How to Lookup Old Newspaper Articles

Old newspapers and periodicals provide a lot of information on the overall history and the major events as they occurred at the time. Previously, the only method to obtain this wealth of knowledge was to visit your local library, where older editions of some newspapers and publications may have been archived.

Fortunately, the Internet and content digitization has made everything just a click away. Now, you can get back issues of ancient newspapers virtually as easily as you can in today’s daily newsstand.

If you’re doing research for someone or looking into your family history, or simply want to learn more about the past, historical newspaper sites are another great resource. However, it can be difficult to locate old newspapers at times. 

Fortunately, whether you’re seeking digitized or printed editions, there are a variety of options for finding historical newspapers.

Searching for old newspaper articles in the digital age

Here are some of the best websites for finding and reading old or new newspaper and magazine articles online.

Keep in mind that many of the sites mentioned in various categories will overlap as many of them are using the Library of Congress or other big search engines as their backend. 

1. Free online collections

Google Archives

Google News is an aggregator that Google has created. It organizes articles from thousands of publishers and magazines into a continuous, configurable flow. It divides news into sections such as World, US, Business, Technology, Science, and so on. 

They also have a search option that allows you to look for news by keyword. Also, Google’s search algorithm is used to generate the news that shows on the homepage and in searches. In addition to English, Google News is offered in 35 other languages.

Chronicling America

With the Chronicling America website, you get access to historical newspaper content, is a long-term project to create an Internet-based, searchable collection of American newspapers. It includes descriptive information as well as some historic page digitization. It is a comprehensive digital resource that spans the years 1777 to 1963.

Elephind

Elephind.com is a search engine similar to Google, Bing, or other popular search engines, but it only searches historical, digitized newspapers. The website allows you to search across multiple newspaper websites for free, rather than having to visit each one separately. You can go directly to the newspaper site that hosts that story by clicking on the Elephind.com search result that interests you.

Elephind.com specializes in more niche categories because many of the smaller newspaper websites aren’t well-known and can be difficult to find using traditional search engines.

Newspaper Archive

Millions of newspaper articles from 1607 to the present are sorted by a wide range of subjects, historical events, and surnames. Newspaper Archive is a massive collection of digital materials that spans more than 400 years of history from the United States and other countries.

The Free Library

Since 2003, The Free Library has made available free, full-text editions of classic literary works by hundreds of well-known authors, as well as biographies, photographs, and memorable quotations.

The Free Library recently added a massive collection of periodicals from hundreds of leading publications in the fields of Business and Industry, Communications, Entertainment, Health, Humanities, Law, Government, Politics, Recreation and Leisure, Science and Technology, and Social Sciences to its collection. 

This database contains millions of articles dating back to 1984, as well as newly published articles that are added to the site regularly.

International Coalition of newspapers

This is a database that houses one of the world’s largest repositories. One of the most comprehensive sources of information about notable newspaper collections in print, digital, and microformats is the ICON database. The large and growing database aims to assist libraries in making decisions about how to build, maintain, and preserve their newspaper collections. Icon currently includes 47,654,482 issues from 181,292 publications, spanning the years 1649 to 2015.

2. Library of congress

The Library offers a huge collection of digitized articles from American newspapers published between 1880 and 1922. That being said, there is a drawback to using this site, not all of the articles from these newspapers have been digitized. In reality, the Library maintains an entire record of all newspapers issued in America from 1690 to the present.

The Library provides its newspapers in PDF format, which allows you to download and save them for offline reading. Furthermore, this is the most effective way for someone to research the overall history of newspapers in the United States.

Almost all of the listings in the category could be placed in other sections of this article. These sites are listed here as they do have more prominent placements for non-U.S.-based websites.

  • AllNewspapers is a general directory of newspapers from around the world.
  • NewspaperLinks is hosted by the Newspaper Association of America. So, this is their official gateway to newspaper sites on the internet.
  • Newslink | Newspapers A fairly deep news resource, having nearly 20,000 free media links.
  • Newspapers: This is another newspaper archive that you can try.
  • OnlineNewspapers: This site has a large listing of newspapers around the planet.
  • ThePaperboy links to online newspapers from around the world are listed in this directory. Also, online newspapers are organized by country, with special versions for the United Kingdom and the United States.

4. Paid online access

When you can’t find any source of information about a topic you want to investigate, using paid access to newspaper archives can fix the problem. But all that depends on many things such as the first date of an archived newspaper and others.

As an example, the NewspaperArchive was the first commercial newspaper archive to go online in 1999. So, give it a try and see if that site can show you the information you’ve been looking for for years.

On the other hand, you can use the Ancestry. Talking about web archives, the major goal of Ancestry.com is to help people learn more about their ancestors and fill in any gaps in their family tree. However, the site does include digitized historical newspapers from the 1700s.

Local newspapers (paid access)

It’s a good idea to subscribe to a newspaper to have access to the archives. So, look for the newspaper that is most relevant to the search you’re doing. The majority of newspapers have a paywall, and access to previous content will always need a subscription or payment.

5. Physical newspaper articles

University libraries

As part of their research collections, university libraries frequently maintain historical copies of newspapers. These copies will be available in full-size or microform.

If you are not a student at that university, you may need to register at the library’s front desk. Most libraries will let you sign up for a one-day visitor’s pass so that you can access their resources.

Larger local libraries

Large public libraries, especially those with genealogy departments, may have copies of old newspaper stories on hand. The majority of these newspapers will very certainly be available in microform (microfilm or microfiche) in the future.

Some bigger public library systems, such as the New York Public Library, may also provide online access to digitized reproductions of ancient newspaper stories.

Local historical societies

Look for newspapers from your neighborhood at your local historical society. The historical society for your city or town is probably your best bet if you’re simply interested in articles from local newspapers or the history of your area. Call the society’s main office to make an appointment to look through whatever newspapers they have in storage.

You’ll very certainly need to use the society’s catalog or seek assistance to identify certain newspapers from specific dates that you’d like to examine.

Conclusion

While there are many solutions to search for old newspaper articles through the Internet, in this case, using the ‘simplest’ solution is not always the best one. General search engines will come up with articles from time to time if the keywords are exactly what is needed. 

If the search terms don’t quite match an article title, a person could get lost in long, fruitless time trying to find the right article.

Specific engines focused on newsprint work far better. If an article exists, these news-search engines will almost invariably locate what a person is after.

A caveat to newspaper searches is the advancing age of the internet. Print as a medium is dying. In the last several years, Newsprint companies have been going bankrupt or refocusing on electronic media for distribution.

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