FFHS - supporting family historians for over 40 years

Books reviewed in 2011

cover for Naval Ancestors

Tracing Your Naval Ancestors by Simon Fowler

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN: 9781848846258
Cost: £10.39

Anyone who has tried to research an ancestor in the Royal Navy will be aware of the myriad of confusing records to search.

Simon Fowler, once an archivist at The National Archives, has brought these together and given them a sense of order in this useful book.

The chapters cover Officers from 1660 to 1914 and ratings from the same period, the Navy after 1914, the Auxiliary Naval Services including the coastguard and then Naval Hospitals and Dockyards. A Chapter in devoted to records relating to ships

Each chapter as well as giving some history provides details of what records are available on line or on paper and includes internet addresses where applicable. He tells us where paper only records are kept.

Using the information provided I was able to find digitised copies of HMS Discovery’s log for a period when one of my ancestors was on board. Interesting background to Naval life in the 18th century.

The appendices provide information on Naval ranks in 1853, the Fleet Air Arm, useful addresses and a bibliography of further sources.

If you have Naval Ancestors this is a helpful addition to your bookshelf.

Reviewed by John Treby, of East of London and Devon FHS
23 December 2011

Tracing your Canal Ancestors by Sue Wilkes

Link to Pen & Sword Books

cover for Tracing your Canal Ancestors £11.99
ISBN 9781848842380

Britain’s working canal network had an effective lifespan of about 200 years, from the mid-1700s until the 1960s. At its peak – the mid 1800s – there were at least 34,000 people who lived and worked on canal boats. The book is well written in a lively style; the information is comprehensive and more than enough to give a researcher a good start in their quest for a canal ancestor.  At the outset, the author warns us that she is chiefly addressing the canal network in England and Wales, touching more briefly on the waterways of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The book is in two broadly equal parts. The first 100 pages are a description of the canal network, its history and development, and the lives of the people who lived and worked afloat. The second half is a series of appendices, designed to guide the researcher through the tracing process. The author addresses the basic nuts-and-bolts of family history – general registration, parish registers and censuses, underlining the particular difficulties census enumerators may have had with – literally – a floating population. Then there are appendices listing particular sources of waterways information such as boat registers, canal company records and canal-specific information in the National Archives and local Record Offices. There are lists of canal societies and websites and of relevant museums etc to visit. The book is well indexed and has a comprehensive bibliography. Sources are cited.

The book is well illustrated with photographs, contemporary drawings, maps and copies of relevant documents that the researcher may encounter. The illustrations are a significant strength of the book.

There are minor niggles. We decimalised our currency in 1971, yet the author refers to sums of money such as 18s or 3s 4d without showing current equivalents. Older readers will be able to convert such sums instantly but those under 40 may have more difficulty. There is a list in Appendix B2 headed Local Record Offices in England; a list of record offices, archives and libraries follows, but it is a list of those repositories that have significant collections of canal material. A reader new to Family History might conclude that – say – Cornwall or Somerset did not have county Record Offices. A few words added to the heading would make things clearer. These are, however, minor issues. The author is an enthusiast without being an anorak; I enjoyed this book and found myself wishing I had canal ancestors, so that I could delve deeper into their long-gone world.

Reviewed by Mike Whitaker of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, Wiltshire, Norfolk and Dyfed F H Societies

cover of Cuckfield Remembered

Cuckfield Remembered by Shirley Bond

Published by York Publishing
ISBN 978-0-955891106
Currently available for £10 from YPD Books

Cuckfield (pronounced Cookfield) in Sussex, like many other villages and towns throughout England, played its part in the First World War by sending off many of its young and not so young men to fight and defend our country.  And like so many other towns and villages, not all of those men came back.  Cuckfield Remembered is a book about those men, the ones who didn’t come back. 

There are many similar books to this; Lest We Forget by Susan Rowland covers the men of Hamsey, Sussex whilst Geoff Bridger’s Valiant Hearts of Ringmer has expertly written biographies of those who did not return to the village of Ringmer in Sussex.  So is Cuckfield Remembered another book along similar lines?  It is and it isn’t and in that answer is the books strength and its weakness.

This book is much more than an account of the lives of those who died.  It is a social history of the period, describing to us the events from the outbreak of war, the call up for soldiers, the response to the loss of their friends and neighbours, through to the end of the war and the victory celebrations – and we hear this through contemporary voices via the words of those living at the time in extracts from newspapers, from the church magazine, through sermons, letters home and memorial services.  Instead of being an account of the 81 men from Cuckfield who died and of interest only to their descendents it shows the effect of the war at a local level, the social impact of the period and subsequent historical legacy and that is what gives this book is strength and makes it appealing to a much wider audience.

