Tips and Tricks for Locating Newspaper Articles
Author: Taylor Thompson, Reference Assistant
For centuries, newspapers have been crucial in helping us to learn about current events in our world and communities. They provide us with news applicable to us today and can be a wealth of information about the past. Therefore, they can be an essential tool for researchers and genealogists. Looking back into historical newspapers can give us a snapshot of what events and stories were necessary for public knowledge on a particular day or insight into what the community the paper served was like. However, with an array of information out there, locating newspaper articles can be tricky. Read this article to learn more about some strategies you can take to improve your newspaper searches!
When looking for a particular newspaper article, it is essential to try to gather all the information possible you can about it, such as the name of the article, name of the newspaper, date of publication, potential keywords in the article, an author (if applicable), etc. The more information you know about the article, the easier it will be to locate. However, sometimes in research, genealogical or otherwise, you might be looking generically to see if a story or event was covered in the news without any information on what paper or timeframe a story could have been published. Note that this method will likely be more challenging, but if possible, try to do as much background research on your research topic as you can before you start.
Narrow Down a Paper
One of the first things you will want to do when searching for a paper is to try your best to locate the newspaper an article was published in. This will help you tremendously as you narrow your search and focus on accessing one paper instead of spending precious time sifting through a sea of others. One resource that may be helpful in this effort is the North Carolina Newspaper Index (last updated in 2002). The index can help you determine what newspapers may have been in print at a particular time and trace changes in paper names over time.
Don't know what paper an article appeared in? Think about the context of the article. Where do you think the article would have been published? What timeframe would the news have been released? If you are doing a more general search, you might want to research what newspapers served a particular area. For example, if you were looking to see if a marriage announcement was published for your grandparents' marriage in Asheville in 1938, you might want to research what papers were in print in Asheville for that year to start.
Locating an article in a newspaper can be especially tricky as many newspapers are unfortunately not indexed. It is an excellent idea to do your homework researching the newspaper's history to see if any indexes may exist. Did you know that the Government & Heritage Library collects abstracts and indexes of newspapers? Discover what we have in this guide to Genealogical Abstracts & Indexes of Newspapers. Also freely accessible online is the News & Observer Index (1926-1992).
Thanks to technology, several historical and current newspapers issues are available online. Some newspapers might have an online archive available on their website or for a subscription fee, while others may have been digitized onto a database.
A great way to begin looking for digitized newspaper articles is to check with your local or state library to see what kind of newspaper databases they provide access to for patrons. If you are a North Carolina resident, you can apply for a state library card, which would give you access to several of our online databases, many of which are about newspapers. Our library's complete listing of databases can be found here: https://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/research/information-researchers/online-resources. Note the key at the bottom of the page to help you determine how to access each resource. Some are accessible to all, while others will require a library card either from the State Library of North Carolina or a local library in North Carolina.
Microfilmed and Bound Newspapers
Note that, unfortunately, not all newspapers are digitized. Some will require other methods to access, such as searching newspaper microfilm or bound newspapers. If you struggle to find the newspaper you are looking for online, it may be worth looking into the physical collections of libraries near you or in areas where the article may have been published to see if the paper can be found.
Many newspapers have been microfilmed. Our library has microfilm of several North Carolina newspapers, which can be searched via our Newspaper Locator. It has various nifty features, such as allowing you to search by county, town, or year!
Our library's holdings of microfilm can be looked at on-site in our library's reading room. If you are not close to Raleigh, another way to view our microfilm would be if your local library has a microfilm reader. You can request to borrow microfilm for the newspaper you would like to search through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Making an ILL request would allow for a library with the microfilm of the newspaper you want to loan out and mail the microfilm reel to your local library. You would then be able to pick up the microfilm at your local library and look through it at your convenience. Your local library should be able to help you make an ILL request if they provide that service.
Newspapers often still exist in libraries and archives in a bound format. Though these collections often do not circulate, it might be worth a trip to a library/archives near you to view original material. You can usually locate microfilm and bound newspapers within a library's catalog; see ours here: https://ghl.nccardinal.org/eg/opac/home.
Have more questions regarding newspaper research? Get in touch with our library's Reference Team at (919) 814-6790 or email@example.com, and we would be happy to assist you!