The 10 Best Free U.S. Online Historical Newspaper Research Sites

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As I have recently completed the updating of 51 different articles that contain links for each state (and DC) for online historical newspaper research, I offer you my opinion (and it is only an opinion) of which sites I think are my Top Ten favorite Free sites.

My criteria for this Top Ten list includes the size of the collection, the underlying software and its usability and features, and the extent to which the collection is representative of the number of newspapers ever published vs. the amount that is online in the state.

So – here is my Top Ten list (not presented in any particular order). You may disagree or may think that your state should be on this list. Feel free to add your comments.

The Top Ten

  • Library of Congress – Chronicling America – over 40 states are represented and the site is growing. Over time I suspect that this will become the largest site in the country in terms of quantity.
  • Old Fulton NY Post Cards – This New York state collection is amazing in that basically it has been a labor of love for one person to create it. Much admiration on my part. Oh yes – and there are over 34 million pages available, including recently the addition of other states’ newspapers.
  • Google News Archive – although its searchability appears to be changed recently, it does cover a ton of smaller newspapers around the country. It remains to be seen as to whether Google will add newspapers in the future.
  • Portal to Texas History – Over 600 newspapers in this collection, and the user interface provides a nice method for honing in on the search results. Many of the newspapers have short runs, but the sheer magnitude of the collection is outstanding.
  • California Digital Newspapers Collection – i have to admit to some partiality here as this is my home state and where much of my newspaper research has been conducted. However, the user interface is excellent and has a feature that most other sites don’t have. Since the OCR process for very old newspapers sometimes is not very good because of the quality and condition of the source materials – this site provides registered users with the ability to correct the OCR’d text – thereby improving future searches. A genealogy “pay it forward” if you will.
  • Wyoming Newspaper Project 1849-1922 – Yes – little Wyoming (in terms of population), has a terrific site. And when 336 of the some odd 500 newspapers ever published are available online – I say – good for Wyoming.
  • NY State Historic Newspapers – a fairly new collection that is growing by leaps and bounds and at this publication date has over 5.3 million pages.
  • Iowa – there is no centralized collection; however since the subscription-based site Newspaper Archive is headquartered in the state, there are a lot of free county-wide and library-based collections available, based on their software. The link here is to my article about the state collections and how to find them.
  • Florida Digital Newspaper Library – an interesting interface, but almost 2 million pages along with several special collections as well.
  • Historic Oregon Newspapers – over 100 newspapers with long runs.

So that’s it – My Top Ten. There are others that are close, such as Colorado, Kentucky, Utah, Minnesota, and North Carolina. Maybe in a couple of years these states will get in to my Top Ten. Hopefully the money will be there for all states to increase their digitization activities so that we all will benefit.


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10 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for completing articles on all 50 states + DC! Your site is a wonderful resource; it’s my go-to-first site for newspaper links. I like it so much I recommended it recently at a genealogy presentation I gave.

  2. Awesome blog post. FYI, Wyoming was way ahead of everyone else on digitizing their newspapers. I stumbled upon that site back in 2009 while looking for my gr grandmother’s sister. The articles I found helped me ID a professional photo of a “mystery woman with chickens” found in my gr grandmother’s photo album. Also explained all about those chickens. Kudos to Wyoming and their dedication to preserving history!

  3. Thanks for the list, especially for mentioning the California newspaper collection. I have several collateral ancestors who migrated to the state in the early/mid-1900s. I hope I can find newspapers for Anaheim and Santa Clara, then, find obituaries! I will be even more grateful if I find them. Thanks again.

  4. Your work in invaluable, timely, and important. Thank you for teaching and sharing.

  5. Have family in Minnesota.
    Know of any free sites for newspapers in the Steele County/Owatonna Township area?

  6. This is an outstanding and important research reference. I’d like to use it Monday as I am teaching a class on using newspapers in genealogy research. May I have your permission to do so.
    Glenda

    1. Yes – absolutely – as long as you attribute it to me. I would also let them know about the Newspapers page n this website. It has articles, tutorials, pre recorded webinars, ;lessons and links to pages that contain over 15,000 links to free collections world wide.

  7. Thanks to your list and advise, I rechecked a paper. Death notice for my GGrandmother appeared with her remarried name. Now to find her in the papers with her maiden name. Thanks

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