52 weeks of Genealogical Records: Newspapers

Shauna Hicks has set us all a goal of 52 weeks of Genealogical Records.

Image from Microsoft online.

Image from Microsoft online.

The topic for Week 11 (how did that happen?!) is Newspapers. Now, like most genies I love newspapers and being a bit of an old fogey I’ve used them extensively over the years. Once upon a time it was only possible to check for news of migration, marriages, deaths, obituaries or specific events we discovered our families were involved in. That was pretty much where it ended, short of trawling through one microfilm after the other.

Little did we know that the wonders of Trove were ahead of us! Trove has grown “like Topsy” and it’s astonishing the nuances it’s brought to our families’ stories. Little snippets like exhibiting a selection of colonial timbers or selling mandarins overseas would once have remained perpetually hidden from us.

Shauna has already mentioned the many options there are for newspaper research so I won’t bother going into that here. What I’d like to do is share with you some of the ways in which I use newspapers either online or, infrequently these days, offline.

Finding the women and children

Although the BDM date restrictions have eased significantly in recent years, this strategy can still be helpful to your research. You have a common surname like Ryan….how to work out which Mary Ryan married which man in the long list from the marriage indexes?  One of the ways I use newspapers is to check who is listed in the funeral notice as siblings or children. This will help identify the correct one…unless she married an O’Brien! It’s can be helpful to confirm you’ve already identified the correct marriage by triangulating the names…I used this just last night when working on a Trove Tuesday post for next week. It’s also a clue (but not necessarily conclusive) as to which family members have predeceased them

This method also gives you clues for births beyond those released in the BDMs. You can find the names of adult children, then backtrack through the marriages to identify what their first names are, where they lived, and when they married.

If the death is beyond the dates covered by Trove, you may need to revert to the old-fashioned method of visiting the library and checking the notices in whatever was the local newspaper. You can narrow the margins of your search by using the equally wonderful Ryerson Index to pinpoint a date.

Telling tales

COUNTRY NEWS. (1926, February 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16280235

COUNTRY NEWS. (1926, February 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 12. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16280235

Of course we love Trove to reveal those previously hidden stories I mentioned before, but do you check out the same story in different newspapers, or assume they’ll all be the same? It’s an easy trap to fall into, but they can vary in subtle but important ways, with just the addition of a tidbit of additional information. A good example is a story I wrote about Mary Ann Morton, nee Massy, on my East Clare blog last week.

The same strategy applies to comparing news stories of our ancestors’ migration experiences. When looking at the long voyage of the Florentia in 1853, I compared each report on Trove and other online newspapers to see what they added or where there were inconsistencies. For example, early reports of the ship’s departure from Plymouth indicated it was going to Portland Bay, though the authorities in Moreton Bay had been advised it was intended for them.

Trove has also clearly revealed just how widespread some news stories were, even in those distant pre-telegraph, pre-internet days. A story might well be reported in newspapers far away from the source of the action. For example, I first learned of a fire in Ipswich in the valuable pre-Trove days of the online Maitland Mercury. You might imagine that an event like that would be reported in the Brisbane papers, but Trove has shown us that different reporters sometimes emphasised different aspects of the story….not much different from today really.

Filling in gaps

If you find an ancestor or family member has been the subject of a legal case, or sudden death, the newspapers may provide a useful filler. This is particularly the case where the official court documents may no longer exist. When reporting on court cases, journalists have to be particularly attentive to detail so you can generally get an accurate, and user-friendly, synopsis of the day’s court activity. However, where possible, you should also see if the originals exist and compare the two.

Missing a relative in the death indexes? Have you checked the news stories on Trove or in the local paper offline? Sometimes this is the only place where the event is recorded, especially in the early days of in-the-bush inquests. I’ve had a few cases of this in my family history. Mind you, it hasn’t solved the mystery of when John Widdup died in or around Urana.

Emigration and foreign news

Aschaffenburger Zeitung, 26 April 1849

Aschaffenburger Zeitung, 26 April 1849

Much as we love Trove and the other high-profile online newspapers, there are other avenues for searching. In the past I’ve used The Scotsman Digital Archive to good effect… Much depends on what you’re looking for…it’s more likely to be successful with high-profile people or general news information.

Another great, but less easy to use, source is Google Newspapers. Not all newspapers are here though. Some have been consolidated into books and appear under Google Books. I suggest you try searching there for the name of your family’s place and see what newspapers come up. As an example I searched just now for one of the papers of my ancestor’s area in Bavaria, and this is what came up.

I wrote about tracking down emigration and family stories using this source for German research here and here, so I won’t repeat myself in this post. It’s not a simple process, but can be worthwhile, though it requires good eyesight, lots of patience, persistence and lateral thinking.

Beyond the Internet

Beyond the Internet

Offline Newspapers

I wrote about these in my Beyond the Internet series in 2012, and you can find the post here. Sometimes you may have to go offline to find something which is referred to in another story but which doesn’t appear readily in Trove due to OCR issues. Of course what’s offline changes almost daily with digitisation programs.

Using Trove – and thanking the Trove Team

Tagging and listing in Trove.

