Old newspaper articles are a great resource, regardless of whether you’re searching for your family history, or writing a school paper.
Even if you’re just curious about historical events like the Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Battle of the Bulge, or the sinking of the Titanic, there’s nothing like actually seeing the headlines and stories from the newspapers of the day. Even the old advertisments are fascinating. Curious to know the price of gasoline in 1915, or the cost of new shoes in the town where your mother grew up. You’ll be amazed at what shows up as you use the internet to browse old newspaper archives. They’re online, and easy to use, and best of all, a lot of them are absolutely free.
For starters, think about what you want to search for. This may sound like a Big Duh!, but it pays to give some thought to the actual search terms you’ll be using. Say you’re searching for news of your grandfather. If his name was Jedibiah Utzenpfeffer, you might have pretty good luck searching just on his name alone. But if grandpa’s name was Robert Smith, you’ll need some additional details — like a town he lived in, his job, big event in his life, spouse’s name — in order to narrow down the results.
Next step is to head for Google News Archives and begin your search. Google has compiled an incredible resource of old newspaper and magazine articles…believe it or not, their collection of newspaper archives spans more than four centuries. It is the fastest and easiest way to get an overview of the information out there in historical news archives.
Now for the best part. Google’s archives will give you a good feel for how many articles are available, and what they cover. But a lot of the results are from subscription services that can cost a lot to access. Instead, head to XooxleAnswers.com where you’ll find a terrific collection of links to (go ahead, guess) free newspaper archives. Use these to fine tune your search, and get just what you’re looking for.
XooxleAnswers also has pages for international collections of free newspaper archives, historical magazine archives (including Time magazine…a great resource), and even a special page devoted to college newspapers. Lastly, XooxleAnswers also has access to free magazine subscriptions, which is well worth checking out. These are current (not historical) magazines, but hey!….they’re free. I get my weekly issue of PC Magazine for free through these guys.
If the combination of search Google News Archives and XooxleAnswers doesn’t quite get you the historical or genealogical information you’re after, then take a look at a more in-depth article on searching old newspaper files, which should get you well on your way to pulling up the information you’re looking for.
And one last note. I have to mention NewspaperArchives.com as absolutely the best commercial source of historical newspaper articles. It’s not a free service, but it’s very reasonably priced (skinflint though I am, I’ve been a subscriber for years). And they do offer some free content, as well. Definitely worth checking out.
Happy researching, everyone.