The Genealogist’s Internet

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12. Print Sources


Electoral records



While the most important records for family historians are the usually hand-written public records, there are important sources of information in print, and not just where manuscript records have been transcribed.


Digital archives

A significant development in the last few years has been the start of major projects to put digitized books online. These have received some bad publicity because many books still in copyright have been digitized without the permission of the copyright owners, and major academic and public libraries have been criticized for deals with commercial organizations. But the effect for genealogists has been very beneficial in that large numbers of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century books, many of them far from easy to find, have become available online via online book archives. Those of most interest to family historians fall into two groups. First, there are many topographical works devoted to describing various parts of the country — for any town or county you should be able to find a guidebook from the early twentieth century or before. Second, there seem to be quite a few books from historical publishing societies, some of which include transcriptions of historical records, so there is plenty of chance of finding transcribed parish registers, poll books and the like on these sites.

Google is the major commercial company involved in book digitization, after Microsoft abandoned its Live Search Books programme in May 2008. Google Books at <> has books both from publishers and from university libraries. Where a book comes from a publisher, you will find either that only the publication details are available with no access to the content, or that there is a ‘limited preview’, with perhaps 10 per cent of the pages viewable online. Even if you only get the publication details, these will help you find a second-hand copy or search the library catalogues mentioned in Chapter 13. In the case of out-of-copyright books, you should be able to download the entire book as a PDF file. The libraries who are working with Google are listed at <>. They include the Bodleian Library in Oxford, a dozen of the most important US university libraries, as well as a number of European libraries. All books have been fully indexed and are visible to Google’s main search engine (though not to any other search engine), so you can in fact search for individual names.

The Open Content Alliance is a non-profit group set up to create a free digital archive. Its textual material is available from the Text Archive area of the Internet Archive at <>. It also draws considerably on the collections of American libraries, including some of the major public libraries, though it seems to have less historical UK material than Google Books. Unlike Google Books, however, this project does not include material that is still in copyright (in the USA).

The Internet Archive is made up of a number of discrete collections, which can be searched individually. The most important of these for the family historian is the Genealogy collection at <>, which includes over 3,500 items from the National Library of Scotland at <> and over 60,000 from the Allen County Library, one of the most significant genealogical libraries in the USA. Highlights of the NLS contribution include over 750 Scottish directories and 200 volumes of Hart’s Army List (see p. 155).

A related but distinct project, run by the Internet Archive, is the Open Library at <>, which has the primary aim of providing a web page for every book ever published. Alongside records for some 30 million books, it has scanned copies of around one million of these. The search facility on the home page allows you to restrict your search to the scanned volumes.

One of the sites included in Open Content Alliance is the much older Project Gutenberg, which has its own site at <>. This is a long-standing project to digitize out-of-print books, which now hosts over 25,000 texts. Although the main focus of the project has been literary texts (including translations), there seem to be quite a few Victorian works of topography and social history. For example, there is Edwin Waugh’s Home-Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk during the Cotton Famine and E. V. Lucas’s Highways & Byways in Sussex. It is well worth using the ‘Full Text’ field on the advanced search page to see if there is any text with material on places your ancestors came from. The texts are all provided in plain text form or formatted for the web. Unlike the other material in the Internet Archive, all the Project Gutenberg texts have been entered manually rather than created by optical character recognition of the scanned page images, and are therefore much more accurate.

One thing to note is that since all these sites are US-based, it is the copyright status in the United States which is relevant. This means that any book published before 1923 is regarded as out of copyright, even though such a work would, if the author died after 1941, still be in copyright in the UK in 2012.

In addition to these general book archives, there are several sites which concentrate on genealogy books. The most significant is the Family History Archives site at FamilySearch, which has a collection of over 17,000 digitized books from the Family History Library (see p. 221) and a number of other US genealogical libraries. They include many hard-to-find printed family histories, and some are even scanned typescripts. The basic search includes author, title and surname, but there is an additional option to include a full text search (though this will be rather slow and may well give you too many results to be useful). Helpfully, the initial list of matching books includes a description and the main surnames covered. The books are presented in PDF format, but cannot be downloaded as a whole — each page is a separate PDF file. If you are already on the FamilySearch site, select ‘Historical Books’ from the ‘Search Records’ menu; otherwise, go to <>.

