USA @ 250 AND NEW YORK: DISCOVERING LOCAL STORIES
USING A SEARCH ENGINE LIKE GOOGLE ONLY FINDS A SMALL PART OF THE AVAILABLE DATA
1. GOOGLE LIES. BUT YOU CAN TRICK IT.
Google (and other) search engines do NOT "search the internet." At least, they only do... a little. Any data that has been developed as part of a site that keeps their crawlers out (a database, etc.) is invisible if you are doing a general search. In essence, you are finding the tip of an iceberg, not "most" of it. They present popular, for-profit, or other sites based on hidden preferences that make you wade through a lot of nonsense before you get to your goal.
Learn where your primary source data lives, and go directly to those sites and their internal search, and learn how to "site search."
2. DIGITAL PUBLISHED WORKS SITES: The big three
Three powerful discovery tools for what has been published in the past. There is quite a bit of overlap, but not entirely. Search all three!
Check the data in against primary sources wherever possible. Especially with things like genealogies, errors abound.
A. Hathitrust.org is a "meta site" that includes works from Google Books and other digital book repositories. It is very useful for organizing multi-volume works in the "catalog" view. However, you can only download a page at a time. TRICK: Find it, search it, then download the book entirety, if needed, from Google Books, Archive.org, or other sites.
B. Books.google.com is a different site, not the same as a simple Google search. This is where you can search literally millions of books, download, and read them for free-- if they are out of copyright. You can also search books still in copyright, but cannot see more than a "snip"--- but that often is enough to decide if you need to inter-library loan or purchase that book.
Try it: In books.google.com, search "Encyclopedia of New York State" (use the quotes). See the "search inside" box right underneath? Search your community's name to see what pages mention it.
C. Archive.org is a nonprofit site that includes items not found in the other two. You can read online or choose a particular file format to download.
3. FREE DATABASES: NYPL & NYSL
If you are a resident of New York State, you can apply online for:
- New York Public Library card. This includes remote access many of their databases. For example: Full text access to JSTOR; American Periodicals 1740-1940; and The Georgian Papers Online.
- New York State library card (appointed public historians). The "P" card you will receive unlocks remote access to lots of databases, including: Accessible Archives; AnthroSource; Pennsylvania Gazette 1728-1800; ProQuest Historical Newspapers
4. FREE "ANCESTRY": FAMILYSEARCH.ORG
Create a free account at FamilySearch. It gives you some of the content of pay sites like Ancestry.com, such as censuses, and other government records.
There is a way to bookmark records specific to your community that are somewhat "hidden". For example, this is the stable link for digitized records of the Orange County Clerk's probate records office: (you will have to create a free account to view): https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1918465
5. FREE DIGITIZED ARCHIVAL COLLECTIONS:
While there is a host of sites you will find, here is a selected list that may contain primary source (manuscripts and transcriptions of manuscripts) to start:
a. New York State Library's list of digitized archival records (not updated)
b. New York State Archives Digital Collections
b. George Washington Papers (Library of Congress)
c. Founders Online (National Archives)
c. New York Historical Society
SEARCHING MORE EFFECTIVELY: A FEW TIPS
1. Exact phrase searching: When in a search engine like Google, enclose phrases in quotes to eliminate random word combinations.
- Example: "Revolutionary War veteran" "Town of Hempstead" "New York" would be a narrower, more effective search string than just entering all those words without the phrase quotes.
2. Site search: If you find a particularly productive website, do a site search. Begin your search string with a site-search limiter that uses the URL and add a keyword or two-- this is useful when the site you are on doesn't have an internal search function.
- Site search example:
3. Bookmarking sites & following breadcrumbs:
- When you find a section of a database that has records you want, you can "bookmark" it on your laptop. Click and hold down on the "lock" icon of the URL and drag it to your desktop.
- You can often navigate up and down the database clicking the breadcrumb trail, which results from the way the data is structured into sections. What's a "breadcrumb" look like?
- In Fold3, the search for Andrew Decker, limited to Revolutionary war, finds his pension application. At the top of the screen is shown:
- When you click the down arrow, it shows the the "breadcrumb trail" for that record group:
In this case it also pops up a "browse" menu so you can browse through that file alphabetically (which helps with spelling variations, etc.)
4. Tools: Transcribing "magic" using your cell phone
- Many cell phones have a "voice recording" app. One of the options is "Voice to Text". On Android phones, this makes two separate files--- one of the voice, and one of the transcription as you read the text As you read aloud, record yourself this way and you'll have a 'quick and dirty' transcription. While many unique words will be mispelled, you'd be surprised how accurate the voice recognition can be.
- Last Updated: May 1, 2023 11:25 AM
- URL: https://guides.rcls.org/250
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