Six reasons why I love old local newspapers

23 Apr

I think old local newspapers are a much under used source, probably because they are not widely available and not indexed (for the most part). I really like looking at old local newspapers because:

1.  There are no privacy restrictions to stop you looking at them

There is no 100 year rule or similar that is going to stop you looking at local newspapers, and certainly no need for Freedom of Information requests.

2.  They often survive when official reports have long since been lost

Many times the newspaper provides the only record of an event for which the official record has long since been lost or destroyed. For example, Coroner’s inquests and court cases.

3.  They often record events where there are no official records

Many times newspapers will provide the only record of an event that was not recorded elsewhere, such as a sporting event or wedding anniversary.

4.  They contain more human interest than official records

Newspaper reports often contain the names and ages of family members and relations, where they came from and what their relationships was to the subject.

5.  They give you an idea of what was happening in your ancestor’s world

It is almost impossible to avoid reading about everything else that was going on (even if you wanted to), what the weather was like, what was happening locally etc.

6.  They usually contain more information than you would find in one official source

Think of a marriage certificate and the equivalent report of a wedding in a local newspaper, which names both parents, where the bride and groom were going to live and what colour the bride’s hat was!

All that being said, they can be hard to locate, they can take hours to search unless you have an exact date and most of all they are written in the most part by someone whose only interest in the event was probably just to make an interesting story that would sell more copies of the newspaper, so much like today, don’t believe everything (or anything) you read!

3 Responses to “Six reasons why I love old local newspapers”

  1. gretamk April 24, 2009 at 12:25 am #

    You are right about the benefits of old newspapers; I can see myself spending my retirement by visiting the areas where my ancestors lived and going through the newspapers of their day.

  2. taneya April 25, 2009 at 2:59 am #

    I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said! I love old newspapers and have several ongoing projects myself to share info from old papers.

  3. wanderinggenealogist April 25, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    If only they were easier to access. I know the British Library are involved in digitising some of their newspaper collections, but I look in envy at sites like which is bursting with American newspapers or the National Library of Australia’s “Historic Australian Newspapers” collection. We really are a long way behind in England!

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