What to Know about BPL's Database Newspapers.com


By Beth Willauer | Southern History Department

The Birmingham Public Library has a database subscription to Newspapers.com: Library Edition Southeast Collection.

The database contains over 2,000 newspapers – 554 of them from Alabama, including:

* The Birmingham News (1889-1923)

* Birmingham Mirror (1960-1963)

* The Weekly Review (1940-1951)

* The Birmingham Reporter (1907-1934)

A short video introduces you to the database and a second video shows you search strategies to find specific items of interest. BPL's Newspapers.com database uses optical character recognition software to find your search terms; your search is not limited to the main subjects of the articles. Once you've entered your search term, you can refine your results by state, county, newspaper and / or range of years.

Students can use the newspapers as primary sources for first hand accounts of events big and small that shaped our history.

Family historians may want to grab a cup of hot cocoa and settle in. Of course you'll want to start searching for your ancestor by their name. 

The newspapers are filled with accounts of the everyday comings and goings of their subscribers in addition to the more notable events such as births, marriages and deaths.

If you are very lucky you will find a photograph, but even without a photograph a description of your great-grandparents' wedding paints a picture with lovely details: She carried an orchid on a prayer book, showered with tube roses. The prayer book was a gift from the father to the mother on their wedding. (The Weekly Review, 2 January 1942)

After searching for your ancestors' names, search the names of their neighborhoods, churches and schools. Photographs of school classes, sporting events and entertainment venues often ran without individuals' names.

Under the headline, “These mighty Men of Miles Eleven are no More” you'll see pictures of six Miles College football players whose football season ended when Miles College suspended play during WWII. Someone looking for a photograph of one of these gentlemen would have found it by looking for Miles College football and narrowing the year to 1943; the names of the helmeted players were not listed. (The Weekly Review, 6 November 1943)

When you've found something of interest you may set up an email account with Newspapers.com and save your article (or take a photograph).

Finally, enjoy the ads for food, appliances, clothing and all the other things our ancestors used that we continue to use today.

Take small comfort that in 1955 the Alabama Tribune ran an article about weight loss just above five different recipes for pie. Some things never change.

You may access  Newspapers.com at any Birmingham Public Library location or remotely if you live in the City of Birmingham and have a JCLC library card (BPL is a member of JCLC).