Posted by Ancestry Team on May 5, 2008 in Collections

We are excited to release a very large and very significant addition to our newspaper collection. It will double the size of our current collection. We are also improving our search experience with newspapers to help you find the information you are looking for.

Newspapers can be an amazing gem of a resource. In addition to obituaries, birth and marriage announcements the papers frequently have interesting stories about military service, financial matters and other personal stories.

Another side of interest is how the world events affected the towns where your ancestors lived. 

 Newspapers have not been highly used on Ancestry to date.  We would love to hear from you about this new collection of newspapers. Is it of interest to you? Do you want more? Do you want a specific time or place? Do you like a diversity of records like this or would you rather just have us focus most of our efforts on vitals?

We appreciate your feedback.



  1. Steve

    I would value birth, marriage, and obituaries records from newspapers the most. Second from that, I would value any general articles where an individual is mentioned. I wouldn’t be as interested in just learning about the general activities going on around the area.

  2. I really like being able to look up obits etc. Sometimes a name comes up after doing more research, so it is nice to be able to go back and look up information from an obit.

  3. Josie

    I think the primary reason that they are not used heavily is that the newspapers to date have covered limited geographical areas and date ranges. With more coverage of both cities and date ranges, I believe there would be much heavier usage. The newspaper for my home county and that of my ancestors on both sides since 1850 is not on Ancestry. Whenever possible, I go through microfilm and while I’m looking for obits, marriages on specific people, I do enjoy seeing what was written about at the time. I’ve actually created a little “clipping” book of interesting clippings and ads from the early 1900’s. If you have deep roots in a particular location, this can be especially interesting. For newspapers covering places I’ve never been to, my interest in the other articles is limited.

  4. Valerie

    I try to use the newspapers but I often find the scans hard to read and they are very tedious to pursue. It’s hard to find one name in thousands of words on a page.

    The available papers are also spotty and very random. For example, the Atlanta Constitution is available for 1869-75, 1877, 1879, 1881-85, and 1887-89. It’s very random and its frustrating to have something be available, but only for moments in time.

  5. Sue Smith

    I’d love more historical newspapers.A major problem with the newspaper collection is getting search results for the full name. When I search by first and last name,Ancestry gives me results by the first name and results by the last name. My experience has rarely if ever given me my research by “first + last name.” The fact that some names are common or also geographical makes things more complicated. Forget looking up Smith! Ancestry would probably include blacksmith, silversmith, etc. in my results. Changing how results are reported would open up the vast papers you have or ever obtain.

  6. Lisa

    I’m really excited about this update! I’ve found the newspapers to be a very valuable resource for obituaries, marriage announcements, and info on trials/court cases.

    I look forward to the updated/improved search and also any additional newspapers from Kentucky, for which there isn’t much currently available on Ancestry.

  7. I have found newspapers to be a veritable treasure trove for obtaining information, and as you say, not just statistics, but amazing stories of hometowns and individuals. I have used the newspaper collection several times, as well as digging through them on microfilm in the past, and eagerly await the new electronic records you will be adding soon!

  8. netzband

    Newspapers have been an incredible source for me, but the search function at Ancestry is not the best. Go to for a good example of great newspaper availability (for free) and a really flexible search engine. When Ancestry can better Tom’s, I’ll be very happy. My husband just saw my Ancestry bill today.

  9. Ray

    Thanks for the additions! More is better when it comes to newspapers. They are great for filling in the life stories of ancestors. The best papers, IMHO, are the small-town weeklies which tend to report on the ordinary events in people lives. Some real examples of stories I’ve found for ancestors: fire destroyed the family farm; an ancestor received an award/public recognition; military service noted in a story of a military unit’s reunion; elected/appointed to town office; details of a death not found in death certificates (suicide, accidents); arrests and trials — besides weddings, anniveraries, births, and deaths.
    Ancestry’s collection is spotty relative the vast number of newspapers that have been published. I’ve used news collections online from other providers (ProQuest, Newsbank, InfoTrac). Coverage on these services is also uneven, but search tools are better. Mining huge quantities of text is challenging and requires some precision tools, such as proximity and “NOT” operators, and more limit options (dates, lead paragraph, same sentence/paragraph, etc.). All the great content is useless if you’re trying to search for someone named “Wood” or “Brooks” or “Post” or “Bean”, etc.
    One last point: an interesting story may be picked up from a local newspaper and be reprinted in unexpected places. You never know where an ancestor’s name will pop up. I found a report on a trial for counterfeiting in Portland, Maine, in 1810, reported in a Georgia newspaper; a murder that took place in New Orleans in 1841 reported in a Great Barrington, Mass. newspaper. Also, post offices would publish in lists of names of those for whom letters were waiting to be picked up. I discovered ancestors in surprising places!
    Tops on my wish list of new online content is 19th cen./early 20th cen. ethnic papers (African-American, Italian, Irish, Polish, etc.).

