Tip: Where to Look for Your Ancestors in the Newspaper

Newspapers can be a treasure trove of information about your ancestors. Unlike government records, which are often limited to forms, newspapers can typically include a wide variety of different types of information about the people who live in the towns and cities they serve. Newspapers often go beyond the facts to tell the stories about people’s lives.

If you’re just starting out looking for an ancestor in the newspaper, a common place to begin is with birth, marriage, and death announcements. Although the amount of information provided can vary widely, details you might find in these announcements include:

  • Birth Announcements: baby’s name, birth date, gender, place of birth, parents’ names, family religion, grandparents’ names, mother’s maiden name, sibling names, photos

  • Engagement/Wedding Announcements: wedding date and place, bride’s and groom’s names, parents’ names, family religion, members of the wedding party, guest list, name of minister, where the couple plans to live, description of bride’s dress, details of ceremony/reception/shower, photos

  • Obituaries and Death Notices: death date and place, birth date and place, occupation/interests, military service, past places of residence, notable accomplishments, name and place of residence of close family, mortuary/cemetery, burial date, cause of death, photos

However, births, marriages, and deaths are just the beginning of the places in the newspaper where you might find your ancestors. The possibilities are nearly endless, but some sections in which you may want to look for your family include:

  • Advertisements (business ads, personal ads)
  • Church activities, news, and events
  • Court dockets/jury lists
  • Disaster victim lists
  • Entertainment sections (local theater and performances, school/church productions)
  • Gossip columns
  • Land/home/farm sales
  • Legal notices (divorces, probate, dissolution of business partnerships, sheriffs’ sales, delinquent tax lists, lawsuits, civil and criminal trials, foreclosures, estate settlements, bankruptcies, public sales/auctions)
  • Letters to the editor
  • Local election news/political events
  • Military service information (enlistment, draft, injury/death, letters home)
  • News stories (accidents/wrecks, disasters, crimes)
  • Passenger lists (trains, ships)
  • Personal notices
  • Police blotters
  • School news (honor roll, graduates, teachers)
  • Social news and events (parties, club meetings, out-of-town visitors, hotel guests, community events, contests, holiday celebrations, vacations, fraternal organizations, reunions, anniversaries, memorials)
  • Sports news (local teams, school sports, community leagues)
  • Unclaimed letters lists

Get started looking for your ancestor’s by searching or browsing on Newspapers.com!

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Tip: How to Search by County

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Did you know you can narrow your search by county on Newspapers.com?

Sometimes, limiting your search for your ancestors to just one paper or city may not return all the results you’re looking for, but widening your search to an entire state might return too many to easily sort through. So a county search can come in handy as a middle road between the two, since the results will come from the group of towns nearest where your ancestors lived.

County searches can also be helpful if the town where your ancestors lived didn’t have a newspaper (or if Newspapers.com doesn’t currently have the paper from a town you’re interested in), because it allows you to search papers from nearby towns—and since many papers carried news on residents of other towns within the county, you just might find your ancestor mentioned.

Searching within the papers of a specific county is easy.

  1. On the homepage, type your search terms into the search box. Then select “Add more info.”
  2. In the “Paper Location” box, start typing the name of the county you want to search within. As you type, a list of locations that match your search will automatically appear underneath. (If the county you type doesn’t appear on the list, then Newspapers.com doesn’t currently have any papers from that county.)
  3. Select the county you’re interested in from the list, add a date or date range if you want, then select “Search.”

This will return matches for your search terms that are found within papers in the county you chose.

Another way to get search results from a specific geographic region is to search via the “See papers by location” page. Read more about how to do this here.

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Tip: How Do I Find Out Which Papers are on Newspapers.com?

People often come to Newspapers.com looking for a specific newspaper title or for papers from a certain town where their ancestors lived. They want to know, “Is the paper I want on Newspapers.com?” If you fall into this category, read on to learn three ways you can find out if the papers you’re interested in are on our site.

Browse. If you’re interested in seeing papers for a particular city, Browse may be the most helpful method. To use Browse to find papers, first select “Browse” from the top of any page. This will take you to the Browse flow, where you can choose the country, state, and city you’re interested in viewing papers for. After you select a city, you’ll see a list of which papers for that city are on the site. You can browse even further to see which years, months, days, and pages we have for a given paper.

Papers page. If you want to search for a paper by name, the Papers page is the best place to do it. The Papers page is also helpful if you want to see papers from more than one state or from a particular time period(s). Like Browse, the Papers page can be accessed from the top of any page. Once on the Papers page, you can use the filters in the left-hand column to narrow down the displayed papers to those that fit your criteria. You can filter by paper name or keyword, date, or location—or by any combination of the three.

