Monday, June 30, 2014

Extra! Extra! Read all about it....

I won a prize this week and I didn't even know about it until it turned up in the mail!

A parcel arrived from Gould Genealogy & History.  "That's funny," I thought "I haven't ordered anything..."  I read the enclosed Tax Invoice and it said "Congratulations on being a winner of the Inside History Magazine promo"

Inside History Magazine has a fabulous Facebook page which I liked ages ago and just about every day they give away prizes. 

I had forgotten that in May I entered a competition to win a copy of Chris Paton's British and Irish newspapers.  The challenge was to tell the best story you've found in an old newspaper.    I was the first to enter saying: My grandmother always told a story about my 2nd great grandfather shooting himself and we were always a bit skeptical until I found this article.and shared a link to this post on my blog.

So I've won a book.  And being a reasonably freshly hatched librarian I feel duty bound to catalogue it and write a bit of an abstract and a review.  

This is my attempt at a catalogue record of sorts...

Title: British and Irish Newspapers
Author: Chris Paton (MBRC catalogue record included DOB 1970)
Edition: 1st
Place of Publication: St Agnes (MBRC catalogue entry included S.A. at this point)
Name of Publisher: Unlock the Past (MBRC holds 6 titles in their collection at the moment)
Date of Publication: 2014
Physical Description: 56 pages, illustrations, 21cm (phew - seem to have got that right)
Series: Unlock the Past Guides (hmm MBRC just said Unlock the Past which is fine)
Notes: based on talk given at Unlock the Past's 4th Genealogy cruise in Jan/Feb 2014 and associated land-based talks in Australia (perhaps this is extraneous but I found it personally interesting having attended the land-based talk in Brisbane as per blog post here  - MBRC just said it includes an index - which it does)
Numbers: ISBN 978 1 921956 45 4 $23.00 (Aust)

Subjects: (I completely stole these from the MBRC catalogue entry - once again my Library of Congress Subject Heading skills need improving - I did choose Newspapers but then forgot to use Country Great Britain rather than Adjective e.g. British
Newspapers - Great Britain - Archival Resources, 
Newspapers - Ireland - Archival Resources, 
Great Britain - Genealogy - Archival Resources, 
Great Britain - Genealogy - Handbooks, manuals etc, 
Ireland - Genealogy - Archival Resources.

Just as a discussion point World Cat subject headings for this are: 
British Newspapers - History - Handbooks, manuals etc 
British Isles - Genealogy - Sources - Handbooks, manuals, etc.  

Being completely biased I think MBRC's subject headings are more accurate.  National Library of Australia seems to follow World Cat's subject headings.  Discuss.

John Dewey, "Father of American Education", 1859 -1952

To be honest, I don't do cataloguing at work so I'm very rusty here.  We have an entire Technical Services Division who do that for us.  The most we might do in my job is add items to existing catalogue records.  We classify using the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme.  I guessed that the Call Number would be 929.072.  According to MBRC Tech Services Team It is in fact 929.1072.   State Library of NSW has it at 929.10941.  State Library of South Australia has call number 929.341 with the cutter P312.  Discuss.  

The book is not on the Brisbane City Council database - tsk tsk - although they do have 4 titles in the series as per here.

I should mention that Queensland Family History Society Library has it in their catalogue under call number M9 62 1.  You can read about the QFHS Library classification system here, suffice it to know that it is modeled on the system used at the Society of Australian Genealogists. The classification tiers are Geographic area first, then subject area. So you can see that M = Great Britain - 9 is Generalities and 62 is Newspapers-General.  

Here's my attempt at an Abstract.

Abstract: Provides guide to locating newspaper content (hard copy and digital) in Britain and Ireland.  How to access material for free through  libraries in Australia, New Zealand and Britain as well as paid online subscription services in order to advance genealogical research.

And so to my review.