  10. Beverly Cohen

    For over 6 months, has been teasing us about updating the historical newspaper collection and enhancing the search results without giving us a clue about when that will happen. I have been waiting anxiously because the current records have been extremely valuable to my research. I suppose the value of the historical newspapers depends on which years of which newspapers are in the collection. Fortunately for me, most of my ancestors who immigrated through Ellis Island in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s remained in the New York City area. I have been able to locate birth, marriage, and death notices that contained information that led me to other information, especially the married names of sisters and daughters. I never expected to find any of my ancestors mentioned on the society page of any newspaper but in almost 3 years’ worth of newspapers from Middlesboro, KY, I found quite a bit of interesting information about the family of my grandmother’s brother. One entry on the society page even provided me with an explanation as to why I was having difficulty locating the brother’s naturalization records. I then found his naturalization records right under my nose at the National Archives in Morrow, GA. And right behind his records, I was surprised to discover the naturlaization records for his wife. The wife’s naturalization records then led me to her immigration records. Unfortunately, the naturalization records for my grandmother’s brother did not lead me to his immigration records. (His grandson had told me that he had arrived as a stowaway and the ship listed on his petition or any similar name did not exist).

  11. Lois

    I love to use the newspaper articles. I have found the obituaries to be a wealth of information.

    Sometimes it is tedious going through the numerous articles about people who attended a party or were the host/hostess of a party.

    The positive aspects of the newspaper articles far out weigh the negative ones. We need to continue to all more newspapers.

  12. Liz

    I have found marvelous details in newspaper accounts, and been able to track collateral lines when I lost track of them — people pop up in the most unexpected places. However, I echo the other comments in a plea for more complete coverage, and more complex search options. In particular I find the selection of Canadian newspapers to be woefully inadequate and would love to see more. I

  13. I hope that there will be the option to limit searches based on publication date. With the familyname I’m researching there is a multitude of hits pertaining to an event that was reported on for certain period. These are of little interest but with current Ancestry search I need to “open” each publication to find out is there is anything else.

  14. Tyler

    I think the Newspaper Collection is terrific, especially now when used with the New Search which provides a thumbnail preview of the search-hit in context. Of course, additional content with regard to more newspapers and/or a wider range of dates will provide further benefits.

    It is not clear to me from your blog description of the newspaper addition whether or not it is yet available or if it will be a future development. Can you clarify?

  15. Tyler

    P.S. Should have included in my original post that I like the diversity of records. Have found many news and society-type articles that provide great additional background material with regard to individuals.

  16. Linda

    I adore newspapers. The obvious advantages are finding obituaries and death notices, marriages and sometimes births. But, for example, social notes and mention of visiting relatives can be incredibly helpful clues pointing in directions totally unexpected, especially when you are starting with a minimum of information.

    But I saw these advantages because several of your newspapers covered the home town of one of my ancestral families. I couldn’t follow up these clues in newspapers because you didn’t have geographic coverage anywhere close to the town the distant family were living in.

    And it is extremely disappointing to find coverage in the geographic area I want, only to find that there are about 2 years of newspapers available.

    I also find the search function frustrating – there are just too many false hits, which can be discouraging.

  17. Val

    I would greatly appreciate more newspapers and any records you can find to add to the site. So far the newspapers available haven’t been helpful for my searches, but if you keep adding more papers,I am sure you will find this service very popular. Perhaps a more efficient search engine would help as well. Thanks for all you do, Val

  18. DBachmann

    Newspaper articles are a valuable resource as we research the family of MIA/KIA servicemen for the military casualty offices. But the Ancestry search engine often gives results that are not pertinent. For example, using a first and last name, along with a locale and time frame gives results outside of the locale and time frame. Additional newspapers would be welcomed and an improved search engine would make everyone’s research easier and more productive.

  19. Bob Cawker

    Upgrading the program for easier access and getting back such things as the Birthday and Anniversary calendar are of far more use than logging newspapers. I don’t have time to read my own paper, let alone all the others available.

  20. B.

    Very exciting news, but I strongly agree with 5. Sue Smith’s and 17. Linda’s comments about the poor search results …

    Smith would be impossible, but even with uncommon names there are far too many false hits. And with true hits, I often have to stare at each pages for several minute, hunting line after line of text to find the single mention of the name I was searching.

    While I’m glad this new addition will greatly increase the collections, I’d much prefer improvements in search on the existing newspapers. Thank you for listening!

  21. Tom Hendricks

    Talking about records is there anyway to create a checkoff sheet of sources already looked at for an ancestor. for instance you have already looked up newspaper, census records and directories. it might help us utlize other resources on the network. And help organize searches?

  22. Athena

    My experience has been that “vital” information appears in more than the designated columns. My biggest problem with digitized newspaper content is the searching; it’s very difficult to find the exact name when the results list includes any instance of first or last.

    Using quotation marks may or may not be helpful since you don’t know whether a middle name or initial was included. I had to read through alost 70 articles in the existing obituary collection to find the one article that referenced my ancestor.

  23. Bruce

    More newspapers will be greatly appreciated, but I will echo the responses of those who complain about how much effort it takes to dig through the current newspapers to find the gems. An enhanced search engine would be appreciated as much as more content.

    Along with the other complaints, I have a relative who had a business that advertised across a wide area. Even though it was an uncommon name, well over 99% of the references to the last name were advertisements to his business. I appreciate knowing information about the business, but I have not found a way to filter out those references, which are nearly identical and span several decades.

    As for what I would like to see enhanced, it would be great to have vitals in areas where other sources are weak, and geographic regions that have little coverage. Territorial newspapers in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Indiana would be great if they can be acquired. Vitals are much more important than general interest articles, but society pages also give lots of good info, such as relatives who visit from out of town in small town papers.

  24. Absolutely helpful! I subscribe to a hometown newspaper of my ancestors just to keep in touch with what is still going on there. The print must be legible, however.

  25. Reed

    I also highly value and use the newspaper collection, and I second all the comments concerning too many false hits, lack of *real* search limits, the poor quality of some images, etc.

    Also: when, oh when, oh when, will Ancestry fix the many missing and broken links for the Chicago Tribune in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in the Historical Newspapers BMD collection? I have over a dozen important hits in the Ancestry search/index for the Tribune that have no images of the content for those records. I have scrolled manually through hundreds of adjacent images with no luck, and I have emailed queries and complaints several times in the last 2 years and either received no reply, or a completely useless reply from “Customer Service” indicating that it’s not Ancestry’s problem, but the content provider’s (i.e. the Tribune’s!) and I should direct my complaints to them! Unbelievable…

  26. Mary

    I would like to see a USA map with locations noted for the newspapers you have for 1800-1850, 1851-1900, 1901-1950 and 1951-now. This would provide a place to start.

    Names searched should not be in the middle of other words. For example, searching on Anding brings up standing, branding, etc.

  27. netzband

    Gary, one more comment from me. As I reread your original post, I realized that you asked if we would rather you concentrate mainly on vitals.


    Part of the great thing about having the newspapers is getting the “slice of life” feeling in reading them. I use the newspapers for genealogy, but as I read, I’m always also on the lookout for something I can extract to use for teaching. I use articles quite frequently for my middle school language arts classes.

    For example, I find that students are intrigued by changes in word meanings. One of the most interesting articles I found was about the “toilets worn at Saratoga ball.” Toilets had a completely different meaning, and certainly kept the attention of my class as we read it.

    I know that genealogy made me more interested in history. I hope that my interest in genealogy also makes me a more interesting teacher. Newspapers are vitally important for that.

  28. Larry

    I’m looking forward with great anticipation to this newspaper addition. Many collections I’ve seen online come up short on papers from the American South, so any improvement on that would be appreciated.
    I think the reason many do not bother pursuing leads in Ancestry’s online newspaper collection is because by its nature the syntax of searching newspapers and public records are very different. I look forward to seeing what ideas Ancestry comes up with to bridge this gap.
    Thanks for a great site!

  29. Lisa

    I use to get excited about updates and additions on Ancestry, but not anymore. Some time back i turn in about 25 pages of mistakes on mix ups for the newspapers, and there reply was they didn’t have the time and money or help to fix it. The other thing was i turn in about 500 images from Plat Map Books of maps and family pictures of the people who lived in the area that were all blacked out with ink, you couldn’t read the map or view the family pictures. These would of been gold photo’s for anyone who enjoys plat maps and findind there ancestors family in a book. The scanning was just plain bad.

