From late eighteenth century onwards newspapers were the premier medium through which ‘the vast majority of the… population gained most of their information about the prevalence of crime and the ways the criminal justice system was dealing with it’.¹   Historians have always recognised the value of newspapers, but dealing with the large bound volumes and delicate pages meant that overall they were underused.  Generally historians searched the better known titles, using dates of famous events to guide their searches.  Much remains to be discovered within them.

With digitisation newspapers have begun retaking their place in our knowledge of historic crimes.  Of particular interest to both historians and genealogists are the coverage of courts, the petty sessions, quarter sessions and assizes.  Court reports are lively and full of detail, often including names, addresses, occupations, ages and physical descriptions of defendants and witnesses.  While petty session records survive in their millions and have been digitised², newspaper reports are particularly valuable for cases heard at the higher courts whose records do not survive in Ireland.  Digitisation permits users to cross-reference stories across several publications, mapping reactions and the ebb and flow of a story in the press.  Digitisation also allows us to dip into newspapers and investigate a family name mentioned in a story.  It might be them after all… Read more…