Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers Online from the Library of Congress for Free

Hi Everyone!

I was browsing through the Newsletter from the Chicago Genealogical Society and noticed they made mention of what could be a very nice online digitized newspaper resource.

The Library of Congress (LOC)  has a resource within a section of the LOC that is called Chronicling America.  Within this resource you can search newspaper pages from 1860 to 1922 as well as find information on American newspapers published from 1690 to the present.

For the newspapers that are online, you can access material for the following states:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington

You can visit the site directly via the following link:

You can also look through the long list of specific newspaper titles and select that paper to search or you can just search among all newspapers among all of the states or just select one of the states from the list.

I did try it and once again encountered discrepancies between what the OCR process picked up from the newspaper print and what actually was in the search index of the scanning process.  This is common whenever you are looking at material that was created from an Optical Character Reader (OCR) process.  You get excited when you see results of your surname search only to discover that the result of the search does not really match what was actually in print in the newspaper.

I used the surname FICHT to try within this newspaper database.  I got a good number of hits.  However, as I looked at the actual newspaper image that is provided, I then determined that the OCR process during scanning took the word FIGHT and indexed it as the surname FICHT

I also had results that looked to be close to the surname I entered but were not exact.  I entered in the surname FICHT and was also given results for FICHTE.

Close but no cigar!

I am going to have to spend some more time at the site to better learn the search process and see what can be done with what I enter to receive better matches.  What I describe above is from my first initial attempts similar to what you yourself might attempt in your initial searches.

The lesson to be learned is to really learn about the rules of the site for setting up your searches to get better results.  I will need to look deeper at what these rules are at the site.

Online newspaper research can get you excited thinking you may have found some new undiscovered results from the results they produce but looking at the actual image of the paper that is provided along with the highlighted search result within the page often proves that the word you use was OCR scanned and indexed under an incorrect term.

It is just part of the search process in genealogy that you will often encounter.  It will take you a lot longer to filter through the index results provided versus the actual newsprint on the paper itself.

I wish it could be better but it is what it is.

The picture images are very good.  The search word is highlighted.  You can zoom in on the page where the word occurred.  You can move the image from side to side and top to bottom.  This all seemed good.

I did notice results from the Illinois search I did that were from something called the Day Book, The Broad Ax and the Chicago Eagle.  So you may discover print sources you may have not previously uncovered.

Take a look at this potentially great resource to uncover more about your ancestors.  But be prepared to find many “erroneous” results caused by the OCR process simply not correctly recognizing a word in print and then creating an index term that is actually incorrect for what is really in print.

Check out the above link.  Give it a try.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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