I see that question pop up every few days on Facebook genealogy pages, on various websites, and I often get asked that when I present lectures at seminars and conferences. The answer? The best one for your family history research is the one that has the newspapers for your ancestral areas!
I am not trying to be flip, but that’s really the correct response. How do you know which one that is? Many sites require a subscription to read the actual articles, but it is possible to see what they have before you click on the subscribe button and give your credit card number.
No matter whether you pay for the subscription or locate a free site with digitized newspapers, be sure to see if they have what you need. Do this even before you take up the offer of a trial subscription. Then check to see the dates that the digitization covers. If you are looking for a 1909 obituary, but the town newspaper on the website, stops at 1890, you need to look elsewhere. Many larger city newspapers printed local news columns or tidbits from around the state, so it could have something you need even though the paper is not from the ancestral home town.
Some tips before paying:
Newspapers.com: Click on the Browse tab and look at the offering by country and then by state or other jurisdiction. For this one, be sure to look at the All Access membership from Ancestry.com. That one includes access to Newspapers.com, Fold3.com, and Ancestry Academy. and of course, Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com and Fold3 do have some newspapers.
NewspaperArchive.com: Click on Browse US Papers or Browse All Papers to see what is included for various localities.
GenealogyBank.com: Scroll down the page to Search U.S., Newspaper Title by State to see what this site has for your ancestral localities.
An archive solely for a specific newspaper: If you are looking for the Hometown Dispatch and it does have an online archive, it will generally be just for that specific title. It may not go back as far as you need and could offer a combination of fee and paid articles.
This post does not include all subscription websites. Your public library may offer access to some of these and others with digitized newspapers. Our library cards become more valuable all the time.
In a future post, I will cover some of the websites that have free access to digitized newspapers. Another post will cover places to determine what does exist in microfilm or digitized versions for your ancestral localities.
© 2015, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.