Find out what goes on behind the scenes at The British Newspaper Archive in our series of Q&As with the team who work here.
We sat down with Content Lead Amy Sell to find out who she is and what she does.
What does your job involve?
I help people discover The British Newspaper Archive and understand how amazing the collection is by writing emails and blog posts, managing our Facebook page and Twitter feed and producing handy video tutorials.
One of the best parts of my job is speaking to historians, genealogists and authors about the amazing discoveries they’ve made.
How long have you worked at The British Newspaper Archive?
I’ve worked here for just over a year, but was also involved in the website’s launch back in 2011. My colleague Natasha and I dressed up as Victorian newspaper boys and handed out leaflets about the website at London’s Kings Cross station. It was quite an experience!
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve found in the newspapers?
I’m a family historian and have uncovered some incredible information about my ancestors in the newspapers. I’ve recently used the newspapers to prove that my ancestor won a rowing race called the Doggett’s Coat and Badge in 1878, but my favourite discovery was an account of my great-great-great-grandfather’s brush with the law.
The snippets below are from a court report that was published in the Herts Guardian in 1867. They reveal that my ancestor Richard Howard was charged with stealing a watch and chain.
The newspaper article noted that Richard’s father had been called as a witness to his character, providing me with a brand new name for my family tree.
Which is your favourite newspaper title?
I have two! The Illustrated Police News is full of the most bizarre headlines and illustrations imaginable and it’s fascinating to see how the newspaper reported the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888.
I also love browsing through old copies of the Hull Daily Mail. The newspaper was pretty forward-thinking and was one of the first to print stories (rather than adverts) on its front page.
What’s your favourite period of history?
It’s so hard to pick just one era. I studied the medieval period at university, focusing on the reign of Edward II, but since then I’ve really enjoyed reading about what life was like in the Victorian period. I’m reading a book about Newgate prison at the moment as I know that one of my ancestors was held there in the 1850s.