Library Ireland has around 70 out-of-copyright books and countless articles on Irish history and genealogy at <>. These include a number of works on Irish names and a growing collection of directories (see below).

The commercial data services (see Chapter 4) also tend to offer digitized reference books, though these are only accessible with a subscription to the sites. For example, Ancestry has a ‘Reference, Dictionaries, and Almanacs’ collection, with over 100 books relating to the UK. These can be searched without a subscription from <>. You can use the filter option in the right-hand column of this page to narrow the list down to books which include material for a particular county.

Current reference works

It is important not to overlook general reference books, not perhaps for information on individual ancestors (unless they were specially notable), but for authoritative historical and geographical information about the British Isles. While many older editions are available in digitized versions in the book archives discussed above, in many cases current editions are also available online. An important set of reference works is that published by Oxford University Press, particularly:

These are available only to subscribers, and the individual subscriptions are quite hefty. However, thanks to a national agreement with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, most public libraries in the UK have subscriptions, and if you are a member of your local library this will almost certainly extend to access from your own computer at home. You will need a library card, as the login requires a library card number from a participating library instead of a username and password. Details should be given on the library area of your local authority website, which will probably also have links to the correct log-in pages. There is information about this scheme at <> and a list of libraries at <>. The scheme also extends to the Republic of Ireland, though I have been unable to find any details of availability.

The Encyclopædia Britannica <> is widely available on the same basis. Some earlier editions are now in the public domain, in the US at least, and available free online. The 1911 edition is at <> as well as a number of other sites, including Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive — see Wikipedia’s article ‘Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition’, which also draws attention to some of the most notable problems of relying on this edition.

Electoral records

While most genealogical records, well into the twentieth century, are hand-written records of voters and electors have always been printed. The modern electoral registers, which can be used to trace living people and are discussed on p. 248, are effectively a form of census of the adult population. Before the introduction of universal suffrage in 1928, however, the further you go back the smaller the proportion of the population which was allowed to vote. Before the Reform Act of 1832, only males over the age of 21 who owned property of significant value. The Wikipedia article on ‘Suffrage’ is a good starting point for more detailed information on the qualifications for voting at various dates.

Electoral registers of the type we are familiar with — a list of those entitled to vote and their place of residence — came in the wake of The Reform Act and were maintained, as they are now, by local authorities. Until recently, there has been little of this material online, but in November 2011 Findmypast (see p. 53) added the Cheshire electoral registers for 1842–1900 to its collections, with material for other counties to follow during 2012. In February 2012, Ancestry (p 00) published indexes and images of the electoral registers for London 1847–1965 by arrangement with the Guildhall Library. As you can see from Figure 12-1, the earlier registers give much more detail than just an address.


Figure 12-1 Electoral register for Hampstead, 1851 (Ancestry)

Before 1832, there are no electoral registers but published poll books record the outcome of parliamentary elections and simply give the name of the voter and which candidate(s) he voted for. (In fact poll books carry on until the introduction of the secret ballot in 1872.) Entries are grouped by polling district but precise addresses are not given. Many of these are available in reference libraries and as a result a number of them are available in the book archives discussed at the start of this chapter, particularly Google Books. Searching on the phrase “poll book” and the name of a county is the easiest way to find those which may list your ancestors.

The Society of Genealogists has an unrivalled collection of poll books, all listed in its online catalogue (see p. 222). The National Library of Ireland has added records for Irish city and country electoral registers to its online catalogue at <>. Entering the words ‘electoral registers’ and the city or county of interest will locate relevant material.

Modern electoral registers are discussed as sources for tracing living people in Chapter 14, p. 248.


