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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Frustrating Search - Searching Newspaper Archives for Genealogy Data

Don't you hate it when you are trying to find information on a known event and the Internet just doesn't seem to cooperate?

I have been trying to document a tragic incident that happened in 1925 to Anna T. McPhillps, the wife of my great-granduncle Maurice I. Austin. From the story that I heard through the family, Anna died in the mid 1920's after being struck by a car that ran up on the sidewalk and pinned her against a building.

I was able to find the New York Times obituary for Anna Austin listed on Sunday, May 10, 1925 using Google's new News Archive feature. I love this part of Google especially since it listed the first line of the obituary ("Anna Austin, suddenly on May 8, wife of Maurice I. Austin" . . .) whereas using the New York Times' website does not reveal any information. NYT wants $4.95 to download the article (their archives are now free but only from 1857 up to 1923). I'm not sure it is worth close to five bucks especially since most of the info is probably already listed in the Google News Archive search.

I have a subscription to the Ancestry website which has many newspaper archives including those on Newspaper Archives (more about this last site in a minute). I thought for sure I would be able to find the article for free. After four hours of searching I gave up.

A warning about Newspaper Archives: I was almost ready to sign up for a month of the service at $16.50 a month (they sell other packages such as one full year for $99 or $8.25 a month) to see if I could find the obituary and other articles I need. Just as I had entered all my info and my credit card details, I thought "better check the cancellation policy." It's a good thing I did! The charge becomes an instantly renewable charge on a monthly basis, meaning that they will continue to charge your card until you tell them otherwise. That is standard practice on many web services but here's the kicker: once you email them the cancellation, you still need to download a form and fax it back to them! What a pain in the tuchas if you ask me (by the way, tuchas is Spanish for "innuendo"). I find it odd that they will easily take your credit card info when you sign up, but then you need to go through hoops to cancel. Don't bother with Newspaper Archives - there have to be other ways of getting this info. One would be to sign up for an Ancestry subscription since it uses Newspaper Archives data or use free websites. I'll write more about free resources especially for upstate New York research in a later post.

The photo: Anna McPhillips Austin, taken around 1923. This is one of my favorite photos from my family.

1 comments:

john said...

Archives are important for research and every publisher should have archives for their publications. I found the website www.pressmart.net provides the services of digital print publications, archives, etc. Every publisher should use these kinds services.