Skip to Main Content

Chronicling America: A Guide for Researchers

Search Tips

Search Chronicling America to find

  • Information on persons, places, or events.
  • Specific topics or news of the day.
  • Concepts or ideas.
  • Unique passages of text, such as the source of a frequently-quoted phrase.

Users of Chronicling America have the option of performing basic or advanced searches along with the ability to use faceted search options.

Search and Browse Tips

  • Tabbed Browsing: Many browsers have the capability of tabbed browsing, which opens a new pane in the current window, either in the background or the foreground. Users of Chronicling America have reported this as a useful method of navigating through search results- bringing up each result in a new tab. This may be accomplished by clicking with the right-hand mouse button (for Mac, hold down the Command key) and selecting "Open Link in New Tab."
  • Full-Text Searching: All pages are digitally scanned - primarily from microfilm, described, and automatically processed for full-text searching through a process called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This text is organized in normal reading order (by column) and left uncorrected. Search strategies may take this into consideration (i.e., searching for shorter words and phrases when possible in order to maximize the number of search results returned).
  • Search Hit-Highlights: One helpful way to use the full-text search feature is to enter a term or phrase containing many words that characterize the topic you wish to investigate. A full-text search will then retrieve pages with similar passages, displaying thumbnail page images with red highlights visibly representing the occurrence of searched terms. This visual interface allows for quick review of full pages and search terms to determine the most useful results to view at full-size. An alternate results list is available through the List View, which will display descriptive textual links to individual pages, where search terms will be highlighted in red wherever they occur on the page.
  • Page Tools: Selecting a search result will bring up the newspaper page, initially displaying the full page. To read or view the page more closely, select the + or - to magnify the image, use the mouse scroll wheel, or simply click on the page image. Additionally, you can use the cursor hand to "grab" and move the image any direction, within the page frame. To return to the original full-page display, select the "go home" icon on the floating navigation bar.
  • Different Formats: In addition to the action icons used for this page image, other icons on the bottom left corner of the image provide access to alternate digital formats for this newspaper page which can be downloaded.
  • Not digitized or missing information: In some newspapers in Chronicling America, issues or pages in logical sequence are not available digitally (usually because images were absent from the microfilm used for digitization). Whenever possible, any known information about these issues is provided, as follows:
    • Not digitized, published
    • Not digitized, not published
    • Not digitized, publishing unknown

    A good and historically significant example of missing issues is in the San Francisco Call, where the April 19th and April 20th issues from 1906 are missing due to the devastating San Francisco earthquake that prevented the newspaper from publishing on those days. In this example, the "not digitized, not published" indicator displays as such: https://loc.gov/item/sn85066387/1906-04-19/ed-1/.

  • If you have any questions about this information or any other aspects of Chronicling America, contact the Newspaper and Current Periodicals Reading room via LC's "Ask a Librarian" service, https://ask.loc.gov/newspapers-periodicals/.
  • Select the Advanced Search option, select either "All of these words," "any of these words," or "This exact phrase" and enter your keyword(s) in the appropriate "keyword(s)" search box.
  • When searching for a phrase, enter the words in the order they are most likely to occur.
  • For example: searching Theodore Roosevelt Island using this exact phrase will yield results on the topic of Theodore Roosevelt Island instead of the person, Theodore Roosevelt.
  • The order of search words does not affect the scope of the search results, but it will affect the order of their display.
  • Select the Advanced Search option, select either "These words within 5 words of each other:" or "These words within 10 words of each other:" and enter your keyword(s) in the appropriate "keyword(s)" search box.
  • This type of search can be helpful in narrowing results on a given person, place or event to a specific aspect of that person, place or event. For example: Roosevelt conservation and these words within 5 words of each other will result mostly in articles about President Theodore Roosevelt's Conservation policies during his administration.
  • If a search generates too many results, try using more specific terms and/or limiting to a specific State of publication or a particular newspaper title.
  • Use the advanced search box options in combination with the faceted search options to narrow your results.
  • For example, combine President Roosevelt as this exact phrase and Roosevelt conservation as these words within 5 words of each other to narrow results to text about only President Roosevelt's conservation policies.
  • If a search generates too few results, try alternate terms or broader subjects and relax any limiting criteria (date ranges, state limitations, etc.).

Because language changes, be sure to use search terms used at the time the materials were created, even if those terms are now obsolete. For example, the following historic terms will produce more results than their modern-day counterparts:

Modern Usage vs. Historic Usage comparison table

Modern Usage Historic Usage
gas, service station filling station
African American Afro American, Negro
voting rights suffrage
  • Use the names of towns, landmarks, bridges, buildings, and other geographic features that were current when the materials you are searching were created.
  • For instance, the state of Oklahoma was referred to as both "Indian Territory" and "Oklahoma Territory" prior to its admission as a state, so searching for "Indian Territory" may produce more search results if searching on topics related to Oklahoma.
  • Matching a phrase can be useful for searching place names or when common words have a particular sense used in combination.
  • For example, the term "normal school" was used in the early twentieth century to describe schools for training teachers. Searching for the phrase may eliminate results containing the words "normal" and "school" in unrelated ways.