For the family historian, the most important class of printed books are the nineteenth-century trade and post office directories. These provide descriptions of individual towns and villages, along with the names of some or all tradespeople and householders — the earlier directories tend to include only businesses and professional people. A large number of these have been digitized and published on CD-ROM, but an increasing number are available either complete or in part on the web. There are also directories relating to the military and the professions, but these are discussed with other occupational records in Chapters 9 and 10.

The British-Genealogy site has some general information about trade directories and how they can help with your research at <>. An article by David Tippey, ‘Using Trade Directories in your Research’, is available at <>.

The major site for directories is the Digital Library of Historical Directories site at <>. This is the fruit of a Heritage Lottery Fund project based at the University of Leicester. The aim of the project was to place online digitized trade directories from England and Wales from 1750 to 1919. It is intended to be representative rather than comprehensive, with one directory for each county and each major town for the pre-1850 period and then each later decade up to the end of the First World War. The project is now complete and offers a total of 675 directories.

You can browse by county or decade, or you can select the keyword option to do a more advanced search. This allows you to specify, if you wish, a county, a decade, a publisher, and any names or other terms (a particular occupation, perhaps). The search results list all matching directories, but do not list the pages with individual hits — you need to select the directory you want to examine. This will bring up the title page of the directory and tell you how many occurrences of your keywords there are. To examine the relevant pages, you need to click on ‘Next hit’ button. You can also simply browse the directory, page by page. The display shows a page at a time, and pages can be printed or saved (see Figure 12-2).


Figure 12-2 Digital Library of Historical Directories: a page from Pigot & Co.’s Directory of Yorks, Leics …, 1841

Although this is by far the largest collection of directories, there are many other sites which have material from directories. In some cases, there is simply a name index to the printed volume, such as that for Pigot’s Commercial Directory for Surrey (1839), which is on the Genuki Surrey site at <>. This provides text files with page references for names and places. While not a substitute for online versions of the directories, these listings at least indicate whether it is worth locating a copy of the directory in question. Another approach is to place scanned images on the web, along with a name index, as on Nicholas Adams’s site, which provides Pigot’s 1830 and 1840 directories for Herefordshire at <> and <>. Finally, some sites offer a full transcription, with or without a name index. For Derbyshire, for example, there is Ann Andrews’s transcription of all the Derbyshire entries from Kelly’s Directory of the Counties of Derby, Notts, Leicester and Rutland, 1891, at <>.

There are also some partial transcriptions, usually for individual towns or cities, such as Brian Randell’s material for Exeter at <> taken from White’s Devonshire directory of 1850. Rob Marriott and Davina Bradley’s site devoted to Ashover in Derbyshire has entries for the town from six different directories at <>.

Since directories were compiled on a county or regional basis, the easiest way to find them online is to look at the relevant county page on Genuki. Alternatively, you could use a search engine to search for, say, [Directory AND Kelly AND Norfolk] or [Directory AND Pigot AND Lancashire] to locate the publications of the two main nineteenth-century directory publishers. (See Chapter 19 for information on search engines and formulating searches.) County record offices have good collections of local directories, so it will be worth looking at the online catalogues. With few exceptions the directories available online date from before the First World War, so for more recent directories you will almost certainly need to visit the relevant CROs or local libraries.

The British Library, of course, has many trade and post office directories, which can be located by searching the online catalogue at <> — see p. 216. Since directory titles are very varied, the best way to search is to enter the town/county and the word ‘directory’ in the ‘Type word or phrase’ field and select ‘Word from title’ in the ‘Search by’ field. You can then sort the results by year, though note that modern digitizations will be listed by the modern year of publication, not the original date of the directory

As mentioned above (p. 186), Library Ireland has a number of transcribed directories.

Three of the commercial data services described in Chapter 4 have significant directory holdings. The Genealogist at <> (see p. 55) has over 200 trade and post office directories, the latest of which is for 1941. Around 50 of them are for London and include the 1677 Little London Directory, which seems to be the earliest directory available online. Each directory is displayed as a single PDF file.

