Film archives are a great boon for family history researchers, as they shine a lens onto life as it was lived in a dusty daily glory. There are many gems, from the Mitchell & Kenyon archive at the British Film Institute with hundreds of short films made in Edwardian England, to the Imperial War Museum’s film archive of war-related footage [below]. The best place to start is with the ‘Britain on Film’ project [above] at the BFI National Archive which is easy to search by region, date and subject. From here you can expand to regional film archives of which there are many including the Yorkshire Film Archive, the East Anglian Film Archive and the North West Film Archive.
For images of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, try the Irish Film Institute which includes documentaries, news reels and Irish culture; the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive with 1900 clips about Scotland; films at Northern Ireland Screen include rural life, true stories, and footage lost and found; and National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales has many films about mining.
To add colour to your understanding of your ancestor’s life, watch newsreels dating from 1910 to the 1970s at British Pathé Newsreels. The film collection at the British Council comprises 120 short films dating from the 1940s which focus on aspects of British life including work, entertainment, culture and sport.
Finally, search your loft and ask your relatives if there are any old home movies which have been forgotten. Home movies date back to the 1920s. Also, many regional film archives hold home movie collections so try searching for the name of a local Cine Club [which started in the 1930s] or a local event such as a fair or festival.
This post is inspired by an article by Amanda Randall in the April 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine. More details here.
Rose Haldane, in Ignoring Gravity, was born in 1968 and so The Sixties was a key period for my research. Most useful were the newsreels and documentaries at British Pathé Newsreels where you can search by subject and use the nifty adjustable dateline to focus on the year you need. Read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity.
‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now
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Films bring history to life #familyhistory via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2wt