Researching the past with local newspapers. .

In the 1990s the Leichhardt Library acquired microfilms of three local newspapers from the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The Balmain Observer spanned 1884-1889 and 1902-1907; the Leichhardt & Petersham Guardian covered 1886-1893 and was superseded by the Standard covering 1893-1897. In 2006 it was discovered that the British Library held a microfilm of the Balmain Observer between 1896 and 1903 so we ordered these from London partly filling the gap of missing issues. Taken together these newspapers cover the period 1884-1907 – nearly a quarter century of news and events of people in the Annandale, Balmain and Leichhardt area.

A newspaper is only useful as a historical resource for those who know the date on which some event occurred, or who are willing to read through many issues in the hope of coming across the information they need. In 2004 a volunteer commenced a long-term project to index this valuable resource. Every issue must be read carefully, and significant items indexed. The Balmain Observer has been completed (apart from the additional years acquired recently from the British Library), as has the Leichhardt & Petersham Guardian. Work on the Standard is underway, with completion expected later this year. Several more years will be needed to index the additional years of the Balmain Observer and incorporate them into the existing index.

The work is already bearing fruit. Research for the recent book Annandale 1907-2007 Place is People by Mary Haire made use of many references to the history of Annandale which would not otherwise have been known of. Because the activities of many individuals were reported in the news columns (local officials, marriages, deaths) the indexes are also proving useful for family history researchers that visit us.

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