How to work around OCR errors in newspaper research

Screenshot of historical newspaper with overlay that says Word around OCR errors in newspaper research

Are you struggling to do newspaper research for your ancestors because of the OCR errors make the name and keywords unsearchable?D

Discover several ways work around these challenges, even if you won’t like all of these suggestions.

What causes OCR errors in newspapers?

The quality of the images of old newspapers dramatically impacts the ability of the OCR scans to read articles in newspapers. about your ancestors through search. 

Ink smears, small fonts, confusing type, and faded news pages negatively impact the results of a computer scan. A computer doesn’t have 20/20 vision.

As such, transposed words and letters, misidentified characters, and skipped words will happen frequently. What can be done to overcome these challenges?

What should you do about OCR errors hindering your newspaper research?

In this video, I walk you through the following ways to work around OCRS errors in newspaper research.

  1. Use OCR Substitutesyear
  2. Search for a “Cluster” of Relatives and Associates
  3. Read the newspaper only for specific dates
  4. Read the newspaper for years or miss out

Common Substitutes to Use to Work Around OCR Errors in Newspaper Research

The following list of commonly misidentified letters will make your newspaper research difficult. When you have a name or keyword, substitute one or more of these combinations and dramatically increase your chances of finding articles.

b, h
D, 0, O
c, e, o
Z, 2
R, B
G, 0, O
G, 6
i, l, 1, /, !, and | 
en, em
v, y
S, 8, 5
B, *
ine, the
n, r
rn, m, ar, n, em
nl, m
n , m
n, ri,
K, |<
i, t

Do Your Best

Murphy’s Law will say that after all the combinations you try, your ancestors are in the newspapers and in the one edition you chose not to read.

If you’re lucky, you will find wonderful pieces to help your genealogy research. If you want to learn more about how newspapers can help in your quest for more depth, check out this playlist of videos.

When you do find newspaper nuggets, be sure to use them to write better stories about your ancestors.

Do the best you can with newspaper research. It’s still a relatively new resource to access online. In time, perhaps the technology will improve. But for now, use these strategies or use another resource.

Screenshot of newspaper paper with a text box overlay with Research around OCR errors in newspapers
Family History Fanatics

Family History Fanatics

Andy, Devon Noel, and Caleb Lee are the Family History Fanatics who have been excited about genealogy for over 40 years, collectively. We have a top rated YouTube channel in the genealogy niche and continue to grow every day. Andy and Devon travel to conferences to teach in person, join webinars that others put on, and host and promote their own virtual genealogy conferences. We also have published seven books on genealogy, DNA, and memory keeping. In short, we're everywhere you want to learn, Blog, Video, Print, and Conferences! Support us by visiting to learn more.

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