Top 12 Sources of Newspapers, Journals and Periodicals for Your Irish Ancestor Research
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
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In an earlier post the Roots Blog covered the ‘Top 10 Sources of Free Ebooks For Your Irish Ancestor Research.’
This post which follows on from it examines where you can find newspapers, journals and periodicals to help with your Irish ancestry research.
The focus here is on material that can help with your Irish ancestor research, but of course the array of newspapers, journals and periodicals available is much broader than simply Irish genealogy and can be adapted for research for ancestors from other countries.
Note that these sources are a mixture of free and those that must be paid for.
So what can we find within these sources? The answer is of course, anything that was considered worthy of note, comment or was of interest to a local or national audience. In particular, newspapers provide us with Family Notices containing information about Births, Deaths and Marriages. Obituaries tell us about the character and achievements of the deceased person while reports of funerals can record family members and their relationship to the deceased person, as well as mention where they lived.
Inquests were often reported on at length in local newspapers and as there are gaps in the inquest records held in the archives, the newspaper reports can provide a picture of the circumstances of a death as well as perhaps mention of family members.
For example, the Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal of 30 May 1885 [i] reported on the inquest into the death of Jane CARNEY, a 55-year old unmarried servant who died in Drogheda Workhouse on 23 May 1885. From the newspaper report, we find that Jane had entered the workhouse hospital the previous evening and was found dead in the morning, having suffered an apoplectic fit. The inquest found that although there were about 50 patients in the hospital, there was no night nurse on duty. Following the death of a child in the Workhouse hospital on an earlier occasion, the inquest jury had recommended that a night nurse be employed by the Board of Guardians, but this had not happened.
The newspaper report goes on to quote the evidence given by Jane CARNEY’S niece, Mary HALPIN who lived at Donore and who said that the last place her aunt had worked was with the late Mr Peter O’NEILL of Drogheda. She had worked for him for six years and and had lost her health after leaving him. Jane had lived with her niece for a time. The report names the local Police Sergeant, the nurse at the Workhouse, one of the Workhouse inmates, the Medical Officer, the Relieving Officer and each member of the jury – a rich seam of genealogy information for the town of Drogheda in 1885.
Sometimes weddings were reported on in great detail, giving information about what the bride wore, who the bridal party were, where the bride and groom were honeymooning and can even list the wedding gifts they received. One of my evening course students treasured a newspaper cutting that gave this information about the marriage of her grandparents.
Perhaps your ancestor sold a house, farm or other business – For Sale notices describe the items for sale and may give the reason, such as death, emigration, retirement or bankruptcy. In this advertisement in The Ballymena Observer of 14 February 1885, we find that William MCNEILL was retiring from business and was advertising the sale of the goods at his shop in Corn Market, Belfast. [ii]
Was one of your ancestors the victim of crime or the perpetrator? Again, crimes and trials of alleged criminals were often reported on in detail in local newspapers as were the sentences that could be anything from a fine to imprisonment, hard labour, transportation or even the death sentence.
In this example from the Newry Telegraph, Maria PHOENIX was sentenced at the Newry Quarter Sessions on Friday 09 April 1841, for having stolen a goose from Philip OWENS of Ballynaris on 26 February 1841. She was found guilty and sentenced to 3 months imprisonment with hard labour. [iii]
Sporting events were reported on as were local fairs, festivals, choirs, youth groups, etc with names, achievements and roles undertaken. Even minor events such as winning a cup for scripture at Sunday School could result in a photograph and small write up in the local paper – I know this because it happened to me aged about nine!
Of course, newspapers also printed events of national importance and they are a fascinating glimpse into the world of our ancestors and the times they lived through, giving us a perspective on what was happening in their daily life.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH IRISH NEWSPAPERS ARE AVAILABLE?
You might be thinking of buying a subscription to a newspaper archive but aren’t sure which one will be best for your needs. If your Irish ancestors lived in a particular area, you may be more likely to find information about them in a smaller, local newspaper than one of the bigger regional titles. So how can you find out what titles are available and in what years were those titles published?
Luckily, the National Library of Ireland (NLI) has a very useful Newspaper Database that provides this information.
NLI NEWSPAPER DATABASE
The database allows you to search by title, by town or county and you can include titles held only by the NLI or by any library or repository.
