The citizens of Pennsylvania published almost 10,000 different newspapers over the past 300 years. The good news for family history researchers is that many newspapers are digitized and online. You can search them from the comfort of your own home anytime.
Digitized newspapers are available through several websites (see below). The search feature on every site allows you to enter any key words you would like to use. These sites use optical character recognition or OCR technology to translate your key words into the image of that word as it would look on the newspaper page. OCR allows you to go beyond indexed names and dates of usual genealogy records.
For example, you could search your ancestor’s hometown paper for “Civil War,” or the more common term of the time in PA “War of the Rebellion,” and find out what they heard and felt. Of course newspapers are a great substitute for vital record information on ancestors because many had obituaries, estate claims, funeral notices, and marriage notices.
OCR is not flawless. It misses hyphenated words separated across lines, and words in the folds of the paper. It’s helpful to try just first name or surnames and limit by a week or month at a time.
Some of the newspaper sites are paid subscription services, but the PA based ones are free. Check them out to get wonderful historical context for your ancestors.
Digitized Pennsylvania Newspaper Collections
This entry is part of the PA Ancestors Almanac. Follow the links at the bottom of the post to learn more about how to discover your ancestors in Pennsylvania.
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