If you don’t yet have a subscription to Newspapers.com, you might assume you should give up on trying to see articles from that website … but you would be wrong. There is actually a way to glean information from Newspapers.com articles from within Family Tree Maker! Learn how in this excerpt from my upcoming book, Building a Legacy: A Guide to Combining Ancestry.com & Family Tree Maker.

Start in the Web Search workspace of Family Tree Maker, and click on a search result from Newspapers.com. Then click on the image of the newspaper on the left side of the screen..

When you see a pop-up window asking you to subscribe, simply click anywhere outside of the pop-up window on the grayed out page (shown below).

On the resulting web page, look beneath the article image on the left for a subtitle of “Extracted Article Text (OCR).” OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, and it describes a computer’s attempt to read and transcribe text from an image.

The results are often riddled with errors, and sections of a single article may be sprinkled throughout different areas of the entire page’s OCR. But if you are patient and determined, you can collect quite a bit of information.

Click “Keep Reading” and look for mention of your subject. This can take quite a bit of skimming, so be patient. An example excerpt is shared here.

Note that the obituary started directly after another section of text without a new line (“Cleared But Will Resign Nicholas Feyereisen”), and continued on directly into the next obituary (“funeral mass at 10:30 Miss Elizabeth Henn”). You will need to scour the text carefully to find your article.

There are also errors such as “j-ears” instead of “years,” and “hLs” instead of “his.” These types of errors are usually easy for human eyes to recognize and correct.

Example OCR

Officer Cleared But Will Resign Nicholas Feyereisen Sr. Nicholas Feyereisen 71. fath er of the Rev. Nicholas Feycrci sen. assistant pastor at St. Mary’s church for the past six j-ears, died at 4 a. m. Sunday In his home, Belgium, (near Port Washington). Surviving are hLs wife, three sons and three daughters. Father Feyereisen will officiate at the funeral mass at 10:30 Miss Elizabeth Henn. 87. died

This method of analyzing OCR does not provide the actual image of an article, but knowing most of the text in it can be extremely helpful, especially in cases where the indexed data is incorrect (I often see this when the computer makes an error in identifying children of the deceased, vs. spouses of those children). If you do not know how to check the actual obituary, an indexing error could carry through to your tree.

Tip for Finding Your Ancestor's Name

If you are having trouble finding the mention of your subject, try copying the URL from the FTM Web Search browser and pasting it into your regular web browser, such as Edge or Google Chrome. Then you can hit “Control+F” to search for the surname in question. Remember to try misspellings and portions of the name.

I prefer to copy this transcription directly into the citation text of my Source Citation in FTM. This saves time later when I wish to re-check the text for further details. When I do this, I also uncheck the box for citation text to be included in the reference note, since it makes the reference note unreasonably long.

Note that there is a way to view Newspapers.com OCR directly in your usual web browser rather than in FTM (by editing the URL to replace “image” with “newspage”), but I find this method to be simpler and faster.

This feature is a great example of how making things accessible for those with disabilities helps everyone in the end, and I am grateful to Newspapers.com for providing it. It’s a wonderful way to preview their vast store of content until you are ready for a deep dive into this resource.

What is the most interesting tidbit you have found on Newspapers.com?

If you found this trick helpful, make sure you have subscribed to my mailing list so you can hear when Building a Legacy: A Guide to Combining Ancestry.com and Family Tree Maker is released!