Sources for Newspapers (Guest Project Post)


“Drawing from the Past” workshop participant Doug McVicar sends along these valuable resources & tips for finding primary source material in old newspaper archives:

  1. If you know the date, the easiest place to find local news stories is right near home: your own town library or historical society. The papers are usually on microfilm. You can copy stories from the microfilm reader with a digital camera. Occasionally you will be lucky enough to find an index to a local paper, which is very helpful if dates are uncertain.
  2. The most complete collection of NH newspapers – by far – is at the NH State Library, across the street from the Capitol in Concord. All the papers are on microfilm. The service is completely free. You will have to sign up for a microfilm reader, but there is almost always one available. A list of NH papers is available. Be sure to check it discover defunct newpapers in your town – or a nearby town – that you had not been aware of. The NHSL presents the same problem as local libraries do: if you don’t have a specific date to look up, you can find yourself hunting for a needle in a haystack.
  3. For indexes that find names and keywords in newspapers, you will probably need to go online. My favorite online collection is, which spans the period from 1690 – 2010. The database holds hundreds of newspaper titles, including over 60 from New Hampshire. Everything is fully searchable, and the site is easy to use. Search widely: you can find stories from your town in papers from other parts of NH (and sometimes from around the US) – especially if the story is scandalous (eg. a murder trial), or about a famous person or place. For example, the Boston papers of a hundred years ago provided much better coverage of the White Mountains than the local papers did. If you use newspapers frequently, a $70 yearly subscription to can save lots of gas and shoe leather.
  4. By contrast I have found the newspaper collection available at difficult to use, and full of frustrating gaps. The ancestry newspaper collection is an extra charge on top of your ancestry membership. I pay the fee because the ancestry newspaper collection contains titles not available at GenealogyBank, but I wouldn’t recommend it to most people.
  5. A great free newspaper collection is the “Chronicling America” website of the National Digital Newspaper Program. The site is easy to use. More newspapers are being added every week, and the available papers now span the period from 1836 to 1922. Papers from 33 states are now included. There are more than 30 Vermont papers, for example. But unfortunately there are as yet no papers from New Hampshire, Maine or Massachusetts.
  6. Another very useful free site is the Old Fulton New York Post Cards site. The home page is very weird, featuring a frenetic, three-eyed spider with a man’s face, and other drolleries, and one might wonder what Old Fulton Post Cards has to do with newspapers, and who is responsible for this odd corner of the net. BUT, whoever they may be, they somehow have gotten an extraordinary databank of New York state newspapers, including several from New York City. The search engine is not as easy as some, but seems to work.
  7. The same bold vision that drove Google to change the world of historical research with Google Books and Google Scholar, gave us Google News Archive, a sweeping project to digitize a massive amount of newspapers. Unfortunately, after making a great start Google halted the project, reportedly for a number of business and legal reasons. But, at least for now, you can still use it. There are some New Hampshire papers. Most papers, including the NH papers, are only available for a very limited range of dates. You can search the Google News Archive for free at . Most of the papers can be accessed for free as well, but some (like the New York Times) charge a fee.
  8. Wikipedia has a list of online newspaper archives from around the world. Many listings include live links. The archives in the list include both free and fee sites. There are (at this time) no New Hampshire archives.

— Doug

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