Write: In the News

Re-imagining a family event

Local newspapers can provide a rich seam of material for family historians. And now – thanks to the searchable British Newspaper Archive online – it’s easier than ever to track useful snippets down. Searching newspapers used to be a needle-in-the-haystack experience. These days, you can quickly chance upon the unexpected.

It’s somewhat serendipitous – school results, sporting achievements, adverts and announcements, bankruptcies and street brawls are the bread-and-butter business of local newspapers. News coverage doesn’t necessarily provide a rounded view of the family, but it can add vibrancy, colour and fascinating detail to your history.

1921 Dec 30th Advert for LIberty Bodices at Edgar Bates shop, Lichfield Mercury

Even if you’re not able to find personal references to your relatives, you’ll probably unearth interesting nuggets about their homes and workplaces. More generally, newspapers provide a gauge of the social, political and religious scene in periods and locations that interest you.

Take a look at these brief stories inspired by newspaper snippets:

Discovering Uncle Harry the water polo player

The Opera Hotel is auctioned

Now try this: Find a family event recorded in a newspaper. Describe the setting – the chilly village church, the hush of a courtroom ­– and some of the characters involved. Consider the time of year, the weather. Imagine how your relative felt, and what changes resulted from this event.

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