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 Ancestry.com realized that their newspapers on Ancestry.com were not being found. OCR doesn’t work very well on newspapers, so results weren’t surfacing well. The Ancestry.com website works best with fielded record collections. So they started Newspapers.com with about 20 million pages, about half of them from Ancestry.com. 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 Ancestry.com 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.
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.
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.
Q. Can you save something to Ancestry.com? Yes. Click on the bright green Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com subscribers. Use the same email address and the discount will be given automatically. The new all-inclusive Ancestry.com World Explorer Plus subscription includes Newspapers.com, 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.