United States Glossary of Newspaper Terms (National Institute)

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
National Institute for Genealogical StudiesNational Institute for Genealogical Studies.gif

The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Newspaper Records  by Rhonda McClure. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


As with all aspects of genealogical research, there are terms unique to newspapers that you may be unaware of. Understanding what they mean may help you when working with the various bibliographies.

Advertising – the ads found in any newspaper that make it possible for the newspaper to continue publishing. Before the 1900s it was not uncommon to find ads on page one and major headlines on inside pages.

Banner headline – the large, eye grabbing headline that appears on the front page of the newspaper. Such headlines did not become the norm until after 1900.

Broadsheet – another name for the full size newspaper.

Byline – the name of the reporter who wrote the article. In genealogy, you may want to investigate those early reporters, especially of those who wrote memoir type stories.

Covers – in the case of a preprinted cover, it was the part of the newspaper that a small publisher could purchase with stories and national ads already printed on the pages.

Editor – the person edits each edition of a newspaper and makes the day-to-day decisions about the newspaper. In small towns, the editor often did more than edit, he or she often wrote many of the pieces as well.

Folio – a term used to describe the large size pages found in newspapers. The size traces back to a tax passed in 1713 on the number of sheets a newspaper had. The bigger the sheets, the fewer that were needed and the lower the tax.

Foxing – the term that describes the brown spots that often appear on newspapers, especially older ones that were printed on extremely cheap grades of paper.

Masthead – the very top of page one of the newspaper where the title of the newspaper is found along with information about the volume number and date.

Nameplate – contains the same information as a masthead—the title, editor, date, city of origin—but is usually found inside the paper. In early newspapers it was often found on the second page, some early papers from the 1700s this information was often found on the last page of the paper.

Preprinted stock – newspaper pages that publishers could purchase with stories printed on certain pages and in certain columns to cut down on the amount of type setting the small publisher had to do.

Typeset – the method in which individual letters on metal blocks were put together to come up with the banners, words, and sentences that make up the headlines and stories in the newspaper.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US: Newspaper Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.