Tom Tryniski Digitizes 27 Million Old Newspaper Pages in His Living Room (While Commercial Services Fight to Catch Up)

Anyone who has looked at Tom Tryniski’s web site at FultonHistory.com probably has been impressed by the site’s collection of 27 million historic newspaper pages available to everyone, free of charge. However, when you will become impressed much more when you compare what he accomplishes against the results of other newspaper sites.

According to an article by Jim Epstein (at http://reason.com/reasontv/2013/03/05/amateur-beats-gov-at-digitizing-newspape):

In 2003, the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) spent $400,000 digitizing the first 62 years of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which was among the most widely read and influential papers in 19th century America. A decade later, the library was still raising money to finish the remaining 52 years of the Daily Eagle’s run.

The Library of Congress’ historic newspaper site, Chronicling America, has 5 million newspaper pages on its site while costing taxpayers $15 million (about $3 per page).

The biggest digital newspaper site on the Internet is the for-profit Newspaperarchive.com, with 130 million pages. Newspapers.com, a subsidiary of Ancestry.com, has 34 million newspaper pages. The expenses of those two sites are not easily available.

In the meantime, Tom Tryniski, armed only with a few PCs and a cheap microfilm scanner, digitized 27 million historic newspaper pages while working alone.

Most of the papers Tryniski has digitized are from New York, but he’s rapidly expanding his coverage to other states as well. He is adding new content at a rate of about a quarter-million pages per month with no plans to slow down.

Tryniski pays all expenses for the site himself. The only significant costs are bandwidth, for which he pays $630 per month, and hard drives, which run him about $200 per month. Of course, his labor is free. In return, Tryniski makes the results of his hard work available to everyone online, free of charge. Tryniski keeps his server in a gazebo on his front deck.

You can find Tom Tryniski’s 27 million historic newspaper pages at http://fultonhistory.com. You can also watch a video describing Tryniski’s work at http://youtu.be/KVWDX6oaYCg.

26 Comments

Amazing dedication

This is indeed a wonderful labor of love and service to the research community! I have ended up here many times as a result of web searches. Very thankful for its availability.

A couple thoughts: Too bad the site is so dated-looking (1990’s-style frames and graphics; maybe someone with the skills could return the favor and help him redesign it). Seeing where his server is located made me cringe (seems very vulnerable to the weather, vandalism, etc.).

This is absolutely spectacular! I will check out his website, and see if there’s a way to send a donation via PayPal.

    David (Stilson) Dillman May 20, 2014 at 9:53 am

    He does accept PayPal, actually. And he takes viable, used hard drives to supplement his storage of these hefty files.

I have used Tom’s site extensively. I have discovered so much about my ancestors from those digitized newspapers. Discoveries include obituaries, to the fact that my gg grandfather was mugged and robbed on his way home from work, by a gang of men carrying guns. It is a great site, thanks to Tom.

Have met the man in person and gotten a tour of his operation. Absolutely amazing.

I’ve followed his site for some time with great admiration, and he inspired me to go ahead and digitize our local newspapers.

Tom’s newspaper website doesn’t have all the bells and whistles (or advertising) of the other sites, but more info than most. I’ve found lots of family info – New York – there. Thanks.

David (Stilson) Dillman May 20, 2014 at 8:31 am

Both of my parents had roots that ran through Upstate New York, and the last three generations of our mom’s famiIy, and I, were born there. There is lore in our family that our branch, which came to NY from CT, did so to separate from the Anglican side that lived there, in the event England reconquered our fledgling nation, as many felt they certainly would in the 1790’s when the came to Delaware County to settle in the forests of the Catskills. It is an honor to read of Tom’s work, having visited his site so many times. His efforts are nothing less than stunning, and my gratitude for the connection he has afforded me to those people and those times, is boundless. I will back those words with a check, now that I know the man, behind the spider web! Thank you, Tom!

Fantastic! Can we at least buy him a beer?

