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British Newspaper Archives & how they can help with your Genealogy Research

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Newspapers can provide the Genealogist with a huge amount of information. Like today they may contain Birth, Marriage & Death announcements relating to your Ancestors or you may be lucky enough to find dates of Engagements, Anniversaries or Funerals.

There is also the possibility of finding interesting stories such as Awards, Criminal Charges, War Service, Reunions, Passenger Lists or perhaps even a photograph of one of your relations!

Articles such as Obituaries can be rich with information, often detailing other family members, hobbies, career & character.

A good Example

The Old parish records of my 3 x Great Grandparents William & Jane details that they were last proclaimed on the 4th June 1837… but since Old Parish Records of the time often detail when their Banns were called their actual marriage date is not clear.

I was lucky enough to find an article in a Dundee newspaper in 1887 (even though they lived in Clackmannanshire) detailing their Golden Wedding Celebration, an anniversary not reached by most of my relatives!

This article details that they married on the 3rd of June 1837 in Perthshire from this it appears that the clerk at the church may not have placed the entry into the register until the following day.

The article details that they moved to Clackmannanshire after 4 years of marriage where they remained for 46 years. It tells us William is 73 years of age & still working as a Weaver & Jane is 70 years of age.

There was a large gathering of friends & family to celebrate the occasion with their son & daughter presenting them with a pair of gold spectacles each & their 14 Grandchildren & 1 Great Grandchild giving small presents.

Bingo, I now have the actual date of their marriage along with details of when they moved to Clackmannanshire & more detailed information about the family gathering….articles such as these are so valuable to the Genealogist!

Points to Remember

· Newspaper articles might not include first names so Ancestors could be listed under their initials, title or even husbands first name.

· Big stories could be covered by newspapers further afield, don’t always limit your search to a particular newspaper or place.

· Obituaries or special awards could be covered by a newspaper in the town where your Ancestor previously lived.

· If your family owned a business, home or other property try searching for that to learn more about its history in relation to your own family.

· Check for extended family such as Cousins or even in-laws as this may also shed more information on your own family.

· Remember to check for surname variants just in case the newspaper got the spelling wrong.

· Often browsing the local newspapers gives you an idea of events that may have been happening in the area.

· If your family left Britain in search of a better life overseas, try checking newspapers in the area they left as often their departure or exploits in the new country will be reported.

British Newspaper Archive

The British Newspaper Archive contains about 3 million pages of newspaper content from Great Britain & Ireland since the 1700s.

Bound copies of newspapers & newspapers on microfilm which are held at the British Library have & are still being scanned & made searchable. You can search everything from News Articles to Letters, Family Notices, Obituaries & even Adverts.

They have a pretty good search facility which allows the user to limit the search by region, date, type of article & if the search contains some or all of the text typed in.

The British Newspaper Archive is a subscription site but is well worth the money. There are options to pay monthly or for a period of 3 months so you could take a shorter subscription & work through as much as you can over that time period.

Another option is to take out a Pro Find my Past Subscription as the British Newspaper Archive comes with this package. The search layout is slightly different though you are getting 2 websites for the price of 1.

Welsh Newspapers Online

This online newspaper archive is a free resource from the National Library of Wales where you can discover millions of articles from the Library’s collection of historical newspapers.

Welsh Newspapers Online currently lets you search and access over 1 million pages from nearly 120 newspapers up to about 1910. This resource also includes newspaper content that has been digitised by The Welsh Experience of World War One project.

The user can also access over 1 million pages from over 475 Welsh journals published between 1735 and 2006.

You may hesitate to use this Archive if you don’t have Welsh Ancestors but remember that news travelled & that it does contain news from throughout the UK & beyond. It is also really easy to search & navigate to the actual article within the pages.

From this website the user is also able to search Tithe Maps, the Libraries catalogue & a whole host of other resources such as Estate Collections, Wills, Marriage Bonds & much more.

The Gazette

The Gazette is formally the combination of three publications: The London, Belfast & The Edinburgh Gazettes. As a publication it consists mainly of statutory notices which means that there is a legal requirement for the person placing the notice to advertise an event or proposal in The Gazette.

Notices could cover Awards such as the Queens Honours, Military medals or promotions. Wills & Probate notices relating to deceased persons. Company notices or Insolvency notices.

This resource is free to use, has a pretty good search facility & allows the user to download articles in PDF Format.

Google News Archive

Google News Archive is another free resource which holds a wealth of newspapers from across the world. As an example, a search for Glasgow brings up the Glasgow Herald & Glasgow Advertiser.

To search for a particular news article can be a bit clunky at times so it is worth playing about with your search terms. There is always the option of going to a particular edition if you know what date a particular occurrence took place & scrolling through the newspaper on your own. In some ways this resembles microfilm searches but from the comfort of your own home.

The Times Digital Archive

The Times & Sunday Times archives hold newspapers from 1785 to 1985 which is easily searchable from any of your digital devices.

The search facility is easy giving the user the option to search by keywords & a date range, the results can then be refined down further by type of article & additional words.

It is a subscription website but you do also receive the latest newspapers for this cost.

The Scotsman

Users of the Scotsman Archives can access newspapers dating back to 1817, the search facility is easy & can be filtered by date & type of article.

It is a subscription website but you can also register for free. This newspaper is available on the British Newspaper Archive & Find my past Pro Newspapers so may only be worth subscribing to if you are looking for something particular within it.

Irish News Archive

The Irish Newspaper Archives allow the user to access newspapers from 1738 up to the current day.

Their collection includes over 6 million pages from newspapers both North & South of the Irish Border.

I personally like the layout of this site & how you can easily view newspapers by county or search for the actual newspaper you wish to search.

There are a variety of subscription options some on a monthly basis.

Irish times

Although a subscription website the Irish Times Archive gives the user the option to search by keyword or browse newspapers by date.

It does cover a range of newspapers including The Irish Times, Weekly Irish Times, Times Pictorial & Pictorial

The search facility is good & lets you then filter your search down by date & publication.

Like the Times archives subscriptions to the Irish Times also give you the option of reading the latest newspapers as they are published.

I would recommend creating a login for any subscription sites as you will normally be sent an email if they have a free weekend or are running a special offer.

The Bonus with newspapers is that often you can learn something about your Ancestors that either Records do not detail or find something where records do not exist.

If you would like to read more about using Newspapers for your research I can recommend ‘Historical Research using British Newspapers’ by Denise Bates to assist you in your search


​For queries relating to Ancestral Research or details of my Scottish Handmade products or publications please visit my home page

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