See papers by location. If you want to see what papers the site has for a geographic region (eastern Kansas, for example), “See papers by location” is the most convenient way to locate them. You’ll find a link to “See papers by location” on the homepage, which will take you to an interactive map. As you zoom in on an area or region, red pins representing newspapers will appear. Selecting a red pin will list all papers for the location. If Newspapers.com doesn’t currently have papers for a city you’re interested in, “See papers by location” is also useful for locating nearby towns with papers on the site.

Once you’ve used one of the above methods to narrow down to a paper (or group of papers) you’re interested in, you may wonder how to get started finding your ancestors within that specific paper. An easy way to begin is by searching, and each of the pages mentioned above provides you with a way to search only within the paper(s) you’ve chosen:

  • From the “Browse“, once you’ve selected a paper, simply type your search terms into the “Search within” field directly above the browse flow. This will return results for only the paper you selected.

  • From the “Papers” page, once you’ve filtered down to the paper(s) you want, enter your search into the “Search within these papers” box at the top right. Searching this way will return results for only those papers matching your filter criteria. .

  • To search within papers you’ve found using “See papers by location,” enter your search into the search box labeled “Search within the area show below.” Doing so will return search results for all papers represented on screen by the red pins.
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Tip: Searching with Wildcards and Boolean Operators

This post was most recently updated on January 25, 2019

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

If a simple search on Newspapers.com for an ancestor’s name isn’t returning the results you want, try including wildcards, quotation marks, or Boolean operators in your search.

Wildcards are great if there are multiple spellings or possible misspellings of a name. Two common wildcards are the question mark [?] and asterisk [*].

  • Use a question mark to replace a single letter. For example, if the person you’re searching for has the surname “Johansen” but you aren’t sure if it’s spelled –son or –sen, you can search [Johans?n], and that will return results for both “Johanson” and “Johansen,” as well as other variations.
  • Use an asterisk to replace multiple letters. If you think there might be a double S in the surname “Johansen,” searching for [Johan*n] will return results for “Johansen” and “Johanssen,” in addition to “Johanson,” “Johansson,” and other possible spellings.

You can also make use of quotation marks to keep two or more words next to each other in the results

  • Use quotation marks to keep first and last name together. For example a search for [William D Johansen] results in 218,116 matches, while [“William D Johansen”] yields 8 matches.
  • Also, don’t be afraid to remove quotation marks from your search term if your not getting the results you want and try filtering by location and/or year to narrow the search results.

Boolean operators can help you focus your search. Two common ones are “or” and “not.”

  • Use “or” between your search terms to return matches that have either (or both) of your terms. For instance, if you are searching for news stories that mention either William Johansen or his brother, John, you can search for [“William Johansen” OR “John Johansen”] and the search will return results with matches for just William Johansen or just John Johansen, as well as results with both names.
  • Use “not” between search terms to help eliminate irrelevant results. If you are searching for “William Johansen” but you don’t want to see any results that also talk about his brother, John, you can search for [“William Johansen” NOT “John Johansen”], and that will get rid of any matches for William that also mention John.
  • Another example of using “not”  is for common phrases or places. A last name like Francisco may return search results for the city of San Francisco. Search [“Charles Francisco” NOT “San Francisco”].

So if you’re having trouble finding the right person in your search results, try using wildcards, quotation marks, or Boolean operators!

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Newspapers.com . . . Not Just for Genealogy

Content Update

Why do you use Newspapers.com? To look for information on your ancestors? To research a specific topic? To learn more about a certain time or place? Newspapers.com members are taking advantage of all of these possibilities. Though genealogy is one of the most common uses, our members are utilizing our historical newspapers to do all sorts of unique research.

For instance, paderamo is researching historical chess matches, while ramblinkc is reading up on local sports of decades past. Cupper1001 is looking into Pennsylvania articles about railroads, and jrtate_lotbl is clipping stories on crime in Raleigh, North Carolina. Other members are interested in general local history, as seen in kinnelon59‘s research into happenings in Duryea, Pennsylvania, or cruther64‘s into Hamilton, Ohio. Sometimes members’ interests even overlap, like smkolins‘s and DrTroxel‘s clippings on the Baha’i Faith.

Tiny Gos Makes Career Out of Going to SchoolBut you don’t necessarily have to be researching a particular subject to find fascinating articles. Among various members’ clippings, you can find articles about a family who walked 1,200 miles to talk to the president, as well as a court case where the faithfulness of the defendant’s wife convinced the judge to lower his sentence. Other interesting articles that have been clipped recently have included ones about a dog who made a “career out of going to school,” a “forgotten bomb” that exploded in a courthouse, and a man who trapped rats as large as cats. And don’t miss this photo a user found of Albert Einstein and his sister. Can you spot the family resemblance?

Curious about what other Newspapers.com members are up to? Try visiting their profile pages or the “All Clippings” page.

