Breamlea, Victoria

Breamlea, Victoria

Friday, 28 August 2015

Ancestors in the Newspaper - digitised newspaper search in Trove

Ancestors in the newspaper

It is amazing to me how often our ancestors appear in the newspaper.  A simple search can give you so many little gems of information.

The greatest trouble with the search for me though is sifting through all the false positives for my ancestor's name.

For example, my ancestor's surname is SALTER.  When you search through Trove's digitised newspaper collection using the word Salter, you get all sorts of hits.  These are the examples I have found for Salter:

  • Other families with the name Salter
  • Salt cellars being listed as wedding gifts
  • Gold mining claims being "salted"
  • A member of the local constabulary named "Salt"
  • Salt mining
  • Government officials misspellings eg. "Sault"
  • The digitisation process misreading words due to the age and deterioration of the newspaper being scanned. 
For the name ARMSTRONG,  there are other issues:
  • The sheer quantity of people whose name is Armstrong
  • Different unrelated groups of families called Armstrong living in the same area.
  • Local Armstrong families using the same first names for their children of similar ages
  • Judges, MP's, JP's, Police and defendants all with the name Armstrong 
Each surname that you search has its own set of challenges.  If you are lucky enough to have a surname that is unusual, you need to be lucky that people have spelled the name correctly in their documentation, and the newspaper is a clear copy so the digitisation process works well, as it mostly does.  If your surname is common, you will need to use filters to narrow your search from the tens of thousands the name search will find for you.  The filters in the digitised newspaper section include:
  • the State the newspaper was printed in
  • the decade and year it was printed in
  • the name of the newspaper
  • the Category of newspaper item you are looking for broken into subheadings:
    • Advertising
    • Articles
    • Detailed Lists, Results and Guides
    • Family Notices
  • whether the item is Illustrated
  • Word count
Using the filters will narrow the search surprisingly quickly down to a manageable size.  Once you have those results, you  can use the Sort function drop down box to sort the results by relevance (the articles considered to be most relevant to your search), or date (earliest to latest or vice versa.)

You can also utilise the Lists and Tags functions to find if other people have collated items for that name already.  Look for the tabs at the top of the Digitised Newspapers section.

As always, the more you know, the better your results. But it's always worth taking a punt.
Historically yours,
Valerius Copernicus

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