Thursday, December 10, 2009

Irish Times Newspaper Archive - Free Access till 14th December 2009

I've just discovered the Irish Times archive which has archived all its material for the last 150 years.

Like the majority of Scots, I, too, have Irish ancestors somewhere in my family tree, so being able to access newspaper archives online could be a real boon.

According to the Scottish Genealogy News and Events blog, to celebrate its 150th birthday, the Irish Times is offering free access until December 14th. The archive website is at www.irishtimes.com/150/

That's a really good offer however their user interface is a little unfriendly, and there's no useful help available.

Initially it seemed that one can search only for single words which isn't much use if you're looking for a person.

I thought a search for a 19th century relative 'Hamlet Lowe' might produce some results, as he was possibly involved in a hotel crime, and spent time in jail.
This search produced 1,073 results but the first few results found 'Hamlet', the play; a 'low' comedian; Tower 'Hamlets'; rather than Hamlet Lowe.

On the other hand, a search for 'Poor Law' found several instances of 'Poor Law' but also some instances of 'poor' and some of 'law'.

The first result of a search for my great grandfather, Harry Lowe, produced the completely unrelated name, Barry; other results included 'low', Mr 'Lowe', another instance of 'Barry'.

With this kind of output, the search mechanism is pretty useless.

Additionally, I didn't spot the date range selection boxes until my searches had mysteriously come up with no results.

Also, there are some strange indexing errors.

I was searching for the rare surname 'marchanton', but some of the results were for the much commoner and completely unrelated surname 'marchant'.

It's clearly not done on the first 8 letters because a search for 'armstronzq' for which I expect no results (I just made up the name) finds no results, where as a search for 'armstrong' (9 letters) finds 84,798 results.

Unfortunately, these problems mean that it's of rather limited purposes at the moment.

Another problem is that the although the searched word is highlighted in the text, it's often not visible until you've scrolled the displayed excerpt. I'm assuming that they always show the beginning of the article in which the search result appears, but some help text to clarify this would be useful.

I hope they'll make the archive available for free for another trial period when the bugs have been ironed out.

There's also a browse feature so that you can look at old issues of the paper.

However, while it's free, make use of it and see what you can discover.

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