Genealogical Research · Genealogy Basics

Top 12 tips on getting the most out of Newspapers.com (for Canada, for free)

What is available for Canada?

Newspapers.com had a free introductory weekend June 7-9, 2019. I’d tried it in 2014 and was unimpressed, as their holdings were then mainly USA- based. That’s now changed. Here is a list of what’s now available for Canada (as of June 2019):

BC

  • Nanaimo – the Nanaimo Daily News, the Times, Harbour City Star, North Thompson Times
  • New Westminster – Sunday News
  • Prince George – Prince George Free Press
  • Vancouver – the Province, the Sun, Vancouver Daily World, Vancouver Evening Sun
  • Victoria – the Times-Colonist, Victorian, Victoria Daily Times

(mostly) Small Town BC

  • 100 Mile House – 100 Mile House Free Press
  • Ashcroft – The Journal
  • Chilliwack – The Chilliwack Progress
  • Barriere – North Thompson Star/Journal
  • Burns Lake – Lake District News
  • Duncan – The Citizen
  • Fort St. James – The Caledonia Courier
  • Houston – Houston Today
  • Logans Lake – Three Rivers Report
  • Quesnel – Quesnel Cariboo Observer
  • Richmond – Richmond Review
  • Salmon Arm – Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market News
  • Sicamous – The Eagle Valley News
  • Smithers – Interior News
  • Squamish – Squamish Times
  • Surrey – Surrey Leader
  • Terrace – Terrace Standard
  • Vanderhoof – Omineca Express
  • Vernon – the Morning Star
  • Williams Lake – the Tribune

Alberta

  • Calgary – the Calgary Herald, Weekly Herald
  • Edmonton – The Edmonton Journal
  • Lethbridge – The Lethbridge Herald

Saskatchewan

  • Saskatoon – the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, the Saskatoon Sun, Ag World News, Saskatoon Daily Star
  • Regina – the Leader-Post, Regina Sun

Manitoba

  • Brandon – The Brandon Sun
  • Winnipeg – Manitoba Free Press, Manitoba Morning Free Press, Free Press Evening Bulletin, Manitoba Free Press Daily, Free Press Evening News Bulletin, The Winnipeg Tribune [Note: The Winnipeg Free Press is not currently available.]

Ontario

  • Ottawa – the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Daily Citizen, The Ottawa Journal
  • Toronto – the National Post
  • Windsor – the Windsor Star

Quebec

  • Montreal – the Gazette

Photo of men reading a newspaper about the lunar landing, entitled “MaanLanding”. Retrieved from New Old Stock on 19 Jun 2019 at https://nos.twnsnd.co/image/71530916795.

