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July 7, 2012

British Newspaper Archives - What I Like and Don't Like About this Site

Today's Featured Database is British Newspaper Archive

I subscribed to the site several months ago and am delighted with the items I'm finding on ancestors. They are busy adding new pages daily and state that they have 5,329,460 scanned pages as of today.

In my first month of use, I encountered a problem. When I clicked on a "hit" for an ancestor, I could not find his name in the newspaper page that loaded. I read the entire page several times and even clicked back and forth a few pages but to no avail.

So I wrote to explain that I'd been hunting for over an hour and could not find the entry. To my surprise, their customer service responded very quickly and were extremely helpful.  Even after I was given the correct page and URL to view it, I couldn't spot the name. I finally decided I was too frustrated to continue hunting and wrote back to request more guidance. The very patient customer service rep provided me with an exact column number and start of the paragraph containing my ancestor's name. With that help I was able to spot the bit I needed.

Since then I've had no problems with an incorrect link and I've looked at many. With both my maternal grandparents being born in England I've got a lot of English ancestors to look for!

I like their search engine. You can narrow your search with filters for date, region, county, specific place, type of article, public tags, or specific newspapers.  Once you find an entry you want to view, you simply load the page. Sometimes your search term is highlighted but not always. Usually the block of text where your search word is located is a darker grey, but again this does not always happen. The majority of the time it does and that makes finding the entry much easier.

You can order a copy of the newspaper page for a fee or you can download it to your computer. Downloading it does not give you a very clear image so what I do is enlarge the bit I want then do a screen dump. It gives a better image than downloading. If there was something really special I wanted to save I'd pay for a better copy.

The one caveat you should be aware of is that when you purchase an unlimited membership, it's not really unlimited. As the website points out in their Terms, unlimited membership is subject to their  Fair Usage Policy.  This policy spells out that you are permitted to view an average of 1000 pages per month (calculated over a 3 month period). If you get close to the limit, the company will send you an email to warn you.

Personally I don't like paying for something that is called Unlimited when it isn't unlimited. No matter how nicely the site explains it, I felt tricked that they didn't just call it the "1000 pages per month membership" or "Sort of kind of unlimited membership" or something totally upfront and transparent.  

Yes I did purchase an Unlimited Membership but the smaller credit options wouldn't have been enough for me given the sheer number of English ancestors I want to hunt for. And I don't like subscription websites where I have to buy x number of credits and woe is me if they expire before I use them all. Because I'm very apt to forget or get busy and lose credits. 

So the bottom line is that I'm very happy with the site and with my "unlimited" membership (even though it isn't unlimited) and I've never been warned that I'm at my 1000 monthly views limit.  But I still wish they'd come up with a more honest name for it. Or remove the limit.


Cannuk said...

I quite agree. I too, don't like paying for something that is not actually unlimited, although I have not come near the so-called limit.

I also have had trouble finding hits.

The thing that bothers me more though is that there is no way to easily clip just an article, rather than a whole page, and save it complete with the citation. I'm sure this can be done.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Hi Cannuk - Using my Mac laptop I can use the GRAB program to clip just the article I"m interested in.

Before I do that I copy the entire citation for the newspaper, then that becomes the file name.

Not sure if there's a way to do it on a PC as I haven't used my PC yet to access the site.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Just a thought -- if you enlarge the page to just see your article of interest you should be able to grab it using Evernote.

I'm thinking Print Screen would do the same thing and then you could clip away the bit you don't want when you open it in a graphic program

familysleuth said...

One tip is to use the phrase box in the advance search - this tends to get better results - i.e. search for the full name of the person you are researching - with a date range. Find this works well for me.

Additionally do not restrict the search within an area of the UK. Important events can be reported in newspapers some 200 miles away. I have found an incidence of this when a serious crime committed in Gloucestershire was reported in a Suffolk newspaper

Rosemary said...

How does this compare to the Australian site ?

Cannuk said...

You folks are all to be commended for being so helpful, but I think you are missing my point. I am saying that for something for which we pay so handsomely, things should be a whole lot more simple.

Mariann Regan said...

Dear Lorine, Thank you for commenting on this website. Searching for British ancestors is a ways down my list, but I'm glad to know how this works. I've also found "screen shot" on my Mac useful for capturing. Helpful customer service persons really do make the difference! I'm wondering whether they even enforce the "sort of" 1000 page limit?

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

Rosemary, Trove is easier to use and furthermore FREE, not to mention an absolute blessing to all of us Aussies. BUT I've found some great info on my ancestors in the regional British newspapers.

Glenn said...

It is called unlimited because to genuine users it effectively is. They have to protect themselves from people wishing to scrape thousands of pages to sell on etc.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Glenn, I refer you to a dictionary. The definition of "UNLIMITED" is

"Not limited or restricted in terms of number, quantity, or extent."

They are NOT unlimited and I object to them calling the membership by that term

British Newspaper Archives is a wonderful site. They do NOT have to hide the fact that they DO limit the number of downloads. Just be upfront about it!

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Glenn - I neglected to add that I am not arguing their limiting downloads. I have no problem with that.

But call it what it is. LIMITED.