Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Library of Congress "Chronicling America"

Chris Dunham alerted us to the presence of the "Chronicling America: Historical American Newspapers " digitization project at the Library of Congress - the web site is

Currently, 25 newspapers from CA, DC, FL, KY, NY, UT and VA are available for 1900 to 1910. There is great coverage of Washington DC, with 12 different papers.

I noticed that the San Francisco Call was one of the newspapers. I decided to give the site a test drive using one of Linda's ancestral names - McKnew.

I selected the specific newspaper and entered McKnew in the search b ox, and hit the Search button. This gave me 32 hits. Checking them one at a time is a bit of a chore, but turned out to be fruitful. I found the marriage license announcement for one of Linda's aunts, Belle McKnew to George F. Samwell. I had not known of Mr. Samwell's given name before (the family records just say "married a Samwell."

When you click on one of the links to a newspaper page, you get the full page on your screen in a window. It is at 11% magnification and is impossible to read. You can find the colored bar that indicates where your search item is located. So you can go to the menu at the top of the window and either hit the + button several times to magnify the image, or I just entered in 31% in the magnification window. Both ways work.

It takes a few seconds for the pixels to become legible, and then you have to manipulate the image (move it around by holding the left mouse button down and dragging it so that your target phrase becomes visible). After one or two trials you get the hang of it.

When this database gets fully populated (and who knows how many newspapers it will have?) it may be a wonderful free resource for genealogy researchers. I have made it a Favorite already.

No comments: