Beyond Vital Events Announcements: Newspapers in Genealogy Research

Many family historians think of newspaper research in narrow terms: birth, marriage, and death announcements.  Newspapers can provide so much more.  Here are some examples:

  • Advertisements: for family businesses, an ancestor’s property for sale, a business move, going out of business sales.
  • Church functions and committee members.
  • Civil and Criminal trials.
  • Clubs and Community organization members and award winners.
  • Crimes committed.
  • Death information: burial permits (larger cities), military casualty lists, disaster victims, articles about homicides and accidental deaths, notes of thanks from families after funerals, social columns may mention a visit due to a death.
  • Family reunions.
  • Feature articles on ancestors.
  • Genealogy columns (See: Newspaper genealogical column directory by Anita Cheek Milner at call number GRO CS44 .M49 1992, for a list of columns.)
  • Hospital news – admittance and release names.
  • Legal notices: debtors, bankruptcy, missing persons, probate and estate settlement, divorce, delinquent tax lists, juror lists.
  • Local government: bills paid to individuals and businesses for services, voter lists, tax rolls.
  • Local columns may contain a plethora of information including: visits which prove relationships, health information, family trips, successful endeavors, social events, retirement, gossip.
  • Marriage information: engagements, anniversaries, list of marriage licenses.
  • Military service news.
  • Political appointees and candidates.
  • School awards, graduations, and special training.
  • Slave data: advertisements for runaway slaves, slaves for sale or hire.
  • Unclaimed mail lists could help narrow down when your ancestor moved from an area.

Below is a list of New York State Digital Newspaper Archives to help you get started.  Keep in mind that the condition of the newspaper scanned can result in poor indexing. 

When you search for an ancestor, try searching in many different ways such as:

  • Different name combinations: maiden and married names, middle names with last names, last names only if it is not a common name, first name only if it is an unusual name.
  • Other relatives’ names.
  • Your ancestor’s address.
  • Include a town with your ancestor’s name.
  • Family business names. 
  • Browse newspapers by date, if you know the dates of important events. 
  • If you find that your ancestor’s family is often listed in local columns, you may wish to browse these columns issue by issue.

Bard College Student Newspaper Archive – Search or browse the newspapers which span the 1895-1991 time period.  Bard College is located in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

Barnard Bulletin Newspaper Archives – This is the student newspaper of Barnard College which is in New York City.  Coverage is from 1901-2002.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1841-1902

Catskill Mountain News, 1902-1949 – A searchable database of the Catskill Mountain News, which was published in Margaretville, NY.

Chronicling America – An ongoing project that includes select historic newspapers across the country from1836-1922.  New York newspapers included so far are: The Evening World (NYC), The Sun (NYC), The New York Tribune, and The New York Daily Tribune.

The Cornell Daily Sun – A project by Cornell University which covers many issues from 1880-1981.  This is the Cornell University student newspaper.

Freedom’s Journal – A New York City African American newspaper.  Coverage: March 1827-March 1829.

The Friend of Man – Covers social movements in Central New York, Western New York, and the New York City area.  Scattered issues: 1836-1842.

Fulton History – A large collection of historic New York State newspapers, including many from Western and Central New YorkClick here to see a list of some of the newspapers included on the site.

The Griffin Collection – A Canisius College student newspaper. Coverage: 1929-1957.

Historical Newspapers of the Rochester, New York Regions – Includes Fairport, NY and Geneva, NY area newspapers.

Hudson River Valley Historical Newspapers – Search and browse Hudson River Valley area newspapers.  Date Range: 1831-2000.

The Ithacan – The Ithaca College student newspaper.  Coverage: 1926-2002.

Long Island Memories – Historical Nassau County, NY newspapers. Select coverage: late 1800s-2000s.

Onondaga County Local History Indexes – Unique genealogy and local history indexes, some of which index newspapers.

New York Times Archives – Includes an index from 1851-present.  Articles from 1851-1922 are free.

Northern New York Historical Newspapers – Historical newspapers for the following New York counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, and St. Lawrence.

Putnam Courier – Published in Putnam County, NY. Coverage: 1849-1930.

Rochester Area Newspapers – Select browse able newspapers spanning 1828-1918.

Suffolk County Historical Newspapers – Select coverage from 1869-2007. 

University at Buffalo Campus Newspapers and Magazines – Lists select UB publications, their publication date range, and what is available on line.

Western New York Legacy – Includes the Buffalo Criterion, University at Buffalo Student Newspapers, a small number of Buffalo Express papers, and the Griffin.

New York Newspaper Databases Available Through BECPL

Buffalo News – Buffalo News offers an index and the full-text of articles from this newspaper, 1989 – present. For use at any library or from home with a valid Buffalo & Erie County Public Library card number.

New York State Newspapers – New York State Newspapers offers the full text of seven newspapers including the Buffalo News, Post Standard (Syracuse, NY), New York Post and the New York Times. For use at any library or from home with a valid Buffalo & Erie County Public Library card number. This database is made available through NOVEL: New York Online Virtual Electronic Library. NOVEL Databases is an electronic database access project provided by the New York State Library that enables libraries across New York State to give their communities online access to the full text of hundreds of journals, newspapers and other references.

New York Times  – Complete New York Times coverage from 1851 to the present. For use at any library or from home with a valid Buffalo & Erie County Public Library card number.

General Digital Newspaper Directories

Chronicling America – A project by the Library of Congress.

Cyndi’s List – Includes links to genealogy columns, and newspapers by title, some of which are historic digital projects.

Google News Archives – An alphabetical list of newspapers by title.

Internet Public Library – A directory of current newspaper websites by state.

NewspaperCat – This is a project by the University of Florida. It is an index of online historical digital newspapers for the United States and the Caribbean.  You can browse by city, county, and state.

United States Online Historical Newspapers Directory – A digital newspaper directory by state.

A New York State Newspaper Directory

New York State Newspaper Project – Find out what libraries own the microfilm or print versions of newspapers.  You can browse by title or location.

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