Newspapers can be a rich source of information for family history. However, you don’t need a subscription to one of the big database sites to access many titles. There are many free sites with large newspaper collections. This is a round up of some of the free online historical newspapers available.
Why you should use free online historical newspapers
Historical newspapers can be very useful in genealogy and sometimes essential. You can find family information in:
- Family notices – birth, marriage and deaths as well as engagements, anniversaries, in memoriam, birthdays and congratulations
- News articles – national and local events
- Letters to the editor
Sometimes announcements in newspapers are the only record that can be found of a particular event. They can also confirm an event in the official records that may be ambiguous, especially if other family members are not named.
Welsh Newspapers Online
This is great free resource from the National Library of Wales. There are 15 million articles from a range of Welsh newspapers dating from the 1800s to the 1910s. If you have Welsh ancestry, you’ll love this site.
For more on Welsh records see: The Best Welsh Genealogy Resources.
I’ve mentioned The Gazette in other posts. This is an often-overlooked free British genealogy resource with records going back 350 years!
The Gazette is the official British government publication of record and is overseen by The National Archives. Editions are archived as soon as they’re published and every issue is accessible online for free.
The content of an edition of The Gazette is made up of notices. These include:
- State and public sector notices such as Acts of Parliament being passed, official announcements, and the Queens honors
- Insolvency notices such as bankruptcy
- Personal legal notices, such as changes of name
- Company notices
In addition to the regular Gazette, special supplements are also published:
- Weekly military supplement
- Weekly Company Law Supplement
- Gazette Extraordinary. This is a special edition only published at times of national importance such as a declaration of war.
I recommend browsing through a recent edition to get an idea of the type of information published. From the main menu hover over “Notices” then select “Publications”. Or click here to go directly to the page. You can download a pdf copy of an issue.
For more on this great resource see: An Amazing Free British Genealogy Resource: The Gazette.
Google Newspaper Archive
Google has hundreds of old newspaper titles from around the world that have been scanned and can be accessed for free. The bad news is that the company’s ambitious plan to digitize a lot more titles was shut down in 2011. The nearly one million pages that were already scanned remain available online. A complete list of what’s available can be found here.
Searching this database is difficult as the Google News search does not work for historical papers. The best option is to find the newspaper title you’re interested in, check to see if the date range is available for the period that you’re looking at, then use Google web search with the person’s name, newspaper title and date. If this doesn’t work, you can browse the newspapers using the toggle buttons.
For more on how Google can help with your research, see: Are You Making the Most of Google For Genealogy?
The aim of Canadiana is to preserve as much of Canada’s documentary heritage as possible. This is a joint venture of libraries, archives and universities. As well as newspapers, there are millions of images of books, periodicals and other culturally significant items. The period covered starts with the years of early settlement through to the beginning of the 20th century.
For more Canadian newspapers see these links.
And for more Canadian genealogy links see: Where to Find Online Canadian Genealogy Records.
United States Online Historical Newspapers
You can find links to free US newspapers by state here.
The Ancestor Hunt
The Ancestor Hunt blog has links to free newspaper sites from around the World:
See the complete list here.
For further reading check out Denise Bates’ book “Historical Research Using British Newspapers”:
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