Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Gordon Atkinson and – #BYUFHGC

Gordon Atkinson and at BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy Gordon Atkinson gave a presentation titled “Coloring Your Tree With” at the recent at 2016 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.

Gordon is a senior director at and In 2003 he left ancestry to found Footnote. In October 2010 acquired footnote and renamed it fold3.

Ancestry has 40 million newspaper pages. But newspapers are indexed through OCR (optical character recognition) and OCR results don’t surface very well on So Ancestry took some fold3 technology and created They launched in 2012 and just four years later have 160 million pages from 4,200 newspapers. They are adding 9 to 10 million pages ever month.

While they are owned and operated by, their offices were in Lindon, Utah [I assume with Fold3] and Ancestry was in Provo, Utah. They’ve just moved into the new Ancestry office building in Lehi, Utah. requires a separate subscription from, although offers an all-access bundle. is successful even outside the field of genealogy.

Because publications from 1922 and before are in the public domain, can publish them without having to pay royalties. After 1922 they have to enter relationships and pay publishers to republish their newspapers. They just did a deal with Tronc to publish the L.A. Times. Last year they signed an agreement with Ganett to do all 82 of their newspapers. To cover the additional costs of the royalties for these modern newspapers, has added a “Publishers Extra” premium subscription. The basic subscription gives access to 100 million pages of older newspapers. The Publishers Extra subscription adds access to 71 million more. The + sign next to a title indicates a Publisher Extra subscription is required. However, some titles have issues both before and after 1922. There is a line and different colors indicating the issues requiring the Extra subscription.

When asked about NewspaperARCHIVE, Gordon said that has similar content, but if doesn’t yet have more content, they soon will. And he said the site experience is better.

To get new newspapers, they work with institutions and libraries across the country, but mainly with publishers. He said they take recommendations, but they don’t digitize paper newspapers. All their content is from microfilm and there are plenty of newspapers available on microfilm.

The vast majority of their papers are from the US. Sometimes you’ll see gaps in their coverage. There are lots of reasons for this. The microfilms may have been destroyed or lost. The issues may never have been microfilmed. Sometimes makes mistakes and they are filed in the wrong place, but usually gaps are because the issues are not available.

Gordon showed the website. I’ve shown it recently, so I won’t repeat most of it here. See “Ancestry’s at #NGS2016GEN.” The website uses a technology called HTML 5 instead of the older Flash technology, so it now works on mobile devices.

There is a button to Save to Ancestry. It will let you select a particular tree, and then pick a person. The clip shows up in the Other Sources section of the person page. They are working to make the experience better, passing information over to, showing a thumbnail, and associating it with events.

If you clip anything, then anyone can view, not just the clip, but a free view of the whole page. We think that some people will be interested and subscribe, although we just want people to have a positive experience, Gordon said.

You can view a collection of clippings that others have done. We have one user who likes to find horrible crimes and clips them, Gordon said. We’ve had a user clip chess matches. Someone called and said, “you have the best website for learning about building supplies in Texas in the 1930s.” She said she needed the information for a master’s thesis. You can search the clipping page. If you click on the clippers name, you see their profile. If the user has allowed it, there is a Contact Me button. From their profile, you can see all the clippings they’ve made. It helps you organize.

Gordon said several things about searching. They are working on improving their search technology. Clippings have a high score and float to the top of search results. You can use quote marks in search, but text must match exactly. You can save a search so that you receive an email when new matches are added. You can filter results to those added in the recent past.

When clipping you can’t join together portions of an article that are not adjacent.

On the title page of a paper, you can click Follow and be informed if they add issues.

There is a free course on Ancestry Academy about

Class members gave different opinions as to whether is available at FamilySearch Family History Centers. I know a limited version is available via the BYU campus Wi-Fi (because I’m using it right now), but the premium papers are hidden here. A FamilySearch help center article indicates that NewspaperARCHIVE is available, but not


  1. I use and genealogybank in my historical research (mostly I research African Americans before World War I, I don't have time for much genealogy these days). I prefer the experience, but I get more results from genealogybank, definitely. does seem to be catching up, though, and clippings are really useful. I wish both would include more African American newspapers, and I turn to chroniclingAmerica sometimes, but feel the user experience is the worst with that site, even though it is free.

