A huge re­source

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FOCUS ON -

There was a pro­lif­er­a­tion of new ti­tles in the 19th cen­tury fol­low­ing the re­duc­tion of news­pa­per taxes. It’s dur­ing this pe­riod that we start to find an­nounce­ments of births, mar­riages, deaths and obituaries for the ‘mid­dling sort’ of peo­ple, and re­ports on such fri­vol­i­ties as the Bed­ford­shire Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety Show where shep­herd Sa­muel Brock­ett of Bron­ham won a cou­ple of sov­er­eigns for de­liv­er­ing 150 lambs in 1860.

In the last decade, an un­prece­dented num­ber of his­tor­i­cal news­pa­pers have been scanned and in­dexed on­line, il­lu­mi­nat­ing mil­lions of sto­ries that would oth­er­wise have been hid­den in the depths of ar­chives. The Bri­tish Li­brary is legally re­quired to pre­serve 95% of ti­tles pub­lished in the UK and Ire­land. Its col­lec­tion in­cludes such riv­et­ing reads as The Bri­tish Farm­ers’ Chron­i­cle along­side broad­sheets, tabloids and pa­pers sold in the for­mer Bri­tish colonies and Com­mon­wealth.

State-of-the-art read­ing rooms in St Pan­cras and Bos­ton Spa pro­vide ac­cess to orig­i­nal copies and mi­cro­film, as well as spe­cial­ist dig­i­tal col­lec­tions like the Times of In­dia that can only be ac­cessed through in­sti­tu­tional sub­scrip­tions.

Over the last few years the Bri­tish Li­brary has also been work­ing in part­ner­ship with DC Thom­son Fam­ily His­tory to digi­tise mil­lions of pages from hun­dreds of re­gional and na­tional ti­tles. The on­go­ing Bri­tish News­pa­per Ar­chive (BNA) pro­ject at british­news­pa­per ar­chive.co.uk will see 40 mil­lion pages scanned by 2021, though this con­sti­tutes just a frac­tion of the li­brary’s to­tal hold­ings. The site is free to use at the Bri­tish Li­brary, and its con­tents are also avail­able on find­my­past.co.uk and ge­nesre­u­nited.co.uk.

Ge­neal­o­gists have been bask­ing in the light of a new dawn with the re­lease of so many his­tor­i­cal news­pa­pers from the con­fines of the ar­chives, but on­line in­dexes inevitably aren’t per­fect. Op­ti­cal Char­ac­ter

The front page of

for 23-27 Novem­ber 1665 – the third week of the pa­per’s pub­li­ca­tion

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