How to Find Photos and Images in Old Newspapers with Newspaper Navigator

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 26 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: September 24, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

Newspaper Navigator is a new free online tool for finding images and photos in old newspapers at Chronicling America. It doesn’t work the way the Library of Congress website works, so in this episode I show you how to navigate the Newspaper Navigator. It’s a fun session that will have you finding new newspaper gems in no time!

About LOC Chronicling America

Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. It features free digitized historic newspapers spanning 1789-1963.

Newspapers Contain Imagery such as:

  • Photos
  • Drawings
  • Maps
  • Cartoons
  • Advertisements

You may not find the newspaper that you need for your research in the Chronicling America digitized collection. In those cases, turn to the US Newspaper Directory. It catalogs newspapers published 1690-present. Click the US Newspaper Directory button on the Chronicling America website to search. The catalog will tell you where known copies of the paper can be accessed.

Uses of Newspaper Images

Most of the old newspapers featured in Chronicling America include images. And because these old images are in the public domain, they are an ideal complement to family histories.

If you are very fortunate you may find photos or images of your ancestors, their homes, or other things specifically about your family.

Newspaper images are also a wonderful source when you need a photo or image to represent an important idea or item when telling your family’s story, whether in a blog post, article, book, video, PowerPoint presentation or other medium. Example of this would include a photograph of a blacksmith shop in the 1890s in the area where your ancestor worked as a blacksmith, or an advertisement for a Sears home kit just like the one your grandfather built.

Chronicling America’s Newspaper Navigator

The Newspaper Navigator dataset currently consists of 1.5 million pieces of extracted visual content from 16,358,041 historic newspaper pages in Chronicling America.

The visual content was identified using an object detection model trained on annotations of World War 1-era Chronicling America pages, made by staff and volunteers.

This “visual content recognition model” detects the following types of content:

  1.  Photograph
  2.  Illustration
  3.  Map
  4.  Comics/Cartoon
  5.  Editorial Cartoon
  6.  Headline
  7.  Advertisement

It also includes text corresponding to the imagery, identified by Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

Searching the Newspaper Navigator

You can search all images with captions. The results will be returned in a Gallery view featuring up to 100 images per page. This results format makes it very easy to quicky browse the images.

You can also switch to List view which lists the images along with the text retrieved by OCR.

How to Find Images Faster in Old Newspapers

Run a search in Newspaper Navigator of the word baseball and then run the same search in Chronicling America. A comparison of the results highlights the between Chronicling America and Newspaper Navigator when it comes to finding images in old newspapers.

Word Searched: baseball
Results returned:
Newspaper Navigator: 5,427
Chronicling America: 921,534

The search results returned by the Newspaper Navigator are solely focused on photos and images. This means you have a fraction of the number results to review. Another big advantage of Newspaper Navigator over Chronicling America is the size of the image. Newspaper Navigator gives you just the large image to review, while Chronicling America shows you a thumbnail of the entire page with images so small that you must click and load the page to analyze them.

finding photos in newspapers at Chronicling America

Images appear much smaller at Chronicling America and require you to click through to the page for closer examination.

Start by running a keyword search. (example: Blacksmith). On the results you can filter the results by Location and Years. Because the search currently doesn’t support Boolean operators or other types of search operators, you may need to run a few different versions of the same search to get a complete picture of the potential results. We’ll talk more about search strategies in just a moment.

Once you find an image you want, click to open it. The pop-up box offers these four buttons:

  • Download Image – Downloads a high-resolution copy to your hard drive.
  • Cite this – Generates a source citation that is automatically copied to your computer clipboard. Then you can simply paste it as needed. You can also cite the dataset by including the image URL, plus a citation to the website such as “from the Library of Congress, Newspaper Navigatordataset: Extracted Visual Content from Chronicling America.” According to the website, all images are in the public domain and free to use. Learn more about Rights and Reproductions at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/about/.
  • Learn about this newspaper – Takes you to the Chronicling America catalog listing for the newspaper from which the image comes.
  • View Full Issue – Takes you to the complete newspaper issue at the Chronicling America website.
Newspaper image option buttons

Click the buttons to select the options

My Collection at Newspaper Navigator

You can gather and save collections of the newspaper images you find using Newspaper Navigator. Start by running a search. On the results page click to select the desired images, then click the Save button. This will generate a URL for that collection and copy it to your clipboard. Since Newspaper Navigator doesn’t currently allow you to log in and return to your past searches during different sessions, I suggest pasting the URL into a research log for future reference.

