BC Ancestors: The Bill Silver Digital Archive

Free online newspaper sites are always a good thing. If your ancestors lived in and around Vanderhoof, British Columbia, you\’ll want to explore The Bill Silver Digital Archive. Provided free of charge, it is hosted on the Vanderhoof Public Library website.

Bill Silver was a local historian who built a collection from 3 local newspapers
  • The Vanderhoof Herald
  • Nechako Chronicle
  • Omineca Express
After his death, his wife Edith continued the collection until her death in 2003. The collection of weekly newspapers runs from 1917 to 2007. It is the result of a collaboration between the Vanderhoof Public Library and the Vanderhoof Heritage Museum. Simply enter in a search term and you get digital images of the newspaper pages. Just click on the link on the top of the page to get to the search screen.
Just type in your search term and hit enter. As you can see below, you can do a more targeted search by paper. You can also adjust your searching method to stemming, fuzzy and/or phonic searching.


I used \”mcdonald\”, and got 1140 hits on a general search.  I then tried a phonic search and got over 4000 hits. The search results can be sorted by relevance, newest date or oldest date. You can also print your search results. Just use the tabs on the top right. now, I did find that it sorts by paper first, then year if you\’re doing a newest or oldest filter. Which means the oldest issues, which are from The Vamderhoof Chronicle, will show up last. My suggestion is to search each paper separately.
Next just click on the link to a particular page and a digital image will open in a new window. That\’s handy, as you don\’t lose your results list. The page opens as a PDF that you can download and/or print.
As with any paper on a local level, you can find lots of little tidbits that you don\’t see in newspapers that are published for a larger audience. Here\’s some examples of what I found:
Here\’s some \”Local Happenings\” from March of 1918

Here\’s some birth announcements from October 1962 

Here\’s some items covered during recent Vanderhoof Council meetings in June 2001 

W C Young got into some trouble in December 1934 for shooting game out of season

As a last example, here\’s an article on the accidental death of Ralph Andros from March 1956

Some tips for using the site:
  • The search capability appears to be OCR technology. Anyone who\’s dealt with OCR on older newspapers knows it is far from fool proof. So make sure you try all the search options 
  • There is no highlighted boxes for your search words. This means you will have to read the whole page. But that\’s part of the fun.
  • Because the saving is to PDF, you won\’t be able to crop like you can with a picture. One suggestion is to make a transcription for yourself if you\’re printing. Another option is to zoom in on the article in the PDF and then take a photo of the screen with your phone or tablet. Alternately, you can zoom in on the article, and then use a snipping tool to take a screen shot. 
  • Some of the search terms I tried would not give me results in the year ranges I was looking for. But, I found putting in a year, such as \”1928\” gave me results in the 1920\’s and 1930\’s
The searching is a little clunky, compared to other sites. It\’s still worth looking at in your research though. One improvement to the collection I would like to see is the ability to browse issues. If there is a way to do that I could not find it.
There were several donors involved in getting the collection up and running. You can thank the following for this collection:
  • The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre
  • Vanderhoof Co-op Association
  • Friends of the Library
  • The Bill Silver Family
  • Nechako Valley Historical Society
  • Black Press
  • Rosemary Boyd

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