Monday, 20 July 2015

Indexing the Barnsley Chronicle for the First World War 1914-1919

Our first mini project to transcribe the 1918 Absent Voters' List for Barnsley and the surrounding area was very successful, with ten volunteers engaged and several more who offered their services just a little too late to get involved.  Our data can be found via the Absent Voters tab above and now also in a printed format in a folder on the shelves of Barnsley Archives and Discovery Centre in Barnsley Town Hall.
 
WW1 Resources shelves in Barnsley Archives

Our next project is to complete the index of the Barnsley Chronicle started many years ago by other volunteers.  In the photo above you can see eight blue box files on the upper shelf, these contain cuttings from the war years' Barnsley Chronicle and a partial index from August 1914 to March 1917.  During our research over the past few years we have used these files dozens, if not hundreds of times, to check on the identity of soldiers named on the various Barnsley War Memorials.  Unfortunately the cuttings do not include every mention of a soldier - we have found that the 'In Memoriam' and 'Death' columns, usually on page eight of the Chronicle, also give valuable family information that allow us to identify soldiers sometimes only listed by surname and initial on their local memorial.

A brief survey has suggested that each issue of the Barnsley Chronicle will give us, on average, the names of three or four men who do not appear on any memorial in Barnsley for addition to our Roll of Honour for Barnsley's WW1 Fallen.  That could be as many as 800 more names to add to the 4000+ we have already collated from the war memorials.
 
Just part of the In Memoriam section of the Barnsley Chronicle on 7 July 1917 (thanks to Barnsley Archives)

Since the digital Barnsley Chronicle was launched in September 2013 it has become much easier to search the newspaper for mentions of soldiers.  You can choose a month, open the file and do a 'search' to find a surname or any other word.  The search works best when the text of the newspaper is clear and crisp and the paper itself was flat and uncreased when the images were taken.  This does mean that sometimes items have been missed by the technology that scanned the images. The only way to identify all mentions of soldiers without any doubt is to manually read and index the newspapers ourselves.

For example in the image above of the Chronicle from 1917, the second 'In Memoriam' notice is to Sergt. Reginald Leslie Duncan who was killed on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  Because the newsprint is blurred in that section his name does not come up on an automatic search of the digital edition.

We have just completed an index to April, May and June of 1917 and have handed in a printed copy to the Archives to add to their First World War resources.  A generous arrangement with the Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley Archives allows us to distribute individual digital copies of the newspaper to our volunteers in return for their agreement to a simple copyright declaration.  Basically we agree not to distribute the digital material we have been provided with for the purposes of this project to anyone else.  Copyright remains with Barnsley Chronicle and researchers are encouraged to visit Barnsley Archives if they wish to access the Barnsley Chronicle for their own research.  Other newspapers covering the period of the First World War are also available in the Archives on microfilm, such as the Barnsley Independent and the South Yorkshire Times.  The Archives also has a subscription to the British Newspaper Archive which allows you to search millions of pages of newsprint from the 18th century to the 1950s online.

Please, please consider offering to assist us with this project.  You can work at your own pace in your own home.  Once you have completed and returned the copyright declaration we provide a link to a download for your individual newspaper file and send you a prepared Excel spreadsheet in which to enter the index entries.  Full instructions and helpful hints are also sent to you.  Completed files are returned by email and if you wish you can then be assigned a second issue of the newspaper to work on.  

Provided we get sufficient volunteers after the completion of the index from April 1917 to December 1919, we hope to look back at the earlier newspapers.  As the current index is only to the cuttings in the file boxes on the shelves in the Archives a full index from the digital editions newspapers should add lots more information and soldiers' names.

Contact us on BWMP2015@gmail.com or find us in the Archives most Thursday mornings if you would like to discuss this project with us. 

*Note - added May 2016*
The digitised Barnsley Chronicle runs from 1858 to 2003, from 2003 to 2013 the Chronicle is available on microfilm. 


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