Train My AI Navigators at Newspaper Navigator

A unique feature of the Chronicling America Newspaper Navigator is the ability to “train” the site to search for you. It does this through machine learning.

Train My AI Navigator

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 26

How to Train My AI Navigator:

  1. Run a search
  2. Click to select desired images
  3. Click Save to save the collection of images
  4. Click Train My AI Navigators
  5. Newspaper Navigator will deliver a new set of images based on your selected images. On that page, select additional images that you want by clicking toward the top (+) of the image.
  6. Click unwanted images by clicking toward the bottom (-) of the image.
    selecting unwanted images from historic newspapersClick to select the images you don’t want the AI Newspaper Navigator to find.
  7. Click Train My AI Navigator again
  8. Continue adding and subtracting images as needed to further train the system
  9. Type a name for this training session in the Name My AI Navigator The saved AI Navigator name will appear in the Select an AI Navigator column
  10. Click Save to generate a URL for this training session and paste into your research log.
  11. Click + New AI Navigator to create a new training session spring boarding from the first
  12. Click Clear & Restart to start a new search

Newspaper Navigator Search Strategies

Newspaper Navigator doesn’t, as of this writing, support Boolean Operators or offer an advanced search field. Here are some strategies that can help you have more success in searching the site:

Don’t use search operators, use variations

Even a space between initials can make a difference.

Variations in newspaper searches

Each variation has the potential to deliver a different result in newspaper images.

Search Locations

Considering how many variations there can be to a name, when searching for ancestors try searching first on the name of their town or location. If there are still quite a few results, you can then filter to only newspapers from their state. I search the town name first because an article may appear in a newspaper from a different state. In the case of my search for McMinnville, I received a small, manageable results list. Had it been large and included both McMinnville, TN and McMinnville, OR, filtering to just Oregon would be helpful.

Test your search theories

Analyze your results and try variations based on what you are learning about what Newspaper Navigator is focusing on.

Search for word strings

In testing my search theories, I learned that Newspaper Navigator did not do well with multiple words that do not appear right next to each other. Therefore, I tried to find word strings that pertained to my family that I could search for such as the name of a business: Consolidation Coal Company.

Search for Photos

Another interesting search you can run is the word Photo. On the results page filter to the state and years that apply to your research.

Use List View to Find on Page

When dealing with a large number of results, List View can help speed up the review process. List View also displays the text generated by OCR. While not perfect, it can be helpful. Use your computer’s Find on Page feature (control + F on a PC, Command + F on Mac) and type in a keyword such as a surname. This will take you instantly to all occurrences of that word in the text on the page. Click the next page and run it again.

Use Control + F to find OCR text in the results list at Newspaper Navigator

Find images quickly by word search in the List View

Learn More About Machine Learning

In the menu click Data Archaeology to learn more about machine learning and the Newspaper Navigator project.

Resources

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersPremium Video & Handout: Getting the Scoop from Old Newspapers. (Not a Premium member yet? Learn more here.)
Book: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers
Bonus Download exclusively for Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

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Answers to Your Live Chat Questions

One of the advantages of tuning into the live broadcast of each Elevenses with Lisa show is participating in the Live Chat and asking your questions. 

Bert asks: Are some newspapers only available for a fee on websites such as Ancestry
Lisa’s Answer: Yes, several genealogy websites have exclusive collections of digitized old newspapers. You can usually search or browse the site for free to determine if they have newspapers from the location and time frame that you need before you make a purchase. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve had good success with:

Genealogy Bank
MyHeritage
Ancestry
British Newspaper Archive (a goldmine for anyone with British ancestors!) 

We are compensated if you make a purchase after using our links above (at no additional cost to you.) Thank you for supporting this free show by doing so!

Christine asks: (What is the ) newspaper navigator date range? 
Lisa’s answer: Here’s a break down of the dates:

Chronicling America covers 1789 – 1963 (digitized newspapers)
Newspaper Navigator covers 1900 – 1963 (photos in digitized newspapers)
U.S. Newspaper Directory at Chronicling America covers 1690 – present (catalog, only some are digitized and those are part of Chronicling America.)