A search for newspapers published in County Donegal shows 18 titles and a click on The Donegal Independent shows that is was published in Ballyshannon, County Donegal between 1831 – 1927 and lists the dates of microfilm and hardcopy holdings in NLI.
Note that NLI does not hold these newspapers online, but the database will help you to focus on the titles you might wish to search.
Once you’ve discovered the titles of the newspapers likely to have information about your ancestors, the next step is to find a copy of the paper in question.
Ideally, you would be able to log onto a website, carry out a search and hey presto! It’s rarely that simple and often it will be a case of sitting in front of a machine, scrolling through reels of microfilm.
Shown below is guidance about where newspaper titles may be found – some are online, some will entail that trawling through reels of microfilm and delightfully, some original papers are available in large ledgers in various repositories such as the Newspaper Library in Belfast.
IRISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVES
Describing itself as the ‘world’s largest and oldest online database of Irish newspapers’, this site provides over 6 million pages of newspaper content from 1738 up to the current day.
They list the newspapers available along with the date range of each and offer a monthly or annual subscription.
Irish Newspaper Archive lets you search by county and it’s worthwhile checking your county of interest to see which publications are available before paying for a subscription. For example, for my home county of Antrim, eight publications are listed, but all of these are regional and not local newspapers, so if I was looking for information about an ancestor, it may have been published in a local paper such as the Ballymena Observer, the Ballymoney Free Press or the Coleraine Chronicle but may not have been of interest to a regional paper like the Belfast Newsletter or the Irish Examiner.
BRITISH NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE (BNA)
This website is a collaboration between Find My Past (see below) and the British Library, so there is no need to pay for a subscription for both. Their aim is to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s collection over the next 10 years.
The BNA currently has over 36million pages of newspaper and a substantial number of titles from Northern Ireland such as the Northern Whig, the Belfast News-Letter, the Belfast Telegraph, the Londonderry Sentinel and the Derry Journal.
The Republic of Ireland is also well covered with for example, coverage of the Dublin Intelligence dating from 1708, the Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier dating from 1823 and the Tipperary Free Press from 1826.
The titles within BNA are added to regularly and they have a good search facility that allows you to search for a name, place, year or publication. It’s free to search and then you must pay to view. There are four subscription options:
· Pay As You Go
· 3 Months
· 12 Months
Alternatively, access through Find My Past if you have a subscription there.
British Newspaper Archive has more of the local newspapers on their site as well as a range of regional titles. For example, there are local newspapers for the County Antrim towns of Ballymena, Ballymoney, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Larne and Lisburn.
THE BELFAST NEWS-LETTER INDEX, 1737 – 1800
This is not strictly a source of newspapers, but it is in fact a database of significant words and dates [including names] that were published within the pages of The Belfast Newsletter between 1737 – 1800.
First published in 1737, The News Letter was published three times a week during the 18th century, in issues of four pages each and it covered both local and international news.
Although 20,000 pages of the newspaper were indexed, not all of the newspapers are still in existence and only about one quarter of the papers from 1737 – 1750 have survived.
Searches can be undertaken on names, places, ship’s names, keywords or subject headings and the results will show the date of publication, the page and an abstract of the newspaper article. You can then search for a copy of that particular issue of the News Letter.
NORTHERN IRELAND LIBRARIES
Northern Ireland Libraries have the largest collection of local newspapers in Northern Ireland held within the Newspaper Library at Belfast Central Library and also at the main libraries in the country. Their holdings range in date from the 18th century to the present day and the collection includes almost complete runs of the Belfast Newsletter from 1759 as well as a range of provincial titles from every county in Northern Ireland and some from the Republic of Ireland. Rare and unique holdings include the Northern Star, the paper of the United Irishmen and the Londonderry Journal from 1796-1801.
The Belfast Newspaper Library is located at Royal Avenue, Belfast - they hold records on microfilm but also have hard copies contained in the wonderful, big, heavy ledgers mentioned earlier. You can access a list at this link that will tell you the titles held by various libraries in Northern Ireland and the date range of the holdings:
The libraries don’t hold these historic newspapers online so it’s a case of visiting in person and of course, the libraries are currently closed due to COVID-19.
