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The British Newspaper Archive
Read about historical events at the time they were happening. Perhaps you'll discover your ancestor in their local newspaper?
I have been enjoying trying out the newly indexed newspapers on Genes Reunited. Knowing from long experience what a very long, eye-straining and hit-and-miss affair newspaper searching is, it's extraordinary to be able to find material so easily.
It's not a perfect system. There's no ability to search properly under more than one name: if you key in 'Thomas Rogers' you are given all the pages that contain the surname Rogers, and all the pages that contain the name Thomas, but the system doesn't priorities the pages where both names occur together. Even a search in one years, in one newspaper, can result in an awful lot of hits to wade through. And why, when the results page returns the first few lines of each article in plain text, isn't there the facility to download not just the image of the page, but also the text of what it says in a form that can be pasted into a word document.
But those are minor grouches. I had found a death certificate: 'Martha Harvey died on 25 November 1881 as a result of 'natural causes, viz Bronchitis' 'in the street', Charlotte Street, Nottingham, 62, a housekeeper. The informant was the deputy coroner Arthur Browne, who held an inquest at Nottingham on 28 November 1881'.
Inquests were always reported in local newspapers, so I decided to investigate. Sure enough, having waded through an astonishing 194 Harvey references in Nottinghamshire in 1881, I found this, in the Nottinghamshire Guardian for Friday 2 December 1881.
The Deputy Borough Coroner, Mr A. Browne, conducted an inquiry on Monday at the Mansfield Arms, Melbourne-street, relative to the death of Martha Harvey, 62 years of age, who died suddenly on the previous Friday. - George Bateman, a tailor, said the deceased had lived with him for twenty years. She was not a married woman. The deceased had suffered from bronchitis during the last few months, Mr White having attended her. On Friday last she kept alternately going to bed and getting up. About five o'clock she went out to a shop close by, and ten minutes afterwards she was brought home insensible. - Mr G. B. White said he attended the deceased last Tuesday for bronchitis. The next time he saw her she was dead. She had suffered from dilations of the right side of the heart, resulting from the bronchitis. The immediate cause of death was syncope. - Samuel Fryett said he was in the brewhouse of the Alderman Wood Inn, Charlotte-street. Shortly after five o'clock on the day named he heard a scuffle, and on going to the front of the premises he saw some people trying to put the deceased out of the house, she being intoxicated. She could not stand, so witness put her down on the causeway. He then left her in order to attend to his work, and shortly afterwards the deceased died. - Benjamin What deposed as to the deceased lying on the causeway. He attempted to raise her, but she was helpless. Witness, together with another person, took her to her home. He believed she was dead when he lifted her up. - The jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes".
That is an interesting report, as it shows that the cause of death on the death certificate was far from the full story. 'The immediate cause of death was syncope', it says, ie, feinting, and in addition to bronchitis, she appears also to have been drunk!