How to Search News Archives

By Lisa Fritscher

Newspapers and other media outlets document the fabric of our lives. Birth and death notices, marriage announcements and human interest stories can provide important records of ordinary citizens as well as the rich and famous. Many newspapers maintain archives dating to the 1800s. The sheer volume of available records can make any archives search a challenge.

Step 1

Utilize online archives search engines. Most major newspapers are continuously working to make their archives available online, and numerous meta-search engines attempt to compile the incoming data. Depending on the specific search engine you choose, you may be able to search across multiple news sources and time lines, or narrow your search to a specific era or newspaper. None of the search engines compile all available news archives, so you may need to use multiple sites.

Step 2

Search individual newspaper websites. Large meta-search engines typically search only big city newspapers. If you are interested in articles from smaller local papers, visit those papers' websites. Keep in mind that smaller newspapers typically have smaller staffs, and may take longer than larger newspapers to upload all of their archives.

Step 3

Search library websites. Many libraries are working to create digital copies of their microfilm and microfiche files. Most libraries maintain copies of every newspaper printed in their city since the nineteenth century, and converting those files to digital records takes time. In general, the more recent an article is, the more likely it is to be available from a local library website.

Step 4

Research the topic to narrow down the newspaper and time period you want. Microfiche files consist of individual rolls of microfiche sorted by source and date. To search news archives on microfiche, you will need to work through each day's newspaper from front to back.

Step 5

Visit the library. Ask a research librarian to set you up on a microfiche reader and teach you to use the machine. The librarian should show you where the microfiche spools are kept in case you need to search multiple rolls.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a microfiche reader that is connected to a printer if you want a hard copy of the article. Bring a few extra quarters, as it can be challenging to figure out exactly which printer settings are best.