The other day I presented a lecture on searching newspaper websites. During my hour-long presentation, I discussed different tips and methods for using digitized newspaper search engines. I talked about tools that these websites provide that filter results to reveal relevant hits. All of the information I presented was vital to understanding how to use digitized newspaper websites for genealogy research. But, even after all the techniques, I discussed there was one thing I left out—the importance of learning from other genealogist’s experiences.
Can Anyone Help?
The great thing about genealogy in an age of technology and massive amounts of online information is that genealogists, whether researching for clients or themselves, utilize social media, blogs, and websites to document their research experience. Their articles and posts include what they found or didn’t find, as they review the steps and tips they use to search genealogy search engines.
One example of a free newspaper website is Fulton History (also known as Old Fulton Postcards). This free digitized newspaper website provides various search options beyond just entering a name in a search engine. Options include using stemming, fuzzy searches, and synonyms that help you expand your search and find ancestors even if their names are misspelled.
As I searched for more information about the Fulton website, I noticed blog posts that described users' search experiences. For example, Cliff Lamere's web page titled Using the Fulton History Newspaper Site provides some valuable tips, including how to adjust for OCR errors. Vital information for searching any digitized newspaper website.
The Genealogical Society of Bergen County's web page provides information about Boolean searches as well as proximity searches. Once again, helpful for the Fulton website but also significant when searching others.
Look for Help Outside of the Website
Genealogy relevant websites provide FAQs and educational tutorials to help their users make the most of their search. However, there is a benefit to learning from the experiences of independent users who have navigated the website successfully and make that information available online. By conducting a Google search with the name of the website or database, joining a Facebook group for website users, or asking other genealogists via your social media web page, at a genealogy event, or in a genealogy society, you may learn more about how to search a website successfully.
That's the type of information we all need to find our ancestors in online databases.