Searching Old Newspapers – compiled by Ken Gottry (firstname.lastname@example.org) Sep-2022
Background: A gentleman in Fulton NY started a website years ago to display postcards of his hometown. He soon expanded to include old Fulton newspapers. Then he added an online search capability. As his popularity grew, other communities asked if he could scan their old newspapers. Today, his website has over 50 million newspaper pages from the U.S. and Canada.
Our local newspaper started in Salem on January 1, 1798, first as the Northern Centennial, later Northern Post, and finally the Washington County Post. When the paper's owner ran into financial difficulties in 1848, Robert Young purchased it and moved it to the Aaron Crosby store in North White Creek (the East End of Cambridge).
Young issued the first number on March 15, 1849 with North White Creek, not Cambridge, listed on the masthead. Until its last edition around 1990 the masthead proclaimed it was the oldest weekly newspaper in America.
In the 1990’s old copies of the Washington County Post were converted to microfilm. The Library and the Village Offices each had a microfilm reader and printer. In the 2000’s, the microfilm was sent to Fulton NY where the newspapers were loading onto the searchable website.
The Website: The main page of the website is located at … https://fultonhistory.com/. I start my searching at item #1 (Go and Search My Archives) … https://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html. Also useful is item #3 (Go to my Help and FAQ section).
Tom Tryniski, the owner and operator of the website has an amazing data center that he maintains through donations. State and ancestry organizations use and reference Tom’s website extensively. As such, they make major financial contributions. However, individual contributions are also welcome. You can use item #4 (Click here to donate) if you find the site useful.
Getting started: How to search the old newspapers
Your first inclination is to simply type the name you’re looking for into the search box. Since my last name isn’t that common, I expect to get only a few hits.
However, at the bottom of the search page, I see an index of 81 hits. I’ve shown 2 here. One from a Utica newspaper from 1880 and another from the Salem newspaper from 1981.
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>I find lots of other Gottry’s than the one I am looking for
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>I forgot that there are many other newspapers besides our Washington County Post
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>I forgot that this website has newspapers from the early 1800s to present
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Let’s see how to narrow the search
Be sure the dropdown box says Boolean. Then I can type lots of search criteria using AND logic. I know most pages have the name of the newspaper, so I’ll search for pages that say Washington County Post and Gottry. I put double quotation marks around “Washington County Post”. Otherwise, I will get all pages that have the word Washington, which include the General, the Capital, the State, and so on
If I get really detailed (e.g. search for “Kenneth A Gottry”), I will miss lots of matches. For example, if there is a period after the middle initial “A”. Or if the article says “Kenneth Gottry” without the middle initial. Or, if the article says “Ken Gottry”. Or, if the newspaper was blurred when scanned and the optical character recognition (OCR) software thought the “o” in Gottry was an “a”. You can try checking Fuzzy Search and setting the fuzziness to 2 or so
Try using characters that are close to other characters (within NN characters)
But there’s a better way. Use the “within” search option. Here I’m saying the newspaper page must contain the phrase “Washington County Post” and it must contain the letters “Ken” within 5 words of “Gottry” (notice there are no double quotation marks around this). I’ll find Kenneth, Kenneth A, Ken. I can also check Fuzzy Search and add some fuzziness to the matching process
Search using Date Range:
One final searching tip, use a date range. Add one more AND to the end of the search with this syntax … and (Filename Contains (1950~~1968)). It specifies the date range to be searched. Note the filenames of our newspapers doesn’t always match exactly the year. For example, a Jan-1949 newspaper might be scanned with the 1948 newspaper files. So, give yourself some latitude when searching
The Results: Underneath the search criteria you will see the results. The search engine *tries* to display some useful text from each matching page, but it’s rarely helpful. Look at the Percent Match column. The top entry is 100% matching everything I searched for. The second entry matches 96% and so on
You could just click on each item in the search result list and the newspaper will display in the window pane to the right. The text that was searched for will be highlighted in different colors. While this is OK, below I explain a different technical that I use to view the matching articles.
I place the mouse over the link of a matching entry and right-click the mouse button. A pop-up menu appears. I select Open link in new tab. At the top of my web browser, I now see that I have TWO tabs. One is the search results, and one is the first matching entry. I can repeat this right-click many times and open as many tabs as I find useful. I can click on any tab at the top to view that page. At any time, I can click on the left-most tab to go back to the list of matching pages. If, after looking at the page, I decide I’m not interested in that page, I click the X at the top of the tab and that tab goes away.
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The key advantage of this technique is now I have the URL link for this particular newspaper page at the top of the screen. I click the link, it turns BLUE like in this screen shot. I press Ctrl-C to copy the link, I jump over to my email program, create a new email to myself, place the cursor somewhere in the body of the email message and press Ctrl-V to paste the line. Now I can send this to myself, using email as a storage cabinet for links to online newspapers. Or, I can send the email to someone else saying “look what I found”
Here’s an article from 1961 about my playing in the Little League. I want to save this article, but I don’t want all the color-coding. The first part of the URL, up to “.pdf” is the link to the web page. All the rest of the URL is what does the color-coding. I copy-n-paste the URL into a text editor and delete everything after “.pdf”. Then I paste the shortened URL back into a browser window and I get an uncolored page
But that’s not the best part. As each page is scanned into the online web site, it is assigned a sequential number. The page I am looking at is number 712 on the website. If I want to look at the previous page in the same newspaper, I tap the URL in the browser, go to the right-end and change 712 to 711 and hit enter. If the page I am on, says it is Page 8 in this week’s edition and it’s number 712, and I want to look at the first page, I would change 712 to 705.
All the Local Newspapers: Remember the Salem Press and the Greenwich Journal as well as the Glens Falls Post Star and Troy Record are all on this website. By putting “Washington County Post” into the search criteria, I am limiting myself. Once you’ve gotten proficient with fuzzy searches and filename date ranges and words-within, then you can remove “Washington County Post”
Now I can find what the Salem Press had to say about me
Copying Articles from a Web Page: Once I’ve found an interesting article on some Fulton Page, I open a Windows program called Snipping Tool. I click NEW, then use the cursor to draw a box around the article I want to capture. The snipped area is displayed within Snipping Tool from where I can select File à SaveAs to create a JPG file of just the article I wanted