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6 Tips for Searching Obituaries on Newspapers.com

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Newspapers.com is a valuable resource for locating your ancestors’ obituaries and death notices. Our indexed digital newspapers make the process much easier than sorting through hard copies or microfilm. Perhaps the most convenient way to find obituaries on our site is by using the “search” feature. While Newspapers.com’s “search” is straightforward and easy to use, you can make your searches even more effective by using a few of the following tricks and tips:

  1. Learn how to use Newspapers.com’s “search” feature. This tip may sound obvious, but it’s essential. Searching for obituaries will be a lot easier if you’re already familiar with how to do a general search of the papers on our site. For instance, did you know that you can narrow your results by date, state, and/or paper? If you haven’t watched our helpful “Searching Newspapers.com” video yet, do it!

  2. Add key terms to your search. Say you’re searching for the obituary of John Bair. If you search just for [“John Bair”], you’ll get many results that don’t have anything to do with a possible obituary. But if you instead search for [“John Bair” obituary], it will narrow down your results to much more likely candidates. Such key terms include “obituary”, “death”, “died”, “dead,” and “funeral.”

  3. Search using alternative names, nicknames, abbreviations, initials, and common misspellings. If a search of an ancestor’s legal name doesn’t bring up the obituary you want, try different variations of their name. Many older newspapers identified men by their first and middle initials along with their last names, while others sometimes used abbreviations (e.g., “Wm.” for William). If you’re searching in obituaries for a female ancestor, you’ll want to try also looking for her under her husband’s name (or husband’s initials)—for example, “Mrs. George E. Moring”, “Mrs. George (Grace) Moring,” or “Mrs. G. E. Moring.” And don’t forget to try a search using a woman’s maiden name.

  4. Know when to narrow your search and when to widen it. The more information you know about your ancestor, the easier it will be to narrow your results to find their obituary more quickly. For example, if you know your ancestor lived between 1870 and 1928 and spent their whole life in Kansas, you can narrow your search to those parameters of time and place to get rid of many superfluous results. However, don’t automatically discount results from a wider search just because they’re not from the city or state where your ancestor died. Obituaries may have been published in the place where they spent the majority of their life instead of the one where they died. Or obituaries may be in newspapers from the city where the deceased’s relatives lived.

  5. Save your search. If you didn’t find the obituary you want, save your search by selecting the “Save/Notify” button in the top-right corner of your search results (watch this video for more details on how to do this). By doing so, Newspapers.com will automatically notify you when any newspapers are added that fit your search criteria.

  6. Don’t be afraid to browse instead of search. Newspapers.com uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to find names and terms in the newspapers. However, while OCR can locate many instances of the words you’re searching for, it isn’t 100 percent accurate, especially for newspapers that are in poor condition. So if a search doesn’t turn up an obituary you’re looking for, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not on Newspapers.com. It just may mean that you’ll have to look for the obituary the old-fashioned way, going through likely newspapers page by page until you find what you’re looking for.

Ready to begin searching for those obituaries? Get started on our Search page.

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Tip: Using “Share”

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Many of us have—at some point in our lives—probably been sent a newspaper clipping that a friend or family member thought we’d enjoy. Or we’ve given a clipping to others ourselves. Now, on Newspapers.com, you can quickly and easily share your newspaper clippings online rather than dealing with cutting and sending paper copies, which can smear or fade over time.

It’s easy. Once you clip an article on Newspapers.com, the option will automatically appear for you to share that article via email or social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Pinterest—or you have the option to get the code to embed the article in your own website or blog. When you share a clipping in any of these ways, others can view it without having a Newspapers.com account.

If you want to share a Newspapers.com article that you’ve clipped previously, simply go to “Your Clippings” from the dropdown menu in the top right-hand corner of our website. Then either mouse over the clipping you want to share or click or tap it. Either will give you access to the “Share” button, which you can select to access the different share options.

If you’d still rather share a hard copy of an article you’ve found, you can print your clipping by selecting it from “Your Clippings” and choosing the “Print” option. When it prints, it will include not only the article but the newspaper name and article date as well.

For other tips on using Newspapers.com, visit our “Newspapers.com basics” page.

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Browsing on Newspapers.com

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Searching a newspaper by keyword is a modern convenience. Historically—and by necessity—newspapers were intended to be perused page by page. Today, we call such online perusing “browsing.”

Browsing newspapers online can be especially enlightening. It’s a great mix of history and modernity. Start with a location, time period, or paper. Then, page by page, story by story, read up on how people lived, worked, and played. Discover how communities handled newsworthy—and not so newsworthy—daily events: social, political, meteorological, and beyond.

