What’s available online and in the archives
There are so many newspaper databases and repositories out there that you can save a great deal of time and money by carrying out a bit of planning before diving in to start your research. Remember that your ancestors were more likely to be mentioned in newspapers published close to where they lived.
Most regional libraries and archives will have holdings of local titles on microfilm – staff at Surrey History Centre keep a handy map behind the desk illustrating the geographical coverage of the newspapers that are held there.
NEWSPLAN databases help researchers to locate copies of local newspapers across Britain. This collaborative initiative began in the 1980s to preserve and collate holdings, and there are now finding aids for papers published in the East Midlands, London and South East England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland at bl.uk/reshelp/ bldept/news/newsplan/ newsplan.html.
Some local libraries offer members free access to online reference services at home including The Times Digital Archive, the 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection of Newspapers and 19th Century British Library Newspapers (the latter two databases are now integrated into the British Newspaper Archive).
Some libraries also provide free online access to the British Newspaper Archive, Findmypast and Ancestry using computers on site.
An extensive list of links to newspaper databases from around the world at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Wikipedia: List_of_online_ newspaper_ archives clearly marks out free websites, like the National Library of Australia’s Trove site ( trove.nla.gov.au/ newspaper) and the National Library of New Zealand’s Papers Past website ( paperspast.natlib. govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast). Links to subscription services are also in there, including the Manx National Heritage collection ( tinyurl.com/qda4x2v).
The national libraries of each country have the most comprehensive holdings of original papers and microfilmed surrogates, and offer free access to digital collections in their reading rooms. This includes subscription databases provided by GaleCengage Learning solely for use in institutions, like The Daily Mail Historical Archives 1896–2004, alongside commercial websites including the British Newspaper Archive. The British Library’s holdings are by far the most exhaustive, however, covering all corners of the British Isles and much of the former British Empire.
If you can’t find anything in the scanned collections online, then it’s worth searching for newspaper titles using Explore The British Library Catalogue’s advanced option which can be found at explore.bl.uk, selecting ‘Newspapers’ from the list of materials.
Typing in a town or county is enough to bring up a range of titles published at various dates – competition was tough and many newspapers didn’t last long. Registered readers can order items in advance, which is a must if the paper is only available in print since it takes 48 hours to arrive at the St Pancras Newsroom or the Boston Spa Reading Room. Microfilmed papers take 70 minutes to be delivered to St Pancras but are not available at Boston Spa.
The front page of the on 10 January 1868 – the day the last convict ship arrived in Western Australia from Britain