this case English, and the results can be reviewed in a language the researcher understands.

Depending on the researcher’s search criteria, he or she will want to consider whether to query “German digital newspapers” or “Germany digital newspapers.” Newspapers in the German language are and have been published in many countries. Thus asking for “Germany digital newspapers” could limit the researcher’s search to only those newspapers published in Germany.

One sees reports about the decline of the newspaper industry. Certainly the loss of such a hearty source of historical and genealogical information is cause for concern. One can only hope other sources of news are as preciously and readily archived. Yet, because of the historical strength of the newspaper industry, newspapers provide an excellent and lasting source of genealogical information and clues. Like man’s best friend, they just need a little attention.

Stephen K. Ehat has done genealogical research in American, German, French, Irish and Italian records. Some of the newspaper sources he suggests include:

Below are a few sample of some states’ Newspapers:

Related Articles:

Digital Historical Newspapers

How to Begin a Search for Your Ancestor

Great Web Tools for Searching Historic Newspapers


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