Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Using Ancestry's newspaper collection

I've been using Ancestry.com's historical newspaper collection for several weeks now, and am both pleased and frustrated by it.

Using this resource, I've found many articles about my Seaver, Richmond and Hildreth families of Leominster MA in The Fitchburg (MA) Sentinel newspaper. For example:

On 27 December 1932: "Edward Seaver, student at Columbia university, is passing the holidays with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Seaver, 20 Hall Street."

On 1 July 1933: “Seaver Will Filed” Worcester, July 1 – "The will of Nellie M. Seaver of Leomnster, who died June 26, has been filed in probate court by Atty. J. Ward Healey. There are bequests of $1000 each to nephews Frederic T. Blanchard of Los Angeles, Laurence C. Blanchard of National City, Calif., and Frederick W. Seaver of Leominster, and $250 to another nephew, Harry C. Seaver of Leominster, and a like amount to a niece, Edith J. Russell of Orlando, Fla. * All furniture, jewelry and wearing apparel of the testatrix is left to Cathryn Morse of South Acton, and the will directs that residue be divided equally among Emma E. Seaver of Fitchburg, Cathryn Morse, Ida W. Preble of Somerville, Alice P. Carpenter of Leominster, Nellie M. Emerton of Leominster, and Lillian A. Emerton of Leominster. * There is no indication as to the value of the estate. Miss Seaver was a retired school teacher." [Note that * denotes a new paragraph.]

On 29 January 1934: "Fred Seaver of Leominster is playing center on the basketball team at Worcester Academy."

On 7 October 1937: "An automobile owned by Fred Seaver, 65 Pleasant Street, Leominster was stolen from 80 Atlantic Avenue, Monday night, was found abandoned in front of 1231 Main street, last night, bearing the number plate which had been removed from an automobile registered to Arthur H. Bussiere, 571 Ashburnham street."


The frustration is that the search for words on each page provides too many hits that are not useful. For instance, if I search for "fred seaver" the search results in all pages that have the words "fred" and "seaver" on the same page. Thus, I had to plow through about 100 hits in the Fitchburg paper to find about 30 with "fred seaver" together - my father's and grandfather's name. Common names result in hundreds or thousands of hits for a given paper.

I do greatly appreciate the availability of these newspaper records and that there is any sort of index. It would be very difficult to search these papers line-by-line and page-by-page, even if I knew the event date I was looking for. I probably would not have found the last item above without the index.

I used this data to put a page and one-half in my family newsletter with just the wedding announcements for my Seaver aunts and uncle. There is a great deal of data in some of them - names of friends and relatives.

This newspaper data is sort of a Forrest Gump deal - you never know what family history goodies you are going to get.

4 comments:

Cathy said...

My Mother's maiden name is West. Even reducing the search to just the newspapers I know information is in is still painful.

Teri said...

I've been trying something different that might work with your Fred Seaver searches.

Use Google Archive News Search

http://news.google.com/archivesearch?hl=en

to narrow down the results. You can choose the time frame or decades. It will give you the "Fred Seaver" results first and the notation of how the name appears in the paper. They have many of the same newspapers as ancestry on a pay-per-view basis.

Then do the Fred Seaver search at Ancestry, but now you can pick and choose the newspapers and dates you want to look at.

Apple said...

I don't have an ancestry subscription, instead I have newspaperarchives.com. I don't know if ancestry will allow you to search this way but I have found it helpful in many cases to search by address if I have one. There may have been many John Smith's but not too many 300 Pearl St listings. I also catch hits that I missed in a name search because of misspellings. Additionally I have discovered other family members and daughters married names this way.

Marilyn Sawyer Morse said...

Frederick Blanchard was my great uncle; my grandmother's (Margaret Blanchard) brother. He was born in 1846 in Harvard, MA. His parents, John Blanchard & Elizabeth Kennedy were married in Marblehead, MA in 1845. I remember meeting them in the 1930s when he was on sabbatical from UC, where he was an English professor I believe. He was in England researching his book on English grammar. I remember nothing about his children. If I can be of any help, please let me know. I know he married LIzzie Seaver, but I do not know when. I am in CA visiting my daughter. I may have more information at my home in NH.
We came across your blog when we were researching Frederick T Blanchard ourselves.
Marilyn Sawyer Morse