Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
When thinking of a title for this article, I harkened back to my youth, when there was a famous British-born Jewish comedian, Henny Youngman. He was a master of “one-liners” and was very funny. He showed up on many TV variety shows.
Probably his most famous line was “Take my wife………..please!” This was where he was trying to suck you into thinking that he was using his wife as an example, hence “Take my wife” (and the unstated “for example”). And then a long pause and the irresistible “Please” where he wanted the listener to take her away.
At any rate, what the heck does this have to do with genealogy and family history research?
Lots and lots.
If you do online research for information and records about your ancestors and other family tree inhabitants, you are always faced with a search box – where you enter in many cases someone’s name.
And therein lies the problem. Because people either didn’t spell correctly or when indexing didn’t enter the information correctly.
So if you are searching, you are always batting:
- Census takers with lousy handwriting
- People who didn’t spell their name the same way every time they were asked. (I have some great grandparents who did this all the time). I have some ancestors who used so many variations that I still don’t know the “proper” spelling of their surname
- Indexers who wrote down a misspelled name in a log or journal
- Indexers for online indexes and other record databases who type the names improperly and the mistake is not caught
- Newspapers that often misspelled surnames
- For newspaper indexes, lousy source quality, or scanning and OCR errors
As an example, one of my family tree surnames is spelled “Braunhart”. I have found it in census records, indexes, and newspapers spelled “Brownhart”, “Braunhard”, “Braunhar”, “Braunhardt”, etc.
Now ancestry.com and FamilySearch as two examples, will include as an option, variations on the spelling that you entered in the search criteria box and present many more “candidate” search results.
However, I do not rely on that. I prefer to INTENTIONALLY misspell these names myself, with a bunch of different variations. And THAT has been very successful for me – especially with newspaper research. Many ancestor records and newspaper articles have been found as a result of this.
So the moral of this story is:
Be a bad speller… Please! You will be glad that you did.
Two weeks ago I asked readers to take The Genealogy Newspaper Research Poll
Below are the results. Not too many big surprises although some conclusions can be made from these results. My commentary regarding these conclusions are included along with the results for each of the seven questions.
These results were a VERY big surprise. Over 2/3 were very frequent newspaper researchers, which makes my heart go pitty pat. It looks like we need to get the nine going though who rarely do this kind of research
It looks like there is room for improvement for many, although half boasted about their research prowess. Good for them!
I found this to be one of the more interesting and revealing responses. Two takeaways – I wonder what the “Others’ are; and it appears that Newspaper Archive is not as popular as it once was.
Again a quite interesting response. Newspaper Archive has less who have it as a current subscription while the others have more now than “not currently subscribed to”)
I didn’t find too many surprises here.
No surprise here, but I think the user interface may play a role in the responses. But that is just my guess.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that not all researchers have only been online researchers and in the past have had to wash newspaper ink off their fingers after completing their research.
What conclusions can you draw from these responses? Please let us know in the Comments!
Logo from www.europeana-newspapers.eu
As an aficionado of historical newspapers, especially those available online, I have been reading some about the Europeana Newspapers
This project is a collaboration between about 30 partners – some are libraries providing digital newspaper collections, some are universities and others are providing technology and technical expertise. All from Europe.
The initial goal of the project – slated to end a three-year run in 2015, is to provide new technology and an initial collection size of 10 million full text searchable pages.
I won’t repeat the details of their activities – they can be reviewed by visiting the Europeana Newspapers site. There are presentation slides, a blog and a newsletter full of project information.
One of the goals of their project is to provide an easily usable interface for users of the new capability. I found the main page of the Prototype to be easily navigated. I did have a question about the interface after you had selected a search result and the manipulation of the resulting image, but it is quite easy to use. And it does have a nice function where you can narrow your search results further after you have completed the search. To me the prototype has a very nice set of features and seems to be state-of-the-art in terms of online newspaper software. They also are promising a way to correct poorly OCR’d text as a future addition. This is a great idea, and unfortunately one that is not available on very many current sites, although sorely needed.
This is a very promising endeavor – and for those of you with European ancestors – definitely a project to watch. Keep your eye on it.