As mentioned in the Top 10 Sources of Free Ebooks for Your Irish Ancestor Research blog post, NI residents can join their local library and access current newspapers and magazines, which are available online.
THE LINEN HALL LIBRARY
The Linen Hall Library located at Donegall Square North, Belfast is a genealogist’s dream – stuffed full of a wonderful array of books, manuscripts and maps to help with your ancestral research and they have a very good café too.
The Linen Hall Library has the Belfast News Letter Birth, Death and Marriage Index from 1737-1863 and a newspaper collection that dates from 1738. The collection includes the Belfast News Letter and a complete run of the Northern Star, the newspaper of the Society of United Irishmen.
These are only available in person and as with other libraries, they are currently closed due to COVID-19.
Was your ancestor made bankrupt, did they receive an honour, award or military promotion? If so, they will most likely be mentioned in The Gazette, which is the official public record of the United Kingdom that was established in 1665.
The Gazette was published in separate versions in London, Edinburgh and Belfast (the Belfast edition was published from 07 June 1921, following the partition of Ireland – see below for the Dublin Gazette) and all of these versions may be searched from the above website. There is a handy guide to searching the site here:
If you need extra assistance to find an item, The Gazette also offers a research service – further information may be found here:
A brief overview of the content of the site is as follows:
· Individual company profiles
· Information recorded with Companies House
· Company timelines
Awards and Accreditations:
· Queen’s Birthday and New Year Honours
· Military and civilian awards
· Dedicated section on WW1
Wills and Probate:
· Search deceased estates notices
· Expert guides
· Probate checklists for managing an estate
· Corporate insolvency notices
· Personal insolvency notices
THE DUBLIN GAZETTE and IRIS OIFIGIÚIL
The Dublin Gazette was published more or less continuously from 1705 and following the Anglo-Irish Treaty that ushered in partition of Ireland, the final edition was published on 27 January 1922.
There are PDF files for editions of The Dublin Gazette from 1750’s to 1800 but beware, these are large files and will take some time to download. You can access them via Wikipedia’s The Dublin Gazette page here:
Alternatively, you can search via the historical documents at the online catalogue of the Houses of the Oireachtas here:
Newspaper Archive has 47 years of The Dublin Gazette publications available between 1706 – 1909. This is a subscription site and may be accessed here:
Iris Oifigiúil is the official Irish State gazette and is published twice a week, in addition to supplements published at varying times during the year.
On their website, there are archived issues dating back to 2002 and they can be accessed here:
FIND MY PAST
Find My Past have a good selection of Irish, British, US and worldwide publications and their collection of newspapers is provided in collaboration with the British Newspaper Archive (see above).
The earliest Irish publication on this site is the Dublin Intelligence of 10 August 1708 – it includes an advertisement for a two guineas reward for the return of items stolen from Joseph BUDDEN of Dublin and four guineas reward if the thief was discovered and taken. [v]
The search facility is good with a very useful range of parameters provided. Filters allow you to search by Place, by County, by Newspaper or by Article Type. Within Article Type you can search for Advertisements (useful if looking for a sale of property) by Article, by Family Notice (this will have Birth, Death and Marriage notices), Illustrated and Miscellaneous.
You can also search by name, by keyword and by date.
The British collection of newspapers includes titles published in England, Scotland and Wales, but of course it is still possible to find articles about events that happened in Ireland within British titles. Titles in this collection currently date from 1710.
The US collection includes newspapers published in all 50 US states and includes local and national publications, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Their global collection includes newspapers from China, Denmark, France, Germany, Jamaica and South Africa.
Find My Past also provide a collection called PERSI (PERiodical Source Index) which is compiled quarterly by the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
PERSI enables you to search over 2.5million entries from thousands of historical, genealogical and ethnic publications. Although the majority of PERSI’S articles are from US and Canadian periodicals, there are also entries from Britain, Ireland and Australia.
You can search on a family name, keywords and location as well as a range of other categories such as country, state, county, town/city, subject, periodical, publisher and publication year.
In some cases, the article you are interested in will have been digitised, but if not, the PERSI search results provide comprehensive information that will enable you to track down a hard copy of the publication.
