Newspapers for family history

Newspapers for family history
Discover your ancestor's lives through our eResources
11 August 2016

This blog is part of an occasional series highlighting eResources on particular subjects.

For National Family History Month, I am focussing on some of our historic overseas newspaper databases, and revealing how, as cheerfully as these newspaper boys of the 1960s, we are able to bring the news of the past to you in the comfort of your own home. 

Three newspaper delivery boys

De Berquelle, Raymond (1966), Newspaper boys, King Street, Sydney  1966, nla.obj-147378395

Family historians and researchers often focus on the free Australian digitised newspapers available on Trove, and the gems of information it can uncover. Take a look at the dedicated Trove Blog for some entertaining examples of just how this content can be used. If you need help with your searching check the handy hints available in the Trove help centre.

You will find however that our subscription newspaper databases can be just as valuable. Most are available in full text, as digital images of the original printed newspaper. This means that advertisements, family notices, opinion columns, cartoons and photographs are included. The vivid prose provides intriguing and captivating snapshots of the past for either the dedicated researcher or the casual curious browser. 

Let’s take a look at two of our newest overseas newspaper eResources, The Telegraph Historical Archive 1855-2000 and British Library Newspapers Part V: 1746-1950.

Newspapers being loaded onto a truck.

Fairfax Corporation, Newspapers being loaded onto trucks outside the Herald office in O'Connell Street, Sydney, 1920 2, nla.obj-163011700

The Telegraph Historical Archive 1855-2000

The Telegraph was launched as The Daily Telegraph and Courier on 29 June 1855. Later that year it became Britain’s first penny newspaper, making itself an affordable source of news to a curious populace. Sales steadily rose until by 1876 it could claim to have ‘the largest circulation in the world’.

So, what can a researcher expect to find within The Telegraph?  

  • Notices of births, marriages and deaths.
  • Obituaries. 
  • Crime and scandal: the Whitechapel murders in 1888 were reported extensively and in detail. There are also numerous accounts of divorces brought before the Court of Probate and Divorce.
  • War: Gallipoli posts from the correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett brought the savagery of the war home to anxious families.
  • Exploration and adventure: the life and travels of Henry Morton Stanley as he explored Africa gave armchair travellers the excitement of discovery.  

 Daily Telegraph article titled 'African exploration'

Stanley, Henry M. "African Exploration." Daily Telegraph 24 Nov. 1874: 3+. The Telegraph Historical Archive. Retrieved 27 July 2016. Gale Document Number: GALE|100704810172

British Library Newspapers Part V: 1746-1950

This is the fifth and latest part of a continually expanding database called British Library Newspapers: 1600-1950. We subscribe to all 5 parts.

It is a comprehensive collection of 163 regional and local newspapers from across Britain, including Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The range of urban and rural titles reflects the variation in social, political and cultural attitudes of the time. Titles include: Freemans’s Journal, Chartist, Manchester Mercury and Coventry Herald.

For genealogists especially the titles available on this service provide a valuable insight into the life and times of their ancestors. Who knows, you may uncover a family scandal such as: 

British newspapers V article titled 'A slow poisoning case'

"A Slow Poisoning Case." Alnwick Mercury 25 Sept. 1869: 3. British Library Newspapers. Retrieved 27 July 2016. Gale Document Number: GALE|CL3241300887

How can I access these newspapers?

They are available onsite at the National Library, or you can access them from home with a National Library of Australia card. You can register for a Library card for free.

Simply login to eResources with your Library card, find the newspaper database, agree to our terms and conditions and click 'Visit site'.

Need further assistance?    

If you need further assistance with any of our newspaper databases or our other eResources you can Ask a Librarian.

Alternatively, our earlier eResources blogs may hold the answer to your question:

Suggestions for further newspaper research at the National Library

Books for further research

We hold many books on the history of newspapers both in Australia and overseas. For the family historian as well as the general researcher these can be particularly useful in providing specific information on the editorial direction and social concerns of an individual title, as well as placing newspapers in their broader historical context. A selection of titles includes: 

Australia

Britain

Search our online catalogue to find more useful books on newspaper history. 

Online resources from our website

Take a look at other newspaper databases available from our eResources portal.

Try our useful Research Guides and other online information:

Not sure where to start your research? Stuck somewhere along the way? Ask a Librarian.

Comment: 
I note that post-1955 newspapers are still under copyright, but available in some way in print or microform. What does this mean for my potential access from home or the library? When my father died in 1978, there were a number of tributes and articles in West Australian newspapers (and perhaps other Australian papers), and I would like to be able to see them and possibly scan/photocopy/photograph them. Is this possible?
Comment: 
Hi Elaine, Print and microform copies of most Australian newspapers are certainly available to you to look at in the Library here in Canberra. Check our catalogue to find out exactly what we have and for what years. If you need further information or clarification on any newspaper titles use our Ask a Librarian https://www.nla.gov.au/askalibrarian service and we would be happy to sort them out for you. Otherwise your local library should be able to help you as well. Helen
Comment: 
As noted in the National Library's Facebook account on 27 August, the access to English newspapers via an Australian library card is a fantastic service. Not least because it inspires further research, see http://utfp.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/how-to-be-beguiled-by-library.html