The British Newspaper Archives are now available on Findmypast UK and what a bonus that is! I've been having a lot of fun over the last week or so looking up newspaper stories about my ancestors. They weren't famous or even locally well-known, and definitely not rich. Nor were they criminals - so I didn't expect them to feature much in the papers. But I still found a few mentions, including a story about my 3xggrandfather being attacked on the way home from work. Not in a city or town as you might expect but while walking along a country lane between the village where he had his shoemaker's workshop and the village where he lived a couple of miles away. It was November, so presumably the attack took place after dark. He recognised his attacker - the newspaper article actually states that it was someone he had met (and presumably annoyed!) earlier in the day - and the alleged perpetrator was duly arrested and held in prison pending trial.

The twist to this was that when the trial took place two months later, the prosecution offered no evidence and the case was dismissed. Now why would that be? My ancestor must have been pretty certain who attacked him and gave a definite identification to the police resulting in a swift arrest. So what happened? I can only think that he came to some arrangement with the attacker's family to forget the whole thing  - the villages concerned were small communities where everyone knew everyone else. 

That was the most interesting story I found, although there were others. The only issue I had with searching the archive is that it really only works well if you have an relatively uncommon surname. Also if the surname you are searching for can also be a word meaning something else - occupational surnames like Butcher or Baker for example - the search facility will pick up every occurrence of the word, not just the names, so you end up with thousands of results. Apart from those caveats, this is a great resource for those with UK ancestors.

Family History Research UK


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