NewspaperArchive.com Review And Guide

NewspaperArchive.com has a growing archive of US. and international newspapers and obituaries that could be hugely beneficial to your genealogy research.

This review goes in-depth into what NewspaperArchive has to offer and how to explore their coverage before you take a subscription.

This article contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Summary Of Pros And Cons Of NewspaperArchive.com

Pros:

  • Many 1000s of North American newspapers that aren’t online elsewhere
  • A selection of worldwide newspapers across 20+ countries
  • Easily browse and find the list of available titles and issues before sign-up
  • Longer payment terms work out at around 12 dollars per month

Cons:

  • Free trial requires payment details
  • Limited customer support based on email
  • Free content is limited to pages on famous people and events
  • Some older customer complaints around billing issues *

(*) I see a marked drop in customer complaints on reputable feedback sites in 2020/2021. This coincides with major company changes when the company was purchased. You’ll find the details in our article on the ownership of NewspaperArchive.com.

Best subscription option

My advice is to follow the steps in this article to evaluate whether the available publications could be useful to your family research.

If you find substantial coverage of the places and times in which your ancestors lived, then take advantage of the cost discounts of a six or twelve-month subscription (I break down the costs after a quick review).

If you don’t think you’ll still be working on your family tree after a few months, then take the monthly option. But don’t be surprised if this becomes a lifetime hobby!

Don’t pay what you can’t afford. Payment is taken in full at the start of your paid subscription period.

What Is NewspaperArchive.com?

Here is a quick summary of the site and what it has to offer:

NewspaperArchive.com is a subscription website that provides online access to an exclusive collection of historic U.S. and international newspapers.

The website provides browse and search features to retrieve and save images of newspaper pages.

The company started as a digital collection of U.S. newspapers but has expanded into international markets.

The challenge for you is figuring out whether NewspaperArchive.com has relevant content for your ancestors and relatives. I’ll show you how to check the coverage in this review.

Who runs NewspaperArchive?

The company changed ownership in 2020 when it was acquired by an equity investment firm. If you’re interested, check out our comprehensive article on who owns NewspaperArchive.com.

How Much Does A NewspaperArchive.com Subscription Cost?

NewspaperArchive.com has several subscription tiers that vary with how many months you pay upfront:

  • Monthly payments are usually $19.95
  • A 6-month term is usually $74.95 (about $12.50 per month)
  • A 12-month term is usually $139.80 (about $11.65 per month)

You can check out the latest prices on the NewspaperArchive.com pricing page.

The six and twelve-month term can start with a free 7-day trial. This article covers how to maximize your trial period.

Note: If your subscription isn’t canceled before the trial period is over, your card is charged with the full amount.

Does NewspaperArchive.com Cover Areas Your Family Resided?

NewspaperArchive.com has steadily grown the number of newspapers available on its platform. Here are some figures that I pulled from their corporate blog on different dates:

2009  2,874 titles (North American)
2018  9,829 titles (Worldwide)
202015,477 titles (Worldwide)

As you can see, their access has grown massively in recent years. Of course, its’ true that they don’t have access to every newspaper across the United States and abroad.

Some locations won’t be covered within the platform, and they may be better represented in a rival’s content.

There are plenty of genealogy enthusiasts who have subscriptions to two or more different archives. I’ll admit to being one of these people!

Satisfied customers

Here are some comments from a social media forum.

I already have a subscription to Newspaper.com, but I’m seeing stuff on NewspaperArchive.com that I can’t find elsewhere.

NewspaperArchive.com is better for older papers, ones from small towns and rural areas, or foreign-language newspapers.

I use NewspaperArchive because they’re the only site that has the newspaper for the one city most of my family has lived in for the past 120 years.

So, the real question here is are you able to find out if the newspapers will be useful for your own research.

The first step you can take is to browse the list of newspapers that are available.

Browse The List Of Papers On NewspaperArchive.com

Before you purchase a subscription or even sign up for a trial, you can check whether NewspaperArchive.com has newspapers in the areas in which your ancestors lived.

