Online Newspapers

From Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County, NY
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Dealing with Old Newspapers

The Altamont Enterprise (http://historicnewspapers.guilpl.org/) is a fantastic resource for Hilltown history. Another source is the Fulton History site (http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html). Each page is in a separate PDF file that you can see in Adobe Reader. Key search words are highlighted in blue to help you locate the article you want. Once you have located an article you want, the following steps can make it accessible.

1. Save the file to your hard drive. I start each file with YYYYMMDD as 19120802 for an article found in the August 2, 1912 paper. Then I add a word or two to summarize the article, as 19120802SummerCampLife.pdf. This lists the articles in chronological order.

If the newpaper page is NOT dated, then in the Altamont Enterprise site you can move to previous or next pages until your reach a dated page. Sometimes you need to estimate the actual date of publication if it is not listed in the mast head. Often there will be birth and death notices for events before the publication date, and notices of upcoming events after the publication date. I usually estimate the Friday between the dates, using an online calendar for that year.

2. Open the PDF file in a graphics program. I use Paint Shop Pro XII, and open the file at 300 DPI. It takes a minute or two, but I end up with a high resolution image I can work with.

3. I use the straighten tool along the edge of the chosen article to make sure that particular article is vertical.

4. I select the article and move it directly under the name of the newspaper and the publication date to make sure the source is clear and unmistakable in the visible image. If the article is one long column, I split it up into two of more columns to make the image more compact and printable. This may involve playing with the selection tool, merging layers, and things that make the chosen article available for manipulation.

5. Then I crop to select just the article and the date from the masthead. If needed, I select and remove unrelated text and graphics from around the article.

6. I save the cropped article as a TIF (I used to save it as a JPG with lowest compression, but have learned that TIF is a lossless format preferred by genealogists.) This is the high resolution file that can be used for printing enlargements of the article for display. (For example: 19120802SummerCampLife.tif)

7. Next I play with the magnification of the displayed article until it is a size that is easy to read on the screen – usually 40% to 50%.

8. I resize the article to 50% or so, which means the file can be read easily on a web page.

9. I save the file in JPG format with moderate compression. In Paint Shop Pro, the setting is 25 out of 100. I add WEB to the name to emphasize that this is the file to upload to the website. (For example: 19120802SummerCampLifeWEB.jpg)

10. Returning to the original PDF, I select, copy, and paste the text from the article in a Word document. Because old papers are sometimes blurry, the Optical Character Reader (OCR) that created the text may have trouble with the words, as well as columns. I double check the text against the original article for accuracy. Often it is easier to retype a short article rather than fix all the errors. I save the text file as 19120802SummerCampLife.doc, for example. Now I have four files of related material all listed next to each other in the directory.

11. File sizes naturally depend on the dimensions of the article. In one example, the PDF file was about 1 MB for the full page of the newspaper, the TIF file of the chosen article was 2.5 MB, and the low resolution compressed JPG for the web was 0.5 MB. The text for the article was 30 KB in MS Word .doc format.

12. Next I either create a new page or add to a current page on the web site. I include a gallery link to the scanned article, and copy and paste the text of the article onto the web site. While having a graphic and text version of the same information may seem redundant, Search Engines can scan the text and point researchers from around the world to this page.

Is it worth the effort?? I’m not sure, but I definitely wish my great grandmother had put in the time to add names to the dozens of unknown faces I see in her old photo albums. Perhaps your own great grandchildren will thank you at some point in the future for carefully documenting your work now.

If you have not done this documentation before, don’t feel your work has been wasted. Start doing it now, and in the future, you can go back and add more information to your old digital files when you use them in new projects.

John Elberfeld

JElberfeld@AOL.COM