  30. Don

    Yes, more newspapers, please! I use the newspapers a lot and am more than willing to sift through the false hits. It’s a lot better than going to a library and reading an entire newspaper hoping to find something. As an engineer I know how difficult it is to scan and search this sort of archive, so I am very grateful that you’ve provided the tools. Is there a better way to search? No doubt there is, but that doesn’t lessen the high value of this product. “Could I have some more, please?”

  31. Jon

    I just hope its not the same tired newspaper collection that every other genealogical records site has. ie smalltownpapers, etc.

  32. Rachel Davis

    I will welcome the new newspaper list. Like others, I hope it will include papers I am interested in, like from small Southern towns and will go back years and cover those to the present. Thanks.

  33. gj

    i have had problems – no image – come up on the chicago papers -always. please look into it.thanks ghita

  34. June Milton

    The reason yout newspaper archives have not been widely used is that your so-called “search engine” is ridiculous.
    It finds any letters in your query & ignores other parameters of the search. Over all, I am disappointed with this part of your archives.

  35. Marcia

    I have searched the newspaper collections, but it too tedious. Ancestry gives all the years in all the states and countries. If the search could be limited to a specific state or states and/or a specific year or group of years and not include anything else, the newspaper collection would be used much more.

    I’d also like to be able to save the little bit with the info about where it came from.

  36. Ohio scanned every newspaper ever published in the state but I notice very limited offerings through ancestry. I have however managed to find a several articles which added tremendously to the story! I want more!

  37. Gary Gibb

    Great feedback. Thank you. We hear you on the need for better search tools with the newspapers. We are working on making the search better in some very significant ways. One of the ways is by giving a quick snippet from the paper to quickly view the area surrounding the word found. Hopefully this will save lots of time and effort when searching.

    I also appreciate the strong interest in the newspapers and in diversity in the content collections.
    Thanks for the feedback GG

  38. netzband

    THANK YOU!!!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am. My daughter-in-law remembers going as a small girl to New Mexico and meeting her grandmother and grandfather. Unfortunately, later she was adopted and did not see them again. We have searched for years for her grandmother’s death date, knowing only that she died young and was cremated.

    I found the obituary today in the new additions. I can’t tell you what it means to us. Thank you, Ancestry.

    I know what I’ll be doing this weekend.

  39. Keith

    What happened to the New York Times searching? It seems that simple names that I used to find dozens and dozens of names in the New York Times under the birth, death, marriage records in newspapers is now totally useless and not finding anything. What happened????

  40. netzband

    Are you waiting until your have all the new newspaper pages available before including it in the Historical Newspaper search? I ask this because I keep checking, and the new ones don’t seem to show up there.

  41. netzband

    Duh. Close my mouth, stop my fingers from writing another comment. The new ones appear today in the search. THANK you.

  42. IFrench

    I would like the option to omit names for example when looking for my ancestors with the last name Dunne I would like to omit the first name Irene.

  43. Wilma H. Smith

    I have years of obits, births, marriages, anniversaries. Even birthdays. Most of them are from Hamilton Co. Iowa and the area around them that I have clipped from newspapers. Wonder if you would be interested in having them. Just let me know. Thank you, Wilma

  44. Colin

    I hope that someone may be able to shed some light on some current issues that I am experiencing with the “new and improved” newspaper database. A significant number of my family members appeared in the Historical Newspaper database for the past couple of years. Now these entries are gone. What has happend to the Historical Newspaper database? This is one of the primary reasons that I am a member of

  45. Athena

    “One of the ways is by giving a quick snippet from the paper to quickly view the area surrounding the word found.”

    Personally, I would prefer less focus on fancy web features and more work on the basic search tools. I want to be able to limit my newspaper search to those published in a specific location (e.g. state) and at a specific time.

    If I start my search from the old search dialog, I can click on the state then get a link to newspapers for that specific state…but I can’t search on all newspapers for the area at once. If I start from the Historical Newspaper link, location and date mean nothing — any mention of the state name or year in the text will appear in the hit list.

    My biggest complaint about the newspapers though, is the way the images are handled by Ancestry Press. Not only is it impossible to get a legible printout of an article, but the printout doesn’t actually include usable source information. Who ever heard of printing a newspaper article without including the date of publication and page number? The “source” information that prints as a footer is totally useless.

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