If you’ve read me here or on Facebook for any length of time you’ll know I am a big fan of using newspapers to fill in both the factual and contextual gaps in your family tree. So when, in late 2012, Ancestry.com announced the launch of their new website Newspapers.com, you’d be forgiven for thinking I would have jumped at the chance to sign up. However, the limited number of papers and pages available left me cold. I was also among the many loyal users of Ancestry.com who have felt frustrated by the extra subscription required to access Fold3.com once it became part of the Ancestry.com family. If I’d signed up for Newspapers.com, I’d be paying three separate subscriber fees to the same company. While I could justify that for Fold3.com because of the rich and relevant content available, I could find no similar incentive to sign up to Newspapers.com.
Fast forward to today. I’ve decided to take a look to see how Newspapers.com has progressed. Originally claiming only some 800 papers in their collection, today their stats are a little more impressive:
For this exercise I signed up for the free 7 day trial offer. I did have to provide my credit card information to initiate the trial. You’ll have to keep reading to see if I cancelled or not!
For my first search I used the term “M F Beirn” and filtered by Pennsylvania. This particular ancestor of mine led a short (dead by 33) but colorful life. I’m always on the hunt for any news tidbit about him. I’ve had good luck with GenealogyBank.com on this ancestor so I was anxious to see if Newspapers.com could uncover anything new. Sadly, of the 426 matches listed, it quickly became clear only the first 22 hits included any recognizable version of the name “Beirn”. Of those, only one article was related to the “M F Beirn” in question. However, on the plus side, among those 22 hits were a few articles on related Beirns that warrant further review.
For my second test, I used only the surname “Cathcart” and filtered by South Carolina. The Cathcart males are often identified by their first and middle initials. This can play havoc with search engines returning every instance of only one initial, at times unattached to the surname. I’ve found, through trial and error, this is the best strategy even though it casts far too large a net. I followed this search with a sort by oldest date to newest date. I could also have narrowed the date range even more to cover only the years my target ancestor was alive. This search produced 1,646 matches. At first I was disappointed. The date range began well after the death of my most elusive Cathcart: George Hume. On closer inspection though, a real gem was found! An article mentioning George’s son W.R., in which the phrases “acknowledged humorist” and “several practical jokes” caught my eye. I’ll have to savor that article at a later date.
And that, my readers, is where Newspapers.com finally got my attention. Oh, to be sure I was impressed with the search and load speeds. The viewing interface is also very user friendly. But the one area in which Newspapers.com excels is the ability to do something with an article once you’ve found it. You may print or save an article to your desktop – either in whole or in part. This is true of other sites such as GenealogyBank.com. However, unlike GenealogyBank.com, you are able to clip an article to save right on the site for later use. You also have to ability to save an article directly to your Ancestry.com family tree. And finally, you truly have the ability to share these discoveries via email and social media. Did I also mention, you can save your searches as well! No more fruitless repetition of a search because you we unable to get through all the hits on the first look. For those folks who are fortunate enough to find the volume of content they need to justify the subscription, the save-share features make this a very enjoyable service to use.
So, will I be keeping or cancelling Newspapers.com? At $79.95 per year for a full priced subscription I will have to weigh my options carefully. Clearly the site has added significant content since it’s inception. I was excited by the user interface as well as the load speeds of the site. The ability to easily save and share content found on the site is one of my chief complaints about GenealogyBank.com but Newspapers.com is not it’s replacement. Rather it would be a supplemental subscription. I want to add Newspapers.com to my subscription repertoire at the best possible price.
Ultimately, I did subscribe. I have found the site useful to both my personal research and as a idea generator for client work. I encourage you to use the free trial option to explore the site before you sign up [but be sure to read the cancelation directions]. Like any other newspaper site, they are a fabulous investment…if they have the papers your looking for.
by Rorey Cathcart
Copyright (c) 20 March 2014
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Citation for this post:
Rorey Cathcart, “Newspapers.com: A Second Look” posted 21 March 2014, The Who Hunter (http://www.whohunter.com/newspapers-com-second-look/ : accessed [DD Month YYYY])