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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 200C: Visual History: V. Newspapers

A course guide.

On this Page:

  1. Major Historical Newspapers Online
  2. Historical Newspaper Collections Online
  3. Obituaries

1. Major Historical Newspapers Online

These titles contain digital facsimiles of the original newsprint and are keyword searchable. More titles

2. Historical Newspaper Collections Online

Many newspapers are embedded in larger collections of online resources or in microfilm collections. The Center for Research Libraries maintains a list of International Newspaper Digitization Projects. Examples of online collections include:

3. Obituaries

An obituary is an article, usually published in a newspaper, that announces the death of a person. Shorter announcements are sometimes called "Death Notices". Obituaries and death notices typically appear in a specific section of the newspaper, though obituaries of people considered especially important can appear anywhere, including the front page.

Historians use obituaries to establish factual information, like time and place of death, and for any other biographical information the obituary might contain. Obituaries can also reveal something about how the person was perceived at the time of his or her death, though the biases of the obituary's author must of course be taken into account.

The fastest way to find obituaries is to use digitized newspapers. Here is a strategy for online searching:

  • Your search will be easier if you know the date of death, or at least the year.
  • Search by last name. If you also need to use a first name, search the two names on separate lines, since you can't predict if the obituary will use full names, or nicknames. Consider, for example, the obituary for Willie Price, Jr.--you won't find his obituary if you search it as "Willie Price", because it was printed as "Price, Willie, Jr." Similarly, the obituary for John Hudgins has his name as "Hudgins, Johnathan Scott." Search engines can be very literal, and often aren't good at inferring what you mean.
  • You can use the "obituary" limit if one is available, but be aware that these limits don't always work reliably. If the limit doesn't seem to be working, un-limit your search, and use instead keywords like "died" or "dead" or "survived" or "surviving"--words that often appear in obituaries.