Newspapers can provide historians with so much valuable information. Not only about an individual person or event, but also about what was going on at a specific time and how something was received by the general public. The National Library’s digital newspaper database Trove has over 100 million newspaper articles to search from, covering 150 years of Australian history.
SPEAKER 1: There are several ways that you can begin to search using Trove. But unless you plan on wading through thousands of articles, many of which will not be relevant to your topic, it’s best to refine your search using the Advanced Search function. Here you can refine your topic by managing how you want Trove to search for it. When searching for an individual person, I find the ‘phrase’ tab is usually the most effective. Some names and topics are more popular than others. So if you are still getting thousands of results, like I have here researching Frank Wilkinson, you can refine your search by applying certain filters.
These include a function to limit the date range of your search, select specific newspapers, or newspapers from certain Australian states, choose what kind of articles you are searching for, the length, and if they contain any illustrations or not.
I know that the Frank Wilkinson I’m searching for was a Victorian man, and I roughly know his birth and death dates, so I can use those to limit my search.
If you are still having trouble uncovering what you are looking for, I find that refining my search term further often helps. I know that the Frank Wilkinson I’m trying to find won a military medal at Passchendaele. By using what I know about Frank and including this in my search, I am able to uncover exactly what I’m looking for. Sometimes when researching a person it’s also worth seeing if they go by any other names. Frank Wilkinson’s full name is Francis Edelbert Wilkinson. By changing my search term, I can uncover even more about this man.
The same can be done by adding search terms in the “All of These Words” box that directly relates to your subject. The Frank Wilkinson I’m researching was a gunner in the AIF. He was born at Bayena in Victoria, and after the war became a soldier settler at Stanhope. He married a Scottish woman named Elizabeth and they had a small child, Isabella. By using one or more of these terms– Stanhope, Soldier Settler, Elizabeth– Trove is able to narrow down my search on Frank Wilkinson to the articles that also contain these words.
You can go back and forth with your search here and try a few different combinations.
The search I conducted here has uncovered four articles on the death of the Wilkinson family in 1927. After returning from the war Frank took up a soldier settlement block, but like so many others, failed to make it succeed. He soon fell into financial distress and his mental health deteriorated. On the very morning the Wilkinson family planned to walk off block, Frank snapped and brutally took the lives of his wife and child before ending his own. As you can see, each result provides me with the title of the article, the newspaper it was published in, the date of publication, its location within the paper, and a short excerpt of the item.
By selecting the article, Trove brings up a digitised copy of it for me to read. Here you can read the article in full, or an electronically translated text addition of the article if it’s easier to see. It’s also possible to zoom in and out on the text and to look at the rest of the newspaper to see the article in context.
Trove also allows you to print the article, save it as a PDF or an image on your computer, provide you with a copy of the electronically translated text, cite the article for academic purposes, share the article on social media, or buy a high quality image of the article itself, and a way of extending your search for a soldier in the postwar period.