Friday, September 08, 2006

Free Gibberish for Genealogists

I've been enjoying Google's just-introduced News Archive Search—even without a subscription to By searching the latter site with Google you get a free preview of your search result that is sometimes almost kind of readable.

Here's a snippet from a 1906 article that refers to my ancestor, Moses Dunham of Hartford, Maine:

The birth of a son to Mr: and Mrs. who march re- Chartes A. Dunham orwest Bethel ferred qnless the editor of the Cour- brings to mind an interesting circuni- ant has in-mind the ante-matrlmonia stance regarding ithe male descendants of Moses Dunham who came from Carver, Mass., and settled in Hartford In at that time had two sons, and today there are two grandsons. i two great-gnbidsons, and two. great- Cannot be aone unless you have gooc great-grandsons. [Link]
If you take out a few words that don't belong and squint really hard this almost makes sense. Moses had two sons, who had two sons, who had two sons, who in 1906 had two sons between them. (Moses would gain two more great-great-grandsons in years to come, the youngest of whom was my grandfather.)

In other cases, Optical Character Recognition fails miserably. This is from an 1878 Iowa newspaper:
It ia mlmiatuw. 'Tkoogmt I lkeead. PtUeaeeud bring ik towel at int. i Ordered time from pro- Drop turned out to be ft it ft towel T Cbarsje, For two eixoenta. Ooaelndedaow I tke fond iu boat out turn f the bftth-tab ebaeked it on oat, concluded t oenU wortk oat of tbtpv'gnoir. [Link]
Let's hope your ancestor's name was not mentioned in that paragraph.

Jason Presley

At least they seemed to know where their towel was. And we all know that's the most important thing.


Yes, having a towel is very important when you step out of the bftth-tab.



It seems at first glance that the newspapers available on the new Google News Archive site are the same ones available on through their Historical Newspaper collection.



Yup, gets its newspapers from the same place. An subscription will get you more than a subscription to, but I don't think even the new "advanced search" at Ancestry can beat Google when searching for such common phrases as "Mr. Dunham decapitated his wife."

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