Addicted to history.

I have an addiction. I am not ashamed of it, but I will probably bore you with it given the chance. I am addicted to old newspapers. No, I don’t live surrounded by cobwebby editions of last years Herald-Sun I mean OLD newspapers.

I love history, especially Australian convict and colonial history and finding the National Library of Australia website was like finding a small slice of heaven. This site has digitized copies of many Australian newspapers dating back to March 1803. This might sound boring but you have to remember that back then newspapers were the internet of their day. These days newspapers are all about exposing badly behaving footballers and trying to come up with the most scandalous expose. Back then there were no phones and radio so the only way to transfer information was to put it in the papers.

Some of my Great Great Great Grandparents were transported as convicts and arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1827 and 1831. To read the papers that were published at the very time and at the very place that they were living is an amazing thing.  It is documented that my Great Great great-grandmother Margaret Shaw was a bit of a ratbag even after her arrival as a convict but so far I have not been able to find an article relating to her. I continue to read all I can though in the hopes that her name has been badly scanned and translated incorrectly.

My personal favourites are the Police Reports, especially the Hobart Town Police Reports. Partly because there is always the chance of finding Margaret Shaw being sentenced to solitary confinement with bread and water yet again and partly because of the amusement I get from reading what people got up to and the judgements passed. These days everyone looks out for someone to blame. Back then the judge sometimes pretty much told them to get over themselves and go away. I also love the language used at times.

This blog is my chance to inflict my addiction on you and to try to resurrect some old words.

18 comments on “Addicted to history.

  1. Just found your funny history site. Like you I’m addicted to finding old ‘curiousness’, and apart from looking on internet and all the readily available sources I can’t help trying to find the original books, or the reprints of really old magazines and books. Corliss and Fort are basic, leading to other finds. You know the excitement. It’s always great to find new Fortean happenings only to discover the same things happened 1 or 2 centuries ago, which puts everything in perspective and provides an argument against pseudo- sceptics who usually pick one happening to debunk them all. Wish you many wonderful finds and lots of fun!

    • Thank you! I love it when I find an article that could easily be re-published as current news with a change of location. Sometimes I suspect that is what really happens!

    • I just looked at your website and I loved your photos. I take photos of the little things as well, but not quite that little! I wander around the garden and hope the critters that live out there don’t notice me sneaking up on them. The amount of times I have had to clean spiderweb off my lens and apologize….

  2. Thank you! Yes, nature is amazing on every scale. You should see a (small) spider under the microscope!
    Glad I discovered you, pity you live so far away. I’ll look out for historical stuff that might be of interest to you.
    I once lived next to a nasty neighbour. Your paper cutting makes me happy that I still have my head where it belongs.

  3. I was thinking, did you contemplate searching in OLD magazine’s?
    I don’t know about Australia, but there are jewels in the US and U.K. and many are available on internet. I have lots of them here, mostly in print on demand books, like Gentleman’s Magazine, The Terrific Register, Notes & Queries, Book of Days, The Strand Magazine, Illustrated Police News and many others. Good for a lifetime of amusement.
    It’s wonderful that so much is digitalized, I share with you the fun of searching and finding a gem!

    • I only started looking through the old newspapers in the hopes of finding articles about my family. Some of my Great Great Great Grandparents were transported convicts and clearly this punishment didn’t curb their bad ways. The same website I get the news articles from has started digitizing magazines but they are still in copyright and I didn’t want the drama of asking to use someone elses stuff everyday. I will run out of interesting newspaper articles one day so I will have to start looking elsewhere eventually!

  4. I’m a student at the University of Queensland and have completed my minor in History (but wishing now I’d done the major!) and I have access to $14 million worth of databases and a fabulous library (The Fryer library which has some really rare and old books in it) but after hours of searching microfilm I’ve been unable to find a trace of my Great Grandad. As a family we have some spurious info via some letters that he emigrated to Queensland when he was 21 then rocked back up in the UK nearly 30 years later, cashed up and in a hurry to marry (first child was my Grandad). I’m convinced that he just cant have spent all that time out here and not had another family somewhere and when I eventually get some time free from my degree I’m hoping to look in the State to see if they have more ship lists. I love researching history but there really is something quite exciting about trying to solve a family mystery!!

    • That personal aspect of researching family history makes even the smallest thing mean far more to you than to any other historian. I have found quite a few old newspaper articles about my family, some just the smallest incident (like an ad for a lost horse) but each one has given me an immense amount of pleasure.
      I wish you luck finding out about your Great Grandad, you never know what you might find out about him, hopefully some amazing tales await you!

  5. I just love all these old reports! I hated history at school but now it always fires my imagination – after all history is about people and their stories. Handy for those writer’s block moments too!

    • I’m so glad you like them, history delivered in this way is completely irresistible, isn’t it! If only our school textbooks had showed us all the fun stuff and weren’t so dry.
      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  6. I have done extensive research on Margaret Shaw and her husband Robert Horton. Happy to trade information with you.

    • Great to hear from you. Your name is familiar, I’m sure that you have had contact with my mum and dad about the Horton/Shaw history in the past. I have found a number of old newspaper articles referring to Robert Horton but almost none about Margaret Shaw. I live in hope though, and I dream of finding something photographic one day!

      I wonder if you would be interested in looking at this article from 1847, the year before they came to Melbourne. It is a long one, but the bit that refers to a Robert Horton is about a third of the way down, under Saturday, July 10. Do you think it is our Robert Horton? I found it ages ago and have never been sure one way or the other.

      I am happy to supply links to other articles I have found as well.

  7. Hi,

    I have communicated with many people and it’s quite likely that I’ve corresponded with your parents, but as I don’t know your name I’m not certain.

    It may be better to liaise via email, as I have written an unpublished book on these two and their families, but of course every new bit of information is useful.

    Regarding the newspaper article, I think it most likely that this Robert Horton is our man, as he was in Launceston at the time, and was a blacksmith.

    I think you have my email address


  8. I was high school history teacher for 34 years. I never put much appreciation in historical fiction but have enjoyed Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles, books about post Roman Britain. This type of literature presents a history beyond the facts of people, places and things. It gives insights into the daily living and thinking of people of particular cultures and eras.

    • So much of the history we are taught is the politics and the lives of the elite. To me real history is the daily grind of the average people. How did they think, what made them laugh, what kind of language did the different classes use, superstitions, prejudices etc.

      That book sounds interesting, thanks, I’ll have to look out for it.

  9. Pingback: Aunt Emma | elladee_words

  10. metan
    Trove is a great source of into the following is an extract from by autobiography:-
    I had always had this vague memory of a lottery win that had so much to do with the events of 1955. Just after I turned six, a month and a bit, in fact the date was the 22nd of December 1954 that my father’s fortune changed and he won £2000, second prize in a NSW lottery. It wasn’t until 24th June 2013 that I discovered the facts that lead to this memory, a memory that would just not go away. Eventually I found the proof, searching through old newspapers online on a site called Trove. Mom was over the Moon, especially after and the last few years of hardship and poverty at Glebe and Hargrave Park since we left the Lake, when her husband announced he had just won £2000 in the lottery just three days before Christmas of 1954.
    So it wasn’t just a vague memory, it actually happened. Mind you that would be worth $180,000 in todays money. With the basic wage in 1954 set at 241/-s per week or £12/1s/-, my father had won just over three years wages.
    As if life wasn’t hard enough, it now turned dramatically for mom and us kids, her husband and father of her four children deserted her taking with him his windfall, leaving her penniless to fend for herself and us four children.

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