Top 12 tips for getting more from Newspapers.com

  1. Prepare for your research. Assemble your ongoing genealogy questions, research logs and notes, and/or lists of name variations, addresses, and phone numbers. Look at what you’ve already assembled and what you’re looking for to fill in the gaps. Start a new research log with the above. Record every keyword search. (This is slow going but well worth doing once you’ve forgotten what you’ve already searched.) My research logs always have these two elements: the date of research, with bullet points on what I’ve searched.
  2. Use the free 7 day trial period to your advantage. Set aside a full day to dig in, or if this works better, a series of days with a few hours of research/day. If you opt to cancel your subscription at the end of the trial, diarize the date in your calendar so you don’t forget.
  3. Consider the list of cities and towns as listed above, and look at the years available. Look at your ancestor timelines to see when they were born / died, and which newspapers were more likely to carry news of them. This will also help you narrow down an ancestor with a more common name. For example, my husband’s family are the William John Shavers of Ontario. If I find an article for a William John Shaver in Quesnel, BC, it’s less likely he’s family (but not of course impossible).
  4. Review how the site uses wildcards and quotation marks. It’s good to get a refresher before you really get going and potentially miss finding what you could be finding right away.
  5. Begin your search. With the first few searches, try looking at what categories of hits you’re getting, and how the search functionality returns and ranks your results. Try testing a few different sorting orders until you have a feel for what will work for your research. For example, my family were involved in business, political reform, and sports.
  6. I found that my families tended to be more reported in one or two newspapers. If this is the same for you, spend a few minutes getting to know how the newspaper is laid out. What was important? What sections came first? Was there a social events section? Were school results reported in the news? I found my family made the news when they graduated from high school, university, and won letters for sports and academics in school.
  7. Consider seasonality in a newspaper. For example, June is the month of weddings and high school graduations. Look for your people as ushers and wedding attendants – that will tell you a lot about who their friends were.
  8. Consider transportation methods. The comings and goings of trains and steamships was reported in the news.
  9. When you’re ready to begin downloading your results, I would recommend using 3 of 4 methods. Newspapers.com allows you to (i) download the PDF with citation data, or (ii) download the JPG, or (iii) snip the small article to PDF (which includes citation data). I recommend for small articles that you download the snip to PDF to your desktop. If the article is large, I recommend that you download BOTH the JPG and the PDF. (The JPG may be enlarged as large as you like, while the PDF will have all the citation data.) Depending on your comfort zone with privacy and/or a need for discretion with what you find, Newspapers.com allows you to snip an article and save it directly to your person in Ancestry. This method is visible to everyone and the snip information, including your name, is saved to the database.
  10. Save your finds immediately to your program of choice. I use Evernote. Many people on the PC platform use OneNote. In this way, you may save multiple copies of the same article together.
  11. Don’t forget to analyze your finds. It’s so easy and fun to get caught up in finding new information about your ancestors. For me, I found 300 (!!) articles during the free weekend blitz and now, while it’s so very tempting to sign up immediately for the paid subscription, I’ve promised myself that I’m going to process what I’ve found before going back to the well to drink.
  12. Finally, some thoughts about citing your work. After all, it’d be great to know where you got this tidbit from later on. For this I will leave you with words of advice from the experts at Evidence Explained on Citing announcements from sites like Newspapers.com.
Photos of newspapers, newspaper stand in Sydney, Australia, and men reading the news of the lunar landing
Photo of a new stall in Sydney, NSW. Retrieved from New Old Stock on 19 Jun 2019 at https://nos.twnsnd.co/image/182870907658.

Postscript

I spent a few hours fooling around on Newspapers.com before I got serious about it. I think I may have spent a full 24 hours on the site, all told, in one weekend. It was quite a blitz. I notice my former paper, the Sun newspaper chain (currently called PostMedia) is not listed here – they are the Toronto Sun, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, Ottawa Sun, and Winnipeg Sun. (The Vancouver Sun was never a part of this group.) Until now, I’ve restricted my personal genealogy newspaper research to the sites that are free. They are the British Colonist, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, and The Chinatown News. I was happily surprised to see the balanced reporting of the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province newspapers, who seemed to mostly avoid florid language and treat the Chinese with the same regard as everyone else. I found an article entitled Vancouver Chinatown has no mystery – except Chinese from the Province dated 12 Dec 1926.

Have you tried Newspapers.com? What do you think? What did I miss?

4 thoughts on “Top 12 tips on getting the most out of Newspapers.com (for Canada, for free)

  1. I tried it late last year after my husband stumbled on an article about his grandparents from 1944, but could only see the snip in the search results. We caved and got the 7 day trial – I did a blitz over the next few days and found a ton of articles related to his great-grandfather, as well as his grandparents, and great-uncles. Even better, I finally got a copy of my grandmother’s obituary from 1988. No-one had saved a copy – I guess we weren’t thinking about it. I do save to Ancestry as my tree is private, but also snip to .jpg and download the .pdf. And back up… My favourite free site for newspapers here in BC is the one at UBC – for small-town papers. It’s a goldmine 🙂

    1. That’s a great story. Not only the obits but also the stories about your family – together they give a rich picture of what your family was truly like. So too with my family – I was completely unprepared for the flood of information, or for the depth of history, or for the sympathetic reporting. And I think 7 days is a great amount of time to focus on this site. It’s been 3 weeks and I’ve still only processed a fraction of what I found.

      Did you find that the stories you uncovered led you to new searches in ways you hadn’t previously considered?

      1. a couple of little hints at Newspapers.com about stuff I didn’t know about my husband’s family…in England, however, using the British Newspaper Archive (through Findmypast) I’ve found a ton of information about one particular branch. I’ve blogged about some of it. I search the BNA once every couple of weeks as FMP updates the collection weekly – rather a time sink!!

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