7 Best Tips For NewspaperArchive.com Searches

NewspaperArchive.com is a subscription site with North American and international archives of newspapers and obituaries.

This article has my top tips for getting the most from your searches on NewspaperArchive. Before I get into the tips, I’ll take a quick look at accessing a trial and using the different search pages.

Free Trial

I have a full NewspaperArchive review which runs through evaluating how good the site will be for your family research.

They offer a free trial period (affiliate link) before taking up a subscription.

Once you’ve signed up for the trial, you can start to explore the basic and advanced search features.

Basic And Advanced Search On NewspaperArchive.com

Before I get to the tips, I’ll run quickly through the different search interfaces on the website.

You’ll find the Basic Search interface on the home page, where you can simply enter a first and last name. Even the first name is optional.

Don’t bother with this unless your surname of interest is Humperdinck. And even that search throws up over 66K results.

The “Search” link on the top menu brings you to the Advanced Search page. This is where you get the extra filters for dates, locations, and keywords.

You may be thinking it’s always best to filter your searches with dates and places. But that isn’t the case with newspaper searches. This is what my first tip is about.

Tip #1: Searching NewspaperArchive.com Is Different To Searching Record Archives

If you know the difference between indexed records and OCR, then you can move on to tip #2. Otherwise, read on…

If you’re a genealogy enthusiast, then you’ve probably searched through collections of birth, marriage, and death records on places like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org.

These sites use what is called “indexed” record collections. The technology isn’t searching through images of the certificates.

Instead, each certificate has been split into an index of standardized fields such as names, dates, and locations. This makes it easier for the technology to compare your search request to the indexed fields.

Newspaper searches are different

Newspaper content is a much bigger challenge for search technology. Your ancestors could be mentioned nearly anywhere on any page of a single publication.

The archives use a scanning process known as OCR or Optical Character Recognition. The process converts the shapes of letters into digitized documents.

Bear in mind that every newspaper within a single state could use a different font or typeface. And the same publication can change its font over time.

Alongside historic changes in appearance, it’s an unfortunate fact that old newspapers deteriorate over time. OCR technology struggles with blurs, smears, and blemishes.

So, don’t expect the same accuracy as you may have found elsewhere. This means you may have to get creative with your searches.

When you’re sure that there should be a death notice but the search results are coming up empty… you may have to ditch the searches and use “browse” instead. In other words, bypass the technology and read the publication yourself.

Tip #2: Take Advantage Of “Without the Word(s)”

One of my ancestral lines has the name of “Gamble”.

Unfortunately for me, search results for “Gamble” include sermons and condemnatory articles bemoaning local dens of iniquity i.e. where the townsfolk frequented to gamble their wages on horses.

This is where “Without the Word(s)” is very useful.

I can add “gambling” into “Without the Word(s)” to eliminate many of the unwanted search results.

Another handy use is when one of your relatives has the same name as a notable person in the region.

Often, the namesake isn’t written about in the context of good works. It could be a small-time criminal who is frequently up in court for petty theft. Court appearances are common coverage for local newspapers.

In this example, you’d just have to experiment to find the right word to act as a negative filter. Try “sentence” or “court”.

Tip #3: Take Advantage Of “With at least one of these Words”

When adding filters, you should always be careful not to exclude too many reasonable results. This is why I advise you to try a broad search first, and then experimenting with extra filters.

I tend not to use “With the exact phrase” or “With all of the words” as they are quite big hammers to wield.

But I do like “With All of the Words” and “With at Least One Of These Words”. I’ll give you two examples of taking advantage of these filters.

Occupation

Suppose you’ve noticed that articles that refer to your relative tend to mention his profession or occupation.

You can try filtering irrelevant results by adding the occupation as a keyword here.

However, watch out for common variations. One newspaper may refer to your relative as a bootmaker, while the other refers to him as a cobbler.

In this case, I’ll use “With at least one of these words” to enter both “bootmaker” and “cobbler” (and I’d probably throw in “shoemaker” and “cordwainer” too).

Location

A town or city can often be a good keyword. Just bear in mind that an article may not have reason to mention a place name. I’d definitely start a search without it.

You also need to think about whether the place had several alternative names through history.

For example, “New York City” may be referred to as NY, NYC, or the Big Apple. You could put all of these into “With at least one of these words”.

Tip #4: Don’t Rely On Obituary Search – Use Newspaper Searches

NewspaperArchive.com has a separate search page for Obituaries. However, it may not be reliable for finding relevant results.

Let me walk through an example.

I ran a search from the Obituaries page with the last name of “Willoughby”, the state of New Jersey, and dates from 1850-1950. This is what I got: 0 results.

This didn’t make sense to me. I know that plenty of my Willoughby relatives lived and died in The Garden State.

So, I tried an Advanced Search (from the Search page) with the same name, state, and location. But I added “death” as a keyword.

761 results showed up. And look at what I found at the top of the second page of the results: an obituary!

I have no idea why it didn’t turn up on the Obituaries search. This is why I advise you to use the general search page if you’re striking out from the Obituary page.

Tip #5: Get Familiar With What Different Content Looks Like In The Search Results

The most efficient way of working through the search results is recognizing which items are unlikely to be useful to your family research.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to click into each of five hundred results from a search, then this tip is for you.

The two types of content that I tend to skip over are classified ads and local sports results.

Classifieds

Here’s a couple of telltale signs for adverts:

”Can’t be beat” is typical marketing copy of the time. And of course the “For Sale” phrase.

I should point out that there can be useful info in an advert. If your person of interest is selling a lot of furniture, the family could be about to move town.

However, if your person of interest is an estate agent– you’ll soon get tired of clicking into a dozen classifieds in the search results.

Local sports results

Take a look at this item in the search results:

What are these cryptic numbers? It turns out my person of interest was a member of the local golf club.

This explains the pages of news items reporting his scores in local tournaments.

Once you’ve checked out a few of these types of content, you’ll quickly learn how they tend to look on the results page.

Tip #6: Save Your Clippings Outside The Platform

NewspaperArchive.com lets you save newspaper clippings within the platform. You can see what you’ve saved under the Clippings menu.

However, if you let your membership or trial lapse, then you’ll no longer have access to the clippings.

It’s always a good idea to save a copy to your local machine.

Tip #7: Log Out Or Restart Your Browser If The Results Seem Strange

When I run repeated searches on the website, occasionally the search feature seems to re-use filters that I’d set previously.

This is even when I close the Search page and re-open to start with empty fields.

I’ve found that sometimes I need to log out of the website and/or restart the browser completely in order to get a fresh start with a search.

More About NewspaperArchive.com

I have a full review of NewspaperArchive.com that takes you through the best benefits and some of the drawbacks.

You may also be interested in who is behind the archive company which was sold in 2020.

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