May 20, 2022

Tips for Subscribing to a Newspaper Database

May 20, 2022

Have you ever considered subscribing to a newspaper website? Anyone who is serious about newspaper research will eventually consider paying for access to newspapers. There are several pay-for-view newspaper websites that focus mainly on U.S. newspapers. How do you know which ones are worth the money?


First, it’s a good idea to check out free websites such as state historical newspaper projects and the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America. If you’re lucky, you may find newspapers for exactly the years you’re interested in. Unfortunately, many of the free websites are limited in the newspapers they cover.  Even if they have the newspaper titles you need, not all sources cover all years for a particular titles.


Then, it’s time to consider paying. There are three main newspaper databases in the U.S. They are Genealogy Bank (, ( and Newspaper Archives ( ).


Deciding which one (or ones) to subscribe to is a personal decision. The number one consideration is obviously which one has the newspapers for the years and places you need. If a website doesn’t contain the newspapers you need, it’s clearly a waste of money for you.


Visiting the websites for the three major newspaper sites is worth the effort. They all have lists of the titles they hold so you can quickly tell whether there are newspapers for the area you are researching. Also, all three offer free trial subscriptions. These are usually for about a week.


Depending on how many ancestors might potentially appear in the pages of the listed newspapers, this may be all the time you need. If you need more time, a short subscription of a month or so may be useful. Just don’t forget to cancel before the end of your subscription since most auto-renew. This can quickly become expensive. Monthly fees are usually higher than a longer subscription of six months or a year.


The only time that a decision is difficult is if two or more of the websites offer the same newspapers. If that is the case, it’s a good idea to use the free trial period to determine which of the websites you prefer. For example, I like the clipping interface at Since that’s the case, I usually subscribe to it rather than one of the others, if the newspaper coverage is the same.


I do a lot of online newspaper research because newspapers are one of the best sources of information on more recent relatives. If you plan to trace family forward to find living relatives, you may want to use the strategy that I do. I subscribe to one of the big three newspaper websites for six months or a year, then I subscribe to another one for a similar period.


By rotating my subscriptions, I always have one newspaper website available. My method also avoids overwhelming myself with too many options. I find that if I have too many choices, I tend to use one and never check out what the others contain. By only subscribing to one at a time, I eventually become more familiar with all of them.


Carol Stetser