Old newspapers are one of the most helpful resources used by genealogists. They provide information about major events like birth, marriage, and death, as well as information about land transactions, immigration, everyday events, and more. But newspaper research has been problematic in the past, because most newspapers were only available locally.
During the last couple of years there has been a significant increase in the number of Web sites that feature digitized newspapers. Where once we had to personally visit a local repository or hire someone to do the research, now many of these same newspapers are available online. Information about ancestors and their communities is at our fingertips day or night, allowing us to easily search many years of newspapers in a short amount of time.
Most sites have the images and are every word searchable, so you don't have to know the exact date of an event. This will help in finding things that would have been almost impossible to find before newspapers were digitized.
Another option, if you know the newspaper name and time period, is to browse through a newspaper. I have found a wealth of valuable information about family and about the times in which they lived by simply reading old newspapers. Harry Warren was my husband's first cousin, three-times removed. He was the founder of the National Save-A-Life League in New York City and was quoted in the New York Times on many occasions in the 1920s and 1930s on the subject of suicide. Reading those articles have given me an understanding of Harry that would have been hard to acquire from any other type of available records.
Some online sites for digitized old newspapers are:
Ancestry.com has1,000-plus newspapers from the U.S., Canada, and U.K. from as early as the 1700's. Included in annual membership fee.
Footnote.com's collection is from the United States and United Kingdom. Many of the U.S. collection titles are from partner, SmallTownNewspapers.com. The U.K. collection has just one title, London Times, which starts in 1785. Included in annual membership fee.
GenealogyBank.com has 4,400-plus newspapers from 1690 to present. Annual and monthly memberships are available.
New England Historic Genealogical Society (www.americanancestors.org) has 19th Century U.S. Newspaper and Early American Newspapers, Series I 1690–1876. Included with membership.
NewspaperARCHIVE.com has 2,402 newspaper titles which begin in the 1700's. Annual, semi-annual and 3-month memberships are available.
New York Times Article Archive (www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/nytarchive.html ) has articles from 1851 to present. Some articles are free but premium articles have to be purchased.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) is a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The site has newspapers from select states that cover the years 1860 to 1922. There are plans to gradually go back to 1836.
Google News Archive is a search engine that searches the online archives of both subscription and free sites. The time line feature on this site is worth checking out.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers has major U.S. newspapers and also has black newspaper and Civil War era collections. It is accessed through public and educational libraries. Locally, access is through the Denver Public Library.
Many local, university, historical, and state libraries have free digital newspaper collections. Some good examples are the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection at www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org/ and the Denver Catholic Register Historical Archives at www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/1405/Denver-Catholic-Register:-Historical-Archives/.
For additional sites, visit Cyndi's List at www.cyndislist.com/ and XooxleAnswers at http://xooxleanswers.com/newspaperarchives.aspx.
While these online newspapers are convenient, searching can be challenging at times.
Most of the sites use OCR technology for searching. The quality of the technology and search features will vary with each site. Be creative when searching and recognize that spelling accuracy might not be very good. For help, read the search tips on each site before beginning a search. Not every newspaper for every year is online–yet. If you don't find it today, try again in a couple of months since most sites are adding to their collection regularly.