Finding Names: Old Newspapers

Adoptee or biological parent names may be published in newspapers’ birth announcements. But even if a newspaper has been digitized that doesn’t mean that it is searchable. If you’re looking for births, deaths, marriages or divorces which may have been published on a specific date, go to the vital records section and visually review the records. Optical Character Recognition is supposed to render the letters as they were printed, but page scans may be so muddy that the letters are not distinct. Not even this heading is searchable.
Newspaper Vital Records

And often letters are mistakenly rendered: an “n” that should have been a “u” or an “i” in place of a “t.” So you have to vary the letters in words when searching digitized text. And names may have been misspelled by the reporter or typesetter. A presenter at a conference charted the variations in how letters are interpreted.

Letter rendering in digitized records

Also, if the search returns no results when entering the name in the name field, do an exact search in the keyword field. This may return records. And look for more than one article. I found a report that presented a broad sketch of an incident. A filing in a newspaper in another state provided more detail. Once, there were lots of small town and very localized newspapers, so a birth listing could have appeared in a source other than the large circulation outlet.

Your relative may be named in the local newspaper but finding the news account, obituary or vital record may require that you get creative with the alphabet.

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