Presentation Notes: 2005-2006

The Newest Electronic Frontier: Searchable, Scanned Newspapers

Presented by John W. Konvalinka, CG, CGL - January 4, 2006

Notes by Mr. Konvalinka

[Mr. Konvalinka's presentation included a detailed and very informative hand-out that featured a list of Web sites that provide access to or information about "every word searchable" newspapers on-line. Here we present Mr. Konvalinka's opening remarks, which are valuable on their own. You can read the continuation of his presentation and get the complete list of links at John Konvalinka's Web site.]

Old newspapers are sometimes the major (or ONLY) source of genealogical information for a given locale at a particular time. Genealogical information in local and national newspapers has often lain hidden because most newspapers do not have a complete name (or other) index. It is finally becoming possible to tap into the genealogical riches in many unindexed newspapers because of many recent abstracting and indexing projects and, even more so, because optical scanning has made a reality of online, "every word searchable" access to many newspapers.

Aside from the obituary section, many items of genealogical interest appear in news items, society pages (engagements, weddings, births, "happenings") and gossip / "who's visiting" columns, ship arrival and departure information, school graduation notices, "25 [etc.] Years Ago Today" columns, even "help wanted" and other advertisements. Historic newspapers might contain the only surviving record of a court case or related action.

It might also be possible to find photographs of persons and places of genealogical interest. Information which appears in an obituary (such as "Peoria, Illinois papers please copy" can provide valuable clues as to where the person being researched (or members of his family) might have lived. Another reason for the popularity of obituaries in early times: if you were a person who lent money to others, the death of a borrower could alert you to take steps to protect your interests in any will or probate hearings.

As well as "conventional" English language newspapers, remember that special purpose newspapers - regional, military, religious ethnic/foreign language newspapers - might contain a wealth on information about the life and times of your persons, both in this country and in the "old country."

Until recently, the genealogical and related information in newspapers has often lain hidden because most newspapers do not have a complete name (or other) index - and it is not always clear which was the "newspaper of record" for the place or period we might be interested in.

But now it is finally becoming possible to tap into the genealogical riches in many "forgotten" and unindexed newspapers because of many recent abstracting and indexing projects and, even more so, because optical scanning has made a reality of online, "every word searchable" access to many thousands of newspapers.



See the Presentation Notes Index for summaries of other presentations given at the Society's monthly meetings.