Welsh Newspapers Online – read all about it

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.

National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales.

National Library of Wales (via Wikipedia)

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.

Some leaflets from the National Library of Wales

National Library of Wales leaflets

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


It’s up and running – a day early! Here’s the link.



 © Frances Owen and A Rebel Hand, 2010-2014

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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18 Responses to Welsh Newspapers Online – read all about it

  1. Pingback: Accentuate the Positive 2014 | A Rebel Hand

  2. I missed the WDYTYA show this year which was sad, I had been looking forward to it. Perhaps next year we should try and meet up there? So am looking forward to reading your write up of it.


  3. cassmob says:

    Thanks Frances…good tip. I have some sitting on the border between Monmouth and Gloucs so just maybe they’ll appear in the newspapers -fingers crossed 🙂


  4. Well goodness me, Frances… imagine if some of our Welsh mariners married, or were even just friends! Whooo Hooo… what fun that would be, eh? 🙂 …
    My 2x Great grandfather’s Uncle John Thomas Crout, whilst born in Essex, joined the Royal Navy, lived in Pembroke, Pembrokeshire and his first 5 children were born there before he moved back to Portsmouth etc. One of his younger sons, Frederick Orlando Crout, who was born in Portsmouth moved to Swansea, married, had a heap of children and died there. Pretty well most of his descendants stayed on in Wales. There may be a few other branches in Wales but is a very difficult family to research because of the same old story i.e. so many (across generations) sons, cousins etc had the same names. Thank heavens their mothers mostly had different names 😀
    Good luck with your research, Frances. Looking forward to hearing about your discoveries and thanks again for the info. Cheerio for now.
    PS. I have a story about John Thomas Crout on my blog titled “Pp is for HMS Pantaloon”, or something similar. Also some info about the rest of them in “Mm is for Mysterious Musicians and Mariners”. Toodles.


    • Interesting reference Catherine to the name of Orlando.

      I have the name as a surname – Italian in its roots and the study of my One Name Study. There was quite a population of Italians in Wales, so was this middle name of Orlando simply the usage of a nice name or is there the honouring of Italian ancestors somewhere?


      • rebelhand says:

        What an interesting question. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be honouring ancestors. Has anyone got any ideas or stories?


      • Catherine says:

        mmmhhh… now that IS a fascinating thought Julie! As soon as I get a minute will go on a hunt 🙂 … Orlando has re-appeared a number of times in the Crout family so must have been important… May have been one of his mother’s Ancestors? … seafaring families so anything is possible. Thanks so much for the suggestion.


  5. That is SO exciting Frances!!! A whole branch of my seafaring Crout’s settled in Wales. I’ll sure be checking out the “Cambrian” which is on-line already 🙂 and was published at the appropriate time. You just never know your luck, eh?
    How outrageous, I reckon, to have a newspaper tax but loved reading how the working classes thirst for knowledge overcame that by a bunch of them hiring a paper for an hour and reading it out aloud. Phew!!! Just brilliant… thanks for the info.


    • rebelhand says:

      My pleasure, Catherine! I’m just beginning to dig up my Welsh roots (the Aussie ones are still there lurking, too). I’ve got a mariner or two in my tree, as well. Do you know whereabouts your Crouts settled?

      I’m really hoping to find some treasures here.


  6. Thanks for sharing, Frances! I was really pleased to hear about the collection being available. I can’t wait!



  7. Aillin says:

    This is great news!! Happy St David’s Day 🙂


  8. thanks for sharing this Frances


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