Quickly Find Your Oldest Gmail Messages

In most folders, Gmail shows your emails in the reverse order of how they came in. In other words, when you open your Inbox or Sent Mail folders, the first message in the list is the most recent message you received or sent, depending on the folder.

While this is the simplest way to find recent and new emails, it's not always what you want. Maybe you want to browse through your oldest emails or just see how old a folder is for fun.

You can get Gmail to show you the oldest messages first.

If you just want to find a message from a specific point in time, a better method would be to search Gmail using the before or after date operator.

View Gmail Messages in Reverse Chronological Order

Click on any folder that has more than one screen of messages. You may have set your preferences to display anywhere from 10 to 100 messages per screen. If you only have one screen of messages, you can just look at the bottom of the screen for the oldest message; you don't need this trick to find the oldest email in the folder.

You may need to set your Gmail View to Default fo this to work. To do that, simply click the little arrow to the right of the word Inbox in the left-hand pane, and choose Default.

Default view checked in Gmail Inbox view preferences
  1. Look at the area right above all your messages and to the right. There's a number there that shows how many emails are in that folder. For example, you might see 1-100 of 3,477 if you have over 3,000 emails in that folder, and your Gmail account is configured to show 100 messages per page.

  2. Hover your mouse over that area until a small menu drops down. 

  3. Choose Oldest from that menu. You should immediately be taken to the last page of emails in that folder. The oldest email is the last one on the screen.

    Oldest option in Gmail Inbox menu with Default view
  4. To move back to a previous screen to see newer messages, use the back arrow between the email count and the settings button.

    Newer arrow in Gmail Inbox in Default view for reverse chronological order

Although this method allows you to view the messages in reverse chronological order, Gmail doesn't actually reverse the order. Each screen of messages remains sorted from newer to older. You have to look at the bottom of each screen for the oldest messages.

Only two options are available in the small drop-down menu under the page count: Newest and Oldest. If both options are grayed out when you go to choose one, the folder you're in doesn't have enough email to fill more than one page. Just scroll to the bottom of the page to see the oldest email in that folder.


  • In the Settings > General area of Gmail is an option for how many conversations should be shown per page. You can adjust this number to be 10, 15, 20, 25, 50 or 100. 
  • You can return to reading your Gmail messages in their regular order by choosing Newest from the drop-down menu under the page count.