On the downside the individual biographies have little detail especially regarding the soldiers period of service – this is largely because the book is based on newspaper and local documentation.  This proved its strength elsewhere but is now its downfall, in comparison with the above mentioned books the biographies are weak and lack detail. However it could be argued that enough detail is provided for the interested reader whilst it gives a good starting point for anyone who wants to know more about an individual solider.  Expanding the biographies would also have made it a much larger book and at nearly 400 pages it is already physically large enough.

This is a very readable account of the war as experienced by the residents of Cuckfield; it will appeal to the genealogist with family connections to the area as it includes many names, not just those who fought but of their families and those living in the village at the time.  It will also appeal to those who want to know the effects of the war at a local level and as it speaks through contemporary voices it is their interpretation of current events not our view of a historical event.

Reviewed by Allison Caffyn, Sussex FHG
28 November 2011

cover for Surnames, DNA & Family History

Surnames, DNA & Family History by George Redmonds, Turi King and David Hey

Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-958264-8
price £20.00

The question that I have so far failed to answer with any degree of satisfaction is 'Who are the intended readers of this book?'

The back-cover review by Michael Wood, historian and broadcaster, ends with the claim that it is 'Indispensable reading for anyone interested in their roots . . . ', which might seem to place it within, or maybe at the crest of, the current tidal wave of popular guides to all sorts of aspects of family history.

In my view, this book is not one of those.  It is, in at least two ways, much heavier.

Firstly, it is a hard-back, from Oxford University Press, set in a 10pt font, rather than the more user-friendly 12pt, which means that there are a lot more words to the page, of which there are 242, including the 18 pages of the Indexes, and not many pictures, so don't expect to get through it very quickly.

Secondly, the authors are a freelance historian, specialising in Names Studies and Local History;  a PhD whose research, for the past ten years has focussed on the link between surnames and genetics;  and the Emeritus Professor of Local and Family History at the University of Sheffield, and they deal with the subject in a very serious way.
In fact, in their Preface, the authors reveal their true intentions, when they say that:-
'The aim of the present book is to assess the evidence for the origins and spread of surnames in a far more rigorous way and to argue the need for an approach that combines linguistics with genealogy, local history and genetics.'
Don't expect many jokes.

So what do you get?

If you happen to be interested in one of the 900-ish surnames (out of 400,000+ that appeared in the 1881 census) for which the authors examine the linguistic and geographical origins, you're in luck - although I should point out as do the authors, that a significant number of these names are no longer in use.

If your interests are in any of the other 399,000, you will at least get a good impression of the sort of depth and detail of study that is required to get some indication of which of its invariably multiple possible linguistic and geographical origins is the one to which you should pin your flag.  For, be aware, this is not an area where previous academic opinions are held in much awe.  On the contrary, earlier explanations are always examined critically, and then frequently dismissed, as 'unsubstantiated'.

But you will get glimpse of where your investigations will take you if you want to do your own research into your earliest ancestors;  and that seems to be into the real, original, dusty archives that are never likely to appear on the Internet.
You'll have to get your hands dirty, and learn to read documents written many centuries ago.

You'll also need to be prepared to get immersed in the murky gene-pools where chromosomes, alleles, haplotypes and maximum parsimony phylogenic trees lurk, waiting for samples of your family tree's DNA; all the while remembering that, based on research into the genetic evidence, it seems probable that not all of us are actually descended from what we would like to consider to be the 'founder' of our tree.

All this having been said, I enjoyed the book, at least in the way that the curate enjoyed his egg.
It has certainly given me a better view of the world inhabited by academic family historians, filled as it is with 'bolt upright' ivory towers, from which they could, I feel, have descended to get a better understanding of the claims of Chaucer's Reeve, than is apparent from the text, which seems to class him as a man of limited imagination.
You'll have to read the book to find out what that's about.

There are some 'quirks'.  For instance, if you want to understand Chapter 1 right from the start, read the first sentence of Chapter 2 before you begin.

If you are serious, with a capital S, about getting to grips with Surnames, DNA and Family History, then this is the book for you.

Reviewed by Dr. Ian Bloor, member of The Blo(o)r(e) Society
3 November 2011

cover of A Force To Be Reckoned With

A Force to be Reckoned With

A History of the Women’s Institute By Jane Robinson

Published by Virago Press
ISBN 978-I-84408-659-7
Price £20.00
Currently available for £16 from GuardianBookshop

The Women’s Institute (W.I.) is generally known for Jam and Jerusalem, the Calendar Girls and slow hand clapping Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister.  I learnt that there is so much more.  This book starts from its inception and goes right through to the present day.

