British Newspaper Archive and other archives.
Newspapers can be a excellent source of information for finding out about the lives of your ancestors. The type of articles in 19th century newspapers are probably more varied and detailed compared with ours today.
You will discover all types of articles. Apart from the obvious birth marriage and death announcements, your ancestors could feature in court reports, social or sporting events in the parish or town; church and chapel services and news; school events; the administration of the Poor Laws; advertisements relating to property; and so on.
Many of the local newspapers often have very detailed reports and descriptions of people or local events.
Whether your ancestors were upper, middle, or lower class, it does not matter. Whether they be vicars, tradesmen or agricultural labourers, there is every chance that their names would have appeared in a newspaper.
One archive is the British Newspaper Archive. This is a pay-to-view site; various packages are available, but sometimes they do offer introductory free articles or periods of time. The British Newspaper Archive was launched in 2011 and is a partnership between the British Library and DC Thomson Family History Limited who also own Findmypast. Their aim is to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library's vast collection by 2021. Already millions of pages have been scanned.
Essex newspaper titles so far in the archive (as at 18/12/2017)
· Essex Standard: 1831 to 1900 4,245 issues
· Essex Newsman: 1870 to 1950 4,554 issues
· Essex Herald: 1828 to 1899 3,828 issues
· Chelmsford Chronicle: 1783 to 1950 6,378 issues
· Colchester Gazette: 1870 to 1889 180 issues
· Waltham Abbey and Cheshunt Weekly Telegraph: 1883 to 1896 156 issues
· Grays and Tilbury Gazette, and Southend Telegraph: 1889 to 1908 573 issues
· Saffron Walden Weekly News 1850 - 1899 157 issues
· Southend Standard and Essex Weekly Advertiser 1850 to 1949 1872 issues
The first time you use the basic search page you may be overwhelmed with results. So we recommend this search first of all:
This link takes you to their advance search page.
Type the Essex town/parish name in the 'All of these words' box.
Your ancestors name in 'the phrase' box.
Select 'Chelmsford' from the 'Publication Place'.
If there are too many hits try, narrowing it down by date. If no hits, you can then try other permutations of name and place name. When searching be flexible over the spelling of names, then, as today, newspapers often get the names wrong!
Remember to try variations of searches as well. Perhaps "surname firstname", or if they were middle and upper class try "Mr surname". A guide to searching is provided on their 'Getting Started' page.
For a full discussion of the pros and cons of newspapers and the available archives see our article: Newspaper Archives.
Ancestors from elsewhere in the UK?
You can use the same advance page but select the publication place as is appropriate for the area you are seeking. Note: the BNA lists current administrative counties.