Lesson 7 is all about searching old, historic newspapers without just entering a surname in the search box.
One of the traps that those who search genealogy and family history can fall into - is always searching for surnames.
Obviously this is logical, but it can be a trap. Because, especially for newspapers - there is a lot of other information in articles that are helpful in finding one of your ancestors.
It may be poor quality original newsprint, an unsatisfactory scanning or OCR process, or even misspellings by journalists and typesetters. But surnames are often not exactly the right spelling in the search index. Furthermore, the addition of non-surname criteria can help focus in in the right ancestor's articles.
How about some examples that may lead to better results?
- Search for an address - if you know the address of an ancestor, search for it. A lot of times newspapers would include the residence of someone - so that may be a good place to try.
- Search for a business name - if your ancestor owned a small business, you might be able to retrieve interesting articles by searching for that name.
- Search for a lodge or club - if your ancestor belonged to or was an officer in a club or lodge or other group - search for that name.
- Search for an occupation - if your ancestor had a unique occupation, try searching for that.
- Search for the name of a sports team or school - often your ancestor may show up in a box score or in a list of graduates.
- Search for the name of a military unit - if they were in the military, often the complete unit name is included in an article.
- Search for a hobby or avocation - did Aunt Mary win ribbons at the state fair? Or did Uncle Joe collect coins?
In all of these cases it is recommended that you limit the search to a specific newspaper or town/city. I suspect that if you performed a nationwide search for "123 Elm Street" or "gasfitter" you might get too many results to pore over.
So if searching for surnames (again especially with a difficult to spell name or with several alternative spellings) doesn't get you the results that you desire - try some of the alternatives listed above. And you can always search for a surname AND some of these options if the site that you are using has Boolean search capability. Combining search terms is an outstanding way to hone in on the desired ancestor.