Summary of Our Recent April 12, 2011 Genealogy Program with Robin B. Seidenberg on the Topic of Online Digital Newspapers

Hi Everyone!

Here is a summary of our most recent Genealogy Program at the Schaumburg Township District Library on Tuesday evening, April 12, 2011.  Our guest speaker for the evening was Robin B. Seidenberg.  Robin presented a program titled “Mining for Gold: Online Digital Newspapers”.

We had a great turnout for this early Spring program.  Finally, there was no snow problem for our program evening!!!  We had a great turnout of 73 participants!

Our Speaker for the Evening, Robin B. Seidenberg and her husband, Lou, Prior to the Beginning of the Program..

This was the first time that Robin had presented a program at our library to our group.  I can already say that this will not be the last time she makes a genealogy presentation at our library!!

I started the program at 7:30 PM with the introduction of new participants.  We had about 7 new participants who shared with all of us their name, their description of the their newness to genealogy and some of the surnames they were researching.  Each new participant received a Welcome package from me with some good tips on how to move forward on their research journey using a variety of resources both within and outside our library.

I indicated to the group that I would like to forego reviewing some of the handout material so that we could get to our speaker by 7:45 PM rather than 8:00 PM and allow more un-rushed time after the speaker should anyone want to talk to me or the speaker.  Because the material is all available online everyone can take a deeper look at it on their own.  I just briefly reviewed some upcoming program dates and topics for a variety of groups in the area.

Many of Our Early Program Participants Intermingling While Awaiting the Presentation from Robin B. Seidenberg.

You can easily find all of our monthly library genealogy “Newsletters” in this blog along the right sidebar.  You can also find all of our monthly library genealogy “Handouts” in this blog along the right sidebar.  Take some time to look at the current issues as well as the past ones.  These are PDF files so you can look at them from the within the blog or download them to your own computer.  All are filled with electronic bookmarks, hyperlinks, internet URL links for you to quickly find material and to link to topics of interest on the internet.  That is the beauty of these electronic files!

Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have on the material contained in the Newsletter or the Handout material.

Robin then started her presentation at around 7:45 PM.

Robin did ask that any questions that may come up during the presentation be held until the end of the program.

Our Room Was Filling Up Early for the Presentation on Online Digital Newspapers.

Robin shared with us a story of an ancestor of hers that was involved in a murder.  To say the least that was an attention grabber just as Robin also explained that newspapers are first and foremost in the business of selling newspapers.  And how do they sell newspapers?  With attention grabbing choice of words as headline items and column titles of course!!

Robin spent a good amount of time sharing with the audience all of the tools and techniques she used to dig deeper and deeper into this fascinating story about her ancestor.  She showed us search techniques she used to discover newspaper article stories about this ancestor not just from local papers but from papers around the country and world that carried the story.

And why is it good to dig deeper among a variety of newspapers and not just end with a story published by one local newspaper?  Because each story may contain just that one additional nugget of information that wasn’t seen in any other story you may have discovered about your ancestor that you can now use for further research.

One of the Slides Offered by Robin B. Seidenberg on Her Topic of Online Digital Newspapers.

Robin also showed many examples of pictures that are included in these newspaper stories.  Imagine discovering a picture of an ancestor through a newspaper story when you have not discovered any other picture of that ancestor anywhere else.  The pictures do not have to originate from a murder story or any other type of “major” story!  Any story could potentially have a picture e.g. a Boy Scout troop pictures that includes your ancestor, a wedding announcement, an obituary.

Robin also made a great point on uncovering more material.  If you are having some good luck in discovering online digital newspaper material from a variety of sources then you should consider this bit of information especially for large metropolitan areas as Chicago, New York etc.  Perhaps these cities had multiple newspapers.  Perhaps you have found an online newspaper from the city.  Consider this.  The other newspapers of that city may not be online but they may very well be available as microfilms.  You know the date of material from the online newspaper.  Consider getting microfilms of the other newspapers in the same city and look around the same date in these films for stories that could also have been printed about your ancestor.  You may discover new material in these stories that were never online in digital format and were only available via microfilm!

Part of Our Large Turnout of 73 Attendees in the Far Back of the Room for Robin B. Seidenbergs Presentation.

Our library makes available for library cardholders of Schaumburg Township District Library a variety of online accessible newspapers.  You access these by entering n your library card number.  For those of you that did not have your library card issued to you by us, then simply check with your home library for access to the same digital online newspaper material.  Most of the databases are common among all public libraries.  You will see such material as:

  • NewsBank
  • ProQuest
  • Newspaper Archives
  • America’s Obituaries
  • FootNote.com

It is within these databases you will find newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune or the New York Times.  Access these through your local public library.

Robin also mentioned some other online resources to consider to access:

Digital online newspapers.  What a great source.  Take advantage of what our library has available to further your own research.  Take a look at other online digital newspaper that you can find on the Internet.  Some are subscribable.  Some are free.

Also remember that the scanning process involved in converting newsprint to digital images is not perfect.  You may find what appears to be many good leads on surnames you may enter only to discover that the “find” is not accurate.  As an example, I often search the surname “KIERNA” in online material.  I receive what may be great hits on new information only to discover that the print of the material actually shows the surname “KIERNAN”.  The scanning process was unable to pick up the last “N” and so the data was entered into the index as “KIERNA”.

So I actually did really find information on the surname “KIERNA” in this case as well as incorrect indexing of scanned material.  These are not that isolated.  You will find plenty of wrong hits.  Just be patient and keep looking through the material.  But just be aware the scanning process is not always 100% accurate.

Using the indexed online material sure beats just browsing through old paper editions or microfilm, hoping you might just come across something.  Sort of like playing the Lotto!!  At least you get some idea from digital searching that some good material may just be around the corner at your fingertips. 

Robin ended her presentation at around 9:00 PM and took a variety of questions and stayed around until about 9:30 PM.  

I am so glad we had Robin give us this presentation.  I look forward to working with her on inviting her back to give us another great presentation on another aspect of genealogy research.

Thank you Robin for your great presentation!

We all left a lot wiser on digital newspaper research than when we arrived.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library 


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