Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Newspapers.comPeter Drinkwater addressed the topic, “The Scoop on” Drinkwater is with who owns and operates

Drinkwater learned the hard way that a presenter should show up early to check out the room before presenting. I know. I know. I’ve been there too and lived to regret it. He certainly did.

There was no Internet signal in the room. He’d prepared slides as a backup, but the slide deck was incompatible with the software on his Mac. He didn’t have a dongle that connected his Mac to the projector. Once he got a dongle, his backup Internet source was too slow to do much.

But Drinkwater is a great presenter and forged ahead with great information.

About two years ago realized that their newspapers on were not being found. OCR doesn’t work very well on newspapers, so results weren’t surfacing well. The website works best with fielded record collections. So they started with about 20 million pages, about half of them from Those who built the site came from Fold3.

They have over 68 million today. They add about 2 to 3 million more pages a month. Over time they will add all the newspapers that has online.

They are often asked how their content differs from other newspaper websites. There are three ways to find out.

One way to see is the browse page. At the top, click on Browse. Click country, then state, and then city and it will list all the papers in that city. Click on the paper and it shows the years. Then click month and date. Browse page

Another way is the papers page. At the top, click on Papers. Sort or narrow by typing words for the title, by dragging date sliders, or by clicking on the map. Note that coverage can vary greatly between papers, some having as little as a couple of pages. Papers page

A third method is a map that shows pins for each newspaper location. From the previous page, click on Map next to the title, All Newspapers. map page

Q. Can you save something to Yes. Click on the bright green button.

Q. Can you save it to your hard drive? Yes.

Registering on the site for free will give you better results. It takes just an email address and a password. The Save/notify feature can be used to notify you by email when new matches show up.

Q. Do you have international papers? Just a few. Some in London. A couple elsewhere.

The OCR search process compares just a bunch of words. You’re not searching for names, per se, but for words. The search system is smart enough to list at the top the pages whereon the words occurred the most.

For names that are also common words, like Fair Milton, try putting quotes around the name, with and without middle name or initial.

The search results can be narrowed in the same way as the newspaper list. The map is a “heat map” and the darkness indicates the number of matches for that state. The date range graph has bars for each year range; the height indicates the number of matches. The search results show snippets. You can narrow by the date the newspaper was added to the site, which is nice for searching newspapers that have been added since the last time you checked.

You can specify a plus/minus range around a date.

Q. Can you limit searches to African American papers? No. We only have a couple. We also have a few foreign language papers, but can’t limit the search to just them.

A little known hint about the viewer page: Double-click zooms in. Shift-double-click zooms back out. The viewer was started from the Fold3 viewer, so it works very similarly.

Q. When you add major features to the site, do you notify people? We are terrible at notifying users. They notify using their blog, Facebook, Twitter, and monthly emails. (And I thought he was serious about not notifying people.)

An annual subscription is $79.95 for a year. It is half price for Fold3 or subscribers. Use the same email address and the discount will be given automatically. The new all-inclusive World Explorer Plus subscription includes, but is only available monthly. It may be cheaper to buy an annual subscription with the half-price discount.

From the viewer you can print or download, whole or a portion of the image, and in JPEG or PDF format. PDF format includes a source citation. You can also publish a clipping that anyone can view for free.

You can mix browsing and searching. So if you browse to a state, when you perform a search it searches just that state.

While a death certificate is located in just the one jurisdiction, a news story about a death might be reported in many places, depending on how interesting the circumstances were.

Your profile page is public. You can follow other people and get notices when they clip new things. You can make initial contact with them without knowing their email address, but they will be given yours.

Given all the technical hurdles, Drinkwater made a good go of a bad situation.


  1. Huh. I've been debating a sub to for quite a while. Nowhere did I see any mention that it's owned by Ancestry, and NOWHERE is it noted that "It is half price for Fold3 or subscribers." That's a pretty serious omission, given Ancestry's top-flight marketing machine.

    They've made the sale... but only thanks to Ancestry Insider. I'd ask for a commission. ;)

  2. I am an ancestry subscriber, I'm a little confused why I would need to pay anything extra for information that should be on ancestry, instead of them owning many other companies all tied with ancestry that they forward you to all that I get to pay to get information.

  3. when I first joined ancestry years ago, ALL information was available. Then, bit by bit information was unavailable except through additional paid services, ie: fold3 and by this, I did not renew my subscription. I may renew periodically, just to update info , but it certainly is irritating that all the sites are "owned" by ancestry. Its just another way to nickel and dime their subscribers.