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Is Newspapers.com Worth Subscribing to?

All genealogists know the value of a good obituary or wedding announcement for research purposes. If it were not for a wedding announcement that listed the bride's uncle as also the officiant for her wedding I might never have known a certain individual existed.

Newspapers can be a great source of information regarding when family events happened and can also fill out your ancestors' immediate family members as well. It used to be that you would have to go to a local library to search through page after page of microfilmed newspapers but today things are different.

We live in the digital world and slowly but surely almost any historical newspaper you can imagine for which copies still exist is being digitized. It has become so much easier to do this research and one of the leading sites to help in Newspapers.com.

In this post we will be taking a closer look at Newspapers.com to see just how useful it is and if it is worth the price of a subscription.

What Is Newspapers.com?

So as you probably already guessed, Newspapers.com is a growing online archive of newspapers from the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. It is predominantly U.S. newspapers that are included but there are also publications from the UK as well as a few other regions.

It is the largest online newspaper archive with over 760 million digitized pages. These pages come from over 23,000 different publications from around the world and the archive is still growing.

The Pros and Cons of Newspapers.com

Pros Cons
It’s the biggest online archive of U.S. newspapers You have to give payment details to get the free trial
It also offers publications from Canada and the UK Searches do not always locate what you are looking for
You can search prior to starting a membership to see if there are any records that would pertain to you. Subscription options can be confusing
Like most website of it’s kind they offer a free trial period There are some glitches in the mapping features

The Challenges with Searching

I mentioned problems with searches being unsuccessful now this is a common issue with such sites mainly due to misreading of scans. You see sites like Newspapers.com use a system called Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

This OCR system scans the shapes of characters to determine what is written in the article. The problem is they are scanning old newsprint which can sometimes be smudged and unclear. Because of this the system makes mistakes

In an ideal world the human eye would be better at deciphering what is actually written but with over 760 million pages of content no one is going to do that. So as a result you might be searching for a specific thing which exists but because the OCR system misread it, it may not come out in the results.

I would always advise reading through relevant publications from the specific time frame of an event to try and locate any listings or articles yourself. This is assuming you get no results from your search. There’s nothing wrong with going a little old school in your research.

Subscriptions

So many of us will likely have discovered newspapers.com as a result of researching on Ancestry,com. In fact Ancestry owns Newspapers.com. As part of Ancestry’s premium all access membership level you actually get a basic subscription to Newspaper.com.

This is actually a little annoying because it really is just the basic membership. They don’t offer a full Newspapers.com as part of the package. It really doesn’t make sense because you have to upgrade to a full membership at an additional cost to get full access.

It would be nice if they factored a full Newspapers,com membership into the Ancestry all access price. It would be far less annoying. At present as of June 2022 a six month full six month membership to Newspapers.com costs $29.95 or if you month to month it’s $11.95

Is Newspapers.com Going to Be Useful to You?

This is a good question because it all depends on how likely it is you will find your ancestors mentioned in any newspapers. There are a number of factors involved in this including where your ancestors lived and their economic situations.

In order to appear in a newspaper with birth, marriage or death records you of course need to have a local publication in that area. There is usually some form of newspaper in most places in the U.S. but we can’t guarantee that those papers will be on Newspapers.com.

You also have to factor in the community and economic situation of your ancestors. They may not have been inclined to make family announcements in newspapers or could not afford to do so. Not everyone will have appeared in family announcements in the local newspaper.

You should therefore be prepared to find absolutely nothing pertaining to your family members. It is for this reason that you should always make use of the ability to search the archive before you subscribe. If you already know some basic information about the person you are searching for you can find out if there are any mentions of them in the papers.

You will not be able to see the article but you can see a brief extract of information from the text. This may be enough to suggest you have something that pertains to the person you are looking for.

If this is enough to pique your interest then it might be worth signing up for a free trial. This will allow you to see the actual article or listing. You can always cancel the subscription once you have the information you were looking for.

The value of Newspapers.com to you is very much dependent on your needs. It may hold some interesting information or it may not. I tend to use the site a great deal helping clients so it makes sense for me.

Conclusion

The database created by Newspapers.com is very impressive and can be very helpful in your family history research. It isn’t perfect but this is understandable due to the nature of trying to digitize newspaper print.

I have found some amazing stories and family event listings while using the site that have helped make important breakthroughs. That said depending on your ancestors location and general societal and economic backgrounds they may not be mentioned in any local papers.

Also be aware that sometimes you might discover something upsetting about an ancestor in the newspapers. It is not always family event announcements; we all have some rotten apples on our family tree.

Link To or Reference This Page

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If you found the data or information on this page useful in your research, please use the tool below to properly cite or reference Name Census as the source. We appreciate your support!

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