UK Newspapers

Old newspapers are a very useful source of information on your ancestors and a very large number have been preserved and are increasingly becoming available to search and to view on line.

This article concentrates on United Kingdom newspapers.

A health warning - old newspapers should not be the starting point when researching your family tree - your first steps should be to find out all you can from living relatives, then track their birth, marriage and deaths using the registration information from 1837 on - see here for more details - and/or parish records and then use the census information from 1841 on to put the families together - see here for more details.

However old newspapers are a good way of filling in detail or getting background but it can be hit and miss. Think about how much future generations could find out about you by looking in old newspapers - in my case, very little. As a general rule. someone who was famous or infamous is more likely to feature.

But on the other hand, I was told a story about how one of my ancestors murdered his parents and was the last to be publicly hanged in Taunton. A bit of research into public hangings and comparing names with those I knew in my family tree led me to a murder of grandparents, not parents, and not the last but one of the last public hangings. A newspaper search on that date came up with all the details verbatim from the trial and more names giving me 99% confirmation this was the story I was told about. At the time, finding the story in the newspaper involved a trip to Taunton Central Library and looking through microfiche copies of old newspapers but now these and many more are available online.

Newspaper Archives available on line

There are a number of archives available online, a few are free to view, others are widely available to view online if you are a member of a local library and other are available as part of a general subscription.

The British Newspaper Archive

The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership between the British Library and brightsolid online who are planning to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library's vast collection over a 10 year period. There are currently over 5.5 million pages on the site and more are being scanned every day.

You can search the newspapers on the site for free but to view the actual images of the newspaper pages, you need to have a subscription or use "credits". Subscriptions are available at either £9.95 for one month or £79.95 for 12 months (beware, the subscriptions are sold on a continuous membership basis, meaning it will continue until you cancel it. You can cancel at any time from the ‘My Account’ section of the website).

Subscriptions are subject to a fair use policy, see their website for more details.

Alternatively for £19.95 you can buy a "Pay As You Go" which enables you to view up to 40 pages over the next 365 days.

Note that if you are using the website in premises owned or operated by the British Library, or within a premises subscribed to The British Newspaper Archive Community Edition, you can view the images of the newspapers themselves for free without having to have a subscription or purchase credits.

Finally as a taster, you can register with the British Newspaper Archive for free and get 3 free credits to try out the site.

As an alternative to a direct subscription, for anyone with a Platinum Subscription to Genes Reunited, they can add the British Newspaper Archive annual access to their Genes Reunited subscription for £39.95.

A full subscription to Findmypast also gives you access to the archive.

Many public libraries in the UK have signed up to the British Newspaper Archive and members can use it for free within the library.

These include:
Bracknell Forest LibrariesBrighton and Hove LibrariesCambridgeshire LibrariesCornwall LibrariesEast Sussex LibrariesEssex LibrariesHampshire LibrariesKent LibrariesLiverpool LibrariesNorfolk LibrariesNorth Somerset LibrariesNorthamptonshire LibrariesOxfordshire LibrariesPoole LibrariesNational Library of Wales

The Times Digital Archive

The London Times archive includes more than 20 million articles from every edition of the Times, apart from a small number of damaged issues, from 1785 to 1985. The archive has been indexed so you can search for an article and then display the original page from the newspaper.

Many public libraries in the UK have signed up to the Times Digital Archive and members can use it for free within the library or from home. Even if your local library does not provide it, some libraries allow you to join if you live in neighbouring areas or even if you live anywhere in the UK.

These include:
Barnet LibrariesBath and North East Somerset LibrariesBedford LibrariesBirmingham LibrariesBournemouth LibrariesBracknell Forest LibrariesBrighton and Hove LibrariesBristol LibrariesBromley LibrariesBuckinghamshire LibrariesCambridgeshire LibrariesCamden LibrariesCardiff (Caerdydd) LibrariesCheshire East LibrariesCheshire West and Chester LibrariesCornwall LibrariesDerbyshire LibrariesDevon LibrariesDorset LibrariesEaling LibrariesEast Sussex LibrariesEssex LibrariesGloucestershire LibrariesHampshire LibrariesHerefordshire LibrariesHertfordshire LibrariesHillingdon LibrariesKent LibrariesLeeds LibrariesLincolnshire LibrariesLiverpool LibrariesManchester LibrariesMilton Keynes LibrariesNewcastle upon Tyne LibrariesNorfolk LibrariesNorthamptonshire LibrariesOxfordshire LibrariesPeterborough LibrariesPlymouth LibrariesPoole LibrariesReading LibrariesRichmond upon Thames LibrariesShropshire LibrariesSlough LibrariesSomerset LibrariesSouth Gloucestershire LibrariesSurrey LibrariesSwindon LibrariesTelford and Wrekin LibrariesVale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg) LibrariesWest Sussex LibrariesWestminster LibrariesWiltshire LibrariesNational Library of Wales