Let me first of all say how much I like the Unlock the Past guides.  I think they are a great idea because family historians like me tend to do research in spits and spats and using different types of resources.  To have, as it were, bite size chunks of information about a particular topic is very useful.  I have purchased three titles in this series already: Your Family History Archives by Shauna Hicks, London and Middlesex family history resources online by Alan Stewart and Solving riddles in 19th century photo albums by Graham Jaunay. Prices I paid for these booklets were anywhere from $11-$18.  The books ranged from 40-60 pages.  I'm not sure what factors influence the pricing but I was a bit surprised to see the latest one by Chris Paton as being priced at $23.  That struck me as a bit steep given that the book is only really a booklet at 56 pages and also given that I suspect the information being to a large extent about online resources may become out of date very quickly. Family historians are notoriously tight-fisted (particularly those of Scottish descent) so I'll be interested to see if it sells well or whether it is priced for libraries to purchase rather than individuals.

That's the negatives out of the way.  In terms of authority, well you can't really go past Chris Paton.  I have been fortunate enough to see him speak in person and he is enormously knowledgeable as well as affable and accessible.  He has his own blog.  He teaches at another of my favourite institutions Pharos Tutors.  He speaks regularly at conferences/cruises and he has written heaps of great guides and articles for genealogists.  What's not to like?

The book is divided into six sections.  The first is really an introduction as to why genealogists should consider using newspapers as a source for furthering their research.  For me this was a bit of a no-brainer but I suppose there might be some people out there who needed convincing or who needed reminding that if you can't find a particular record e.g. death certificate, then assertions could be corroborated by other means e.g. a death notice or In Memoriam.  The one remarkable thing about this section is Chris' use of the word "intimation".  I had never heard of this before.  I must have been living under a rock.  Apparently this is a synonym for Announcement or Notice.  Odd.  It must be a common term in the UK but not in Orstralia me thinks.  Have you ever heard of the word used in connection with Birth, Death and Marriage notices? 

Anyway the other sections are divvied up as follows:

Finding British and Irish Newspapers - which covers NEWSPLAN, The British Library, The British Newspaper Archives and E-resources/Licensed digital collections

British Gazettes

Online Collections

Additional British sources and

Additional Irish sources.

Let's be honest here.  This is essentially a reference book.  So whilst I have read it from beginning to end, one's eyes do tend to glaze over unless you are actually using the book and checking links etc.  

Having said that, Chris provides useful information about each link e.g. for the London and South Eastern Region of NEWSPLAN he advises - "search options by keyword and date range only, and not by a specific repository."  Chris also reminds us that often newspapers had several editions e.g. the morning edition or the evening edition.  Stories or articles were often sacrificed for sporting results or some such.  So if Great Uncle Fred says he remembers his prize chicken featuring in a particular edition of a paper, maybe only the evening edition has been microfilmed or digitised and you might need to find a bound copy of the morning edition.

Even more importantly, Chris reminds us of the vast scale of the digitisation process.  With regards to The British Newspaper Archive he says "even when complete the project will still have only digitised less than ten per cent of the British Library's vast newspaper holdings." (my bolding there folks)  So just because you can't find it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  You've just got to resort to the old fashioned way of doing research.  The hard grind in other words.

As a member of QFHS and through my work at MBRC,  I already knew that you can get free access to British and Irish newspaper collections by registering with your local State library and also the National Library.  If you haven't done so already - DO IT!  It's free and well worth it.

The "new to me" information was the section about British Gazettes.  I haven't used the "official newspaper of state" yet and fully intend to do so even though Chris warns us that "the new site unfortunately offers something of an information overload in terms of what is presented, and can be extremely awkward to navigate."

I have really only given credit for half of the book's contents here.  It was my intention to give you a taste of what was on offer and not deprive Chris and Gould Genealogy of sales.  Chris has invested an enormous amount of energy in discovering and testing sites for us.  He says that he learned heaps from this venture, as no doubt we will.  It is my earnest hope that the sites mentioned in this book will also take on board his feedback about the navigability and usefulness of their design to family historians.  Thanks Chris!  

And of course a very big thanks to Gould Genealogy and to Inside History magazine!

1 comment:

Kristin said...

Congrats! I've had great luck with newspapers proving family stories too.