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I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.

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Genealogy Newspaper Research : Saving on Subscriptions

I mentioned in last week's post that one way to save while doing more genealogy is drop a more expensive subscription in favor of a cheaper one (even if that is just a temporary option). This post is going to give you one specific example, newspaper subscriptions (paid AND free options!)

This post has been updated (into three separate posts). If you're looking for the digitization information or Evernote information, they are now their own posts.
Save on genealogy subscriptions while doing newspaper research on your ancestors | The Occasional Genealogist

Save on Genealogy Newspaper Subscriptions

This post contains affiliate links.

Alternative Subscriptions

GenealogyBank is one of my top recommendations of a "cheaper" subscription to consider (I've been a subscriber for years). Keep an eye out for savings offered through their affiliate partners (i.e. other genealogy companies or blogs). This can make this a great way to save and do more research.

Newspaper records are a great "alternative" subscription. There are two main reasons for this.
  1. The subscriptions are often (not always) cheaper than you pay for a site with multiple types of records.
  2. Newspapers take a lot of time to use.
It's the combination of these two reasons that make a newspaper-only subscription a great choice for an Occasional Genealogist looking to save on subscriptions.

Why not have just a newspaper subscription for a little while? You'll be more motivated to use it if it's a short-term subscription and you won't have an alternative subscription distracting you.

You Must Do This if You Want to SAVE with a Newspaper Subscription

There's a very important factor you need to consider before paying for a newspaper subscription (any subscription). With all newspaper subscriptions, check for your top time and place choices. I don't think I've ever seen a subscription (excluding ones for a single paper) where the site offers a complete run of the paper.

Here's where you need to be careful...That means just seeing there is a paper for a town of interest isn't enough. It could be one day of that paper, a few years, or extremely spotty coverage. Spotty coverage is the most dangerous. It will be listed as xxxx-yyyy making it appear continuous. What is offered varies drastically from site to site so you have to check.

Free Newspapers Archives
Also, make sure you're checking for free newspaper sites including the Google News Archive and Chronicling America, too. My personal research gets more from those two free sites than all the paid sites combined. However, I have gotten better coverage for client projects from paid sites several times. It varies drastically depending on your research needs.

Many states now have some type of digital newspaper archive. These range from a few historically important images, to large collections you have to browse, to amazing collections that rival the paid sites.

To find free and paid options, I always Google both "[state name] digital newspaper archive" and location specific terms with "newspaper archive." Sometimes a location had one paper so use that name in the latter scenario, otherwise, go for the county and several towns around where your family was living. The county seat should have had a paper but it may not be the one your family appears in.

Top Paid Picks for Newspaper Archive Subscriptions

My two favorite paid sites are GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com (which is owned by Ancestry.com).

Is GenealogyBank Worth the Cost?

GenealogyBank recently launched a new website which I really like. I have had a subscription there for years and I've found it one of the best subscription deals consistently. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I somewhat regularly get offers from FamilyTreeMagazine for a discounted subscription to GenealogyBank. If you can snag a deal of this type, you're getting a good deal ASSUMING GenealogyBank has newspapers you need.

Remember, no newspaper subscription is a good deal if they don't have papers you need. There is some overlap between sites but not a lot. You MUST do your research before paying for a subscription. Unless of course you have money to burn.

I don't.

Is Newspapers.com Worth the Cost?

Newspapers.com seems to have a better search function OR the scanning is consistently better for OCR than other sites. I don't know which but I often wish a paper from a different site was at Newspapers.com just for the search functionality.

If you don't want to give up your pricey Ancestry.com subscription, look into bundling Ancestry, Fold3, and Newspapers.com. I've found the bundle is a better deal than subscribing to each individually (but it's not cheap).

The one exception was this past holiday season when I was able to buy myself a gift subscription to Ancestry (just Ancestry) for half-price. These types of deals haven't been available regularly for an Ancestry subscription (this is the first time I've seen one that is good for existing subscribers).

Now it's cheaper for me to get Fold3 with my NGS membership discount (and I have Newspapers.com's "Publisher Extra" add-on which is always an add-on and that's why buying all three separately was a better deal for me---your experience may differ).

Should You Get a Genealogy Newspaper Subscription?

If you're considering a newspaper subscription for genealogy purposes, you need to do a little research and planning (hey, just like anything else genealogy).

First plan for what you need. What areas and timeframes do you need newspapers for? Second, look into your options. I believe all the major subscription sites (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, FindMyPast) have some newspapers as part of their subscription. Determine if one of these is what you need but also notice if those papers are provided by another service.

Then look into newspaper-only options. Remember to check the free options I mentioned, not just the paid sites.

If you have a lot of times and places you need newspapers for, pick three different locations and look into those. I've found some consistency in locations, so you want to consider three distinct locations, not three counties in the same state.

For example, for awhile I found a lot of Ohio and Texas papers I needed at NewspaperArchive (Newspapers.com was not an option at that time). I don't find Georgia newspapers at paid sites, aside from a small handful (there are a number of good free sites plus the Augusta Chronicle has their own site---just FYI if you need very old Georgia papers, the Augusta Chronicle might serve you well, even if your person lived outside the Augusta area).

If I only looked for Ohio locations, I might pick one site. If I looked for Georgia locations, only, I wouldn't subscribe to anything. If you find your three distinct places (and for the appropriate time) at one site, subscribe. Your next batch if three locations might not be available but remember...

Newspaper research is slow. You can always do a short-term subscription to work on a specific project. Switch sites (or don't subscribe to anything) after that. This sin't a life commitment!

Two Notes

There are a lot of subscription options out there for current newspapers if that's what you need (or more recent papers, such as through NewsBank, basically GenealogyBank for recent papers).

You may find NewspaperArchive.com has what you need. They are fairly expensive and a number of years ago got into trouble for some shady practices. Those have supposedly been remedied (including making it easier to cancel a subscription) but I still shy away from them unless they have exactly what I need (so far they haven't).

I love using newspapers but it's hard to find time. If you're looking to save some money, why not try a newspaper subscription instead of your more expensive genealogy subscription for awhile? You might even find what you need is available for free. You have to look before you'll know.

Give your regular genealogy subscription a break and try newspapers. You'll save some money and learn about your ancestors. | The Occasional Genealogist

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at Newspapers.com