Familyrelatives at <> (see p. 57) has around 30 post office directories for individual English counties for the period 1828—40, and half a dozen twentieth-century directories for Irish counties, and a similar number for Scotland. There is a free search which, for the English and Scottish directories, just tells you the number of hits. For the Irish directories, the results show two lines of text from a matching entry. In each case, to view the original page image you need to be a subscriber. The images are not available to pay-per-view customers.

Ancestry has a collection of ‘City and County Directories 1600s–1900s’, information on which is given at <>. The site does not provide any unified listing; you can only see the individual holdings by selecting country and county from a drop-down list. There seem to be between one and a dozen directories per English county, with a few for Scotland and Wales, and one for the Isle of Man. Each directory page displays as a separate image in Ancestry’s image viewer. You can browse through any directory, but there is also a name search.


Figure 12-3 Telephone listing for Cardiff, 1899 (Ancestry)

The City and County Directories search does not include Ancestry’s collection of 1,780 UK telephone books, which have their own search page at <>. The books come from the BT Archives, and provide ‘near full county coverage for England as well as containing substantial records for Scotland, Ireland, and Wales’. They cover the period from the very first phone books in 1880 up to the privatization of British Telecom in 1984. As well as searching on a name, you can also specify a year and an address; alternatively you can browse an individual phone book. With a common surname, there may be a problem in identifying the correct individual, since usually only initials are given rather than a forename. Obviously the information is quite limited, but the ability to find an address in years other than those for which you have certificates or census records is very useful. The early books have relatively few individuals but have many business addresses, so can be used in the same way as trade directories (Figure 12-3).

An extensive collection of links to a wide variety of directories and printed lists will be found on the UKGDL site at <>, where they can be viewed by county or by type.


Only a few years ago, the only way to read historical newspapers, particularly for local titles, was to go to the British Library Newspaper Library or the reference library in the locality. Now most national papers have an online archive and the British Newspaper Archive, launched in 2011 with over half a million issues of almost 200 titles, has transformed the availability of regional and local papers.

The Genuki county pages are a good way of finding links to local newspapers on the web, and Cyndi’s List has a ‘Newspapers’ page at <>. There are, of course, many sites relating to present-day newspapers including Kidon Media-link, which has links to the websites of UK newspapers at <>.

The most important site for information about newspapers is that of the British Library (BL). This has a general page for newspapers and comics at <>, which is a gateway to an extensive set of pages with links to newspaper sites on the web, including London National Newspapers, Scottish Newspapers, Irish Newspapers, English and Welsh Newspapers, Channel Islands and Isle of Man Newspapers, Newspapers Around the World, and Other Newspaper Libraries and Collections.

Most of the online newspaper archives are commercial in nature. Nonetheless, they generally offer institutional subscriptions, which means that in many cases those in Further and Higher Education will have free access via their institutions, and many local public libraries provide free access to one (or occasionally more) of these services for local residents.


Details of the BL’s own resources are on the British Library Newspaper Collections page at <>, and these comprise over 52,000 newspaper and periodical titles from all over the world, dating from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, including all UK national dailies and most UK and Irish provincial papers.

The newspaper collection is included in the library’s Integrated Catalogue at <>. You can in fact search the newspaper collections separately, though this is far from obvious the way the site is designed. The URL is a 125-character monster consisting of apparently random letters and numbers, so to get to it you need to select ‘Search the Integrated Catalogue’ from the catalogue home page, then ‘Catalogue subset search’, then ‘Newspapers’. The resulting page can then be bookmarked for quicker access.

To find the newspapers for a particular town or city, you need to select ‘Newspaper place’ from the drop-down list in the ‘Search by’ field and then enter the name of the place in the field to the right. Each entry in the web catalogue contains full details of the title (including any title changes), the place of publication (the town or city, and the country) and the dates which are held. The results can be sorted by any of these fields, which means you can get a historical list of newspapers for a particular town (see Figure 12-4). Clicking on the newspaper title brings up a detailed listed of the library’s holdings.