Contrary to popular belief the Women’s Institute started in Canada.  There, the first one was known as The Woman’s Department of the Farmers’ Institute of South Wentworth.  A woman, Adelaide Hoodless, came over from Canada to help set up the Women’s Institute here.  It is difficult now to imagine that when the W.I. was launched a woman had to have her husband’s permission to attend and men thought that women would be incapable of being able to run an organisation without men’s help!

Jane Robinson tells us, in this well researched book, that some of the feistiest women in the country were involved getting the W.I. started.  Many had been suffragettes, academics and social reformers.  The W.I. was aimed at country women who were lonely and isolated.  The ethos of the W.I. was to treat everyone alike: pay the same subscription and take the same responsibilities.   It was to be independent of political, religious and cultural allegiance.  The first meeting was in 1915 and the organisation went from strength to strength. During its lifetime there have been many changes affecting women; legislation, public attitude and perception of their role.  Alongside those changes we also see a growth in self confidence among women, the work and influence of the W.I., acknowledged or not, can be claimed as a factor.

Through their membership of the W.I. many women learned new skills, widened their knowledge and appreciation of both the natural world and international politics, as well as absorbing the procedures of committee work and running meetings.  The founding of Denham College gave, and still provides, a central focus for educational opportunities, in many and varied subjects, for all members.

Almost all Family Historians will have a family member or two who belong(ed) to the W.I. This book gives a fascinating account of their lives through two World Wars, when members have “done their bit” in food supply, conservation, preservation and preparation, as well as in many other walks of life.

A very readable book, it is well indexed and many of the leading characters are mentioned by name. Perhaps your ancestor is one of them?

Reviewed by Ann Gynes, Dorset FHS
24 October 2011

cover for Studio Photographer

My Ancestor was a Studio Photographer by Robert Pols

Published by Society of Genealogists Enterprises  Ltd
ISBN-10: 1907199063
ISBN-13: 978-1907199066
price £9.99


The book is one of a series published by the Society of Genealogists called “My Ancestor Was….”, written by Robert Pols author of several books on the subject of early photographs.

Photography was a wonder of the Victorian world and many photographers from a variety of backgrounds established themselves throughout the country. However distinguished or unremarkable the individual photographers were, as a body they offer us a view into the past. Pols’ book provides a guide to the process of tracing the career and work of a photographer ancestor who worked in commercial studio photography.  It is very satisfying to hold the work of ones ancestor, but frustrating to realise that the work has survived undocumented.

Photographs are often the main surviving evidence of a photographer’s life and work. The informative mounts of cartes de visite and cabinet prints can provide useful details of the studio location and photographer. A number of examples of surviving photographs and mount details are included showing the information that can be obtained from them.

In a chapter on the Directories of Early Photographers the author gives a comprehensive list of printed and online directories for the whole of the UK. Archived material is listed in the National Archives, museums and single studio collections. Online repositories, where they exist, are also listed. The careers of studio photographers are given in lists of published information including periodicals and serial publications of photographic societies.
The history and development of photography is traced from the introduction of the Daguerreotype in 1839 to the Lumiere Autochrome colour process in 1907. Such names as Fox Talbot, Scott Archer and Eastman had a great influence on photographic evolution.

The First World War created a demand for portraits of soldiers leaving home for the battlefields of Europe, however, the role of the professional family photographer was being overtaken by the family amateur and the great age of the Studio Photographer was over..

Using a selection of the numerous websites listed throughout the book, some of which are chargeable to search, I have been able to date and locate the studio and details of the Studio Photographer who produced the images in my family collection. My oldest, of my great(x3) grandfather was photographed by Arthur Bugg in Stowmarket in the 1870s.

A useful addition to the library of anyone wishing to research their ancestor who was a studio photographer.

Reviewed by Malcolm Shearwood, a member of Suffolk FHS & Glamorgan FHS
7 October 2011

cover for Fishing & Fishermen

Fishing & Fishermen by Martin Wilcox

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN: 978 1 84415 988 8
Cost: £12.99

This compact paperback sets out to give a short outline of the British fishing industry, to act as a guide to those seeking to research fishing and fishermen, in particular to those wanting to trace ancestors who worked in the industry. The book also aims to be a source of reference. In this, it succeeds very well. Many primary sources are discussed in detail although the lack of early documentation means that coverage is necessarily relatively modern. Having said that, two chapters cover medieval fisheries and those from 1500 to 1815. Subsequent chapters look at the industry from 1815 to 1950 covering trawl and line fishing and the herring and inshore fisheries. Whaling is excluded since many published sources exist. A final chapter discusses the industry since 1950, a time of great change in the industry.

Within these topics, the fishing methods and their development are discussed; improved technology allowing boats to operate further offshore; improvements in transport, particularly railways, and mobility allowing transport of fish from the coastal villages to the whole country.

