Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus! Happy St David’s Day!
March 1st is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and what better day to write about an important new development in Welsh genealogical and historical research?
I’m just catching up with all my notes and papers from this year’s Who Do You Think You Are? Live event, which took place in Olympia on the 22nd – 24th of February. It was the first time I’d gone, and although it was a fascinating and exhausting time I’m not going to go into all my thoughts here or this post would be boringly long. Lots of people have blogged and tweeted about it, though.
One of the highlights for me was the news that the National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru) is launching the first one million pages of its online historic newspaper and journal collection, Welsh Newspapers Online, on Wednesday, March 13.
This is exciting news for people like me who have Welsh ancestors. Until now, we’d have had to go to the National Library in Aberystwyth to look at them (and, of course, that’s still worth doing).
But now the first part of its online collection, local and national, in Welsh and in English, will be available to anyone, and it’s free to use!
Beryl Evans of the NLW, who spoke about the launch on Saturday, gave us some background information about the project, which began in 2009. The site is in beta at the moment, so there may be changes, but you will be able to search or browse using various categories. You’ll also have a search history for future reference or research.
Images of the original pages will be high-resolution, greyscale 400 PPI (pixels per inch), de-skewed uncompressed tiffs. This will not just make them attractive to look at; it means that the optical character recognition (OCR) process, which ‘transcribes’ the original type, is likely to be fairly accurate.
OCR technology allows users to search, cut and paste, analyse data and highlight different parts of the page to show advertisements, lists or images, for example. And of course it gives you electronically translated text, which can be easier to read than the original.
Now this may sound familiar to you if you use Trove, the National Library of Australia’s wonderful (free!) treasury of digitised newspapers, journals, books and much more. So I asked Beryl if she knew Trove, and she said that it had been one of the models the NLW had looked at. That’s a good start for the new site! And when I asked her if readers would be able to correct text, just like Trove users can, she said that they were considering it.
I’m very much looking forward to climbing around the Welsh part of my family tree using Welsh Newspapers Online.
Some useful facts:
- The first printing press in Wales was set up in 1718 (surprisingly late for a country which loves learning)
- The Cambrian (1804 – 1930) was the first English language newspaper, printed in Swansea and covering South Wales. Its index is already searchable online
- In 1808 the North Wales Gazette (later the North Wales Chronicle) was published in Bangor
- Seren Gomer was the first Welsh language paper. Covering the whole nation, it lasted for 85 issues
- The first daily national was the Cambria Daily Leader in 1861
- In 1855 the hated ‘Tax on Knowledge’ or newspaper tax, was abolished. The number of papers increased
- Eventually there will be 2 million pages online (by the end of 2013, it’s hoped). There’s a list of all newspapers to be included here