A great deal of information about individuals can be found in the English-language newspapers published in Shanghai and other cities. These include: birth, marriage and death notices and reports, passenger lists, trial records and company meetings, sport and society reports, and much more. For a fuller list of titles of Chinese, English and Japanese language newspapers published in China, and freely available online, see this page.
The North China Herald
Published in Shanghai, this weekly newspaper can be found in searchable format in NewspaperArchive, but only up to the end of 1926. Fuller runs can only be found through libraries that have taken out subscriptions in other platforms such as Proquest’s ‘China Coast Newspapers’ and Brill’s North China Herald Online (to which you can purchase a day pass which includes all newspapers on its platform).
Most issues of the NCH for the years 1850-1941 can now be found on the Internet Archive as individual PDFs. This is free to access. They can also be found on this Chinese site, with many more Chinese newspapers and other publications. The missing years are July 1854 to end of January 1858, and 12 & 26 November and 3 December 1941. The newspaper did not resume publication after the war, although the North China Daily News, which was first published in 1864, was resumed until 1951. This is not available online at all.
Old Hong Kong newspapers. This is the online, open to all, Hong Kong Libraries platform for its digitised newspapers. This is both a rich resource and a terrible platform. Rich because it holds a large number and wide range of newspapers in English and Chinese; terrible because it cannot be searched efficiently, images cannot be downloaded, and it is very inefficient to navigate. However, you can look for dates reasonably easily, and search terms may pick up words in article titles (but not text). The Hong Kong press often republished items from the China press, including notes on births, marriages and deaths. Hint: use the Carl Smith Collection to search for names. The cards very often refer to the newspaper where the information Smith copied was found. Use this search function. You’ll find them referenced as eg DP (Hongkong Daily Press), HKT (Hongkong Telegraph), etc. These can also provide clues to publication of information in the English-language press in China itself (as stories were often reproduced in Hong Kong). You can then browse to the date on this platform and page through the newspaper. While you cannot download pages, you can use screen capture to make copies.
Published in Shanghai by the Shanghai Zionist Federation, a 1904-34 run of poor quality scans of Israel’s Messenger in downloadable PDF format is available from the website Jewish Communities of China.
The London and China Telegraph
Published in London, this newspaper reprinted items from the China, Hong Kong and Japan press, that came in the mail from Asia. It also includes passenger lists and news about China-related events in Britain. This last has been adapted from the Families in British India Society China sources wiki. There are two versions available on Google Books, the second set below comes from the Wason Collection at Cornell University (which has also placed a lot of its East Asia collections on Archive.org.) You can now also find these as individual editions on Archive.org.
China Weekly Review
Originally published from 1917 as Millard’s Review of the Far East, and after the Second World War, the China Monthly Review, this American-owned news magazine is available in full on the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences digital resources platform (Chinese-language). Access is provided to individual issues. Free.
This is a New York edition of the Shanghai newspaper, published during the Japanese occupation and after. Digitised by Columbia University, the years 1943-46 available via Archive.org.
The press in Singapore also republished items from the China press, including notes on births, marriages and deaths. The Singapore National Library Board’s newspaper platform NewspapersSG can be searched online.
The Homeward Mail from India, China, and the East
Published between 1857-1914, and available through the subscription platform British Newspaper Archive, the Homeward Mail contains China-related news items, and passenger lists, including lists of passengers who had booked journeys to Asia on the P&O line. This title can be found within the FindmyPast newspapers subscription as well (which is another way of accessing the BNA’s database).
You will also potentially find information about China ancestors published in the press in their home locality. Do also try the (freely available) digitised Australian and New Zealand press platforms, as newspapers there also regularly published news items copied from the China press. It was also not uncommon for British China residents to move on to these countries.
Although it does not host newspapers, the platform 《近現代人物資訊整合系統》(which it translates as The Integrated Information System on Modern and Contemporary Characters) established by the Institute for Modern History, Academia Sinica, contains a great many digitised biographical sources in Chinese, English and Japanese. The ‘Virtual Shanghai‘ platform, directed by Christian Henriot, and hosted by IrAsia at Aix Marseille Université contains a very large range of digitised texts (in English, Chinese and Japanese), images, maps, and more. See also the inter-related the Bibliothèque numérique asiatique hosted by IRAsia, the Institut de Recherches Asiatiques, and the China Families listing of digitised residential and commercial directories. A very wide range of digitised mostly English-language material from post-1949 China can be found on or through the lists on Bannedthought.net, which also has pre-1949 and contemporary material.