From natural disasters to sports, from obituaries to society columns, our ancestors learned about their neighbors in black and white. Today, you can browse the papers on Newspapers.com and meet your ancestors’ neighbors. Read about their joys, tragedies, and scandals; how the crops fared; or if the merchants had a good year.

Once you’ve located an item of interest, searching within a browse can take you to additional stories quickly. While browsing a 1931 issue of The Altoona Herald in Iowa, a notice about F. J. Dunkle’s new store in Berwick caught this staff reporter’s eye.Newspapers Browse Screen

To learn more about the store and Dunkle, select the “4 June 1931” breadcrumb* above the viewer to open the browse menu. Navigating left and selecting “1931” in the menu for year highlights that year and isolates a search to stories in that particular paper for 1931 only. Typing the words Dunkle and Berwick in the “Search within” box at the top leads to search results with front-page news on February 12: “Berwick Store Burns.” Reassuringly, we also discover that by July 23, Mr. and Mrs. Dunkle had “moved into their new home above the store” from an article that likewise mentions which of their neighbors were busy with trips, parties, and picnics that same week.Search Within Screenshot

Because of the idiosyncrasies of OCR indexing, there are times when you know there’s a story within the pages of a particular edition, but a search doesn’t find what you’re looking for. That’s when you can enjoy reading a newspaper the old-fashioned way online—by browsing. The only experiences you’ll miss out on are the smells and rustle of the paper, and the ink rubbing off on your fingers.

* Breadcrumbs is an online navigation term describing the trail of links, usually at the top of a webpage, leading you back along your path to where you started. Fortunately, a path created by online breadcrumbs is more successful than the one left by Hansel and Gretel.

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Tips: Save/Notify

Newspapers.com Tips, Hints, and Helps

Most of us perform our favorite searches over and over, hoping to find new information about people or events we’re particularly interested in. At Newspapers.com, we make it easy for you to save those searches so you can repeat them more easily in the future. And, even better, we will email you to let you know when new papers are added that contain matches for your saved searches.

It’s all done via the “Save/Notify” button in the upper right corner of every search results page, just below your user name. Let’s say you’re interested in contemporary reports in Massachusetts newspapers about the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg.

Davenport Democrat

After you perform the search, simply click the “Save/Notify” button on your search results page. Once clicked, the button will read “Saved” and you can click it again if you decide to “Unsave” it.

Davenport Democrat

Now, as millions of pages are added to the site each month, you will not have to redo the search yourself to catch the most recent additions. Newspapers.com will do it for you and send an email when you have a new match for that specific search.

You can edit your saved search at any time as it appears on your profile page. To get there, click on your user name and choose “Your Profile” and you’ll see not only your clippings and saved searches, but also papers and people you’re following. You can click on any red link in that search box to return to the relevant search results page.

Davenport Democrat

By default, your saved searches are set up for notifications and will be available for others to see. If you’d rather make a search private, locate your saved search and click the pencil icon to edit it.

Davenport Democrat

Click the gear icon at the bottom of the popup window to view your options. You can uncheck “Public” to make your search private, and you can uncheck “Notify me of new matches” to opt out of being notified when new papers are added with relevant matches—although we’re not sure why you’d want to override such a nifty and convenient feature. You can also add a description of your search to help you find it more easily in the future.

If you have a particular search you find yourself doing repeatedly, choose the Save/Notify feature on Newspapers.com so you’ll know when we’ve added something you may be interested in.

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Tip: How to Save to Ancestry.com

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

If you have both a Newspapers.com account and an Ancestry account, you can easily save something you’ve found on Newspapers.com to your Ancestry Family Tree.

  1. Once you’ve found newspaper content you want to save to your Ancestry Family Tree, make a clipping of it, and then in the popup box that appears, select the green button with the Ancestry logo. (You can alternatively select the green “Save to Ancestry” button at the top of the viewer, which will allow you to select the portion of the page you want to clip and save to Ancestry.)
  2. After you selected the “Save to Ancestry” option, a popup box will appear that will allow you to sign in to your Ancestry account. Once you’re signed in, select the tree and then person that you want to associate the clipping with, and select “Next.”
  3. In the next box, you can add or edit information about the clipping, including the title, date, location, and comments. If you want the clipping to appear on the person’s LifeStory page on Ancestry, simply make sure the “Show on LifeStory” box is checked. If you don’t want it to appear on their LifeStory, uncheck the box. Then select “Save.”

And that’s it! The clipping will now be saved to Ancestry and will appear on your ancestor’s LifeStory. You can also access it on the person’s Facts or Gallery pages.

If you have a clipping you’ve created in the past that you want to now save to Ancestry, all you need to do is go to the clipping (accessible from the My Clippings page), and select the green “Save to Ancestry” button at the top. Then follow the same instructions as above.

Find more helpful tips at the Newspapers.com Help Center!

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