  2. Re: "Save to Ancestry" button for clippings. This changed about two weeks ago and the new script does not allow me to select trees that I am editor of, only trees that I own. support said to contact support, not their problem.
    I then contacted support and they said to contact, not an issue.

    AAARRGGHHH!! - So frustrating! I think it is related to the change to HTML5 script from the Flash version of the button. still has the old button which works properly.

    Any suggestions on who can get this working?

    1. Dear Some One,

      Is this still a problem?

      --- The Ancestry Insider

  3. Thanks for the article. I learned a lot.

    As to the 1922 copyright cutoff date it didn’t explain why some papers, as below, are charged as premium content even though in the public domain.

    The Evening Star (Franklin, Indiana) 1912-1919
    Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 1861-1922

    I subscribe to one premium paper only (Southern Illinoisan) since it is one of the few papers relevant to my research. The others that I would use have been online for many years (probably from the one-time NewspaperARCHIVE partnership with Ancestry that it is more cost effective to use the NewspaperARCHIVE library edition several times a year than pay

    I check the website every few weeks to see if anything has been added to make it worthwhile to get a full subscription. My major complaint with, and all other genealogy site I’m familiar with, is they flag “Updated” items but never add any information as to what has changed.

    The only big advantage NewspaperARCHIVE has is you are able to grab the actual text for a Word file there while limits you to a jpg or pdf and you must input the text yourself.

    Keep up your great reporting.

    1. Larry,
      Thanks for your kind comments.

      One possible explanation for public domain newspapers being available only via premium subscription is contract law. The scenario works like this: Imagine that all copies of a particular issue have perished except the one in my possession. You wish to see it and so you sign a contract with me in which I agree to let you see it and you agree to pay me money to do so. That contract could have all sorts of other terms. We could agree that you get to make a copy. We could agree that you get to show that copy to other people under certain, strict, predetermined conditions.

      It really doesn't matter if the issue is in the public domain or not. And it doesn't matter how many copies are extant. So long as the terms of the contract don't break the law, we can agree upon anything we wish.


  4. As of 9/7/2016 or maybe earlier, an ALL Access subscription DOES NOT get you access to all of To get ALL access on you have to buy an additional subscription. A TOTAL ripoff after touting ALL Access as everything. I feel cheated and would like a refund but there is no way to get one.

  5. Yes, I complained about the same thing, they had me sign up for all Access and Premium Fold3, and then did the Publishers Extra fraud, by wanting another $99 on top of the $99 I paid for All Access. I can't even get anyone to return my phone call at The support is horrible, you have to leave a message and then Seth emails you back, but he won't call you. They are very evasive and don't answer direct questions. Ancestry needs to bring them under the same roof and provide decent support. Another bad thing about, is that it REQUIRES you to keep a subscription going. You can't clip the articles to ancestry and actually see the full article well, but as they told me, "those are only place holders." So "Save to Ancestry", is basically worthless, as you can't see the full article later on and the part that is saved as a bookmark is so small it is unreadable. Again, they do NOT fix or respond to complaints. is so much better in that you can just do a print screen and then crop the article in Paint and save and you have it forever on your computer. And the price is much less, basically half. seems to have lots of bells and whistles, but they require you to keep signing up at $200 per year, which is ridiculous, as mentioned above. Now the latest gimmick of is a 6-months $75 subscription, and it doesn't appear the year is even available anymore.

    1. Agreed. I recently suspended my sub and recently got into another source. I won't go into it at the moment, because I don't want those sharks to try to monopolize it out of business as well.

  6. I'm a Publisher Extra subscriber and ran into a bit of a surprise. The Detroit Free Press obits for 2012 are all blurred out! I emailed customer service and received this response: "The DFP blurred them out before they gave them to us for our site. You will need to contact them directly to get the original obituaries." Wow. advertising leads one to believe that the entire edition is intact and complete. It really makes me wonder if there could be another subscription tier on the horizon there: an obit subscription! Needless to say, I'm very disappointed with

    1. Same here. As if I wasn't enough already. Thanks for the info, Mary.


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