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Great Web Tools for Searching Historic Newspapers

Countless millions of historic newspapers all over the world are now revealing their secrets as they are being digitally published online. And that means they are much more accessible to family historians—if they know where and how to find them. That was the essence of Lisa Louise Cooke’s message in her presentation “Tech Tools that Catapult the Newspaper Research Process” given at The National Genealogy Society 2014 Family History Conference in Richmond, Virginia, on May 8th. Cooke is the host of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.

Cooke explained that historical newspapers are rich possible resources for family history information. In their forgotten pages, a determined sleuth can turn up birth, marriage, death records, maiden names, names of ancestors’ friends and relatives, insight into their long forgotten community.

And even photographs—which can also be insightful portals to the cultural or sociological content of an ancestor’s era. Cooke showed an old newspaper photo she discovered online of her mother as a young girl with two friends. Upon closer review, she realized they were dressed up mimicking famous personalities from the popular show Laugh-in from her mother’s generation.

“To find the right newspaper for your research,” noted Cooke, “look for papers in the geographic community where your ancestors were known to live.” And to search those published during the timeframe they lived there.

Cooke demonstrated 6 helpful online tools for finding and searching historic newspapers online.

Stanford University’s Rural Newspaper Initiative plots 140,000 historic newspapers published over 300 years in the U.S. The data comes from the Library of Congress' "Chronicling America" project. You will want to try out the cool slide rule feature that lets you quickly navigate to the year period of interest to your search.

Newspapermap.com is another very nifty interactive tool that lets you hover over a geographic area to quickly see the historic newspapers from that location—and it also includes international publications with Google Translate integrated into the site so you can translate the international papers into your native language.

Chronicling America is the Library of Congress’ Historic Newspaper site. It covers published papers from 1836 to 1922. The online directory provides additional information on countless other American newspapers dating back to 1690.

World Catalog is another free service that provides links to online historic newspapers. You’ll need to register to use it, but an account is free and provides full access to all features. Narrow your search to “newspapers” in the left hand column to focus your search on newspapers only, and you can even insert a zip code to hone in on newspapers from your ancestors’ hometown area.

Elephind.com is an international newspaper search engine that culls through 120 million articles from 1,500 newspapers. The number of new newspapers added keeps growing so you will want to check back regularly.

The Google News Archive, although Google is no longer actively scanning newspapers, can hold some good possible finds for researchers.

Lisa Louise Cooke is the host of The Genealogy Gems Podcast. www.Genealogygems.com.