Rachel asks: I have an ancestor that was in the social pages all the time in our local newspaper in the 1800’s. I thought it would make a great book or video, any ideas on how to showcase them the best?
Lisa’s answer: I love both of those ideas and I cover many more in my Premium Membership video Inspiring Ways to Captivate the Non-Genealogists in Your Life. Personally I have found that short photo books and short videos that tell one story are received the best by family members. They both offer opportunities to share and highlight items from newspapers. Learn more about quickly and easily making family history videos by watching Elevenses with Lisa episode 16. And I strongly encourage Premium Members to watch these two videos:

Video Magic: Creating Brilliant Videos Quickly & Easily with Lisa Louise Cooke (creating videos)
Share Your Own Life Stories More Meaningfully with Sunny Morton. (writing books)

lagomcurt asks: ​Are local small-town papers included in the collection?
Lisa’s answer: Yes.  

June asks: ​When you download it ask what to save as. What is your suggestion?
Lisa’s answer: I think you’ll find that JPEG is currently the only option in the Save as Type drop-down menu.

Sharon asks: ​Does Chronicling America have foreign language newspapers in America?
Lisa’s answer: Absolutely! Searching in the language will help retrieve items. 

Ohio Waisenfreund newspaper at Chronicling America

Ohio Waisenfreund newspaper at Chronicling America

Pat asks: ​Does it have Irish American newspapers?
Lisa’s answer:  Chronicling America does have Irish American newspapers. If they were published between 1900-1963 then they will be searchable by Newspaper Navigator. I would also recommend searching all newspapers (online and offline) by clicking the U.S. Newspaper Director button at Chronicling America. Then search by ethnicity (Irish) and Material Type (online.) You will find that some are linked to other websites where they can be found online. If you see an image of a newspaper on the catalog page, then you know it is available on Chronicling America in a digital format. 

how to search for irish newspapers online at US Newspaper Directory

Search for Irish newspapers online at US Newspaper Directory

 

 

Mark asks: Can the wash out pictures be enhance with the new MyHeritage Photo with the sharping feature and colorization to make it a better final experience with images?
Lisa’s answer: Yes indeed. Because the original quality will be poor and with low dots per inch (dpi) it likely won’t improve the way an original photo would. However enhancing and coloring just takes a few seconds and definitely improves the image. Even better, it often makes the print much more readable. I use it on documents too. Click here to try MyHeritage.

newspaper photo enhanced and colorized with Myheritage

Newspaper photo enhanced and colorized with MyHeritage

 

Kathy asks: ​If you do a search in English, will it find the search term(s) in newspapers that were written in German?
Lisa’s answer: No. You will need to search in German to pick up on any German text. However, if the image itself is similar, My AI Navigator should pick it up.

Lucinda asks: Who is in your necklace and the photo behind you, Lisa?
Lisa’s Answer: It’s my maternal grandmother’s high school graduation photo. 

Please Leave a Comment or Question Below

I really want to hear from you. Did you enjoy this episode? Do you have a question? Please leave it below.  You can also call and leave a voice mail at (925) 272-4021 and I just may answer it on the show!

 

How to Use Chronicling America to Find Your Ancestors’ Hometown Newspapers

Finding old newspapers from your ancestors’ hometown isn’t always easy. Here’s how to use Chronicling America to identify the newspapers that were in print at the time. Those issues may not be online, so Chronicling America also points you to copies of those newspapers at libraries and archives. 

In the new Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast #158, I spoke with Deborah Thomas at the Library of Congress. She manages one of my favorite websites for family history: the free historical newspaper site, Chronicling America. We talked about its amazing treasure trove of digitized newspapers: what’s there, what’s coming, and tips for searching them.

But only 1.5% of the 155,000 newspapers published over time in the U.S. newspapers have been digitized at Chronicling America. So you’ll want to look those ones up and locate them offsite. The good news is that there’s a lesser-known tool at Chronicling America to help you do just that. It’s called the US Newspaper Directory. Let’s walk through using it step-by-step.

How to Use Chronicling America to Find Your Ancestors’ Hometown Newspapers

  1. Go to the free Chronicling America website (no login needed).
    From the home page, click the US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present button on the top right:

The US Newspaper Directory is the most comprehensive database in the world for historical U.S. newspapers. It contains every newspaper known to the Library of Congress. That makes it the perfect place to find the newspapers that were printed in your ancestor’s hometown in any given time and place. The directory will provide you with a library catalog of holdings of these papers.