Open the “Publications” page from the top menu. This shows you a searchable index of newspapers on the platform arranged by state.

The list is ordered by when the title’s content was most recently updated. This isn’t particularly useful to a potential new customer.

Instead, the search features on the right of the page will be invaluable. You can search on both a location and a date range.

Personally, I prefer just to use the location. The display shows you the date range of each title. I like to get a good idea of the coverage of an area over decades.

A Sample Publication Search On NewspaperArchive.com

I wrote a review of GenealogyBank in which I searched for coverage of a particular town in New Jersey. I actually struck out – the platform had plenty of local newspapers from other towns in New Jersey, just not the one I was interested in.

So, I tried a similar search on NewspaperArchive.com.

The place is recorded in my family tree as “Westfield, Union County, New Jersey, USA”. But I’ve seen it documented in several formats e.g. Westfield, Union, NJ.

I’m not American, so I appreciated the built-in location help that the website gave me. As I typed in my request, the website offered a dropdown list of suggestions:

So, I picked the New Jersey option, and…hey presto! The results include the years of coverage for each title and also how many issues available on the platform.

As the same title isn’t available in GenealogyBank’s index, I can assume that NewspaperArchive.com has an exclusive contract for the content. (Of course, this will also be true in reverse scenarios).

At this point, I still don’t know if there is a mention of my relatives in this publication. But this is just the starting point of evaluating whether a subscription will be good value for my research.

You can run limited searches without taking a free trial and the results may be enough to glean the usefulness. I describe more in a later section in this article on free access to NewspaperArchive.com.

But if you see newspapers covering the specific places and timeframes in which your relatives resided, you’ll probably want to take out a free trial to evaluate what’s available.

Making The Most Of NewspaperArchive’s Free Trial

The first step is to choose a 6-month or 12-month plan before activating the trial. There is no difference to the access levels you get on either plan, and the trial includes full access to all the content.

The first step to get a trial is to register your email address on the trial sign-up page. At this point, you can pay in full (i.e. skip the trial) or opt to take the free trial.

Submitting your email takes you to the trial activation step which requires your credit card details. There is no option to get the free trial without providing a credit card.

If you don’t want to take up a subscription, you should cancel before your period expires. Otherwise you will be charged for the full amount (6 or 12 months). I’ve got some advice on cancelling the trial here.

Top Tip: Prepare Your Research Hit List

I recommend that you do some preparation before you sign up for the trial. This will maximize your free time on the site.

My best tip is to draw up a hit list of the place names and time periods in which your ancestors and relatives resided. Then you can quickly work through the list, ticking them as “yes” or “no” to indicate whether the results show obituaries or other articles.

Here is an excerpt of the hit list I use when evaluating all newspaper archives:

hit list showing name, death date, location, and column for marking if found or not

A hundred successful hits may be well worth a six month subscription to explore the rich details.

But if you only have a handful of results, then you may be able to complete all your research on this platform within the free trial period.

If you have a large family tree, you may be thinking that this will take a lot of effort to prepare. I’ve put together an article with different ways to get your prep done in the shortest periods. You can check out this article on preparing a research list for your newspaper subscription trial.

You can also check out our top seven tips for searching on NewspaperArchive.com.

Is It Easy To Cancel The NewspaperArchive Trial?

The company currently asks you to cancel by one of two methods:

  • Using the “My Billing” page on the website
  • Sending an email to customer service

At the time of writing, customer service is currently limited to office hours (CST time) on weekdays. Personally, I wouldn’t rely on sending an email six days into your trial period.

Personally, I would plan the start of the trial so I’m not canceling on a Thursday or Friday. That brings the weekend into play if you need customer support.

My advice is that you use both cancellation methods. Use the website billing page to cancel your subscription. Then follow up immediately with a cancellation email.

Is There Free Access To NewspaperArchive.com?

It could be worth checking if your local library has free customer access to NewspaperArchive.com. However, this won’t be an option for many.

