Who Do You Think You Are?

Newspaper Page, 1927

This page from the 27 December 1927 edition of the Manchester Evening News has been digitised and is available at Findmypast ( findmypast.co.uk). It is also available at the British Newspaper Archive ( britishnew­spaperarch­ive.co.uk)



Significan­t wedding anniversar­ies were celebrated c more publicly ffrom the 1920s onwards. This page also includes a “Roll of Honour, Births, Marriages, and Deaths”.


You may come across a photograph­s of your y ancestors in early 20th-century 2 papers.


The notice about the t Shaw crosses includes i the date and address a of the church in i which they married, their t home address, their t occupation­s, his employer’s name, his length of service, and his h date of retirement.


The Shawcross and a Hardcastle husbands h worked in the t same occupation and a business, and married m at roughly the same s time. Were they relations r or friends too?


O Other articles describe life l in Manchester over the Christmas Bank Holiday including leisure activities such as pantomimes; charabanc tours; golf, rambling and cycling; football; and horseracin­g results.

Although the collection on BNA and Findmypast is the biggest for the UK, others are well worth exploring.

The First World War

The website The Genealogis­t ( thegenealo­gist.co.uk) is a good place to start for First World War research. Accessible to its ‘Diamond’ subscriber­s (£139.95 a year), newspapers here include the Illustrate­d War News (1914–1918), The Great War (1914–1919) and The War Illustrate­d (1914– 1919). You can access The Illustrate­d London News

(1842–1919) and The Jewish Chronicle (1905– 1908) here as well. The latter is also available via thejc.com/archive.

Ancestry (priced from £13.99 a month; ancestry. co.uk) has newspapers from Scotland and Northern Ireland. These include the Dunfermlin­e Journal

(1851–1931), the Belfast Newsletter (1738–1925) and a selection of papers from Edinburgh (the Advertiser, Courant, Evening Courant, Chronicle, Evening Chronicle

and Weekly Journal).

The website also has copies of The Times (1788–1833), plus titles from Liverpool and Sta ordshire.

There are also a few online newspaper archives

that house only a selected number of titles or even one title. Before taking out a subscripti­on to any of these, check to see if your local library provides them for free (including remote access from home). Institutio­ns of further and higher education might also allow access.

The site UKPressOnl­ine ( uk pressonlin­e.co.uk) includes the Daily Mirror (1803–1980);

Daily Express (1903 to now);

Church Times (1863 to now);

The Watchman (1835–1884); the Daily Worker (1930– 1955); and the South Eastern Gazette (1852–1912). The website can be accessed via subscripti­on (£150 for a year), or free through a subscribin­g library.

The Times Digital Archive (available at gale.com/intl/c/ the-times-digital-archive) provides the content of the world’s longest-standing continuous­ly running daily newspaper from 1785 until 2019. This can often by accessed freely from home with a library membership.

The digital archive of the Guardian (1821–2003) and Observer (1791–1923)

( theguardia­n.newspapers. com) has papers dating back to 1791. Although free to search, you must pay to view.

Catholic ancestors might be uncovered in The Tablet

( archive.thetablet.co.uk).

There is also the Gazette,

a national journal of record since the 17th century publishing notices about military and civil awards, wills, insolvency etc. Its vast archive can be accessed for free at thegazette.co.uk.

The Welsh Newspapers Archive ( newspapers.library. wales) includes more than 15 million newspaper articles from Welsh and Englishlan­guage papers. This great collection is free to use and is worth searching even if you don’t have Welsh forebears, because stories from outside of Wales were often included and some newspapers listed holiday residents.

For Scottish ancestors, the National Library of Scotland’s website nls.uk/ collection­s/newspapers/online includes items ranging from the earliest newspaper printed in Scotland to modern online titles. The site is free to search but pay to view. And for the Isle of Man, Manx newspaper titles from 1792 to 1960 have recently been made free to search and view at imuseum. im/newspapers.

Also, some titles are freely available after being digitised by volunteers. One is the Teesdale Mercury ( teesdale mercuryarc­hive.org.uk); the archive covers 1855–2005.

Potential Pitfalls

However, you should always treat a newspaper article with some scepticism. For example, it’s easy to get overexcite­d if you spot your ancestor’s name, but even one that seems uncommon may have been shared by many people in a particular area.

Remember too that newspaper copy might be superficia­l or full of errors. It could also have been written as propaganda, or been subject to censorship. Think carefully about the kind of newspaper that you are looking at. Is it likely to have had a particular bias?

See if there are other reports of the same event in di erent newspapers to piece together a more accurate picture of what happened.

It is also important to keep in mind that newspapers have been indexed using optical character recognitio­n (OCR). Although this has great advantages, OCR struggles more with older newspapers and those that have been digitised from microfilm copies. You may need to be creative with how you search. Try di erent keywords, and familiaris­e yourself with how OCR might misread a name that you are looking for.

The Welsh Newspapers Archive is worth searching even without Welsh forebears

 ?? ?? 1 4 5 2 3 4
1 4 5 2 3 4
 ?? ?? English and Scottish papers for sale in Berwick-upon-Tweed just south of England’s border with Scotland, 1955
English and Scottish papers for sale in Berwick-upon-Tweed just south of England’s border with Scotland, 1955

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