Once upon a time, before the internet existed, you had to read articles in newspapers and magazines. When you wanted to go back in time and find an old article, you had to go to a library and go through their periodicals.
Now, as with so many things, you can often just go online to find old newspaper articles. Whether you’re looking for a specific article or just want to browse what people were thinking about in 1907, there are quite a few newspaper archives online that store scans or images of old newspaper pages and clippings.
Online newspaper archives
Newspaper archives can be a surprisingly good resource for genealogy information, general research or getting a sense of what the world was like decades before you were born. I love trawling through history because it puts today’s problems into perspective – whatever disasters are happening now, I take comfort in the fact that I can always find similar ones from history, and know the world survived them.
- History Buff has newspapers going back to 1707. Yes, you read the century right, there. The really old ones are British, and do that thing of putting something that looks like an “f” where they mean “s”, so it’s a little confusing to read. But that’s how they were, and it’s authentic. It can be a little slow, particularly if you have a slow connection, so when you get to the thumbnails you want to look at, you have two choices. First, you can wait until it says it’s done “loading preview”, and then hover your mouse over the thumbnails to get a zoom-in view that’s pretty easy to navigate around. Or you can click the link at the top of the thumbnails, and then click the thumbnail you want, and wait patiently for it to load in a scrollable pop-up window. There are some very interesting newspapers to read in this collection!
- GreenFreeLibrary is a free, searchable database. Search for a topic, and you get search engine style results describing all the available articles to read. They’re in PDF form – when you click on an article you want to read, it opens in a frame at the bottom of your page. This frame works just like a PDF tab opening in your browser, but it’s faster. You can zoom in as far as you need to, even more than 100%, and scroll to get all around the page.
- The United States Government has compiled possibly the very best list (gasp, shock) of paid, unpaid and local newspapers online (including some international ones). I normally don’t expect anything so… useful to come from a government, but it did. This is a very helpful list, because keeping up with all the various tiny little local newspapers that have gone online is not easy. This list can help you delve into topics or family history or whatever you’re looking for in a very geo-specific way. It feels so strange to be raving about something the government did. Weird!
- High-Beam Research is a paid archive of newspaper and magazine articles going back to the 1980s. Without buying a membership, you can browse the publications they carry, search out specific articles, and read the first paragraph of an article. With a free trial, you can read everything for a week. High Beam is definitely intended for hard-core researchers, but it’s friendly enough for anyone who knows how to use a search engine or browse through categories in a sidebar. Membership costs $199.95 annually or $29.95 per month. This is pricey if you just want to browse old news, but if you’re looking for something specific or do a lot of historical research, it’s not a bad deal. At least you can know for sure whether they have articles you want before you shell over the money.
- New York Times has archives online, and they’re mostly free for subscribers. You can also get a 99 cent subscription for your first four weeks to try it out (or maybe do all the archive spelunking you were after). Subscriptions range from $15 for website and smartphone access, to $35 with tablet access.
- Google News Archives allows you to search for certain topics online and get something other than today’s most popular search results. Most of the results are from books Google has scanned in, which means in order to read the entire book, you’ll need to go to a library, store or online to get a copy of it. That may be annoying to casual researchers, but if you’re interested in digging deep into a topic, Google News Archives can definitely point you in the right direction.