    You can donate to his efforts through the site. Its well worth sending him a few dollars for all of the history he is helping to preserve and make available easily over the internet.

I’ve been using his site for years and recommend it in my classes.

On a more serious note: thanks to Mr. T. I just located my great-grandfather’s obituary. I fear the day is now completely lost to searching this site for other gems.

A great site and a great guy. I have found all kinds of things re my dozens of NYC ancestors including two of that pot of gold, the exact origin in Ireland. One was in an obituary in an obscure Brooklyn newspaper I never heard of, the Standard Union. The other was in a surrogate’s court legal notice that included the name and location of the only one of eight siblings who stayed in Ireland to get the farm. Thanks, Tom!

I use Tom’s site nearly every day and have made donations of cash and used hard drives. A great boon to genealogists and historians. The only worry is what will happen to the material when Tom can no longer work on it.

I do not know how to effectively search so I do not end up with hundreds or thousands of hits.
Can a search be narrowed to a location?

    Yes, it can. Read the FAQ and follow the directions therein EXACTLY, and you will be able to narrow searches down quite well. They are hidden quite well!

Kudos to Tom!

I mention Fulton Postcards in any talk I give covering Online Newspapers for the USA (and how to squeeze the lemon the find more hits) and have done since my first talk back in 2008. I just tell the audience – don’t be put off by the graphics (actually I quite like them) it is a fantastic resource .. and .. it is free and I’ve personally found information for my surname study that I might never have found otherwise.
Some of the earliest newspaper images on the site probably were not filmed that well initially and so with worn microfilm even after cleaning up the digital images as best as can be finding names in them can be difficult (but this is no different to some commercial sites which have worked from microfilm or are dealing with pre 1810 newspapers with the long s) but this doesn’t really matter. The site is an inspiration and I hope it gets to 57million pages before too long !
Very Best Regards

    David (Stilson) Dillman May 21, 2014 at 12:04 am

    For my part, I was always curious about the “man behind the web” at Fulton History, and thanks to EOGN, I have finally learned more about him. Anyone who is put off by any quirks of query syntaxt, or the graphics, … is missing one of the deepest wells in genealogical research. That is akin to being unwilling to learn to say “please” or “thank you” in French, and refusing to visit Paris. Tom’s work is epic, and I so appreciate the highlight it has received here.

And he has the best, by a landslide, search routines of any genealogical website. He has a FAQ tab that completely explains how to use them to greatly improve your ability to find your ancestors, unlike, for example, the recent abomination of the Brooklyn Eagle by the Brooklyn Library. Don’t waste your time there; you’ll find all of the Brooklyn Eagle and much more at Tom’s site. While you’re there, make a donation to this wonderful man’s work. I’ve found hundreds of articles there.

Fultonhistory has been a gold mine for me as nearly ALL my ancestors spent at least part of their lives in NY. It seems to be the only site with so many small town papers. Unfortunately, I hear of many folks who, like me, at first ignore the site as it’s home page seems to make it look like it’s just about old postcards. I was looking for info from before postcards, so at first missed the wealth of information buried in the newspaper search portion of the site.

Tryniski’s site is incredible and I use it a lot, but it’s somewhat unfair to compare the volume and cost with Chroncling America and Brookyn Public Library. Some of the money that they used goes towards making the issues searchable by date (not just the date at the top of the page, which is sometimes unreadable and sometimes omitted) and identifying the individual article where the words appear, instead of an entire page. That being said, maybe those added benefits aren’t worth the money spent, and we would just rather have more papers digitized. Kudos to an individual making a difference in promoting genealogical and historical research and offering it for free.

Was pleased to be in on helping with Tom’s efforts early on when I was working in the History Room of the Seymour Library in Auburn, NY, and have felt encouraged that he continued with it. Congratulations Tom on this new publicity, am sure folks who didn’t know about your site will find it very useful and helpful, Mary G.

Wow! Sounds great. Many of my ancestors began their lives in America in New York City and environs. I just wish someone would do this type of work in Pittsburgh, PA. Not much info available there.

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