Can Google help you search digitized newspapers you find online? Recently I heard from Garth in Ontario, Canada with a question like that. Here’s what he asked and here’s what I told him:
“A friend found a digitized newspaper article by clicking on this link and going through various years–very time consuming! I’m thinking there has to be a better way with Google, but no luck. I think I have used most of your techniques from Genealogy Gems. Would appreciate any hints.”
First of all, thanks to Garth for alerting us to an online local archive of Canadian newspapers, The Clarington Local Newspapers collection. I like making people aware of collections like this. Here’s what I told him:
If the website had text transcriptions of articles then Google would have easily been able to grab the phrase “Arthur Levi Brunt” off any page. The search would be “Arthur Levi Brunt” or, even better, would be a site search, which would be formatted like this: site:http://vitacollections.ca/claringtonnews “Arthur Levi Brunt.” In Google site searches, you start with the word “site” with a colon, followed by the home page in which to search, followed by the exact phrase you want to search in quotes.
However, the Clarington Digital News website relies on its own built-in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to spot and retrieve search terms on the digitized newspaper images. Google doesn’t have access to their OCR, and can’t apply OCR itself to images on the web (the pages on this site are images, not pdfs). So in this case, Google would not be able to locate the same article.
I did notice in looking at the Clarington News site that there is a search box, so your friend didn’t need to browse through the years looking for article on Arthur. Simply entering his name in site’s search box instantly brought up the relevant list in seconds. Here’s a link to that search, so you can see for yourself. Perhaps a few of the other newspaper articles found in that search will be of interest to your friend as well!
Learn more about Google search strategies (Google site search is just one!) in my newly-revised, hot off the press 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition. So many genealogy gems like these news articles are buried online: you just need to know how to harness the power of Google’s FREE tools to find them!
Recently I did a webinar for Legacy Family Tree called “Get the Scoop on Your Ancestors with Newspapers.” Soon after, I heard from a happy student named Christina.
“I just had to let you know how grateful I am to you,” she writes. “I finally had a chance to utilize the information you shared and wanted to check out the websites you talked about. I started with the Stanford Data Visualization and the very first newspaper I opened online had one of my ancestors on the front page. WOW! When I went into my Legacy program I discovered that I already had that information, but now I also had a verification.”
She goes on to say she started reading through more newspaper issues, which were so interesting she kept getting distracted. She found another ancestor mentioned in a political newspaper and guesses she’s just discovered his political affiliation.
Then she tells me about a longtime family mystery she decided to try to solve in newspapers. “My cousin’s daughter contacted me about a year ago for information about a child that died in the same time period that the local court records were lost in a fire. I didn’t think we would ever get the information. But I thought I would use the date that we had and start with any paper I could get online, starting the day after. I wasn’t sure it would hit papers that soon in that time period, but I had to start somewhere. Lo and behold, her death notice was on page 4 of the first paper I opened!”
“I realize I am very lucky to have found so much right away and it won’t happe
Available at http://genealogygems.com
n every time, but I am encouraged that your training was so helpful that I am going to break through a lot of walls. Again, Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.”
I’ve heard countless stories like these from so many people who have discovered their family histories in newspapers. A video version of my newspaper class is available as part of Genealogy Gems Premium Membership, along with over a dozen other instructional videos, and over 100 exclusive podcast episodes. Starting today 11/29/13 through Monday 12/2/13 when you purchase a 1 year membership you will get an exclusive free ebook. Click here for all the details.
You can also get my complete newspaper research method in my book: How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available in print and as an e-book. And also starting today 11/29/13 through Monday 12/2/13 you can get it as part of a special book bundle or ebook bundle at a 40% savings.
Does your local library, historical or genealogical society have a newspaper collection to share? Let the NEH help!
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is accepting proposals from institutions hoping to participate in the the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). This program creates “a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 in U.S. states and territories.” Guidelines for 2014 are now available and proposals must be submitted by January 15, 2014.
According to the press release, “Each award supports a 2-year project to digitally convert 100,000 newspaper pages from that state’s collections, primarily from microfilm negative. Titles may be printed in Danish, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish. The program provides access to this resource through the Chronicling America web site hosted by the Library of Congress. The site currently includes more than 6.6 million newspaper pages in English, French, German, and Spanish, from more than 1100 titles digitized by institutions in 30 states.”
For more program information, please visit the NEH’s program page or this page for technical information from the Library of Congress. Click here to see what institutions have participated.
I can’t say enough good things about this and other initiatives to support more digitized newspapers online. My book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers will provide you with more about using these awesome resources to flesh out your family’s story, a tried and true research process, and loads of resources. Check it out in paperback or pdf e-book!