Tagging and listing in Trove.

Many of us make corrections to the stories we visit, some do masses and I confess to being too caught up sometimes to make corrections as I go. However do you also tag the story for something or someone you’ve found in there? I’ve also recently started using the option to create lists…it’s at the top of the edit panel. This enables me to keep track of all stories relating to my one place studies in Murphys Creek, Queensland and Broadford, Co Clare or East Clare generally. And if you’re like me you’ve just launched into Trove without reading the FAQs, but I see there’s heaps of tips here, including how to search for theses (which Queenslanders can also do for local theses via the .

It’s easy to take Trove for granted as it’s probably one of the Top 5 resources for Australian family historians. It is truly a world-leader and the Trove team should hold their heads high with this wonderful achievement. 

German migration news: From Dorfprozelten to Australia

After the recent blogging drought, I’ve been doing some research into my Dorfprozelten families from Bavaria, with a focus on discoveries from the digitised German newspapers from Google books.

Researchers with German ancestry might find today’s posts on my much-neglected From Dorfprozelten to Australia blog worth a read in case they can apply the results to their own family history.

I will be trying to upload stories of my Dorfprozelten families in the coming weeks.

Searching German Newspapers/Books

Last week I posted about the excitement of discovering some German newspapers in Google Books. The exploration has taken a fair bit of time, even without getting down to full transcriptions and translations. I thought I’d share some practical tips I’ve developed as I’ve gone along bearing in mind the limitations I mentioned in my previous post.

SEARCHING

I’ve been asked about how to find what you’re looking for and frankly that’s not nearly as simple as it sounds as this is not a Germanic version of Trove (sadly), however exciting the find.

The critical thing to remember is that you are searching German-language books and newspapers so you need to use the correct German terminology (if necessary use a dictionary like Reverso). For example if you’re looking for someone who came from Munich you’ll need to search for München or Köln for Cologne. Similarly if your German ancestor’s name was Anglicised after arriving in the new land, you’ll need to search by their original name eg Hennig not Henny or Zöller not Zeller or Zoller (though the latter sometimes works).

Other than that you need to be as lateral as possible and add combinations which might work. Try searching in combination with a neighbouring town where particular events may have been held. So for this purpose I was aware of Stadtprozelten, Kollenberg (Collenberg), Miltenberg or Klingenberg while looking for neighbouring Dorfprozelten.

You can limit your search by using Google Books Advanced Search which lets you restrict the timeframe you search eg 1840 to 1870. However a word of caution –I found it better to search using the alternative option of the 19th century because when I used a decade limit, some items just didn’t appear even though they fell in that time frame. That was because the year-limited search is about when the book was published which may not coincide with the year of the newspaper.

One option might be to search by placename + “Blatt” or + Zeitung as these searches might bring up more pertinent options. But as I said, be lateral and keep trying different options. I tried searching by the name of the newspaper plus the search term, and found it excluded options I’d found before.

Analysing the text is important.

I mostly focused on the books of newspapers but I also scrutinised the text provided by Google to see if it was helpful. This is a little easier as I have retained some of my high school German so can pick out relevant phrases. However you can still look for names and eventually you’ll get a sense of which documents are likely to be the most helpful to you. As mentioned I found the regional and local newspapers the most pertinent.

If you know the specific time period you need you might choose to download the book and search visually as you would a microfilm. Searching within the document doesn’t seem to work as well as the initial search. I’ve yet to buckle down to a microfilm-type search.

Check whether the found document offers one or more relevant images…it will tell you in the top bar.

You are reading documents in Gothic print which means you have two adjustments to make (1) to read the font and (2) to read the German. For example the letter K looks far more like our capital N while the lower case could easily be confused with the single s, f or l.

SAVING THE RECORD

Sounds simple really but perhaps I just went about it wrongly in the first place. I bookmarked relevant pages in Diigo and clipped to Evernote as well as downloading some files.

This gives you a good sense of what you’ll be looking at.

I was initially frustrated that I couldn’t print the page without downloading the whole (often large) book. Thanks to advice from a friend (thanks Rebecca!) I clipped print screen forthe image and pasted it to Photoshop. Why didn’t this occur to me earlier?

This worked better and I would then crop the page to cut out the extraneous info but leaving the search term at the top and the name of the book on the left. This meant I had a record of both.

I also clipped the extracted words from the Google search and copied and pasted them with the title of the book I’d found. This gave me (1) a guide to finding the phrases when it wasn’t highlighted (2) a time-saving of not having to transcribe all the words and (3) another record of the link to the book.  I used the pen marker to sidebar the relevant words I’d found (not all are highlighted). After all that I enlarged the image to fit the page, saved it, then printed it out.

While I had the book open I also clicked to save the link to my (Google Books) Library.

I also scrolled up through the pages until I found the specific edition of the paper that this extract had come from and noted that and the page number on the printed page (I could have done this in Photoshop but it was quicker to do it this way).

I added the page number and newspaper edition to the running file in conjunction with the above extract. I also added the name of the image file to the Word running file.

Ultimately this should make it easier to transcribe then translate the document.

