Elephind can be a great FREE resource for anyone who wishes to search old newspapers. The purpose of elephind.com is to make it possible to search all of the world’s digital newspapers from one place and at one time. Elephind.com allows you to simultaneously search across thousands of articles using key words and phrases.
Elephind presently contains 141,831,915 items from 2,704 newspaper titles. You can find a list of libraries that have contribute their archives on the site by clicking on “List of Titles.” Clicking on any library’s name displays the newspapers in that collection.
Elephind.com is much like Google, Bing, or other search engines but focused only on historical, digitized newspapers. By clicking on the Elephind.com search result that interests you, you’ll go directly to the newspaper collection which hosts that story.
Of course, newspapers can be a great resource of genealogy information. Birth announcements, marriage announcements, court news, and more can be searched within seconds. If your ancestor was a merchant, you probably can also find his or her advertisements placed in the newspaper.
As I often did, I performed my first search on elephind.com looking for one of my ancestors. I simply entered his name, Washington Eastman, and was rewarded thousands of “hits” containing one or the other of those two words. Some of them were about photography and others were about Washington, D.C., or Washington State. I didn’t read every article found by that simplistic search but the few I looked at did not have contain anything about the man I was seeking.
I will say however, the very first article on the list from the San Francisco Call of 6 September 1891 caught my eye:
Darling Eastman, the long-sought-for Vermont moonshiner, is under arrest in this city. Eastman’s capture and escape at Corinth, Vt., last April, was the most sensational that has occurred in the State for twenty years. Orange County has been notorious for its stills. The most daring and successful operator in that section was J. Warren Eastman, who lived in an isolated quarter of Corinth. In April last a large posse of officers made a descent on the Eastman homestead. In an old blacksmith shop they discovered a still of the largest and most approved pattern in full operation. The father, Warren Eastman, his son Darling and his son-in-law were captured in their beds and heavily manacled.
Yes, that sounds like one of my relatives! Admittedly, I have never found this family in my family tree before but they certainly sound like they might belong.
I then backed up and clicked on ADVANCED SEARCH. I got far better results by using that. Advanced Search allows the user to specify any combination of the following:
- Contributing library
- Years of publication to be searched
- Search of all text or limited to searches only of titles
- Number of results to be displayed per page
Elephind does not search all the newspapers ever published in the U.S. No online newspaper offers anywhere near that amount of information. However, it does contain 1,141 different newspaper in its database, including newspapers from the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.
All the text on Elephind was created by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and therefore has numerous errors whenever it encountered fuzzy text, page wrinkles, and similar problems. All OCR-created newspaper sites suffer from the same problem, although some sites seem to have worse results than do others. However, Elephind has a feature not seen on many of the online newspaper repositories: User Text Correction.
User Text Correction is an excellent use of “crowd sourcing.” You or anyone else who sees an OCR text error on a page can manually type in the corrected text and add it to the site’s database. You must first register before being allowed to make corrections, however. The quality of the collection is continually improved through the text correction work of those who register.
Elephind is not perfect but it can help a lot if your ancestor is listed in one of the newspapers in the Elephind database. Best of all is the price: FREE.
You can try Elephind at http://www.elephind.com.