Family history: Using UK newspapers

Marriage, birth and death, sporting events and school performances are some of the everyday events in which almost everyone participates and which may be reported in a local newspaper. So if you are searching for information about a relative, UK newspapers are the place to start.

If your relative held a prominent position of job, then national newspapers may yield results, as may a professional newspaper or magazine.

If you search is focussed on drawing a picture of the times in which you relative lived, illustrated newspapers and magazines will be most helpful. From the fashions people wore, the books they read, their hobbies and pastimes, magazines are a useful source.

Tailor your newspaper research according to the type of information you seek. There are two major newspaper collections available online: the British Newspaper Archive is available by direct subscription and is also included with the membership of Find My Past. Alternatively, try which is available as part of some Ancestry subscriptions. This is mainly concentrated on American newspapers dating from the 1700s to 2000s but also includes some titles from the UK, Australia and Canada. Useful if you are searching for relatives who emigrated overseas.

Access to some online newspaper archives is available to members of family history societies, local libraries and educational establishments. Always check the options open to you before paying a fee.

And always search the newspaper titles most local to where your relative lived and worked. Searching for a particular event rather than a name may be more successful given the potential for confusion about names – wrong spellings, unknown forenames or initials, even nicknames.

Sometimes a story may be featured briefly in a national paper, but covered in-depth by the local newspaper. Often a mention may provide a clue for further research – a middle name, previously unknown, may be mentioned in a picture caption; a dispute between neighbours may lead to a court appearance, enabling you to identify a place of residence.

This post is inspired by an article by Denise Bates in the March 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine. More details here. Denise Bates is a historian and author of ‘Historical Research Using British Newspapers’.

If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:-
Using the 1939 Register
Was your relative a Nurse?
Using History Pin

UK newspapers

Oddly for a journalist, Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity doesn’t immediately think of searching the newspaper archives for stories which might solve the mystery of her birth parents. From listings of births, marriages and deaths, to court appearances, criminal cases, business successes and failures, sporting achievements, school productions and village news, newspapers – national and regional – are a wealth of information for family history researchers.

‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Searching newspapers for specific information #familyhistory via @SandraDanby