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Berkshire Family Historian
June 2001

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June 2001 Contents

Berkshire newspapers - a guide

John Gurnett

Very few of us go through our lives without a mention in a newspaper. It may only be a short announcement of a birth, marriage or death, but we may have done something noteworthy, which may have been noticed in the local press - winning a cup at the local horticultural show, a sporting event at school, or a report on the local WI meeting.

It wasn't until the 1870s and 1880s that local news included everything, from Sunday school outings and garden fetes, to local concerts and horticultural shows. These can be a real treasure trove. Coroner's inquests can be another useful source of information, as the inquest is always noted on the death certificate, and inquests were usually reported in the local press. Once you have established the date of death of an ancestor it is always worthwhile to consider a search in local newspapers. However, searching old newspapers can be very frustrating and time consuming as the majority remain unindexed.

Not surprisingly there was a vast increase in the number of local newspapers during the nineteenth century, as stamp duty was lifted and literacy improved. So finding which newspaper covered any particular area of the County can be difficult: it is easy to assume that a Reading newspaper only covers Reading, when in fact it may report news for a large surrounding area. Some titles were only published for short periods of time and it is only too easy to ignore a newspaper that may be vital in your search.

Facsimile of advert for Governor and Matron

The three principal locations of local newspaper sources are the British Library Newspaper Library (Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5HE tele: 020 7412 7353); the County Local Studies Library and associated reference libraries (both Reading and Oxford libraries have substantial collections of Berkshire newspapers); and backfires in the offices of surviving papers.

At Colindale and other libraries be prepared to use microfilm copies. Colindale can be reached on the Northern Line and it is open from Monday to Saturday loam to 4.45Pm. A reader's pass is necessary, but it can be obtained on the day if you can show some kind of identification: a driver's licence or passport is acceptable. Copies of individual pages or articles may be ordered at a reasonable rate. Earlier this year the Colindale catalogue went on line so now it is possible to log on to prodigi.bl.uk/nlcat/ to find details of newspapers held by the Library. You may search by title, place, or date. Each hit then links via the title of the publication to a page giving the catalogue reference numbers and dates held. Details are also given where a publication continues under another title. When typing in place or county watch out for the local government changes in 1974. The other main collections in England are with the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and the University Library, Cambridge.

As well as local newspapers most libraries have copies of The Times on microfilm and Palmer's Index and the Official Index to The Times can be used to identify local stories that may have reached the national press. Both Palmer's and the Official index are available on CD-ROM.

One final point; do not forget the many magazines devoted to life in Berkshire, from football to the more learned Reading Review. Also some local studies libraries have compiled indexes and keep cuttings collections of people and places. Reading Local Studies Library has an excellent collection of newspaper cuttings some of which are more than 60 years old.

Bibliography:

General

British Library, Catalogue of the Newspaper Library, Colindale (1975), Vol. 1 London, Vol. 2 England and Wales

British Museum, Tercentenary Handlist of English and Welsh Newspapers, Magazines and Reviews (1920, facsimile 1966)

Chapman, Colin, An Introduction to Using Newspapers and Periodicals (1993)

Gibson, J.S.W., Local Newspapers 1750-1920: a select location list (1987)

Steel, D.J., The National Index of Parish Registers, Vol. 1: General Sources for Births, Marriages and Deaths before 1837 (1976)

Guides to Local Newspapers

Bluhm, R.K. (ed), Bibliography of British Newspapers: Wiltshire (1975)

Burton, K.G., The Early Newspaper Press in Berkshire 1723-1855 (1954). Includes lists of early newspapers from Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire, and of Berkshire papers 1855-1900.

Edwards, F.A., 'A list of Hampshire Newspapers', The Hampshire Antiquary and Naturalist, i. pp. 94-98 (1891)

Using Local Newspapers

Catt, J., 'Sources for Local Newspaper History', Local Historian, Vol. 16 No. 8 (1985)

Elliott, B.J., 'The Problems of Indexing a Local Newspaper', Local Historian, Vol. 14 No. 3 (1980)

Lueas, P., 'Sources for Urban History (9): Local Newspapers' Local IIistorian, Vol. 11, No. 6 (1975)

MeLaughlin, E., 'Family History from Newspapers' (1987)

MaeMahon, K.A., 'Local History and the Newspaper', Amateur Historian, Vol. 5 No. 7 (1961)

Local Studies Based on Newspapers

Childs, W.M., 'The Town of Reading during the early part of the 19th century' (19 10)

Townsend, J., 'News of the Country Town', Abingdon 1914)


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updated 20th August 2001