The websites for other major libraries and archives discussed in Chapter 13 will have sections on their newspaper holdings.


Figure 12-4 Search results for ‘Norwich’ in the Newspaper Library catalogue, sorted by date

A particularly useful programme is Newsplan. This was a lottery-funded project to microfilm historic newspapers in public collections. It comprises a number of independent regional sites, and details of the overall project and its 10 regional sub-projects will be found on the British Library’s Newsplan page at <>. This has links to the local websites, though at the time of writing, some of these links were dead. The NEWSPLAN Scotland list of newspapers is at <> and is not linked directly from the main site. Figure 12-5 shows a sample record in Newsplan from the West Midlands site at <>, which has details of 1,100 titles.


Figure 12-5 Details of the Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser in Newsplan

Free archives

There are a number of broad-based historical collections as well as non-commercial projects for individual local newspapers.

The BL has made a small selection of newspapers available online in the Olive ActivePaper Archive at <>, which has digitized copies of a number of editions of the:

There are a number of short runs of each paper for up to five individual years. Each newspaper page comes up as a separate image in the browser window. In this view only the headlines are easily legible, but clicking on an article brings up an enlarged version so you can read the body text. There is also a text search facility, which brings up only the individual articles. You can also download a complete edition in PDF format. In spite of the fact that the site has been running for some years, it is still effectively a demo.

The National Library of Wales has a Historic Newspapers and Journals project due to go live in 2012. This will offer free access to the text of over 700 different titles published in Wales. Details will be found at <>.

The Internet Library of Early Journals at <> is a joint project by the universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford to place online digitized copies of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century journals, in runs of at least 20 years. The project comprises:

The Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition is a free online edition of six nineteenth-century periodicals and newspapers at <>:

A specialist newspaper of interest to those with maritime ancestors is Lloyd’s List and there is an index to the marine news from 1740 to 1837 at <>. This can be searched on the name of a person, ship and location between chosen dates.

Google News at <> has an archive of almost 2,500 newspapers. The overwhelming majority are North American local papers and those expecting to find Welsh or East Anglian ancestors in the Bangor Daily News and the Ely Echo will be disappointed. Nonetheless, there are some significant runs of UK newspapers including 42,000 issues of the Glasgow Herald from 1806 to 1990. There are also shorter runs of five early nineteenth-century Edinburgh newspapers, notably the 2,000 issues of the Edinburgh Advertiser from 1772 to 1829. The site gives no bibliographical information.

Gazettes Online

Another important site for historical newspapers is Gazettes Online at <>. This a major project to make the entire archive of the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes available on the web. These are the UK’s official newspapers of record, stretching back to 1665 and containing official announcements of many types, including the award of medals, official appointments (including appointments of officers in the armed forces — see Figure 12-6) and insolvency notices. Although there is a browse option, this covers only the most recent issues; for historical material, you need to select the advanced search, in which you specify a date or date range and the words or phrases to look for. The pages are black and white scans (not greyscale) and are displayed in PDF format, one file to a page.


Figure 12-6 Military appointments in the London Gazette, 8 January 1780

One thing to note about the text search is that the index it uses has been created by optical character recognition and therefore contains many errors. Unlike the census, where you can try and imagine what a letter might have looked like to a transcriber, it is very difficult to predict OCR errors, since typically these are caused by unevenness in the printing and random marks on the paper (especially print-through from the other side of the sheet, as you can see in Figure 12-6). This is particularly the case with older issues.

British Newspaper Archive

In November 2011, the British Library and Brightsolid launched the British Newspaper Archive at <>. This was the result of a massive digitization project and contains ‘most of the runs of newspapers published in the UK since 1800’. It also includes the 50 or so titles which comprised the subscription service British Newspapers 1800–1900, which was launched in 2009 and is still available at <>.