Note: Some very common words, such as and, of, the, a, and to, are ignored even when matching exact phrases.

Basic Search

The Basic Search is helpful way to begin research without specific information on hand. Results from a basic search can assist with finding more specific terms to use.

Image of the Basic Search option
Image of the Basic Search option found at the top of the page.

Steps

  • Go to Chronicling America.
  • At the top right of the collection is a search bar.
  • From the drop down, select This Collection.
  • Add keywords or phrases into the search bar.
  • Press enter or select the search icon.

For basic searches, results listed first are most likely to be relevant to your search. Results will appear higher in the list when they contain

  • Exact matches of your search terms.
  • More of your search terms.
  • Repeated search terms.
  • Search terms that occur near each other.

Your searches will yield better results if you keep the following points in mind:

  • Common words such as and, not, and the are ignored by the search engine.
  • Case of letters is ignored. For example, Civil and civil are treated the same.
  • Diacritic characters (accent marks, in non-English text) and other special characters produce inaccurate results, so plain (unaccented) letters should be substituted for letters with diacritics.
  • Performing a basic search without quotation marks will yield more results.
  • Note: Surrounding your search term(s) by quotation marks is the equivalent of performing an advanced search using This exact phrase.

Chronicling America's search engine automatically utilizes language-specific dictionaries for select languages to include word variants for your search terms. This is often called stemming. For example, the search term house, when stemmed in English, also returns words like houses and housing.

For additional technical information on how languages are encoded and identified for search, see current NDNP Technical Guidelines at https://www.loc.gov/ndnp/guidelines/.

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search is useful when you are looking for a specific topic and want to narrow the search results. It provides more control and search options compared to the basic search.

Advanced Search Collapsed
Make sure to press the + symbol to expand the Advanced Search.

Steps

  • Go to Chronicling America.
  • Select Advanced Search at the top of the Collection Items page.
  • Click on the + symbol to expand.
  • Add a keyword or phrase into the search field.
  • Add additional fields and combine keywords or phrases.
  • Narrow results by location, title, language, or date.
  • Press enter or select the search icon.
Advanced Search Expanded
This is what the expanded advanced search looks like.

Advanced Search Allows:

  • Limiting results to Title, Issues, or Full Text Pages.
  • Using various keyword options.
  • Filtering results by Location (State/Province, County, and City).
  • Narrowing location results further by Title.
  • Limiting results to a specific Start and End Date.
Five ways to specify how keywords and phrases can narrow or broaden search results.

Recommendations

  • To search the full text of the newspapers, select, “Pages (Full Text)."
  • The Location drop down menus are dynamic. For example, limiting your search to “New York” in the state drop down will cause only counties and cities in that state to be available in the subsequent menus.
  • To limit your search to particular geographic area, select one or more States.
  • To refine search results, broaden or narrow the possibilities by using different combinations of keywords.
  • Add multiple fields by clicking + Add Field
  • Limit your search to a particular newspaper, or select several newspapers, picked from the list of titles currently available in Chronicling America.
  • Note: Surrounding your search term(s) by quotation marks with All of these words is the equivalent of searching This exact phrase with the same term(s) without quotation marks.

Faceted Search Options

The facets are located along the left-hand side of the Collection Items page and update the search results when selected. Use Faceted Search Options to help narrow results even more by geographic coverage, newspaper title, date range, etc.

Commonly Used Search Options

Search Option Purpose and Recommendation:
Display Level
  • Issues is the default level for global searches.
  • Select Pages to search full text of individual newspaper pages.
Title
  • Narrow results by Newspaper Title.
  • Pay attention to possible Newspaper Title changes and search accordingly.
  • Useful for finding specific articles or editorials. Example:
    Virginia O'Hanlon's "Is there a Santa Claus" from the New-York Sun in 1897.
Date
  • Narrow results by a year range.
  • Less flexibility compared to the advanced search option. Example:
    Early 20th century bicycle craze using the year range 1900 to 1909.
State/Province (Geographic Coverage)
  • Narrow results by state.
  • Can be very broad compared to County/City level.
  • Use for researching what newspapers reported major events at the state level. Example:
    Ratification of the 19th amendment as reported by Tennessee state newspapers.
County
  • Narrow results on the county level.
  • Use for researching news affecting a county. Example:
    1920 County Census results for Cavalier County, North Dakota by local county newspapers.
City
  • Narrow results by city level.
  • Use for researching local, city news.
  • Can be very narrow, but provide better insight on city events and occurrences. Example:
    Brooklyn bridge construction and fatalities as reported by New York city newspapers.
Ethnicity
  • Narrow results by ethnicity.
  • There are over 29 different ethnic newspapers represented.
  • Small community-based ethnic newspapers can reveal local concerns of the communities. Example:
    Articles from Pre- and Post-World War II Jewish-American community newspapers.
Language
  • Narrow results by language found in the newspaper.
  • There are over 19 languages.
  • Language-based newspapers can provide contrasting or similar viewpoints. Example:
    Launch of Sputnik as reported through Russian language newspapers.
Contributor
  • Narrow results based on contributions from institutions (state awardees in the NDNP).
  • Results are similar to narrowing by State/Province.

Highlighted Resources