Historical Newspaper Archives Search Tips
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 Spelling||Colonial Spellings||Suggested Search|
- 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.
Name Search Tips
Broad Name Search
Begin by searching the website for your family records using broad queries. Remember, less is often times more. If your ancestor has an unusual first or last name, try searching the genealogy archives for one name at a time. Then refine your family search by adding additional information such as date range, occupation and location.
Note that using both first and last name search fields will return genealogy records in which the surname is automatically "near2" the first name.
- "Near2" means our genealogy search engine automatically finds occurrences of the first and last names within two words of each other.
- This helpful default search functionality automatically finds occurrences of middle names, initials and maiden names in the genealogy records, without you having to enter them in your query.
- The "near2" search command is not order specific. This means your query will retrieve the ancestor's name no matter what order it is entered: the first name then last name, or the last name then first name.
This search default brings you the most record matches containing the family member name you are searching for in our online archives.
Common Ancestor Names
If your ancestor's surname is popular, like Smith, try using some of the available search options (such as location, date range, and keyword), in order to narrow your family search to the specific Smith you are looking for (see below).
If your family member has a surname that is also a common word (like Brown, Snow, etc.), put quotation marks around the entire name.
Wrapping the family member's name in quotations will keep the name together and give you more accurate record results while helping to avoid common nouns such as "snow." Please note however that searching with quotations will eliminate records that include a middle name or initial, the name as seen in a list (e.g., Snow, John) or the name in a phrase (e.g., John and Sally Snow).
Also, try querying the genealogy archives using various name combination queries.
"John Joseph Snow"
"John J Snow"
"J J Snow"
"John and Mary Snow"
Shortened & Abbreviated Names
Newspapers would often shorten a name. Try searching for the shorter or abbreviated version of your ancestor's name.
Wm for William
Chas for Charles
Jas for James
Jos for Joseph
Saml for Samuel
Fredr for Fredrick
Benj for Benjamin
Search Names with Initials & Quotations
Also try searching for your relative�s names with their initials in quotation marks.
"A J Johnson" for Albert James Johnson
"B Fredrickson" for Benjamin Fredrickson
Also try searching nicknames: Bob, Bobbie, Rob, and Robbie would all apply for the name Robert.
Try searching for a female family member under her married name if applicable.
"Mrs John Snow"
Keep in mind that early newspapers made mistakes and the name of your family member may have been misspelled. Also keep in mind that the spelling of a name may have changed over time. Try searching for your relative in the online archives using various name spellings.
If a single letter is commonly written incorrectly, use a question mark in its place in your query to search multiple matching records. The question mark is a search engine Boolean operator that will match any alphanumeric character.
When searching for the surname Larson, try Lars?n. This search query will return matching records for Larson and Larsen.
If several letters in the ancestor's name are often incorrect, the same query can be performed using an asterisk. The asterisk search engine Boolean operator will match up to 5 characters in a word.
Fred* will find records containing Frederick, Fredrick, Freddie, etc.
Keywords Search Tips
There are two keyword search boxes to narrow your search for genealogy records: the "Include Keywords" box and the "Exclude Keywords" box (see below). By using the "Include Keywords" box and/or the "Exclude Keywords" box, you can narrow or expand your genealogy record search results.
Put phrases in quotes like "John Adams" in the "Include Keywords" box to limit the ancestor record search to that exact name�versus using the last/first name search that brings back records matching John near2 Adams.
If you find too many names are returned in the search results, narrow your ancestor search even more by typing names or places you do NOT want in your results in the "Exclude Keywords" box.
For example, if you are getting matching records about a reverend but the family member you are looking for was never a reverend, go to the "Exclude Keywords" box and enter: Reverend OR Church OR Rev. Adding this info in the "Exclude Keywords" box will eliminate those irrelevant records.
Also, remember to capitalize both the O and the R when using the Boolean operator "OR." This tells the genealogy search engine to exclude the words or phrases you entered.
Date Search Tips
Use the "Date Search" box to enter a specific date�or enter the date range if you know the approximate date(s) of the historical content you are seeking to find in the online archives.
If you use the date range option, then enter a date range that includes the entire life span of your family member. For example, including a few years prior to their birth and a few years after their death can yield positive search results. Or if you are looking for an obituary record, use a date range of a few years before and after the known death date. Our genealogy search engine accepts a variety of date formats to help you easily find your family�s history.
June 2, 1804
1804 - 1849
June 1804 - August 1949