An annual subscription with unlimited usage costs £79.95, while shorter subscriptions are available, with some (fairly generous) usage limits for two days and 30 days, costing £6.95 and £29.95 respectively. Shortly after the initial launch, the archive was made available on the pay-per-view system of Genes Reunited (which is also run by Brightsolid), where each page view costs five credits (costing 50p). During 2012 it will be added to the material available at Findmypast.

The project was launched with over three million pages from 200 titles but in the aim is to add another 40 million pages over the next few years. Significantly, the site offers many issues that are not available to the public at the Newspaper Library because they are too fragile to produce.

You can use the site without subscribing and initial searches are free of charge. The basic search is itself very basic — just a single field for keywords — but the filters (on the left in Figure 12-7) allow you to narrow your search down to a single year, county or place, and a particular newspaper if you wish. The advanced search is highly flexible and should enable you to home in on particular subjects, dates and places. The site has various facilities for annotating and keeping track of what you have looked at. Pages can be downloaded (in PDF format) or printed from the BNA site, but the Genes Reunited viewer does not provide for either, and your only options are to print the browser window or capture a screenshot.

The text was created by optical character recognition, so the accuracy will vary considerably depending on the print quality of the original pages (see Figure 4-2, p. 33), and of course both personal and place-names are particularly liable to error. But the site’s facility for accepting corrections from users will no doubt help, and the availability of the same story across several titles should certainly mean that matters of more than just local interest are findable (again, see Figure 4-2) in spite of any errors.


Figure 12-7 British Newspaper Archive

Other subscription collections

Many of the larger newspapers have their own digital archives covering, in most cases, the entire run of the paper from its first to its most recent edition. These tend to be subscription services, though the options often include a 24-hour subscription for under £10. Initial searches are usually free. These archives are particularly likely to be available online via local public libraries.

Digital archives for national dailies include:

The Jewish Chronicle at <> has an archive of issues from 1841 onwards. There is a free trial search, but full access to the archive is only for those who subscribe to the newspaper itself.

Ukpressonline at <> offers an archive of the Daily Mirror and Daily Express for the twentieth century, with more recent runs of a number of other papers. You can search the site without subscription or registration and the search results will give you the issue and page number of any hits, but a subscription is required to see the articles. It seems that only a small number of public libraries have subscriptions, but there are also a number of personal subscription options, starting at £5.99 for 48-hour access to an individual paper — see <>.

The Irish Newspaper Archives at <> holds a searchable archive of 23 Irish national and local newspapers dating back in some cases to the eighteenth century, with additional newspapers to be added. Individual subscriptions are quite expensive, starting at €10 for 24 hours, but Irish residents should find free access via their local public library. You can view the front pages free of charge, but these are not high enough resolution to read the body text.

Last Chance To Read at <> focuses on around 80 less well known newspapers for the period 1710—1870, almost entirely local publications. The site lists all the papers included, but does not indicate dates of coverage. Searching is free, though you need to complete the registration process, and the search results show you a small but legible thumbnail from the original newspaper page. You then need to pay £2.50 for each page downloaded, or £3 to £5 for each newspaper, though there is a minimum charge per transaction.

Ancestry has a Historical Newspaper Collection with significant runs of three UK newspapers:

There are also other short runs, from a single month to several years, of a dozen other newspapers. All are listed at <>. As with the reference works on Ancestry (see p. 52), you can filter this list for particular localities.

In 2012, The Genealogist will be adding newspaper indexes to its data collections, starting with the Illustrated London News and The Times.

The NewspaperArchive at <> is a subscription site with around a dozen English, Scottish and Irish papers for shorter or longer runs. You can see what is available by selecting the ‘Browse Available Papers’ option. There is a very large collection of US papers, as well as titles from Canada, Denmark, Jamaica and South Africa.

Recent newspapers

To find the website of a current newspaper or to see which present-day local newspapers cover a particular town or area, online newspapers at <> is a useful resource. It has a separate page for each constituent of the British Isles, though Ireland and Scotland and Wales are listed under Northern Europe while England, the Channel Islands and Jersey are under Western Europe. Usefully, it gives the place of publication for papers with generic titles so that you can identify which of the eight different Advertisers you are looking for.

