Pathé News and Reuters Historical Collection - Untapped Records for the Genealogist

July 17, 2020

A little known and seldom used record repository for genealogists is the Pathé News video library which also includes the Reuters historical video collection.

 

 

Pathé News aka British Pathé

 

Originally known as Pathé News, the organisation is now called British Pathé (although most people still know it by its original name).  Pathé News produced newsreels and documentaries worldwide from 1896 to 1978. Its collection of news film and movies has been digitised and is free to search and view online.

 

How can Pathé News and Reuters historical videos help with family history research?

 

Old video footage can help in at least three ways when researching your family history:

 

  1. Finding video footage of a family member not already in your possession;
     

  2. Taking a still photo or photos from that video to add to your collection;
     

  3. Providing the basis for accurate historical context in your family history research.
     

 

What might I find there?

 

My best all time genealogy find was a Pathé News reel showing a client's father when he was a child during World War 2.  Clutching a toy koala bear, he was disembarking a ship in England when he was just a youngster, having been evacuated from Singapore ahead of the Japanese invasion in 1942.  My client's aunt and grandmother were also in the video.  

 

If your ancestors were present at an historic or newsworthy event, then chances are that Pathé News and/or Reuters were there too.  Perhaps your ancestor was an Olympian or rode a Melbourne Cup winner; was a member of an English Ashes team against Australia; or represented the USA in the Davis Cup?

 

Poltical and military events are well covered by the film archives - perhaps you had relatives in Shanghai when Japan declared war on China?  Were they in East Berlin when the wall went up in the early 1960s? Even better, were family members among the crowds when the Berlin wall came down in 1989?  Was a family member present at J.F. Kennedy's presidential inauguration in Washington?  If so, it is possible Pathé News captured their image or participation in a news reel video.  

 

Did you have a family member in the RAF, RAAF, RCAF or USAF during World War 2 who served in Bomber Command or perhaps piloted a Spitfire or other aircraft? The Pathé News archive has many films of Air Force crew in briefings, on operations, and being interviewed for war-time newsreels. And of course events such as the Blitz and the bombing of Pearl Harbour are well covered in the collections.

 

 

The Queen Mother was a news reel favourite.  Did one of your family meet her when she was out and about in London visiting bombed areas and hospitals during World War 2?  Or perhaps they were in the video frame during one of the royal family's many international tours which were covered by Pathé News or Reuters cameras.  

 

More exotically, were they present when movie cameras filmed the 1896 coronation of Czar Nicholas in Russia?  Or, tragically, did they spend time in a concentration camp in Poland or other country or even the infamous Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore?

 

Some of my favourite Pathé News clips come from footage of the Irish Free State Army during World War 2 - a period they called the "Emergency".  My father was in the Irish Army during the Emergency and, thanks to the news reels, I gained a clear idea of how he would have looked and the sort of military exercises he did during a difficult time for that neutral country.  In particular, I appreciated the video of two Army teams playing hurling - something my father also did before, during and after his Army service. While on the topic of Ireland, the civil war, as well as more recent topics, are also well covered.   

 

Reuters Historical Collection

 

With a pedigree dating back to 1848, Reuters has long been an international news media organisation. It promoted its reputation for being the first to report on important international stories.  The Reuters historical collection has more than 136,000 video items dating from 1910 to 1984.  They are also available on the Pathé News/British Pathé website where a single search covers both collections.  

 

 

Are Pathé News and Reuters online and free?

 

It is free to search and view any Pathé News or Reuters videos on the website or on YouTube. However, if you wish to use or publish the footage in some form, then a licence fee will apply.  The sliding scale of licence fees depends on your user category, i.e.:
 

  1. Member of the Public;

  2. Museum;

  3. Educational institution;

  4. Media Professional.

 

Conclusion

 

The topics and countries covered by Pathé News and Reuters historical news reels are endless.  Accessing these extensive international repositories can add an additional dimension to your family history research - particularly if you want to include more than dry names, dates and places in your genealogical research.  Through the medium of film, you can view historical events taking place.  In turn, this can enrich your ability to write about your family's lives in an accurate historical context. Adding old film footage can also add a multimedia dimension to the product of your family history research.   And of course, like me, you could find actual footage of the individuals you seek.

 

Let me know in the Comments section at the bottom of this screen if you find anything particularly interesting or relevant to your research in the Pathé News or Reuters historical collections

 

Happy ancestor hunting.

 

 

Therese

Your Family Genealogist

 

Pictures : Pixabay

 

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