England Genealogical Value of Newspapers (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Contents of Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Vital Events[edit | edit source]

The upper classes were the first to have vital events noted from the late 18th century since inserts had to be paid for. Ordinary folk would not be included until the late 19th century unless there was something unusual, for example some physical deformity, a great disparity in age of marriage partners, or unusual cause or extreme age at death. By the late 19th and 20th centuries even some of the poor managed a death announcement for a senior family member.

The vital events notices are often the first consulted and indexed and may give all the NDP (names, dates, places) or at least clues to them, and photographs may be included in more recent times. There will be announcements of births (perhaps with details of the forthcoming baptism), engagements, wedding and divorce reports, notices of death, reports of funerals (often incredibly detailed), inquests, obituaries and annual in memoria.

Many of these newspapers items will give names of relatives and their addresses, as well as occupational and social connections. Prior to WWI it was common for a bride’s fortune (dowry) to be announced with the engagement or wedding notice, and the latter could name everyone who attended.

Sometimes reports for siblings or cousins contain the nugget of information that you need such as the fact that your ancestor was widowed, or had emigrated within the last month. Some examples are given below.

Chart: Examples of Vital Events from Newspapers

The General Advertiser dated Wednesday May 29, 1745
Yesterday Morning Mr. Roberts, an eminent Tobacconist in Bishopsgate Street, was married to Miss Johnson of Hackney, a beautiful young lady, with 5000l Fortune. [i.e. £5,000].

Tunstead, Norfolk parish registers contains the marriage of parishioners Robert Goose singleman and Mary Pyle widow on 3 Nov 1828 following banns. There is nothing remarkable about the register entry, but the
Norfolk Chronicle for Saturday 22 Nov 1828 remarks:
A Chelsea Pensioner, living at Tunstead, was married to a widow on the 3d instant, early the same morning the parties, accompanied by three witnesses, repaired to a crossways in the road, a short distance from the village, where the intended bride crossed the road in puris naturalibus [in her birthday suit], and was received on the opposite side by the bride groom, who entertains an idea that by the due performance of this ceremony, he is discharged from all liability of paying the debts of the former husband.

The Times 27 Jan 1983 OBITUARY MR. V.W.C. JUPP
Mr. V.W.C. Jupp, the Sussex, Northamptonshire and England cricketer, died on Saturday at the age of 69.
Vallance William Crisp Jupp was born at Burgess Hill, in Sussex, and was educated privately and at St. John’s School, Burgess Hill. In his last year of school he had a batting average of over a hundred and the fact, having been brought to the attention of the Sussex county committee, he was asked to play for the club and ground in 1911. He played regularly for Sussex until on the outbreak of war he joined the Royal Engineers, and served in France, Salonika and Palestine. In 1921 he took over the secretaryship of Northamptonshire, and having qualified by residence, he played from then on for that county until he finally retired in 1938.
In his day he was the best all-round amateur in first-class cricket. As a batsman he mingled enterprise with caution, using each at the appropriate time, and he was particularly well worth watching against fast bowling. His own bowling was pacy in his early days, but he settled down to slow-medium with a pronounced spin. He fielded brilliantly at cover point.
In several seasons he made 1,000 runs and took 100 wickets. He played in test matches against South Africa, Australia and the West Indies.

Lifetime Events[edit | edit source]

All kinds of ancestral items occur in newspapers, for example news about professions, trades, appointments and promotions within organizations, honours from government, societies and organizations, scholarships, bankruptcy, works outings and business gatherings can all illuminate individual careers: some examples are show below.

Chart: Trade and Career Items from Newspapers

The Times 27 Jan 1983 Auction Robert Jupe table fetches £35,000
Robert Jupe is the new name to conjure with in the Victorian furniture market; one of his patent extending dining tables sold for £35,000 at Christie’s South Kensington, yesterday. The estimate on it was £10,000 to £15,000. ……..
The handsome mahogany table is supported on a single pedestal column, which stands on a shaped platform, which in turn stands on paw feet. The curiosity lies in the construction of the circular top, which revolves to incorporate eight leaves and can be used at three different sizes, for a diameter of 66in, 82in and 98 in.
Robert Jupe patented his invention in 1835 and his tables have been popular with collectors for some time. ……..

The General Advertiser dated Wednesday May 29, 1745
Whitehall, May 28. The King has been pleased to constitute and appoint his grace John Duke of Bedford to be Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum of the County of Bedford.
The King has been pleased to grant unto the Right Hon. Thomas Earl of Leicester, and Sir Everard Fawkener, Knt. In the room of Sir John Eyles, Bart. Deceased, the Office of Post-Master General.

The Times1 Nov 1797
On Friday last, the Merchant Taylor’s Company appointed Mr. WILLIAM JUPP, their Surveyor, in the room of his Uncle, RICHARD JUPP, Esq. Who has resigned.

Newspapers report family who have moved away, for example a son marrying across the country, or dying in the Crimea, or perhaps a daughter and her husband having children in Australia, or in my family even being deported!

Chart: News of an Uncle’s Deportation!

