Go west young man…and young woman. And they did. Sometimes they took their young families with them or encouraged a sibling to tag along or they went alone. In many instances, family histories told of their departure but a number of individuals simply disappeared without a paper trail. Those who didn’t return began a fresh paper trail in their new hometown.
If you have ancestors who settled in a small British Columbia town, they may have appeared in local newspapers. Now, thanks to the University of British Columbia, you can read all about them online.
British Columbia Historical Newspapers contains digital images of two dozen community publications printed from 1865 to 1924. They include Abbotsford Post, Bella Coola Courier, Daily Building Record (Vancouver), Kootenay Mail (Revelstoke), Miner (Nelson) and others.
Researchers can view individual newspapers, browse by date or enter a search term.
I entered a surname to find how the engine worked and the presentation of the results impressed me. Each page displays fifteen results in table form. At a glance, I learn the name of the newspaper and publication date in which the surname (or keyword) appears. I also see a thumbnail image of the newspaper in question along with a zoomed-in image of the text. This makes searching efficient because I can read a section of the text to determine its usefulness without having to access the full digital image.
The drawback of old newspapers is they didn’t often include first names, just initials. For example, an announcement in The British Columbia Record, July 24, 1918, announced J. B. Appleby of 1024 Dunsmuir St. was contracted to build a one-storey house at 611 Renfrew St. for W. H. Lewis of 2769 McGill St.
As if sorting out John and Joseph from James wasn’t hard enough, occasionally, the initial was wrong (typo). Searches made with first and last names may not locate a person because of this. It may prove move fruitful to search this website with surname only.
Other key words can be added. Perform this type of search on the Advanced Search page and select ‘all’ or ‘exact phrase’. If you don’t, the engine will find every newspaper page containing the words regardless if they appear together or not on a page.
It appears obituaries weren’t popular in these old newspapers, but did make the news now and again. In the Bella Coola Courier, June 26, 1917, it states, “A Missouri editor refuses to publish obituary notices of people who do not subscribe to his paper.”
A notice in Cumberland News, January 5, 1897 reads, “Pay your subscription a year in advance, and thus make yourself solid for a good obituary notice.” In the October 29, 1898 edition, they added to subscription benefits: “When you die, the paper will publish your obituary and will cover up your faults and will recite the story of your good deeds.”
These newspapers carry a wealth of Canadian history, including news of confederation and what the One Dominion meant for the people of the country. The university plans to add to the collection in the future.