Google archives really old newspapers

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Google is digitizing microfilm from old newspapers and bringing it online to you -- free. It's springing for the cost to put the old film online, opening up vast amounts of local American history that had been sequestered in dingy library offices, too difficult for most researchers to find.

Here's how it works: Go to Google's News Archive site. Type in whatever you're curious about: Your name. Your hometown. Your address. Some historical event. Whatever you like. After you hit search, you'll see a list of dates on the left. Take one of those, or hit "other dates" and you can search within a date range.

For newspapers like the New York Times, you'll find an excerpt and, depending on the date, you may get to see the whole thing for free or may be asked to pay. Here's a story from 1875 on a theater riot in my neighborhood. Google sends me to the New York Times site, where I see an abstract, then I click on a link and get the PDF.

The Times seems to be more generous than a lot of newspapers. If I want to see a 1934 article from the Washington Post on Cary Grant's divorce, it'll cost me $4. I get an excerpt about the "English beauty" charging "extreme cruelty" for free.
When you put in your name, you'll find newspaper stories and then documents from Ancestry.com, which would like you to sign up for a subscription. I found a draft registration card from my grandfather. Or, I first thought it was a registration card for him, but it was just a generic sample from Ancestry.com with a little text information on my grandfather. But to see the real thing I would have to subscribe.

I had thought this would be yet another way Google was going to be taking revenue from newspapers. Now I see it's a way Google may be funneling viewers to newspaper sites.
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