This week in free sites on the Web: SSN decoder – California historical newspapers, state and university archives – social media search engines

I’ve pointed to this collection of free people finding and genealogy tools before. The site wizard, Steve Morse, has added a Social Security number decoder for matching the state of issuance with the number range. It’s a handy place to go when you need to do a quick check.

A pair of computer science students are building the California Newspaper Project, an early stage venture to create a database to search and view entries in historical newspapers. Many other fee-based products, such as NewspaperArchive.com and WorldVitalRecords.com, have traveled down this path. Currently, the San Francisco Call is the only paper indexed. Read more about the development and the aim of this project. State and university archives, which collect historical materials, including newspapers, are listed in this Columbia University assembled subject guide.

There’s a flood of search engines that query the social networking sites only, which may be helpful for finding a site that you already know about, but they won’t snare many sites that you’ll find through a major search engine. I’ve been listing these in my PI buzz Alert newsletter (sign up by selecting the “Subscribe” button in the right sidebar) as they come online. Formulate different queries for a known site through the various search engines to get a sense for how they work and their effectiveness. PeekYou is still in a test mode. Enter a user name as it appears at the social networking site, or a first name and location at AfterVote to retrieve matches at Web sites and social media sites. Read/WriteWeb drew up a list of alternative search engines earlier this year.

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