Reading the Background Information for Record Sets Can Reduce Frustration


As genealogists and family history researchers you are probably frustrated in your research on occasion if you have the experiences that I do. Sometimes we cause our own frustration because we do not read the background information about the record set that we are searching.

When searching in a free online collection of digitized newspapers such as Manitobia do check the following:
-Is the geographical area that you are interested in covered in the data set of newspapers?
-Does the print run of the newspaper that does cover the geographical area cover the time period in which the event you are seeking occurred?

The above questions are essential to answer for yourself if you are thinking of spending money on a for pay searchable website of digitized newspapers like Check the home page of the site for a link to a listing of the digitized newspapers included in the collection and especially information about the years that have been digitized. Doing this check could save you money but more importantly it would avoid having you get a negative search and automatically assuming that the item you are seeking does not exist.

With OCR [Optical Character Scanning] hits on search words can vary depending upon the condition of the newspaper that was scanned. In this case you may need to use the browse function and check a range of specific issues of a given newspaper.

Searching Microfilmed Newspapers
I like to scan an entire newspaper issue, especially when I am viewing one on microfilm, to see the style of reporting for births, deaths and marriages . Some newspapers printed these events in a specific area under titles, sometimes near the classified ads section. In older weekly newspapers births, deaths and marriages were often noted in the locality columns for specific towns or townships. The deaths of long term or well-known residents of a municipality often received more press in the form of an obituary.

Using Paper Indexes of Newspapers
In the case of a paper index for a particular newspaper do check the original newspaper issue in case the indexers missed some death notices or obituaries. In my research I have found extensive obituaries that were missed. I respect and admire indexers but I still check the original.

Canada’s Census Records
In some of my recent research I have moved to using the digitized census records on the Library and Archives website .

Parts of the 1851 Canada West Census are missing so checking to see if what you wish to search actually exists is a good move. Check this section.

The 1851 Census required two scans to get all of the columns of each page. On the same webpage are instructions as to how to go to the next image in order:
“To view all columns associated to an individual, you will need to view multiple images.To view, increase by one the last digit of the url address of an image that appears in the navigation box of your browser. In the example below the 7 becomes an 8.

I used this strategy to see the next image with the 1891 Canada Census as well.
Checking the help section for each census is a good idea to see if there are foibles related to it.

Hopefully the above tips will help you avoid some of the frustration in your future research.

Alan Campbell
The Ontario Genealogical Society
© 2019