2. Fill in the blanks.
As shown below, first select the state and county (1). You may also select the city, but for smaller towns or rural areas, you may want to look at all papers that cover the county first. Neighboring towns or cities (even across county lines) may have reported on events local to your family, so it’s worth running a few searches. My tip: use Google Maps to find names of nearby towns. 
After you select the place, then narrow down a time period (2). Below is a search for newspapers in print at the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which affected my family. The image below also gives you a third type of selection criteria to focus on specific newspapers, such as those with a particular keyword in the title, or those printed in English or geared toward a particular occupation (3).

3. Choose a newspaper.
Below is a list of results from the above search, narrowed down to just English-language papers. There are still over 400! Some are multiple entries for the same paper, with different formats. Some may be less likely to mention my family, such as certain immigrant-oriented or political papers. 

I like to start with the ones that are already online, as indicated in the boxed text above. Click on one of those items, and scroll to the bottom of the catalog description to where it says Related Links, as shown below. Click the link to browse online issues.

Unfortunately, you can’t search within just those issues, you can just browse. However, because this is an “online resource”, you could go back to Chronicling America’s home page and search by date range, name and keyword for that newspaper and your ancestor’s name in it (as shown in the following example.)

4. Turn to offline papers.
If there are issues of this newspaper that aren’t online, the US Newspaper Directory can still help. In the above entry, see where it says Libraries that Have It just below the title of the newspaper? Click that link and you will see a list of library holdings, as shown below. Watch for the issue dates held at each library. You may have to scroll through several library holdings before you find the dates you want. (Remember, there may be multiple entries in the catalog for that same newspaper in different formats, so go back to your search results to look for additional library holdings mentioned in other entries.)

5. Get access to an offline newspaper.
Unfortunately, we can’t click from this point directly to the library holding of these issues. Instead, open a new window in your web browser and go to www.WorldCat.org, an enormous compiled catalog from thousands of libraries. Type the title in the search box and include the keyword newspaper, and then click Search Everything.

Clicking on the first search result in WorldCat takes you to The Argonaut’s entry in WorldCat, shown below. Here you may look toward the bottom of the entry to see all libraries with that newspaper. Enter you zip code in the Enter your location field and click Find Libraries and WorldCat will display the results in the order of their proximity to you.

On the right side are links to view each’s library information or contact a librarian. Use either option to explore the possibility of having copies made of specific articles, like an obituary, or seeing whether they would lend their copy to a library near you via inter-library loan (they probably won’t send original issues, but may be willing to lend a microfilmed copy). If you don’t find a workable library here, click the View all editions and formats link near the top of the entry. This will reveal additional options for accessing the item.

Get the scoop on your family in old newspapers

Here are more ways to learn about genealogy research in old newspapers:

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 158

In the new Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 158, get an exclusive Chronicling America tutorial from the manager of this enormous, free historical newspaper website. Also: a loving daughter hears her father answer important questions 35 years after his death;, a fallen soldier’s remains are identified, a DNA question about Native American ancestry, and reading picks from the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

The newest episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast has a headline-worthy interview for everyone with U.S. roots! Newspaper research guru Lisa Louise Cooke goes deep into the free, fabulous Chronicling America historical newspaper website with Deborah Thomas, Library of Congress manager for the sponsoring National Digital Newspaper Program. Premium eLearning members will get the scoop on how the site came to be and who chooses what content gets digitized. Hear about a lesser-known tool on the site that can help you find copies of your ancestors’ local papers. Best of all, get tips from both Deborah and Lisa on how to search the site for newspaper stories that reveal your family history.

 

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast 158: More newsworthy highlights

Here’s what else Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members will find in this exclusive podcast episode:

  • A family finally lays to rest their fallen U.S. soldier in Arlington National Cemetery–and solves the mystery of his fate after decades.
  • A listener writes in to tell us about a precious discovery, 35 years after she lost her father: recordings of his voice, telling the stories she always wanted to hear from him.
  • A fascinating DNA question about identifying Native American ancestry.
  • Great reading suggestions for fans of the Genealogy Gems Book Club–a listener recommendation and two more titles inspired by the episode itself.

 

Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning opens doors

The new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning (previously known as Premium Membership) opens doors to new ideas and inspiration for your family history research. Premium Podcast episodes such as this one are published every month–and Premium eLearning has the entire archive. New Premium Videos publish regularly, and now include a full DNA tutorial series (click here to see a list of all the videos). All Premium eLearning materials are packed with genealogy strategies, tips, how-tos and links you can use right away. Click here to learn more about Premium eLearning and how it can help you open doors to your own family stories.

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