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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Playing with photos - Part 2 (update)

A quick update on my previous post where I grumbled about how long postage of some photo restoration books was expected to take. Much to my surprise the books arrived this morning!

That's all I have for today... now off to do some reading and playing...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Playing with photos - part 2

I'm still having a lot of fun messing around with my family photos in Photoshop Elements. I'm concentrating on our more recent photos at the moment, dating from the 70s. I have some books on digital photo restoration on order but the estimated delivery date is still a month away. A month! Ridiculous, but even including the outrageous postage it's at least 25% cheaper to order them from the USA than to buy here in Australia.

So, while I wait, I'm reading internet tutorials and experimenting. I do have one or two photoshop books, but they're pretty basic.

Here's a before and after. It's a crop of the original image, reduced to 50%. The original image had a paper texture problem and a colour cast, but only very minor marks to clear up and no tears or coloured splotches of any sort.

I'm quite happy with how I've cleared the paper texture (which isn't nearly as visible here as it is full size). I'm not as pleased with the colour correction. As with the texture, I don't think the colour problems are as obvious here as in the original. There was a disinct magenta cast over everything, but especially the shadows on the faces.

I think I've improved the colour in the "after" shot... but I'm not entirely happy with it. More experimentation needed, I think!

Comments welcome, as always!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting more from my newspaper archive searches

I've been experimenting with Google's News Archive Search, which we were recently reminded of by Randy Seaver. I had this post in mind before I read his article, I swear!

Although I'll be talking about the application of the Google News Archive Search to the National Library of Australia's (NLA's) newspaper archive site, I imagine my comments would be applicable many of the newspaper archives indexed by Google.

I noticed that the NLA newspaper archive is picked up by the Google search. I was interested to see how the site's own search, and the Google search, would compare. It's possible to make a comparison by adding an appropriate site restriction to the Google search term. eg,

I compared the search results I got from:

  1. the NLA site's own search ( , and
  2. the Google news archive search (, limited to the NLA archive.

The first search I tried was the surname STANNUS. It's the surname I usually use for experimenting with new databases. It's common enough that I get hits, but rare enough that the number of hits doesn't overwhelm me. Also I have some idea of how most of the people returned (outside of the USA) connect to my tree, which is nice.

Running the search on the NLA site, I got 259 hits. The Google News Archive Search, limited to, gave me 61 hits.

This was about what I expected. The NLA seems to have added a lot of newspapers lately and it looked as though the Google indexing had not yet picked up the additional newspapers or changes to the archives (the NLA OCR results are user editable). I could see that Google had picked up older edits to the NLA archives, because a few I had made several months ago came up in the Google search.

Then I noticed something interesting in the Google results. This:

You see how the OCR of newspaper text split the word STANNUS into STAN and NUS? Google picked it up as a hit, the NLA site didn't. (The Stannus referred to turns out to be my GG Uncle).

Further experimentation with a search on "Couper, Oakleigh, butcher" gave 151 results on the NLA site, the first of those being the story about the death of Leslie Couper Miller. There were more hits - 453 - on Google. That was a surprise. I could see that Google had also included hits for "Coupe" and "Coupar". It's a pity that there's no easy way (correct me if I'm wrong!) to find out what set of words Google searched on. I didn't see any Coopers or Cowpers in the Google results. When I tried a search on Couper|Coupar|Coupe I still got 453 results (the "|' works as OR in the search term). I don't think those other common name variations were included.

If I forced Google to look for exactly the search terms given (adding a + in front of each or putting quotation marks around each word works here) I found only 31 results. They did not include the article about young Leslie's death.

All this will change my NLA newspapers search strategy, if only slightly. I think that I will definately still use the NLA (or other archive site) first, thanks to the better coverage and finer options available. I will then follow up with a search via Google as it might pick up some name variations, or OCR errors, that I hadn't thought of.

If you find this interesting or (especially) if it helps you with your searches, please leave a comment!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I have no brick walls!

I have no brick walls! It's a bold statement, I know. Does it mean I'm such a fantastic researcher that I am not stuck on anything, anywhere in my tree? Certainly not!

The 'brick wall'
Take the case of my GGG grandfather, Richard ROBOTHAM. He was born in Derby (or so I believe) in around 1819. He married Isabella SMITH in 1839. In the 1851 census they were to be found living together with their four children, and a servant. By 1860 the couple had three more children. However, in the 1861 census I found Isabella and the couple's seven children, but no Richard. Where was he? Had he died? Or was he just away that day?

In 1864 Isabella and her seven children, aged from 4 to 17, made the long journey to Australia where they settled. Richard was not onboard the ship with them.

What happened to Richard?

I found a few possible death entries at around the right time and place, but never had enough confidence it was the right person to justify sending off the money for the certificate. As far as I was concerned, Richard was missing, presumed dead. I would think about it more later... whenever later was.

The breakthrough!
The breakthrough came unexpectedly last night when I was playing with the Australian National Library's online newspaper site again. I found this marriage notice in The Argus newspaper for 20 April 1882:

STANNUS-ROBOTHAM.-On the 1st inst., at Prahran by the Rev. John J. Mackenzie, Wm. Stannus only son of the late Captain Wm.Stannus, Belfast, Ireland, to Kate, the fourth daughter of Mr. Richard Robotham, Heathcote.
It was that final word that made me sit up and take notice. Heathcote. A place of residence, implying that he was alive and residing there. That, and the absence of the words "the late". Quick googling confirmed that Heathcote was in Victoria, as I suspected. Another possibility was suddenly clear to me... what if Richard was missing from the 1861 census, and not to be found with his wife or children on the ship, because he had gone on ahead!

Victorian death certificates can be searched and bought online. I found his death certificate (he died 1902, aged 84) first try and downloaded it right away. Australian certificates give a lot of detail, and there was more than enough information to confirm that it was the right person.

Indexes for passenger lists to Victoria, Australia are also online. While I waited for my credit card to process for the death certificate I found a 41 year old Richard Robotham travelling on the 'Red Jacket' to Australia in 1860. I took down the details of the microfiche and added it to my 'to do' list for next time I visit the library. It really was that quick and easy once I knew where to look.

This experience just confirmed for me that I have no brick walls! While I do have quite a few ancestors who are still a mystery to me, I don't consider any of them to be 'brick walls'. There is not one for whom I could honestly say that I had exhausted all possible avenues of research.

(By the way... yes, I do feel rather silly that it didn't occur to me Richard may have already have been in Australia. At least I didn't waste my money buying those wrong UK death certificates!)