Belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! It’s been so long since I posted to this blog that it almost seems like I’ve abandoned it. Well, I guess to a degree I have but maybe I can do better this year :).
Anyway, I just wanted to make a quick post about two features in google that I have been using fairly often to aid in genealogical research. The first is google books. I have started to find quite a few genealogy-related books on google, including several of the “Biographical/Historical” county books that were so popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Google has scanned them and made them available in pdf format. If you view them online they are fully searchable; if you download them to your computer all you get are the pdf images – not searchable unless you have special software (which I do not). So what I have done is add them to my google library as favorites. Then I can access them and search them online as the need arises. This has been working out really well for my purposes.
The second feature I wanted to mention is the google news archive, which can be accessed through news.google.com. Many of the newspapers in the archive seem to want to charge on a per article basis, but fortunately there are some that are free. Luckily for me, my ancestors and extended family lived in areas served by some of the free papers, so I am finding a significant amount of information. What I have also found, though, is that often the articles (particularly obituaries) are not turning up when I do a search. Because the newspapers that have been scanned are not always in great condition, the OCR (optical character recognition) program that builds the search index is not interpreting the surname correctly.
I have located quite a few obituaries through “brute force.” If I am already lucky enough to know the date of death (say through the Social Death Index or a tombstone or cemetery transcription), I browse the newspaper serving the area the person lived starting with the day following the death. Often times there is a pattern to which page/section the obituaries are printed, although sometimes that pattern isn’t immediately obvious! Depending on how desperately I want the obit and how many issues/pages I am willing to search, I have often been successful in finding those missing obits. I have found that sometimes the obit is printed the day of death (if the death occured in the wee hours of the morning) and sometimes it takes a extra day or two for it to get published. So only searching the day after the death isn’t always enough. Of course, there is no guarantee that the individual you’re researching even had an obit published, but I have been fairly lucky in that that has not happened to me very often. (Just keep your fingers crossed as you search!!)
That’s about it for now – just wanted to make a quick post about these two google features.