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Searching Historical Digital Archives

Searching the Historical Digital Archives Databases

To Search Historical Digital Archives:

  1. On the Search Screen, enter your search terms in the Find field.

    Search Screen

  2. Select from the available Search Options:

    • Search modes – Use specific search modes, such as “Find all of my search terms,” or “SmartText Searching,” or use search options that expand your search such as “Apply related words.”

    • Limit your results – such as Full Text or Publication type.

  3. Click the Search button. The Result List displays.

    Result List

  4. To read the full text of an article, click the EBSCOhost Digital Archives Viewer link found below the article title. Or if you prefer, refine your search by clicking the Search Options link under Limit your Results and choosing from the available limiters and expanders.

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Fuzzy Matching

Fuzzy Matching in the Historical Digital Archives helps the user search for articles relevant to the terms searched by alleviating difficulties such as imperfect Optical Character Recognition (OCR) translation, archaic spellings, and archaic words in the Full Text of publications. Fuzzy Matching is applied to keywords that are five characters or greater.

Imperfect OCR:

Because of the age of the materials archived in the collections, perfect OCR translation may not always be possible. Fuzzy Matching allows for matching of words that may have been read incorrectly during the OCR translation process.


The word Testing may be matched in the document as:

  • Tasting
  • Tecting
  • Tenting
  • Testing

The word Massachusetts may be matched as:

  • Maffachufetts

Archaic Spellings, Characters and Fonts:

Articles in the Archives collections also contain spellings, characters, and fonts that are no longer in use today. Fuzzy Matching allows for these differences in order to return relevant results to the user.


The long-S character was almost identical to the contemporary letter f when printed in several publications available in the collections. Because OCR may interpret this as the letter f, Fuzzy Matching allows this to be returned in searches for the correctly spelled version of the word. One recommended method to avoid such confusion is to substitute the letter s with the ? wildcard.

  • History: Hiftory – Hi?tory
  • Seasons: Seafons – Sea?ons
  • Massachusetts: Maffachufetts – Ma??ach?ett?

In addition to the ? wildcard character, the # wildcard character may be employed. The # wildcard can be used to match a 0 or 1 character.


  • Colo#r: Color – Colour

Additionally, Fuzzy Matching will still identify words in which “ct” are conjoined at the top of the characters in the archaic form.

Much of the material was printed before the use of standardized spellings. Therefore, many words appear with additional or different characters than would be used today. In older materials it is not uncommon to find the same word spelled two or three different ways in the same publication.

  • Color: Colour
  • Highways: Highwayes, Highewayes
  • Delaware: Deleware
  • Massachusetts: Maffachufetts, Maffachufet, Maffachufett, Maffachufet’s

Archaic Words:

Many articles feature words that are not used today. When applicable, Fuzzy Matching will match these words with synonyms of the word that are currently used. In order for Fuzzy Matching to match archaic words with your search terms, the Apply Related Words expander must be checked.


  • Traduction: An old word meaning Tradition.
  • Weatherglass: An old word meaning Thermometer.

Proximity Searching

Proximity searching is available at the collection level. When a word-phrase is searched with an explicit proximity (e.g. farmland n5 appropriation, farmland w5 appropriation). This allows document to be discovered where the word "appropriation" is within 5 words before or after "farmland" in the case of "n5" or within 5 words following "farmland" in the case of "w5".

Proximity searching is currently not available in the EBSCOhost Digital Archives Viewer directly. The originating, collection-level search phrase with proximity operator is sent to the EBSCOhost Digital Archives Viewer as the phrase "farmland appropriation" without the proximity specification. Instances of matches or fuzzy matches to "farmland appropriation" will be highlighted in the Viewer. However, occurrences of the two words not immediately adjacent to one another will not be highlighted.

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Historical Digital Archives Result List

In addition to several standard EBSCOhost result list features, you will see other available resources when searching the Historical Digital Archives databases.

To view the full text of an article in the Historical Digital Archives databases, click the View Full Text link below the article title.

Historical Digital Archives Result List

The Reference Shelf offers links to helpful information related to the Historical Digital Archives collections:

  • Dictionary - Links to Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Pre-19th Century Terms & Definitions.

  • Collection Overview Essays - AAS: Links to an overview of the American Antiquarian Society Periodicals Collection and Revolutionary War era periodicals.

  • Collection Overview Essays - ATLA: Links to an overview of the American Theological Library Association Historical Monographs Collection and an essay that details the role of religion in American Life.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Links to the EBSCOhost Digital Archives Viewer Help Sheet.

  • Citation Help: Links to the Digital Archives Citation Help page, which offers citation information for multiple formats.

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Searching within the Digital Archives Viewer

The EBSCOhost Digital Archives Viewer gives you the ability to search for your terms within the current page or the entire issue you are viewing.

To search from within the EBSCOhost Digital Archives Viewer:

  1. Click Search in the left-hand column. Enter your search term(s) in the Find field.

    Select the radio button to search for your terms in either the Entire Issue or This Page.

  2. A list of pages containing Keyword Matches is displayed.

    Searching the Digital Archives Viewer

    Click on a hyperlinked page number to view the page with your search term(s).

  3. You can view a list of your Previous search terms by clicking the link below the Find field.

    Searching the Digital Archives viewer

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