The Times Digital Archive

The Times Digital Archive allows you to search back copies of The Times from 1785 to 1985. This page shows you how to use it and where to access it.

A facsimile of an advertisement (right) placed by the Admiralty in 1812, offering a reward for the capture of my ggg grandfather, Henry Gawler. His subsequent arrest was also recorded in The Times.

Henry Gawler's news from The Times Digital Archiv

Scroll down for: 1) Information on how to gain free access, and 2) How to search...

1) Gaining free access

Are you a member of a library? Many libraries, in the UK and abroad, have access to The Times Digital Archive. Best of all, many allow you to access the database from home for free.

First, join the library – check what documents they require before you visit. For some libraries, you must live, work or study in the area. Others allow visitors to register. Generally, you must register in person, but after that you are free to use the online services. Don't forget university libraries, either. Many allow access to non-academics.

Example: I originally became a member of the library in the London Borough of Hillingdon, an hour’s drive from where I live. I joined to borrow their useful local history books. An additional benefit is that I can access The Times Digital Archive, online and at home, using my library card. Since then, my local library has also allowed access.

Click here for some local libraries that allow users access to The Times Digital Archive at home.

2) How to search

After you have gained access to the archives, you need to plan your search strategy. Download this useful Navigation Guide to the Times Digital Archive to help you search. The search facilities use optical character recognition (OCR), so you can search to find all articles containing the word or phrase you want.

Tip: The searching possibilities are endless. Try searching for your ancestor’s address, or the village where they lived.

But bear in mind that some of the OCR is not so good, particularly in earlier issues, so it is worth using wildcards to mine the search. For example, the surname Ravenshaw may sometimes be picked up wrongly by the OCR, so it’s worth trying Raven*w and other variants.