Find: Serial Fiction on Newspapers.com

News, Finds, Tips of the Month

Nearly everyone knows what it’s like to have to wait for the next episode of your favorite TV show to come out. But what if you had to wait for the next chapter of your favorite book? Your ancestors may have had to do just that!

The Hound of the BaskervillesSerial fiction was a bit like today’s TV shows—but instead of a new episode coming out each week, it was a new chapter, or series of chapters, of a story or book, often published in newspapers, magazines, or stand-alone installments. Some of these “serials” came out daily, some weekly, some monthly, some on other schedules, depending on the author and the publisher.

Serials found popularity during the Victorian period, though they first appeared long before that. They remained a fairly common feature of certain newspapers and magazines up until radio and then television took over as people’s main sources of entertainment.

Sometimes entire novels would be written as serials (Charles Dickens famously published some of his novels this way), while other novels would be written and published in their entirety first, and then later segmented out in installments. But not all serials were novel-length: many newspaper serials were just a few installments long, more like a short story or novella, though some did run for months.

Stories published as serial fiction were often tales of romance, mystery, or adventure—with sentimental or thrilling storylines that would catch readers’ attention and have them coming back for the next installment. And they might just hook you too! Try reading one for yourself on Newspapers.com. We’ve collected just a few of them below—some you might recognize, but many you won’t! Try one out and let us know what you think!

Want to read more? To find further installments of the stories above, try checking the next day’s issue of the paper the story was featured in (e.g., if it was in Monday’s paper, check Tuesday’s). If it’s not in that issue, try checking the next issue that falls on the same day of the week (e.g., if it was published on Sunday, check the next Sunday’s issue).

Or if you’re interested in finding other serial fiction on Newspapers.com, try using search terms such as “chapter 1”, and limit your search to papers from the decades around the turn of the 19th century. Get started searching here!

7 thoughts on “Find: Serial Fiction on Newspapers.com

    • Cindy, when you go to the web site of mewspapers.com, in the search box put the name of the paper and the name of the town in which it was published. That will direct you to the paper you want. From there put in the date of the paper, if you know it. If you are unsure of the date, at the top left of the page there will be a graft of years such as 1880 to the present, slide your cursor to locate the year. I hope this helps.

  1. I have a lot of relatives from Salem New Jersey and there was a newspaper Salem Sunbeam and I can’t find anything for that town or area.

  2. From March 2011 through 2007 I wrote six serialized novels under the heading “My Kind of Town” in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

    And let’s not forget Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of The City in the SF Chronicle that ran in the ’70s and ’80s…

    -Don Chapman

  3. I signed up for Newspapers through Ancestry on 11/13/17 for a one month membership. I was told by Ancestry that I would be receiving a user name and password to get started. I sent you folks an email reminder several days ago. I have not heard from anyone. Please help or I will have to cancel my membership.

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