20 March 2012

TNA podcast: Digitised newspapers as sources for family history

As I finish preparing syllabus material for my talk Your Family History in Canadian and British Newspapers at the OGS conference in June I was pleased to come accoss this presentation in the TNA podcast series from Ed King, head of Newspaper Collections at the British Library. I met and was impressed by Ed several years ago at a symposium at LAC, the last time they pretended to pay any serious attention to newspapers.

In the short podcast presentation he starts with a brief history of the British Library newspaper collection, gives and idea of its scope and development, and then moves on to discuss the British Newspaper Archive (BNA), the latest initiative which should see 40 million pages of newspapers digitized over 10 years.

I had an experience with the BNA in the last few days which reinforced a lesson I didn't learn well enough yet. When faced with a transcript or index entry we're taught to always go back and check the original. That competes with a life lesson - on economy, don't spend more for something than needed.
I was searching in the British Newspaper Archive and found a snippet on the death of my four times great grandfather Robert Digby in 1802. Right name, right year, right pub. But at quick reading it seemed the other information conflicted with what I thought I knew, he was not in the 54th year of his age.

When I paid to see the original it read "Sunday last died, greatly regretted, after a lingering illness, aged 34, Mr. Robert Digby, of the Red Lion Inn, Barrow.
Monday last died, after a long illness, in the 54th year of his age, the Rev...."

None of the critical text in red is in the snippet, I missed the period after Barrow, and tuned out ", the Rev ..."

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