If you are looking for your British ancestors then you want to look for British newspapers online or specifically British Newspaper Archive website. Newspapers are the vibrant heart of what was going on at the time and give so many details when researching your family history. (In Australia, we turn to Trove when looking through Australian newspapers online.) The British Newspaper Archive do have some newspapers that go back to 1603, but the collection is most comprehensive from the 1840’s. The searching can be exhausting sometimes but it’s well worth finding those articles. Especially when you consider that before 2011, you would have had to fly to London to go to the British Library to search the newspapers. The cost to subscribe is very economical when you factor that in.
The collection has been growing since 1869, when publishers were legally obliged to send one copy of their paper to the British Library deposits. Today, around 1500 newspapers from the UK and Ireland and 100 overseas papers are still deposited in the British Library on a weekly basis. Currently the British Newspaper Archive covers the UK and Ireland and has 10 million fully searchable pages.
The website is free to search but costs to view images. This means that if you put in a search term and then bring up results there is no cost. But once you click on one of the results it will cost you money. There are three options, pay for 24 hour access, 30 days or annual access. However, after searching in google for British Newspaper Archive and free, I found that at the moment, when you register you get to view three pages for free. So it would be worth signing up and getting your first three pages for free to see if you can find any gold.
The archives are trying to add all the regional and local publications to their collections. Although you may think that city or world news is overlooked in these publications, it is not so. When you read historical newspapers you will be surprised to find that a local that won an art prize may be centre stage to any number of international events. You may be overwhelmed with the amount of detail that articles when into. There articles can be quite lengthy, which adds a lot of colour to your family history. Also, you will find that even if you ancestor was convicted of a crime in a small town, it wouldn’t only be that town that reported on the crime. Newspapers from all over the country may also report the crime and all it’s details.
The other great thing about the British Newspaper Archive is that they include Irish newspapers. This is important as many documents have been destroyed for Irish family historians. So newspapers provide an important link in doing family history if you have an Irish background.
Newspapers really fill in the gaps of your family history. They can show your family as a set of real people going about their lives. It’s not names and dates like certificates. Sometimes it’s their own words and it’s their spirit with how they affected the world that shows through. It’s important events in their lives that were well worth reporting on, whether they were good or bad. Enjoy the British Newspapers Archive and good luck with finding some more of your family story.
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