How to Find Old Newspaper Articles Online ... For Free

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Old newspaper articles are a great resource, regardless of whether you're searching for your family's history or writing a school paper. Even if you're just curious about historical events -- the sinking of the Titanic, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address or the price of gasoline in 1915 -- there's nothing quite like seeing the headlines, stories and advertisements from the actual newspapers of the day. While there are several excellent subscriptions sources for newspaper archives, there are also quite a number of free resources. Learn how you can access them.

Instructions

  1. Focus your research. Think about what you want to search for. This may sound like common sense, but it pays to give some thought to the actual search terms you'll be using.
    Say you're searching for news of your grandfather. If his name was Jedibiah Utzenpfeffer, you might have pretty good luck searching just on his name alone. But if grandpa's name was Robert Smith, you'll need some additional details -- like a town he lived in, his job, big events in his life, spouse's name -- in order to narrow down the results.

  2. Search websites that offer newspaper archives. This is where it gets time-consuming. There are a plethora of sites offering links to newspaper archives (take a look at the Resources section). Some feature subscription-based services, but others actually offer free access. Check the websites of actual newspapers if you have an idea of which paper offers what you want. Many papers offer free access to their own archives. However, it can be a trial-and-error process. Just be patient, or go ahead and bite the bullet and pay for a subscription archive service.

  3. Use advanced search tools when possible. If you want old newspaper articles on the sinking of the Titanic, for instance, a search on "Titanic" may bring up tons of articles about the movie, rather than the actual event. But using Advanced Search features to focus results on the time period prior to 1913 will bring up news articles about the actual sinking of the ship.

  4. Go to your local library. Public libraries often feature newspaper archives or even subscribe to a service that offers them. If you're a card holder, you can access these services. Contact the information desk to find out how.

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