British Newspaper Archive - First Look


08 November 2011
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We’re champing at the bit for to go live. Tantalisingly the site says that it’s due to be launc

We’re champing at the bit for to go live. Tantalisingly the site says that it’s due to be launched Autumn 2011, so it’s got to be sometime soon, and after a sneak peek at the site’s online newspaper collections the Family Tree team are really keen to see it up and running.

With more than a million pre-1900 newspaper pages coming online at the launch, this is a website that will revolutionise your online family history research – you’ll be able to search decades of papers covering places all over Britain from wherever you are in the world. Just imagine, a national newspaper collection searchable from your sitting room.

Whether you’re looking for national events, or your ancestors’ names in hatch, match or despatch notices, these are all possible - because the pages have been scanned and the text made searchable with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology, you can enter whatever search terms you wish. We tried searching a really mixed bag of topics, from Armistice to Christmas shopping, hiring fairs to the Titanic, and many more besides, and each result came up trumps with many insightful accounts from the past. You can bookmark and add your personal notes to articles for your own use, in your ‘My Research’ area, where all your viewed items are saved. There are also public tag and comment features – whereby you, as a site user, will be able to add to the usefulness of the collection for fellow visitors to the site. This collaborative layer of information will in time add a whole new dimension to searching the site and may even provide a new way to make further connections on your family tree in the future.

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You’ll be able to search the newspapers for free on, but to view the original pages (with the fantastic deep-zoom viewer) you’ll need to buy some credits or take out an unlimited annual subscription. Something to put on your Christmas wish list? We think so!

To find out more about how to use the site and what it has to offer keep an eye on the coming issues of Family Tree and the British Newspaper Archive’s blog at, or follow @familytreemaguk and @BNArchive on Twitter.