Advancing Your Reach: Finding Free Digitized Newspapers

I trust you are (perhaps gingerly) settling into 2022, with high hopes, fresh goals, and a plan to advance your personal research. Newspapers contain valuable information for genealogists. Good subscription newspaper databases exist, but you are missing sources if you stop researching there. Numerous free online newspaper collections await, but how does a genealogist find them? I know a great place to start, whether you have a focused search in mind, or simply want to throw genealogy darts.

The website Elephind leads users to digitized newspaper collections. Perform basic or advanced searches for a list of results. The newspapers searched are not on Elephind. They are in free digitized collections around the world. Elephind presently searches 4,345 newspaper titles. Click a hit to reach the website hosting the item.

Perform broad searches initially, do a little peeking, and then narrow your search. If a search is narrowed too soon, there is a risk of missing relevant hits. Be open-minded about where news of your ancestors possibly appeared, and in the types of publications in which they may have appeared.  

Elephind has a title list (including coverage dates) organized by country and title. Countries currently listed are Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States. The title list is useful, but do not limit site use based on the titles listed. It never hurts to search in new places. 

I focused on ancestors who had businesses for my sample searches. Advertising often had a broad reach. Don’t worry if your family did not have a business. News traveled.

James W. Penfield lived in Willoughby, Ohio. He was an inventor, and his business made brick and tile. Farmers used tile to drain unwanted water from land. The Penfield business was advertised in a San Francisco newspaper. A catalog entry at the Library of Congress has the newspaper under agriculture.1

An advertisement for my Ohio ancestor’s company was in a trade newspaper in a digitized California collection. Not a bad start. I would have lost this find if my search was limited to Ohio publications. The ad image makes a nice addition to James Penfield’s story.

J. W. Penfield & Son advertisement, Pacific Rural Press (San Francisco, California), 25 December 1886, p. 540, col. 3; digital image, California Digital Newspaper Collection ( : accessed 2 January 2022); Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside.


Dennis H. McBride was born in Pennsylvania. He lived in many places, including Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, and New York. His company specialized in Catholic textbooks and goods, including statuary and altars. He had offices in several cities in the U.S. and abroad. Dennis had a New York City office when this ad was published. A Catholic newspaper was a great choice for ad placement. This newspaper, published in Cincinnati, is hosted in a Catholic newspaper collection I might not have otherwise found.

“Wanted, Agents,” The Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati, Ohio), 14 May 1903, p. 8 c. 6; digital image, The Catholic News Archive ( : accessed 2 January 2022); Catholic Research Resources Alliance.


Check digitized collections for use restrictions. Both collections above allowed non-commercial sharing of limited items if proper attribution was given, so I was able to share the ad images here.

Enjoy searching newspaper collections through Elephind. Let us know if you find something fun and unexpected!

Happy hunting.

  1. “About Pacific rural press,” Chronicling America ( : accessed 3 January 2022); catalog entry, Library of Congress.


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7 Responses to Advancing Your Reach: Finding Free Digitized Newspapers

  1. Tom Pottenger says:

    What a fantastic find! Thanks.

  2. Linda Johnson says:

    You should have added
    fabulous site listing free newspapers locations, as well as yearbooks, obits, photos, etc. etc.

  3. Thanks for this. I really appreciate it.

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