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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Goodbye Desperate Dan, happy birthday British Newspaper Archive

Statue of Desperate Dan in Dundee city centre.
Within the last few days the last print issue of the Dandy comic rolled off the presses, and the British Newspaper Archive marked its first birthday by adding the six millionth page to its site. The two events are not unconnected.

The Dandy and its companion the Beano hold a very special place in the affections of many Brits. These two  comics were part of our childhood (and adulthood too, come to that!). The Dandy was first published in 1937, and the Beano (which continues as a weekly print title) dates from 1938, both published by D C Thompson. This is a long-established Dundee firm that also happens to be the parent company of brightsolid who are responsible for a number of websites familiar to genealogists including...the British Newspaper Archive.

So in the space of a single week I have found myself looking back fondly at the Dandy and Beano of the past, and looking forward expectantly to the appearance of even more online newspaper resources, both courtesy of the folks in Dundee.

I know you can't believe everything you read in the papers, and you never could, but they still provide tremendously useful source material for local and family historians. You might find an item in a newspaper that leads you to follow up a story in official sources, but that you would never have thought of looking for otherwise. I have followed the progress of the British Newspaper Archive with interest, ever since I heard brightsolid's Chris van der Kuyl at Rootstech 2011, describing how the project would unfold. In November of that year the site was open for beta testing, and shortly after that it was launched for real.

As well as passing the 6 million page mark, the BNA also marked its first birthday by making its contents available to holders of British and World subscriptions to Findmypast.co.uk While this is a great addition to Findmypast, I won't be giving up my separate subscription to the newspaper site, because it allows for much more refined searching and browsing, and a few other goodies that I think are worth paying for. All the same, some kind of discount for holders of subs to both sites would be much appreciated (hint, hint).

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