Note that anyone resident in the UK can join Manchester Libraries, see their web site for more details. Also you can join Cambridgeshire Library via an online form if you live, work or study in Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Peterborough, Bedfordshire, Lincolnshire or Northamptonshire as well as in Cambridgeshire.

The Guardian and Observer Digital Archive

The Guardian and Observer Digital Archive contains every page, article and advert published in the Guardian since 1821 and the Observer since 1791 (the oldest Sunday paper in the world).

You can access the archive direct, searching is free and to view the pages you can take advantage of their one day, three day or one month passes costing £7.95 for one day, £14.95 for three days or £49.95 for a month.

Alternatively some public libraries offer free access to the Guardian and Observer Digital Archive for their members although not as many as offer the Times Digital Archive.

These include:
Bracknell Forest LibrariesCambridgeshire LibrariesCamden LibrariesCornwall LibrariesDerbyshire LibrariesEssex LibrariesManchester LibrariesNorthamptonshire LibrariesSolihull LibrariesSouth Gloucestershire LibrariesWestminster Libraries

Note that anyone resident in the UK can join Manchester Libraries, see their web site for more details. Also you can join Cambridgeshire Library via an online form if you live, work or study in Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Peterborough, Bedfordshire, Lincolnshire or Northamptonshire as well as in Cambridgeshire.

19th Century newspapers

19th Century Newspapers features two million pages from national and regional newspapers, covering the 19th century. More details on this collection is available here including a list of newspapers included in the collection.

See also this this map showing the coverage.

Again many public libraries offer free access to the 19th Century Newspapers Collection for their members.

These include:
Birmingham LibrariesBlackpool LibrariesBournemouth LibrariesBradford LibrariesBristol LibrariesBuckinghamshire LibrariesCalderdale LibrariesCardiff (Caerdydd) LibrariesCornwall LibrariesCumbria LibrariesDerby LibrariesDerbyshire LibrariesDevon LibrariesEssex LibrariesGloucestershire LibrariesHampshire LibrariesHertfordshire LibrariesKent LibrariesLancashire LibrariesLeeds LibrariesMiddlesbrough LibrariesNewcastle upon Tyne LibrariesNorfolk LibrariesNottinghamshire LibrariesOxfordshire LibrariesPlymouth LibrariesPoole LibrariesRichmond upon Thames LibrariesSolihull LibrariesSomerset LibrariesSurrey LibrariesSwindon LibrariesVale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg) LibrariesWiltshire LibrariesNational Library of Wales

Note that anyone resident in the UK can join Lancashire Libraries, see their web site for more details.

UK Press Online

UK Press Online features two million plus pages from a selection of UK newspapers, including the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and the Daily Worker.

You can register for free and search the pages but you will need to pay to see most of the full size pages. While you can take out a personal subscription, the site is primarily intended for Educational establishments and Libraries.

A few public libraries offer free access to UK Press Online for their members.

These include:
Kent LibrariesSolihull LibrariesSouth Gloucestershire LibrariesVale of Glamorgan (Bro Morgannwg) LibrariesWestminster Libraries

In addition, the archives of the South Eastern Gazette are available free to UK residents (outside of the UK, normal subscription charges apply). To view it you need to register, use the 'Shop' link then for the South Eastern Gazette in the UK select the £0 purchase option.

Welsh Newspapers Online

A relatively new database from the National Library of Wales, Welsh Newspapers Online has over 4.5 million articles and 420,000 pages, all free to search and view online.

For those searching for english ancestors, it's worth remembering that much english (and foreign) news was printed in the welsh papers (and vice versa).

The Spectator magazine

The Spectator Magazine has put their archive on line with both scanned and digitised copies of the magazine from July 1828 to December 2008 available for free online.