The website has some limited free content that you can access with the menu link labeled “Free Newspaper Archives” in the footer.

You can also run searches and see sample results in low-resolution. But can you glean enough to evaluate if a subscription will be useful?

I’ll address the “Free Newspaper Archives” section first and then look at the general search results without a trial.

Free Newspaper Archives – famous events and people

The free section of the website is available through a menu link down in the footer.

I found that the best way to use the “Free Newspaper Archives” was to browse through the available categories listed on the left. These provide some content around famous events and people.

As an example, I followed the links for “Sports History” -> “History of Baseball” -> “Babe Ruth”.

Scrolling down the through the results, I pulled up a 1935 issue of the St Louis Sporting News.

There is one page offered as a free view, with the rest as paid prints. Although the content isn’t relevant to my genealogy research, I thought it might be useful to try out the user interface for examining the images.

There is a strip of controls for adjusting the image, zooming in and out, and clipping selections. Unfortunately, these features are blocked to free access of these “free” images.

I think blocking access to the usability features is not a good decision by the company. Why not let potential customers use all the features on a small set of images?

However, you may find that the free categories are interesting or fun for browsing. But they’re unlikely to be useful for family research.

Examining free search results

You can run searches on NewspaperArchive.com without signing up for a trial. The free results give you a summary of how many matches were found, and a few samples of these results.

I found that the limited viewing meant that the website “hid” the evidence of some fantastic articles about my relatives. I only found the gold when I signed up for the trial.

This seems to put the company at a disadvantage! Why are they hiding their light under a bushel? I don’t know. I’ll walk through an example in the next section.

Use The Free Trial For A Full Evaluation

Remember I described how I found the historical newspaper from New Jersey? I ran a free search for the surname of my person of interest (I was not signed in for the trial).

The website showed me a summary of the number of general matches (277 in my case). The free results also provided brief transcriptions of three of these results.

Searching without a trial

This is what I got for a search on “Willoughby” from my hit list:

As you can see, the quality of the transcript isn’t great. I would later find out through the trial that the quality of the images is far better and easily readable.

I’ve got plenty of experience and practice with reading OCR search results. I can tell that these examples are from adverts or the classified section. These are the clues:

  • “They can’t be beat” (this must be an advert about furniture removal)
  • “He can’t be beat” (this looks like an advert for a Catarrh remedy)
  • “For sale” (definitely from the classifieds)

This is enough to tell me that these specific results will not be meaty articles about a person with the Willoughby name.

That’s a pity (for me). And I might have assumed that there was nothing better in these archives. But that was far from the truth! Read on…

Striking gold with trial searches

When I tested the free trial period, I ran a similar search while I was signed into the website.

This time, I was able to scroll through all the search results, watching out for interesting transcripts. A reference to a birthday party caught my eye:

So, I clicked into the result (which you can’t do without the trial).

Wow, I had struck gold! This typical small-town article about the 18th birthday party of my 3rd cousin twice removed. It’s the invitation list that’s the goldmine for my research.

Never mind the local “soldier boys” – although I’m sure my young cousin was delighted with their presence! I also was less interested in guests from the same town, as I figured they’d be school pals instead of relatives.

It’s the out-of-town visitors that led me to months of researching and enriching new branches of my family tree.

International Newspapers On NewspaperArchive.com

One of the company’s main competitors, GenealogyBank.com, is exclusively focused on North American newspaper titles. (You can check out my review of GenealogyBank here).

In contrast, NewspaperArchive.com has expanded into international markets. That could make this site a one-stop shop for customers.

However, you should examine the list of publications from your country of interest to see the coverage.

I took a closer look at the Irish titles on the site by entering “Ireland” in the search box of the Publications page.

There is an impressive 49 titles although all are categorized within one location: the capital city of Dublin.

The bigger Dublin titles aren’t represented here, but this content could be gold for your family research.

My ancestors didn’t reside in Dublin. That doesn’t mean that they mightn’t crop up in these titles but it’s less of a draw for me.