SUMMARY

You really have to persevere with this type of search. Similar searches produce widely different outcomes. Hyphens in the printing may skew your results. (eg Dorfprozelten becomes Dorf-prozelten or Dorfpro-zelten).

I’ve found probably about 70% of the emigrants who left Dorfprozelten to come to Australia –as always not including my George Kunkel –but I’m sure the others are there somewhere, waiting for a tedious page-by-page search. And a new pair of reading glasses, before or after, not to mention strong coffee.

Try, try again!

Have you tried this search? What was your experience? Any tips for us?

And here’s another link to try out but it’s edition by edition. http://digipress.digitale-sammlungen.de/de/fs1/papers-overview/static.html

Images from Microsoft Office online.

Serendipity down the rabbit hole

The research week started off with a plan to translate a document about one of the Dorfprozelten families: simple enough with a very large dictionary to one hand, or so I thought. Throw in some rather archaic terms about 18th century events, and my extremely rusty German, and it all went downhill rather quickly. I did manage to sort the families into clusters and reached the conclusion that there were two men by the same name in the village, at the same time….complicated. Now I have to compare notes with the local historian for the village.

Down we go: where will there be more carrots?

Some of the archaic terms defeated my dictionary, so back to my trusty friend Google where I found some other old translations. Before I knew it I was off down the rabbit hole chasing information following one lead at a time. However:  the research diversion was definitely serendipitous!  Last week I mentioned that the German emigrants were supposed to advertise their departure in the newspaper. I also commented that I didn’t know if any were online. Well Google Books answered that question with a bang, and my occasional whimpers.
So here’s the good, bad and ugly of the research process (stories and translations to follow later).

THE GOOD GREAT

  1.  I found some ground-breaking information on my George Kunkel’s family in Dorfprozelten which has made me think completely differently about why he might have emigrated (story will be forthcoming).
  2. As you know I pursue a group of about 30 families from Dorfprozelten – I’ve managed to track down the advertising for about 70% of them. Woo hoo!
  3. The advertisements provide an opportunity to do a timeline for each of these immigrants: notification of departure from village; departure date (sometimes); departure information from the Hamburg shipping lists and then arrival in Australia (mostly Sydney) and mostly via Port Philip.
  4. The Christian names on the departure advertisements sometimes vary from those on the immigration records because they were using their second name: this confirms which of the villagers I’m looking at. In one case, this is particularly helpful because while he arrives as Franz Zöller, he leaves Germany as Ignaz and appears in Australian BDM and newspaper reports also as Ignaz. Bingo!
  5. A small group of Dorfprozelten single people arrived in Australia in 1862. The advertisements revealed they were planning to go to Brazil! How the change occurred we may never know, but it makes a big difference, especially in the case of one family whose story was already particularly tragic and is now much more so. (again, more anon)
  6. Google Books search does a “good” job of reading the Gothic print and finding your search term.
  7. My new best friend in terms of web sites is the Reverso dictionary which quickly lets me translate from German to English (or vice versa). I’m in love with it and it’s so much less weighty than my real-world dictionary and equally effective.
  8. The newspapers of most use to me have been those based in Aschaffenburg and Würzburg as Dorfprozelten as situated between the two.
  9. I learnt/reconfirmed that some of the emigrants were not married when they left Dorfprozelten. As they had to arrive as married couples in Australia, they must have been married somewhere en route, perhaps Aschaffenburg, Frankfurt or Hamburg.
  10. My advice is to limit your search to the 19th century in Advanced Google Book search as that brings up “hits” that don’t appear when you restrict it by a block of years.

 THE BAD

Dorfprozelten am Main (click to enlarge).

  1. Google MAY find the term you’re looking for, but like any OCR on old books or newspapers it is decidedly unreliable. I found more “hits” going in a convoluted way rather than directly.
  2. The page may/may not be able to be enlarged and the search term may/may not be highlighted. Both of which can make it challenging.
  3. Once inside the “book” further searches are unreliable/unpredictable.
  4. You can’t print off the page (as far as I can tell)
  5. You can download the file but some are huge.
  6. I tried my usual strategy of searching by a header that was regularly associated with these ads eg Bekanntmachung or TerminKalender. Somewhat bizarrely this proved to be even less reliable than just searching for “Dorfprozelten” or perhaps “Prozelten”.
  7. General unreliability: it seems a bit harsh to carp about this, given the hoops Google is jumping through, but if you get a negative result I encourage you to be lateral in your search terms.
  8. I also eventually had the sense to use advanced google books search and limit the time frame.

 THE UGLY

I do look a bit bug-eyed right now!

  1. Between relearning Gothic script which we used to do occasionally at school and reading it in a foreign language, my brain is suffering from overload and my eyes are out on stalks. ( I knew I should have done that calligraphy class).
  2. My strategy has been to retype the Gothic print into normal print German. Phase 2 is then to translate the German to English. This is partly underway but see (1) above.

Hopefully I’ve given you some sense of how exciting, as well as how tiring, these discoveries have been. I’m thrilled to bits with it and know there’s going to be hours of exploration and translation ahead. Perhaps time to swap to the external monitor like a sensible person?