Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What Happened to the 2017 Innovation Showcase Winners? - Part 2

And first place went to …. OldNews USA.

To quote the news release:

“The app uses the Library of Congress “Chronicling America” collection of more than 11 million newspaper pages from 1789 to 1922 to deliver its results.

In front of a crowd of close to 14,000 live and online viewers, the six RootsTech Innovator Showdown finalists battled for $199,000 in cash and prizes and bragging rights in the rapidly-growing, multi-billion dollar family history industry. An experienced amateur genealogist, Bill Nelson of Auburn, Massachusetts, designed the program as a solution to tedious, difficult online newspaper searches. The OldNews USA app was designed to simplify and streamline the search process.

Using keywords, users can look for newspaper accounts of a person or topic with the option to look at articles of historical events. In a person search, you type names and dates into your mobile device and choose a location on Google Maps which produces a list of newspapers in the targeted geographic area for a time period. It brings up images of the actual newspapers with the name or event you are seeking highlighted so you can quickly locate it on the page. Images can be enlarged for easier access to detail.

Nelson is a software developer by trade. “I was new to android and needed something to practice on. I had felt the pain points of newspaper research and thought ‘this would be a good project,’” he said. Initially he developed the app for his own use, then realizing it could help other researchers, he expanded it into a mobile app.

OldNews is compatible with Android devices, but Nelson is working to create an app for IOS devices and computers. With his winnings, he can now get business and technological assistance to accelerate development. While OldNews USA is designed to search US newspapers, he hopes to adapted the app for other countries.”

OldNewsUSA did not have a booth this year at RootsTech, but Bill Nelson did attend. I never caught up with him, but that was my fault, not his.

This past year there have been several updates to the app, both to appearance and search techniques. 

Bill has added Chromebook support and the Chronicling America database has been updated.

Just last month, version 4 for the Android, was released. Search suggestions have been improved, there is better support for Oreo (I just love the names of the Android operating systems), more database updates, and the inevitable bug fixes.

For us iOS users, it is almost ready! Bill is aiming for an April launch and is looking for a few beta testers.

To follow what is going on with OldNews USA, check out Bill’s blog at

BTW, while using the app this morning to check out the new features, I discovered the name of my wife's 2nd Great-Grandmother. Thank you Bill, another brick wall down.

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