The Evening News and Star 21 Feb 1961
After being held in custody for nearly three days in an Accra jail, a 43-year-old Englishman, Mr. Ernest Leslie Thom, arrived back in Britain today on a Ghana Government deportation order. He was accused of insulting President Nkrumah by tearing up a photograph of him.
Mr. Thom, married only four months ago to a 24-year-old English girl who is following him home in a few days’ time, has spent nearly six years in Ghana as a representative for a local import firm.
He said: ”I was sitting calmly in the bar of Accra’s Ringway Hotel discussing general politics with a friend. We weren’t even talking about local conditions. Then a copy of ‘Voice of Africa’ a local propaganda magazine, was put into my hands. Someone was distributing them to everyone in the bar. I did not look at it. But to emphasize something I was saying I tore it in two and put it on a shelf under the bar.”
A few minutes later a Ghanaian approached Mr. Thom to ask him for his copy of the scarlet covered broadsheet carrying its silhouette of the President’s head. “I told him quite politely I had torn mine but he could have my friend’s. In no time at all I was surrounded by a crowd of shouting Ghanaians who accused me of tearing up Nkrumah’s photograph. One of them slapped my face and knocked a cigarette out of my mouth.”
Mr. Thom said that he was bundled into a police car the next morning and accused before the chief of police of tearing the photograph.
He was taken to the airport. There, Mr. Edusel, the Transport Minister told a police driver: ”Take him back to the police station and beat him up. We don’t want these gutter sweeper Englishmen here. This is a black man’s country.”
Mr. Thom said that when his wife burst into tears, Mr. Edusel told her:” If you don’t shut up I’ll have you beaten up too.” He spent another night at the police station & despite the threats, was well treated. From London airport he was driving to Sidcup to visit one of his two children in England, a 20-year-old daughter by his first marriage.

The Times index has produced letters to the editor from numerous Jupps on subjects as diverse as Christian teaching in schools (W. Theodore Jupp 1913) and the longevity of butterflies (Bertram E. Jupp 1885) giving me a great deal of insight into their interests and beliefs.
Social duties and participation in such events as garden fetes, Sunday school outings and concerts will be recorded and hobbies such as gardening can be found in horticultural shows and agricultural competitions. A relative’s interests in sports like cricket, tennis, football, or darts can be detailed in the local press.

Chart: A Cricketing Relative

The Times 23 May 1928 Sports
Kent gained their first victory of the season yesterday, when they beat Northamptonshire at Northampton by an innings and 69 runs. For the greater part of the day the home team were engaged in an uphill struggle, but although V.W.C. Jupp played brilliantly in an innings of 107 Northamptonshire were dismissed in their second innings for 233. [The scorecard indicates that in the first innings Jupp was the 4th batsman and was stumped by Ames off a ball by Woolley; in the second he was not out for 107.]

There will be much detail if you have the good fortune to have an ancestor engaged in criminal activities, or in witnessing or prosecuting them.

Chart: Newspaper Crime Reports

Kentish Post Notice Offering Reward for Killer
Custom House, London 29 December 1740
Whereas on the 26th Instant, Thomas Carswell and William Gery, Riding Officers of the Customs belonging to the Port of Rye in Sussex, upon their Duty, with the Assistance of another Man & 4 Dragoons, seized in a Barn in the Parish of Salehurst, upwards of 80 Bags, containing about Two Thousand Weight of Tea; and as they were carrying the same in a Waggon to the Custom House at Hastings, were attack’d at a place call’d Hurst Green, in the said parish of Salehurst, by a resolute Gang of about 40 Men, armed with Blunderbusses & other offensive Weapons, who fired at the said Officers & their Assistants, killed the said Carswell, wounded 2 of the Dragoons, and rescued and carried away the said Tea. The Commissioners of His Majesty’s Customs, in order to bring the Offenders to Justice, do hereby give Notice, that whoever shall apprehend or take any of the Offenders concerned in opposing the Officers and rescuing the Goods, will be entituled to a Reward of £50 for each Offender, which will be paid upon Conviction pursuant to an Act passed in the 9th Year of his present Majesty’s Reign.
The said Commissioners do further give Notice, that pursuant to a Provision made in the same Act, If any of the said Offender or Offenders, shall, within three Months, after such his, her or their Offence committed, and before his, her or their Conviction, discover two or more of his, her or their Accomplices therein, to the Commissioners of the Customs or Excise respectively, so as they or two of them at least be convicted of such Offence, the Offender or offenders so discovering, will be entituled to the Sum of £50 for every such Offender so discovered or convicted, as a Reward for such his, her or their Discovery: And every such Person so discovering, will be clearly acquitted & discharged of such his, her or their Offence. And as a further Encouragement for discovering and apprehending the said Offenders, the said Commissioners do hereby promise the further Reward of £50 to such Person or Persons who shall discover and apprehend any of the said Offenders, to be paid upon their Conviction, except the Person who actually killed the said Carswell.
Signed by Order of the Commissioners Of His Majesty’s Customs
CHA. CARKESSE, Secretary

The General Advertiser dated Wednesday May 29, 1745
On Monday Night last as one Mr. Magrath was going through Channel Row, he was surrounded by several Ruffians, who robb’d him of what Money he had in his Pockets, and us’d him in a very barbarous manner.
Yesterday one Sarah Davies, an old Offender, was committed to Newgate, by Sir Thomas De Veil, for Shoplifting.
Tomorrow the Sessions will begin at the Old Bailey.

The Times 23 Jan 1935

Vallance William Crisp Jupp of Three Ways, Brixworth, the England and Northamptonshire cricketer, appeared at Northampton Divisional Police Court yesterday to answer a charge of manslaughter of Wilfred Denis Moisey, at Pitsford, on January 12.
Mr. H.W. Williams, prosecuting, said that the charge arose out of a collision between a motorcar and a motorcycle shortly before midnight. ……….


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.