Ancestry have a range of more than 30 Irish newspapers printed between 1763 and 1890. If you go to the Card Catalogue, you can browse by title and publication. Their newspaper collection includes the Belfast Newsletter, Birth, Marriage and Death Notices, 1738 – 1925 that will be of particular interest to those with ancestors from Ulster and / or Northern Ireland.
I wouldn’t pay for an Ancestry subscripiton just for access to their newspaper collection because there are much more comprehensive collections elsewhere, but if you are already paying for a subscription, be sure to make use of it.
Free access and subscription site.
JSTOR is a digital library that provides access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books and primary sources. There are two types of access, either as an individual or via an institution.
Individuals can register for an account and access a certain amount of content for free. Due to COVID-19, JSTOR have expanded access to free articles to 100 per month until 30 June 2020.
You can also pay to access JSTOR collections through a JPASS account. JPASS will give you access to more than 2,000 journals with no limit to the number of articles you can read online and will allow you to download 120 articles to download. JPASS can be paid for on a monthly or annual basis.
If there are just one or two documents you want to access, you can pay for them individually.
Via an Institution
Access is also available via institutions such as schools, colleges, libraries, museums and societies, so it’s well worth checking if your family history society, local library or archive provides institutional access.
Institutional membership of JSTOR is a membership perk if you’re a member of the North of Ireland Family History Society, (NIFHS). You’ll get access to the JSTOR Ireland Collection that includes a wide range of publications that includes Analecta Hibernica, Archivium Hibernicum, Dublin Historical Records, History Ireland, Irish Historical Studies, Dublin Penny Journal, The Linen Hall Review, The Maynooth Review, Journal of Irish Archaeology along with back issues of North Irish Roots, the periodical of NIFHS.
A Reference Guide to Pedigrees at PRONI is a very useful source that was published in North Irish Roots in four consecutive issues. These guides provided the family name, the location, the dates and the PRONI reference. A short excerpt from Part 2: E – J is shown below.[vi]
Another very useful source is the Index of Will Abstracts in the Genealogical Office, Dublin that was published in Analecta Hibernica in 1949. The Genealogical Office is now part of the National Library of Ireland. As so many wills were destroyed in Dublin in 1922, it is especially useful to know what survives and a short excerpt from this source is shown below. [vii]
More information about the North of Ireland Family History Society, its branches, membership options and benefits may be found here:
Eddie’s Extracts is a labour of love by Eddie Connolly – his site has transcriptions of Births, Deaths and Marriages from various newspapers, along with news stories, book extracts, church records, records of deceased seamen and the names of over 25,000 Presbyterians who served during the Great War.
The earliest extracts are from February 1805 which is particularly useful considering that civil registration of births and deaths didn’t start until 1864 in Ireland.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Natalie Bodle, a native of Northern Ireland is the author of the Roots Blog and founder of Roots Revealed. She is a professionally qualified genealogist and is a member of APG. She is also a qualified tour guide and a member of TGNI.
Roots Revealed provides genealogy research services to clients who are searching for their Irish, Northern Irish and Scots-Irish ancestors, in addition to bespoke genealogy tours and family history courses. For more information about the full range of services provided by Roots Revealed, please visit www.rootsrevealed.co.uk or get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal. 1885.’ Inquest’. 30 May. p.5. col. 4. Collection: Irish Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk [ii] Ballymena Observer. 1885. ‘Retiring from Business.’ 14 February. p.3. col. 3. Collection: Irish Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk [iii] The Newry Telegraph. 1841.‘Newry Quarter Sessions, Friday 09 April 1841.’ 13 April. p.3. col.3-4. Collection: Irish Newspapers. https://search.findmypast.co.uk. [iv] Wikipedia (18 May 2020) The Dublin Gazette. https://en.wikipedia.org: accessed 26 May 2020. [v] Dublin Intelligence. 1708. Advertisements. 10 August. p.2. col. 2. Collection: Irish Newspapers. www.findmypast.co.uk [vi] Nesbitt, Stanley. 2006. A Reference Guide to Pedigrees at PRONI Part 2; E – J. North Irish Roots. Vol.17. No.2. pp.34-41. www.jstor.org: accessed 26 May 2020. [vii] Eustace, Beryl, P. 1949. Index of Will Abstracts in the Genealogical Office, Dublin. Analecta Hibernica. No.17. pp.145, 147-348. www.jstor.org: accessed 26 May 2020.