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Research Guides

Genealogy & Family History: Newspapers

A research guide to genealogical research at the UW Libraries.

Using Newspapers for Genealogical Research

Sample newspaper front pages

Newspapers are a valuable source in learning about your family's history. Within historical newspapers you can find local information such as obituaries, learn about major events your ancestors lived through, and gain context for their lives during the time period. The UW has access to many historical and modern newspaper databases, both digitized and on microfilm.

Selected Newspapers on Microfilm

The UW Libraries has an extensive collection of historic newspapers on microfilm housed in the Microform and Newspaper Collections, located on the ground floor of Suzzallo Library.  The best way to identify available newspapers on microfilm is to use the Microforms & Newspapers Collection Database. Printers and scanners are available to make copies.

Strategies for Searching Fulltext Newspaper Databases

When searching any fulltext database such as the New York Times you may find the following strategies useful to narrow your search down to more relevant items.

  • When available use the Advanced Search option -- this gives you the flexibility of doing more complex searches
  • If you get too many results see if there is a way to search just the headline of an article
  • If available limit your search by publication type such as articles, editorials, advertisements
  • Limit your search by publication year
  • Be aware of changes in language and spelling over time.  For example articles written in 1965 will use USSR or Soviet Union rather than Russia; Negro rather than African American; articles from 1800 might use Hayti rather than Haiti.

Digitized Historic Newspapers

This page includes links to UW restricted digitized historic newspapers and selected freely available digitized newspapers. To find additional freely available digitized historic newspapers see ICON: International Coalition on Newspapers. Additional collections of this type of primary source can be found under the tabs for History by Region and History by Topic.

For contemporary newspaper coverage (roughly since 1990) see the News subject guide.