Newspaper records are scans, microfilms, or physical copies of old newspapers that have been kept or archived in case they are needed for historical research.
You should research newspaper records because they are rich with information about the comings and goings of people from the past. Not only do they have records of births, marriages, and deaths, but you can also learn if your relatives ever played in local sports or won any championships. If your forebear was a prominent citizen, it’s likely you would see them in the local newspaper records.
You can find the bulk of newspaper records online. There are many databases that have old newspaper records. You can try the following resources:
If you don’t find what you are looking for online, there are places where you can search for newspapers in real life. Newsprint is a cheap paper that is hard to archive properly, but you might be able to find scans or microfilms of them in one of your local university libraries or public libraries.
If you can’t find them in either of those places, check a local historical society. These organizations might also keep records of old newspapers.
You should be looking for biographical information about your forebears in newspaper records. Newspapers were important tools for communication in the days before the internet. It was a way to publicize births, deaths, marriages, and other local news. You can expect to see obituaries, birth announcements, marriage announcements, and sometimes even more.
The smaller the paper, the more likely you are going to see information about local public schools and events in your town. For example, you might find that your ancestor won a spelling bee or a local award which might be highlighted in your local broadsheet when it happened.
Here are some tips on what to do once you decide you want to research your family history in newspaper records.
Your search will go more smoothly the more specific you are. Make a list of the family members you want to learn about and focus on. Go down the list, one at a time.
Once you narrow your search to a particular relative, you can figure out the best way to go about researching them. If you know they moved from a certain county or went to a certain school, you can use that as a jumping-off point for your search.
When you know the key moments in your forebears’ lives, it also becomes easier to find their stories in the newspapers. For example, you might find some of your family’s stories in your local newspaper records.
If one family member was a particularly gifted athlete or chess player, you can check the sports pages around the time your ancestor played football. You can also look through the lifestyle sections of different time periods to search for recognition of your ancestor’s accomplishments.
You can start your search online and, once you have exhausted those archives, physical records at your local library or historical society.
Be sure you’re ready for anything your research might unearth. If your relative was an early adopter of divorce, particularly scandalous, or had a criminal record, you may find out about it in your local paper.
Good family historians know that it’s best practice to keep a record of everything you find out. If you are looking at online records, take screenshots of pertinent articles and announcements. If you are doing research in person, then familiarize yourself with the archive’s photocopier policies – you’re going to want copies.
If you are doing research in person, call ahead to learn more about the library or archive you will be visiting. There might be a special schedule for visiting researchers or other requirements you will have to straighten out. It’s always safer to check beforehand so you don’t waste a trip.