Limited Customer Service

At the time of writing, NewspaperArchive only offer email support on weekdays from 9 AM to 5 PM Central Standard Time.

I consider this to be very limited for a large subscription website with international customers.

I’ll be watching with interest to see if the new investors will improve the coverage. (here’s our article on the ownership changes with NewspaperArchive.com)

Telephone number is discontinued

At one point, the company had a telephone number for customer support. This has been discontinued. The company website no longer mentions the number.

Unfortunately, some other websites still report this number. That includes the company profile on Better Business Bureau.

And if you run a Google search on the company, you will see the number pop up in the results. This content is out-of-date.

Historic Complaints About Billing and Cancelling Issues

If you run an internet search for complaints about NewspaperArchive.com, you will find plenty of upset customers.

Personally, I always check the date of complaints and don’t pay too much attention to anything over a few years old. Why?

  • Companies can go through a bad patch of technology issues that is later rectified.
  • A growing company may have a handful of frazzled customer service agents who become overwhelmed as the number of customers expands.

A revamped and increased team can turn this around. I’m hoping that the new investors are making this happen.

Better Business Bureau

Some online complaints sites can’t be trusted. Personally, I pay attention to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) when looking at U.S.-based companies.

Unlike some of its competitors, NewspaperArchive is not an accredited member of the BBB. However, they used to response to complaints on the site.

I trawled through the list of complaints dating since 2019 and categorized them by type and outcome:

YearType Of ComplaintNumber
2021 (to date)billing issue1
2020billing issue2
2020technical issue1
2019billing issue6
2019quality issue1

I’ve lumped unexpected charges and canceling issues into “billing issue” – the end result is that the customer is disputing the bill.

Complaints have dropped markedly since 2019

The good news is that the number of complaints has plummeted recently. Just one billing issue since the takeover of NewspaperArchive.com makes me think that is correcting what used to be a poor customer service experience.

I’d like to see the company go the extra mile to become accredited with the BBB.

Poor customer support through 2019

The company responded to complaints on the BBB site through 2019. Most refund requests were refused.

One of the refunds in 2019 seems to reflect a small company with limited systems. The response acknowledged that the customer had sent a cancellation email in good time. This was the explanation:

I do find your emails were caught in our spam system – why I do not know.

Huh? This is why companies use ticketing systems and software-backed contact forms for customer support – not email. I note that their customer support is still based on email at this point. I‘d like to see a more appropriate system in place.

Iowa judgment

Back in 2014, the Attorney General’s Office of Iowa investigated a swathe of customer complaints about the company.

The main problem centered on subscribers being charged extra for donations to an associated charity. The news release from the AG’s office also referred to other complaints.

Consumers had complained about the company’s automatic subscription renewals, billing practices, restrictive refund policies, unexpected price increases, difficulty in canceling, and unresponsive customer service.

Iowa AG Office Press Release

NewspaperArchive.com agreed to pay $100K in refunds.

My verdict

Aside from the BBB, I’ve trawled social medial forums like Facebook and Reddit to get a feel for whether people had billing issues through this year.

The lengthy complaints threads are at least several years old. In contrast, I’m not seeing current complaints about billing.

In my opinion, this company has moved past a track record of billing issues. This coincides with a change of ownership and management.

Free and Paid Alternatives To NewspaperArchive.com

You have several free and paid alternatives for accessing newspaper and obituary archives.

Kenneth Marks has an excellent list of free newspaper collections on his Ancestor Hunt blog.

FamilySearch.org also has a wiki page with a list of free U.S. newspaper collections.

Subscription sites – our reviews

The main subscription alternatives covering North America include Newspapers.com (from Ancestry) and GenealogyBank. Our round-up review of the best U.S. subscription newspaper archives has comparison tables and feature breakdowns.

You can also check out our in-depth articles on these sites:

If you have ancestors and relatives in the United Kingdom, then check out our review of BritishNewspaperArchive.co.uk – this online archive is a collaboration between genealogy company FindMyPast and the National British Library.

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