The single most important source for anyone looking for a Chartist ancestor goes online on Tuesday 13 May, when a free, publicly available and fully searchable run of the Northern Star newspaper is due to be released online.
The three-year Nineteenth Century Serials Edition project will culminate on that day with a symposium at the British Library to launch the online editions of the Northern Star and five other significant periodicals from the era.
It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the Northern Star to Chartism. In the absence of a centralised body to steer the movement, and for a campaign which began before the advent of the penny post, Feargus O’Connor’s weekly newspaper was the key organising tool.
It served as a parish-pump newspaper, reporting Chartist meetings up and down the country, rallied support for imprisoned and victimised Chartists, and was the forum in which Chartist ideas and identities evolved.
Importantly for those looking for their Chartist Ancestors, the Northern Star recorded the names of thousands of those who spoke at meetings great and small, were elected to local branch committees and as delegates to regional and national conferences, or who simply wrote in to the Editor.
There has been an edition of the Northern Star online for some months. But with use limited to those with access to an academic library, most family historians have been excluded from what it has to offer.
Tuesday 13 May is a day well worth writing in your diary. Find out more about the Northern Star online edition.