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How To: Research With Historic Newspapers


Why Newspapers?

Used to find what was going on in a particular place, at a particular time, historic newspapers will tell you what made the news and was being talked about. Keep in mind that newspapers in different geographic areas have different target audiences.

Finding Newspapers


Location Time Period Database  
New York - HWS 1879 - 1942 Hobart Herald  
New York - HWS 1942 - 2015 The Herald  
New York - Geneva 1806 - 1923 NYS Historic Newspapers  
New York - Ontario County ca.1803 - ca.1989 NYS Historic Newspapers Browse titles
New York - Rochester 1884 - 2011 Democrat and Chronicle  
New York - New York City 1851 - 2016 Historical New York Times Browse titles
New York State ca. 1803 - ca. 2015 NYS Historic Newspapers Browse titles
United States - Northeastern U.S. 1785 - 2010 Historical Newspapers U.S. Northeast Collection Browse titles
United States - Chicago 1909 - 1975 Chicago Defender Browse titles
United States 1827 - 1998 African American Newspapers Browse titles
United States 1704 - 1998 Early American Newspapers Browse titles
United States 1789 - 1963 Chronicling America Browse titles

Guiding Principles

1. Formulate your research question before you start.

Newspaper databases have the potential to deliver incredibly rich and varied results. Having a solid idea of what question you are trying to answer before you start will serve you well in the process.

2. Know the geographical application of your research question.

In other words, is there a specific place (region, state, county, city/town) most applicable to the information you seek? If the event you are interested in took place outside of New York state, consider a resource with broader geographic coverage, like Early American Newspapers or Chronicling America. From there you can target your search to specific geographic locations.

3. Know what time period is applicable to your research.

If you are seeking newspaper coverage reported during a particular event or within the span of a particular individual's life, make sure to use date limits. An event or person may be recalled differently after the fact than during the active time of the event or life.

4. Consider the audience of the newspaper itself.

Newspaper publishers target their titles to different audiences. Do not assume that all papers in the same geographic region or time frame will cover an event from the same point of view.

5. Experiment with your search strategy.

Newspapers are very rich resources and can deliver excellent coverage of the past in the voice of the day. Give yourself time and permission to really experiment with your search techniques to find the best possible articles and coverage.

north star newspaper masthead
north star newspaper mission statement
"Douglass founded and edited his first antislavery newspaper, The North Star, beginning December 3, 1847. The title referred to the bright star, Polaris, that helped guide those escaping slavery to the North." ~ The Frederick Douglass Newspapers Collection at the Library of Congress.

Black & African American Newspapers