There are several subscription services for recent editions of current newspapers, which may be available to you free of charge via your local public library.

Newsbank provides a full text search for a range of UK national and regional newspapers. The full list of over 250 papers is at <>, and coverage generally starts in the 1990s, though The Times and the Financial Times run from the 1980s. The exact range of newspapers available to you locally will be much smaller and will depend on the subscription options of your public library service. You can expect access at the very least to all the main national daily and Sunday newspapers, and probably any regional papers local to the area. Lancashire County Council, for example, offers the Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening News, Lancaster Guardian and Blackpool Gazette. Libraries in Scotland will carry The Scotsman and those in the Republic of Ireland will include The Irish Times and Irish Independent. There may also be papers from further afield: a number of English libraries include The Scotsman or the New York Times. Slainte, a Scottish library site, has a guide to using Newsbank at <>.

UK Newsstand is a similar service operated by ProQuest, with many local library services among its subscribers. It includes around 170 papers in the UK and Ireland, though for most of these coverage does not go back beyond 2000. Unlike Newsbank, a UK Newsstand subscription gives access to all newspapers in the collection. A useful feature is that there is a separate obituary search. Aberdeen City Libraries have a guide to using UK Newsstand at <>.

ProQuest also has a Historical Newspapers service, which includes complete runs of the Guardian, the Observer, The Irish Times, the Weekly Irish Times and The Scotsman as well as several of the older US newspapers. While in principle available to public libraries, subscriptions have been taken out almost exclusively in the university sector — see <> for details.

For online newspapers beyond the British Isles, see Wikipedia’s ‘List of online newspaper archives’.


There are also a number of online indexes to individual editions of newspapers, particularly local papers. These are generally non-commercial and therefore inevitably limited in scope, without digital images, though some include transcriptions. Being manually compiled, they should be more accurate than the OCR-based indexes in larger collections.

The National Library of Scotland has a ‘Guide to Scottish Newspaper Indexes’, which provides details of Scottish newspaper titles that have an index (not necessarily online, or even digital), along with the dates covered and the libraries that have a copy. So far it includes 183 titles and can be found at <>.

Am Baile (The Gaelic Village) has an index to six newspapers covering the Highlands and Islands for various dates from 1807 right up to 2002. The index can be searched from <>. You can specify a general subject as well as individual keywords. From the search results you can send a request to the holding library for further information.


There are a number of sites with information about newspaper obituary notices. Cyndi’s List has a page devoted to obituaries at <>, though almost all the sites listed relate only to the US.

Free Obituaries On-Line at <> has links to sites providing obituaries — many are newspaper sites — for Australia, Bermuda, Canada, England, India, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Scotland and the US.

The Obituary Daily Times is a daily index of published obituaries at <>, which has over 10 million entries, mainly from US newspapers. The site is an index only — you need to refer to the original newspaper to see the text.

Ancestry subscribers can search a substantial database of recent obituaries. The search page for the UK and Ireland material is <>. There is no indication of which sources are included.

Obituary Lookup Volunteers at <> holds lists of those prepared to look up obituaries in particular newspapers or libraries. There are separate pages listing volunteers for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, as well as a number of other countries. However, the coverage of the British Isles is extremely limited.

RootsWeb has around 40 mailing lists for obituaries, including ENGLAND-OBITS, ENGLISH-OBITS, IRELAND-OBITS and SCOTLAND-OBITS, as well as a number for former British colonies. All are listed at <>.

Iannounce at <> has a free database of obituaries, death notices and other family announcements from almost 500 local and regional papers in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The site does not indicate when coverage starts, but the earliest notice I could find was from 2003. It is best to enter a name in inverted commas, otherwise you get an OR search (see p. 335) on forename and surname, which tends to produce hundreds of results. Also, the date search does not allow you to specify a year.

All national newspapers and many local papers have a website, and these will generally carry the obituaries from recent editions.

Next chapter: 13 Archives and Libraries