5 things you will learn from our “Finding Your Family in Online Newspapers” webinar


Historical newspapers are a crucial source of genealogical information, but they are sometimes overlooked or underutilized. Newspapers often have unique clues, details, and stories about ancestors. If searched to their fullest potential, newspapers are a key resource for genealogists.

Janeen Bjork is a newspaper expert with over 30 years of genealogical experience. On April 22, Ms. Bjork brought this expertise to her webinar The Rest of the Story: Finding Your Family in Online Newspapers on the tips & tricks of newspaper research.

NYG&B members have on-demand access to this webinar.

Here are five questions the webinar answers:

1. Why are newspapers important for genealogy?

Newspapers often provide biographical detail and stories that are not easily found elsewhere. Ms. Bjork describes how a thorough genealogical search should always include newspapers, which may prove crucial in your research. Ms. Bjork uses the case of her great-great-grandfather, among others, to show the kinds of information newspapers can reveal.

2. Where can I find historical newspaper archives online?

There are many online archives for historical newspapers, if you know where to look for them. Ms. Bjork details each of the main sites, contrasts their differences, and walks through the ways to access them.

3. How do I search for my ancestors in newspapers?

Searching for your ancestors in the newspaper databases can be tricky, especially because each database’s search function is slightly different. Ms. Bjork shows how to use the search function on these sites to its fullest potential, offering tips on how to yield the best results.

4. What do I do if I don’t find my family in newspapers?

Optical character recognition (OCR) technology scans newspapers and transcribes them but is often imperfect. Ms. Bjork explains OCR and reveals the common mistakes this technology makes in transcribing newspapers. Even if errors mean that you can’t find your family right away, Ms. Bjork describes how to overcome OCR issues to find relevant articles.

5. What are some best practices for newspaper research?

Combing through newspaper articles can be overwhelming once you dive into it. Ms. Bjork describes her best practices for staying organized and finding information, ensuring that you get the most out of your time & effort researching newspapers.

Click here to watch the webinar

Webinar Outline

The outline below includes an overview of many specific topics covered in the webinar and the approximate timestamps you can use to navigate to each section.

Introduction about the presenter & presentation (0:25)

  • American newspaper history 1690-1920 (1:25)
    • The first American newspapers (1:36)
    • Colonial newspapers (3:18)
    • Industrialization & newspapers (5:10)
    • The telegraph (8:00)
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) (9:23)
    • Joseph Duquemin case study (11:01)
    • Flaked off text (14:21)
    • Missing & imperfect pages (15:23)
    • Alternate names (16:53)
    • Reading out of order (17:37)
    • Common OCR misreads (18:49)
    • OCR Bonus tips (20:09)
  • Searching newspaper databases, with examples (22:08)
    • FultonHistory (22:08)
    • ChroniclingAmerica (27:27)
    • Newspapers.com (29:57)
    • GenealogyBank (30:51)
    • Ancestry (31:12)
  • Smart searching (32:05)
  • Best practices for searching multiple databases (34:32)
    • Strutz case study (34:48)
    • Lessons learned (36:25)
    • Genealogical proof standard (46:50)
    • Note keeping and organization (47:20)
    • Other tips, tricks, & advice (52:00)
  • Conclusion (1:02:44)
  • Questions & Answers session with Janeen Bjork (1:03:15)