NewsBank: Free Access Always

Most genealogists and family researchers are familiar with, a newspaper subscription service; but fewer people know about NewsBank. 

What is NewsBank? 

Established in 1972, NewsBank is a news database resource that provides public libraries, schools, and institutions of higher learning with access to archived newspapers and other digital publications. In turn, these institutions provide free access to NewsBank to their patrons, faculty and students, which they can use for research or simply to read.  

Public libraries that subscribe to NewsBank make it accessible to their patrons who have a library card. Cardholders can then access NewsBank at the library or remotely via the Internet. 

Due to NewsBank’s relatively high cost, participating libraries are primarily located in larger communities. But that doesn’t mean you are out of luck if you live in a smaller community. If you live in a rural area or in a community without a library or with a small library, you can obtain a library card from a larger public library near you and access NewsBank for free. 

NewsBank offers several different databases, the most useful for family researchers is titled “Access World News.” This online service is considered the world’s largest full-text news database of articles taken from more than 2,000 local, regional, national, and international newspapers. NewsBank has consolidated more than 150 million current and archived articles. 

In addition to newspapers, NewsBank offers access to audio files, blogs, college newspapers, journals, popular magazines, newsletters, newswires and services, video, radio and television broadcast transcripts, and web sources. NewsBank offers hundreds more sources than any of its competitors, with nearly 75% of sources exclusive to NewsBank. 

The oldest date of publication of the newspapers varies significantly. Much work has been done to convert paper or microfilm versions of newspapers to a digital format. Most major papers are available dating back to the early 1900s. Back issues of many smaller papers are available as well.  For instance, my hometown newspaper (population 5,000) is available dating back to its original publication.

How NewsBank Benefits Family Researchers

NewsBanks’ Access World News is available online, 24×7 so it is very convenient. It can provide fresh opportunities for family research. Possible uses include:

  • Family researchers can uncover previously unknown aspects of their family history from obituaries and other news items, including society columns, crime reports, casualty reports, sports stories, and more.
  • Discover information about property ownership and transfers, small business ownership, and real estate and personal property sales.
  • History buffs will spend hours uncovering lost details about local people, places and events, while all users will enjoy looking back at everyday life of yesteryear.

How Do I Access NewsBank? 

You can get to NewsBank by visiting your library’s website. Locate the web page on library’s site that lists NewsBank. At my library, NewsBank is found on the “Online Learning-Databases” page. If you can’t find the page on your library’s website, give them a call or do a site search.  

Once you click on the NewsBank link, you will be prompted to enter the barcode number located on your library card and your password associated with your library card account. 

If you don’t have a library card, you can go to the library and set up an account; or most larger libraries have online new account registration. If you don’t remember your password, contact the library to have it reset, or work through the “Don’t Remember Password” feature online. This step, and your account information that is needed, are specific to your library account, not NewsBank. Your library card information provides direct access to NewsBank. 

How to Use NewsBank’s Access World News Database

Provided below is a great video tutorial offered by the Jaffrey Public Library in New Hampshire on how to use NewsBank Access World News. The only difference between the information in this video and your experience will be how you access NewsBank through your library’s website. Once you find NewsBank on your library’s site, you will be taken to NewsBank and share the same user experience as featured in the video.    

When you’re on the Access World News’ site, don’t overlook its unique, intuitive map-based interface, which enables users to easily target their research to a geographic area. For example, let’s say you know that your grandfather died in Illinois; however, you don’t know where, when or in what newspaper his obituary was published. Rather than search the entire worldwide database, use the map feature to narrow your search to newspapers located in Illinois. 

Give it a try. Happy hunting for a bit of your family’s history!


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