Historic American Newspapers Website Bug

Last weekend, I became aware of the fact that the Library of Congress Historic American Newspapers website had recently added more than one million digitized American newspapers to its collection. I spent the bulk of my free time the next four days running searches and doing data entry in my genealogy database.

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Main page of the Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers website

In the course of this activity, I noticed a “bug” in the display of filtered search results when using the Advanced Search form. By default, search results on this site are ordered in terms of Relevance, or how many times your search terms appear on the page. Since I typically prefer to see my results ordered by date, I change the Sort by parameter by using the drop down arrow. However, when this option is selected, search results limited by state are no longer retained. The upshot is that my “hits” balloon and include states that I did not select at the outset.

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Chronicling America Advanced Search form 


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My search for Thomas Mulkey initially yielded 8 results from Missouri and Oregon newspapers

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Changing the default sort order to Date causes my hits to increase, and includes states that I did not select in my original search 

This problem does not occur when using the search box on the main page and changing the sort order of the results, but you cannot limit your search to newspapers from only two states if you use this form. For now, my advice would be to search a single state at a time if you want to sort your results by date.

I tweeted this issue yesterday, and reported the bug to the Library of Congress via their website comment form. Hopefully it will be an easy fix for them. I will report here when there is a response.

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In case you are interested, John Thomas Mulkey is my third-great-grandfather, a son of the noted preacher, Philip Mulkey. Many from the extended Mulkey family were early pioneers who relocated from Missouri to Oregon via the Oregon Trail to stake Oregon Donation Land Claims.

What's on your mind?