Hidden Histories - Jason Gunn - Day 4

Some of Jason's ancestors made the newspaper more often than others. 
But you don't need to be rich or famous to make the news and sometimes it's just the everyday things that add so much to your family history.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

Researching in Newspapers

Newspapers are great sources for adding flesh to the skeleton of your family tree.

The National Library of New Zealand has a digitised collection of 19th and 20th century newspapers available at Papers Past:


These have been scanned and OCR’d. That means that you can search for specific words in the newspapers. The technology isn’t perfect though and sometimes the software has difficulty with blurry newspaper print, so be prepared to try multiple ways to find something that you are looking for.

There are a number of filters available to help focus your search of the database.

 Papers Past - Searching Newspapers

Remember if you are searching for a name that a person could be found by different variants on their name. For example: Samuel John Lowndes, Samuel Lowndes, S J Lowndes, S Lowndes, Lowndes Samuel John, Lowndes Samuel, Lowndes S J and Mr Lowndes.  If you are looking for a married woman don’t forget to check under her husband’s name e.g. Mrs S J Lowndes or even just “The wife of Samuel Lowndes”. Names can also be written down by the reporter incorrectly and /or end up in the newspaper spelt wrong.

Narrow the search by dates if you know when an event took place or when an ancestor was in New Zealand.

Restricting your search by region or newspaper can be useful to reduce the number of results.

PapersPast - Region


But be aware of what timeframe each newspaper covers:

Paperspast - Timeframes


Also remember that news was often covered by multiple newspapers (just like it is today) and some reports may have more details than others.

For newspapers that aren’t online, you could try the library in the local area or National Library in Wellington to see if they have a copy. Unless there is a local index to the paper there is no easy way to search these other than reading page by page.


Outside of New Zealand


Australia has a similar website for newspapers called Trove: http://trove.nla.gov.au/

United Kingdom

For the United Kingdom, Findmypast has a collection of searchable newspapers that includes local and regional publication. These cover the period 1700-2016 and are being added to over time.

It is well worth having a look to see what newspapers are available that cover the geographical areas that you are interested in, but it’s also important to remember that news was often reported in different areas. There are separate collections for British and Irish newspapers, so you may need to search both.


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