It’s pretty cool. The sad thing is that I was unable to find myself in any recent news. Of course, given that it appears I was murdered in the late 19th century (according to the Olean Democrat on Tuesday, May 2, 1893,) this is hardly surprising.

Moved and carried that the attorney be instructed to look after the interests of ths city as pertains to the inquest about be held to inquire into the cause of death of Joseph Dolson in the sewer ditch on Laurens street April 28th, 1893.

Yuck! In the sewer ditch? Not too happy about that.

But, my death aside, the whole service is really pretty neat. You can view results in a timeline format, defaulting to sort from oldest to newest. If you’re trying to research, for example, the first mention of a particular technology or first use of a phrase, this could be a fantastic way to delve into the records. If you want to see an overview of a topic and how it was treated differently over time, this is a great resource.

It’s not perfect yet. The biggest hole, which is applicable to any news archive query, is completeness. Although the search is performed across a wide range of historical archives, it’s still missing a lot of information. This is undoubtedly a licensing issue – despite the fact that Google is providing easy access to purchasable content (not giving it away for free; an important distinction), I’m sure many companies see this service as a challenge to their control of information.

That is undoubtedly the reason I didn’t find myself in any recent archives. I know that I appeared in the newspaper in Missoula, Montana, where I grew up, in the 1990’s. No references, however, were in the results to be found. It would appear that my home town paper is not indexed.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. Small Montana papers are hardly one of the first sources Google would be likely to get involved, and, similarly, are a source which it’s unlikely that many of the major newspaper archive indexes they’re searching would have necessarily contracted with. Nonetheless, this leaves a big hole in the archives for small-town history. Local search is left in the lurch, for now.

Of course, your paper might very well be included – there’s no list of sources available, so it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

There are, perhaps, some duplicate content issues to be worked out. The results for this search are a little bit strange. Since these results could well change, I’m providing a screen capture as well so I can point out the fact that the 10 results on this page are all exactly the same.

Thanks to Phillip Lenssen and Barry Schwartz.