GenealogyBank Search Tips


Historical Newspaper Archives Search Tips for  Genealogybank   

Newspaper Archives Last & First Name Search

  • Using both name search fields returns newspaper articles in which the surname is automatically "near2" the first name.
    • This means the newspaper archive search engine automatically finds occurrences of the first and last names within two words of each other.
    • This helps to find occurrences of middle names or initials in the newspaper articles, without having to enter or remember them.
  • The "near2" search command is not order specific—meaning your newspaper search will retrieve the person's name no matter in what order it is mentioned: the first name then last name or the last name then first name.
    • This search default is intended to bring you the most occurrences of the name you are searching for in the online newspaper archives.
  • However, if the person's name is popular, like Smith, try using some of the available search options such as location, date range, and keyword, in order to narrow your search to the specific Smith you are looking for (see below).

Using Advanced Search in the Newspaper Archive Database

  • There are two keyword search boxes to narrow your search for newspaper articles: "Include keywords" box and "Exclude keywords" box (see below).
  • Use the Date search box to enter a specific date or date range of the newspaper content you want to search online.

Using Keywords & Quotation Marks to Search Newspapers

  • All the searches for historical newspaper articles are full-text keyword searches against OCR-generated ASCII text.
  • By using the "Include keywords" box and/or "Exclude keywords" box, you can narrow or expand your online newspaper article search.
  • Put phrases in quotes like "John Adams" in the "Include" keyword box to limit the newspaper article search to that exact name—versus using the last/first name search that brings back results matching John near2 Adams.
  • If you find too many names in the newspaper archive search results, narrow your search even more by typing names or places you do NOT want in your search in the "Exclude" box.

Using Boolean Operators to Search Newspaper Archives

  • Use AND, OR, ADJx (order specific), NEARx (order non-specific) and Wildcards, such as "?" and "*")

Broaden or narrow newspaper search queries

  • by emptying filled-in fields to broaden your search, or filling in empty fields to narrow your search.

Display newspaper search results in different ways, such as:

  • Best matches (this is the newspaper search default)
  • Oldest items (based on newspaper publication dates)
  • Newest items (based on newspaper publication dates)
  • Once changed, the selection will remain the default until you change it again.

Search Newspapers by Date Range

  • If you know the date of the newspaper content you are seeking, then use the "Date" search box.
    • Enter a specific date or a date range—a variety of date formats are accepted.
    • Examples: June 2, 1804, or 1804 - 1849, or June 1804 - August 1949.

Using Colonial English Variant Spellings to Search Old Newspapers

  • Many of the newspapers in the historical newspaper archives are very old, and the searches must deal with Colonial English.
  • The long "s" character was almost identical to the "f" in many texts.
    • When searching old newspaper articles on words containing the letter "s," use the "?" wildcard in place of the "s."
    • Note: this can occur whether it is the first letter, a letter within a word, or at the end of a word.
    • The double "s" is in words like Massachusetts needs to be replaced with two wildcards in historical newspaper searches.

Examples of Searching for Old Newspaper Articles with Colonial English

Modern SpellingColonial SpellingsSuggested Search
SpanishSpanifhSpani?h, ?pani?h
  • In addition, type was set by hand for early American newspapers and printers did not always have enough pieces of type to include all of the letters in a word. This resulted in letters being omitted, or sometimes letters that looked similar were used as substitutions.
  • Much of this historic newspaper material did not use standard spellings.
  • Examples of some conventions that were common in old newspapers:
    • Use of name variants - Smith or Smythe
    • Use of "e" in word endings - Chesapeake or Chesapeak
    • Dropping the letter "h" - Philadelphia or Philadelpia
  • Examples of irregular vowel usage:
    • clerk - cleark
    • color - colour
    • Delaware - Deleware
    • Elijah - Elifha
    • Israel - Ifreal - Ifral
    • Jehovah - Javovah
  • Examples of letter e to word endings
    • Brown - Browne
    • Chesapeake - Chefopeak or Chefopeake
    • Clark - Clarke
    • highways - highwayes
  • Examples of interchanging use of the letters "i" and "y"
    • adjoining - adjoyning
    • Pennsylvania - Pensilvania or Penfilvania
    • rails - rayls

Colonial Newspaper Search Notes

  • If in doubt, use wildcards such as the question mark "?" or the asterisk "*" in your colonial newspaper search.
  • A question mark is a single-character wildcard and an asterisk multi-character (allows for up to 5 characters) wildcard.
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