How to find items in newspapers

Finding newspaper articles, images and more using databases and indexes

Newspaper indexes

State Library Victoria has an extensive newspaper collection. This includes print newspapers; newspapers on microfilm and newspapers online. Finding a newspaper article, or a personal notice, without knowing the specific date can be time consuming process. If an index is available it will save you a lot of time. This guide identifies a range of indexes available at the State Library, and some online indexes.

To search for an index, enter the newspaper title or the place name, followed by  the word ‘index’ into the Library catalogue; ie Gippsland Times index;  Vigilante index; new york times index.

Many indexes have been 'tagged' as Newspapers Indexes. See User Tags for different lists of newspaper indexes.

History at your fingertips

Melbourne newspaper card indexes  at the State Library Victoria

Newspaper indexes at the SLV

Please note: the above listing contains some call numbers and locations which no longer hold so, to be sure of their location, look up the relevant titles in the SLV catalogue.

What is a newspaper index?

A newspaper index is an alphabetical list of news articles - classified by subject, names, personal notices, advertising, illustrations, or other items, found in a newspaper, or group of newspapers.  Some indexes list all the content of a newspaper but most list only part, usually the news articles or the personal notices, or names.

Sample page from newscan index
Sample index page from Newscan

Subject indexes

General subject indexes cover all the main news content of a  newspaper. They usually list articles  under subject headings such as, ‘Accidents', 'Floods', 'Roads', 'Schools', 'Football' etc. If a person was regularly in the news they will often be listed by name, e.g. Hawke, Robert; Bradman, Don etc. Many general subject indexes have been 'tagged' on our catalogue as Newspapers Indexes. See User Tags for a list of other newspaper indexes.

Newspaper indexes come in a range of formats.  Older indexes are often on cards or microfiche, or sometimes in bound volumes.  More recent indexes may be online or in other electronic formats such as CD-ROMs which are available in the Library.  Indexes may be published and widely available. Others can be unpublished, sometimes hand written, and only available in particular libraries.

Melbourne Herald Index sample card entry

Hearld Index

Family history indexes

Family history indexes list any content useful for genealogists. The most common type of family history indexes are birth, death and marriage notices (BDMs), and other types of personal notices such as memoriams, anniversaries, engagements, etc. There are other types of family history indexes such as ships passengers lists, arrivals and departures of ships, missing friends notices, wills, inquests and probate notices.

Some useful online family history newspaper indexes are:

Ryerson Index
Death notices from current Australian newspapers

Herald-Sun Tributes
Death notices from the Melbourne Herald-Sun

Sydney Morning Herald In Memoriam Notices

See Newspapers Indexes Genealogy for an extensive list of newspaper indexes useful for family history researchers.

Name indexes

Many general subject indexes will contain a names sequence. These are usually the names of people appearing regularly in the news such as politicians, entertainers and sports stars.

Names of people who were in the newspaper because something newsworthy happened to them, such as having a pet rescued by the Fire Brigade, or giving birth to a baby on the way to hospital are generally not included in name indexes. So if you are looking for a picture of a relative taken at an event like the Melbourne Show, you probably won't find the name in the names index section for a major newspaper like the Melbourne Sun or the Melbourne Herald.

Index headings

Newspaper indexes use headings such as 'Accidents', 'Floods', 'Fires', 'Murders', 'Hospitals' etc. to group similar stories together. They are usually arranged  in date order.

Different indexes can use different headings. For example one may use 'Motor Accidents', another 'Automobile Accidents', and another, 'Accidents - Vehicular'. Some older indexes may use words no longer in popular use. For example 'Casualties', instead of 'Accidents', or 'Handicapped' or 'Crippled' for stories about disability issues. Check under a range of headings for your topic.

Popular print and card indexes

Printed Indexes

Card Indexes
Available in the Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms. They index articles by subject, personal name and by-line (article author).

  • Herald, (Melbourne),  Jan. 1926 - 12 Nov. 1970
  • Sun, (Melbourne),  Jan. 1929 - 12 Nov. 1970



Newscan arranges articles by subject, A to Z (see the sample page in the middle of this page). Newspapers indexed are The Age, The Australian, The Herald Sun, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, Business Review Weekly, Time Magazine. Also includes magazines.

The Library's collection of Newscan begins in 1996 and is ongoing. It is published weekly with monthly cumulations. Use your Library barcode to request from onsite storage.

Online indexes

Indexing the Argus newspaper

Indexing the "Argus", the Newspaper Room, State Library of Victoria, 1985, H88.55/15

British Newspaper Archive

Index to The Advocate

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne has digitised the Advocate Summary & Index, which is also available on microfiche at the SLV.

MHDC summary of the Advocate is an index to the Advocate for 1868-1990 and is in four sequences, 1868-1900, 1901-1927, 1928-1954 and 1955-1990. The "summary" sequence for each chronological period is an alphabetical listing of entries (i.e. brief summaries of articles) on individuals, religious orders, local and world events, church buildings, politics and education. The index for 1868-1990 accompanying the "summary" sequences is an alphabetical listing of all the entries for 1868-1990. The numbers in the three indexes to the Summary refer to volumes and page numbers of a master copy (the Advocate) in hard copy format, held by the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission.