Other than making sure that you are searching in the right place geographically and using a date range that fits your ancestors lives, what follows is the ABSOLUTE BEST WAY to find more pertinent articles when searching online historical newspapers.
If you do newspaper research online as part of your history research, then you have certainly been puzzled by some of the search results (or lack thereof) that you have received.
Creation of newspaper images and the application of the OCR process does not always result in what you might expect in the index which is used to match against your search criteria.
There is a simple explanation for this, and it all has to do with quality:
Thus what you are searching probably won't be a perfect digital database that represents what was originally written by the author and newspaper publisher.
What can we do about it? There are lots of things to try and this article deals with changing the letters in your search criteria. For example - if a surname you are searching for is "Wilson" and the letter "n" is often converted to the letter "m" in the index from the OCR process, why not search for "Wilsom"?
I guarantee that changing your search letters will lead to an improvement of at least 5 to 10% in search results. I heard from one reader that changing letters and letter pairs got them a 20% improvement!
So what letter pairs are often confused and exchanged in the index?
My suggestion? Change your search criteria and exchange the letter string you are entering in the search box to include these alternative letter and letter pairs and see what happens. In other words - deliberately misspell the name or word. You will be pleasantly surprised!
No matter what your search criteria represents - a name, an event, a city name, etc. to the OCR process it just comes to a series of dots that make up a random string of letters.
For other ways to improve your search results and to learn much more about becoming an expert newspaper researcher, check out the Tips page.