Research old newspapers and Photographs
Go to Chronicling America at the Library of Congress. Many Newspapers from 1777 to 1963 are available in digitized format. You can view or download images or pdfs of individual pages.
Copy the text by clicking the Text button at the top right of the image window. Sometimes the text is nearly perfect and sometimes it requires extensive editing. You can search for specific newspapers or search by person’s name or location. In the early 1900s, newspapers listed who was registered at local hotels or traveling by steamship. It’s worth trying a search for a relative’s name.
Also look at the other digital collections available from the Library of Congress here. Maps, photographs and collections of letters are available.
Every year more documents are entering the public domain. Generally, that means that you can download and use or quote from materials in the public domain. LifeHacker gives more information.