A huge resource
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