Searching for Cavers references in the British Newspaper Archive

I’ve often posted articles found in old newspapers. Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive these are some of the easiest sources to check quickly online, at least for Scotland and the UK. As I write the British Newspaper Archive already holds over 35 million pages from old British newspapers. Now to be fair the archive doesn’t contain all old British newspapers, though it certainly has a lot, and is adding more all the time. And there were few local newspapers, including in the Scottish Borders homeland of the Cavers surname, before the early 1800s. However the archive already has good coverage for Hawick. As well as many years of the Hawick News (started 1882) and the Hawick Express (started 1870), it includes a number of surrounding area papers, as well as many years of the Borders-wide paper the Southern Reporter (started 1855). Elsewhere the archive has good coverage of newspapers in Edinburgh and Fife, as well as in many parts of England.

Having said all that, searching for surname Cavers can be somewhat fraught. Searches are by keyword, not specifically surname, and the word “Cavers” can match both the surname and the parish of Cavers near Hawick that gave rise to the surname. Usually parish references predominate by far. Adding a forename can narrow it down, e.g. searching for “James Cavers”, “Francis Cavers” etc. Another tactic is to restrict the place of publication (an option in the search results form) to just Hawick published papers. Though even then you still have to wade through lots of Cavers parish results.

The quality of the OCR automated character recognition used in the archive text searches is not perfect, and there are often mistranscriptions. This does mean you may miss sought articles when searching by text keyword. But often the search does lead to something you want, the transcript (even with faults), can be good enough to judge an article’s relevance, and you can then click through to read the original newspaper page directly. Note it is also possible to browse newspaper issues directly, without using a keyword search, if you want to access the archive that way. Keyword searches, however, make searching the mass of pages quickly practical, that would be impractical to read fully.

The newspaper references I am posting online in the opening months of 2020 were found by searching for pages added to the online archive in the last 30 days – another handy search option available. This found old Cavers newspaper articles new for me, and hopefully of interest to the blog’s readers.

I love the variety of references that turn up. Obviously reports of births, marriages and deaths. But also advertisements from businessmen, court cases and crime reports, school prize lists and so much more. The content evolves over time, to be more varied and less about elite people later. It is always worth me checking the archive for interesting new Cavers content.

If you are interested in trying the British Newspaper Archive do check out their site. It is a subscription site, but you can subscribe for as short a period as a month, as well as longer. Alternatively the newspaper archive’s database is included in many FindMyPast subscription packages, alongside the other datasets FindMyPast provides access to.