Your Ancestor’s Daily Paper

Today with so many current print items (newspapers and magazines) no longer actually printed, but rather in digital format, it can be a great advantage that our ancestors did have the traditional print newspaper, that they were saved and now can be in a digital form to be viewed anywhere, anytime.  The newspapers of yesteryear were filled with everyday events of its citizens.  There was plenty of coverage of the crimes and political events in a city or town, yet the part a genealogical truly enjoys are the daily happenings in their relative’s live.

Not only the social happenings such as marriages, engagement parties, but also events involving the schools, picnics, visitors from out of town, civic and fraternal organizations, new products introduced in the local store, illness of neighbors or parades for celebrations could be found in newspaper big and small.

The digital age has now allowed those fragile papers to be scanned, not only for preservation but to be shared around the world. Many newspapers can be viewed on fee subscription sites such as or there some free collections of newspapers also online, such as Free Newspapers Archives.

This free site does have a wide range of newspapers, all very easily viewable. On the Homepage they have sections divided into National Collections, and then various regions across the country are separated into the South, Northeast, Midwest and Out West.  The last section is titled Special Collections.

If you are interested in locating newspapers for the state of Iowa, you click on the Midwest section.  There will be Iowa and some nine different city, town and county newspapers ranging from the 1850s to 2007.  Not all locations, all newspapers or all time frames are available; it really does vary from state to state.  With a little luck just the area you are researching could be in the listings.

The site offers a brief description of each newspaper, what is good or bad about how the material is usable. Most of the newspaper sites redirect you to the original source.  For example; the Quincy Public Library has the Quincy Historical Newspaper Archive online covering Quincy, Illinois from 1835 to 1890. Most sites will have a search box or a link to click on to start a search.

After beginning a search generally use a broad keyword or a surname.  Any very common surnames can still be used if you are suing a small town newspaper. Don’t try to limit yourself to a set of dates, unless you know that ancestor was only in the area for a set time.

Viewing a selection is done a couple different ways.  It may come up in PDF (Portable Digital Format) or DJVU which allows zooming into an article for easier viewing. Others will have just the article with the surname or keyword highlighted or you could select to view the full page with the article. Most do give you the opportunity to also print out the article or the full page.  This allows you to have a hard copy for your files.

Another method to save the text of an article is to click on the beginning of the article, hold down the ‘shift’ key and highlight the article by moving the mouse to the end of the article or just the paragraph if that is all you needed. After being highlighted, hold down next the Ctrl (control) key and the ‘C’ key and it is now copied to the computer’s ‘clipboard.’  Open up a new blank document and then paste or (‘ctrl’ plus ‘V’ key) to attach the article to the blank page.

Reminder, that articles of people and events from other parts of the country will appears in newspapers hundreds of miles away. Explore all the different sections offered on this site, Free Newspaper Archives; your ancestor’s daily paper is ready for you to read.

The newspaper article above appeared in 1932 in Provincetown, Massachusetts, yet the news item happened in Missouri and was carried by a Kansas newspaper.

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