FIBIS have many ongoing transcription projects. One of them is the extraction of announcements of births, marriages and deaths (vital records) found in Welsh Newspapers. This project has been undertaken by FIBIS member, Peter Evans, and I was interested when I noticed that he would be speaking at the recent WDYTYA Exhibition in Brmingham along with Dafydd Tudur from the National Library of Wales (NLW). Too often we benefit from the results of our volunteer transcribers but we don’t hear the stories behind the projects or get an opportunity to meet the people involved.
FIBIS involvement in the Welsh newspaper project arose when Maureen Evers, a member in Australia, saw it mentioned on a genealogy mailing list. Having found some useful family leads in the Family Notices sections when using Madras or Calcutta as a search term in these newpapers, she alerted FIBIS to the potential value of the resource as a genealogical tool. FIBIS transcription co-ordinator, Penny Tipper, then contacted Dafydd Tudur at the NLW to clarify the copyright position and explain interest in the project and eagerness to transcribe the India related notices with the intention of posting results on both the FIBIS website and their own. His response was very positive.
Peter Evans, a volunteer on our FIBIS transcription team, had recently and very successfully completed the Calcutta Gazette references to insolvencies for the FIBIS website – a project suggested by another FIBIS member, Steve van Dulken. Having lived in Wales for over forty years and with family connections in India, Peter was interested in undertaking the project. The data he has already extracted can be found in the FIBIS database. Moreover, in undertaking the project Peter has also been able to give feedback to Dafydd from a user/family historian viewpoint.
During the presentation at WDYTYA Dafydd explained that the digitised Welsh Newspapers, have been offered as a free online resource since 2013 and in July 2015 the website was relaunched with new features and content. The papers can be both searched and browsed It is a large scale digital project, undertaken at the National Library of Wales and funded by the Welsh Government. The project covers many titles with a great variety of information – for further details see here.
To give an idea of the scale of information available, Peter Evans subsequently mentioned to me that a simple search for “Calcutta” yielded over 68,000 results!
The presentation was fascinating and served as a reminder about the depth of information contained in newspaper announcements. The fact that a family may have a tie to a place thousands of miles away and that this would initiate mention in a local newspaper is something that the family historian might overlook. How many of us enthusiastically turn to the India records on Findmypast but do not go that one step further to examine the accompanying newspaper and periodicals collection hosted on that same website.
There are many free newspaper websites online, besides the Welsh Newspapers, and some of these are listed on our fibiwiki. These are in addition to the online directories and other publications such as Allens Indian Mail – vital records from which are also being transcribed for our database by volunteers.
Sylvia Murphy’s excellent article in FIBIS Journal 22 “Using Newspapers and Journals to research your family in British India” gives lots of further resources and tips and this is available online for FIBIS members.
Attending the Welsh Newspaper presentation at WDYTYA made me reflect on the work carried out by the FIBIS transcription team and appreciate its wide reach. This project was initiated by someone in Australia noticing that a new resource had gone online and alerting FIBIS to its potential. From this, strong links with the National Library of Wales have now been forged. FIBIS is grateful to those who contact us with transcription suggestions and even more grateful to the wonderful and, seemingly, tireless team of volunteers who make this information available online via the FIBIS database. Please consider whether you, too, might be able to help in some way – every little really does count.