Everything You Need to Know About How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, by Lisa Louise Cooke, 2012. No publisher, available from www.GenealogyGems.com. No ISBN. Paperback, 156pp, illustrations, no index. $25US
Lisa Louise Cooke is a genealogical entrepreneur, prominent as a genealogy conference speaker and for her online Genealogy Gems podcasts. She spoke at RootsTech, will be at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live event in London later in the month and, rated 9th internationally in our recent rock star genealogist poll. GenealogyGemsPodcast.com ranks 1,667,834 on Alexa.
On page 2 of this book is the disclaimer "To be clear, I am first and foremost a genealogy podcaster. My goal is to teach my listeners and readers innovative ways to use existing online tools specifically for their genealogy research." This book is a natural follow on to Lisa's book on Google and DVD on Google Earth, one suggested by Leland Meitzler when he answered "newspapers" to the question "what book do genealogists need right now?"
The book aims to teach how to determine whether a newspaper existed for the desired time and location; to locate the available copies in whatever form they may exist; and to make full use of the found newspaper by scouring it for every available morsel. The back cover blurb boast is that it does so with:
- Step-by-Step InstructionsThe first part of the book, up to page 76, comprises introductory material and eleven chapters. Ten of those pages contain only a few lines or are blank except for the page number.
- Worksheets and Checklists
- Tons of Free Online Resources
- Websites that are worth Shelling Out a Few Bucks For
- A Massive Amount of Location Specific Websites
- A Case Study that Puts It All to the Test
A systematic six-step approach is advocated and illustrated with a search for marriage information for Lisa's ancestors in early 1900s San Francisco in the final chapter. A strength of the book is the number of web addresses including to videos.
Two aspects surprised me.
First, the option of contacting a local public library where the event occurred to ask for help while mentioned it's not emphasized to nearly the degree to which it is helpful. Say you have a date of death and are looking for a newspaper obit. In my experience local libraries are often helpful, perhaps especially in these days when they are under pressure to justify their existence, and will search the newspaper and return a scan of the article, sometimes without charge if the search didn't take much time. But you must have a good fix on the date for this to be successful.
Second, one of the greatest problems in using digitized newspapers is that the OCR process, transferring the newspaper page image to text that can be searched, is imperfect. That merits no mention I could find in the book, an amazing omission. There are strategies that provide a partial work around.
The second part of the book comprises three long appendices occupying about the same number of pages as the first part. Appendix A lists US newspaper websites alphabetically by state, either locations with physical or digitized collections. Each allows four lines for inserting additional state sources. Appendix B does the same for international newspaper websites. There is a category for the UK and separate ones for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Times is not listed! Canada's listing has nine entries including the National Archives of Canada (sic). Appendix C is a 21 page listing of US libraries offering Heritage Quest Online remote access free to patrons.
I'm giving a presentation on British and Canadian newspapers for family history at the Ontario Genealogical Society conference in June, a conference where Lisa is also speaking although not on newspapers. Reading the book gave me ideas for slight modifications to my presentation and strengthened my conviction I have significant additional substance to offer.
If you're familiar with and like the pedagogical approach Lisa Louise Cooke takes this book won't disappoint.
Everything You Need to Know About How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers only became available at the beginning of February. It sells for $25 plus postage from the author.