There is a comprehensive list of national archives that may be a source of fishing related material and more importantly of local maritime museums and archives. Because there was little need for records to be kept, very little exists before modern times. Those that survive generally relate to taxes and legal disputes; indeed many fishermen were illiterate. Activities which required the intervention and regulation by government generated documents, which are likely to survive, but fishing for subsistence and local sale avoided regulation and created little documentation.

Records which survive are likely to be scattered throughout the country and good detective work may result in interesting finds. A visit to a local fishery museum may not only produce documents of relevance to local fisherfolk and local history publications, but an enthusiastic curator may have a wealth of knowledge.

This book is an excellent review of the fishing industry and its records and essential reading for those with family who lived in Britain’s coastal towns.

Reviewed by Stuart Laing - Scotslot
8 September 2011

cover for Rural Ancestors

Tracing Your Rural Ancestors – a guide for family historians by Jonathan Brown

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 184884227-9
price £12.99

I have in my family tree, ancestors who mainly worked as agricultural labourers (ag. Labs).  or weavers and I have always thought that these occupations were not very interesting and that life would have been quite harsh.  I probably still think that, but I have found much to interest me in this book by Jonathan Brown.  My own ancestors lives have been ‘clothed’ for me.  There are vivid descriptions of who did what in the hierarchy and how in most rural villages nearly half the adult males were recorded as agricultural labourers. The hiring fairs were a revelation, vividly describing the precarious working life our ancestors led and how this went on right into the 19th century  I had not known about ‘hiring agreements’ which stated that there would be ‘no pay if sick or unable to work’.

He extensively covers the gradual decline of village population with the onset of industrialisation; about the Tolpuddle martyrs in Dorset who were transported to Australia; the poor; the Acts of Settlement and rural migration.

Jonathan describes village society, the aristocracy, the farmers, large and small and the local business people in a way that brings them to life.

I had not thought that there would be much documentation, but he describes how church records, churchwarden’s accounts and minutes of meetings can yield information.  Court rolls, enclosure records, estate records and occasionally farm records are all listed, with a final chapter on where to find the information.  Quite a lot of the information will relate to all family research

There are ample illustrations including photographs and document images, there is a bibliography and an adequate index at the back. The contents pages are very comprehensive and useful and the glossy cover and well bound pages would grace any bookshelf.

Whatever stage you are at with your research this book is a useful reference for anyone seeking an insight into the life, work and society in which their rural ancestors lived.


Reviewed by Marcia Kemp, Huddersfield & District FHS (Journal Editor)
8 Septembert 2011

cover of Growing your Family Tree

Growing Your Family Tree by Cherry Gilchrist

Published by Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 978-0-7499-5370-6
Cost: £13.99

This is not another ‘How to’ book! Ms Gilchrist draws on her personal experiences as a family historian and those of over sixty respondents to a survey she conducted, to explore the theme of growth – the growing of your family tree as each new name is added, the growth of your family as you discover new living relatives and the personal growth that you might experience as a result of your research.

I cannot recall a similar book. Facts and practical advice are combined with creative and inspiring ideas as well as tips and guidance to help you in your personal quest. Some may find mention of clairvoyants and spiritual theories a step too far but you are simply invited to open up your thoughts on the matter. Mentions of ways in which those from other countries and cultures show their respect for their ancestors was of interest.

There are useful chapters on resources and websites and suggestions for further reading as well as interesting ideas as to how you might pass on the legacy you are creating.

The book is aimed at both ‘newbies’ to the hobby as well as experienced researchers. For the former it should be read alongside a comprehensive ‘how to book’. For the experienced researcher and family historian of some years standing, what this book offers is a new perspective. It certainly caused me to reflect and consider my own reasons for undertaking my research.

There are no illustrations, does this matter? It did not detract from my enjoyment of the book but certainly in Chapters Four and Five which are quoted as being specifically  geared towards technique and method especially aimed at newcomers, an illustration of BMD certificates would have shown that they contain rather more information than is described!

Praise for Ms. Gilchrist for being bold enough to take a different approach!

Reviewed by Philippa McCray
31 August 2011

cover for New Directions

New Directions in Local History Since Hoskins
Edited by
Christopher Dyer, Andrew Hopper, Evelyn Lord and Nigel Tringham

Published by University of Hertfordshire Press
ISBN 978-1-907936-12-0
price £16.99/US$32.95

This book is an analysis and interpretation of the nature of local history fifty years after the publication of W.G. Hoskins’ Local History in England in 1959. It is a thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating book from the Centre for English Local History, Leicester, and the British Association for Local History. It is well produced by the University of Hertfordshire Press and at £16.99 an attractively-priced paperback.

The Introduction sets the scene by exploring the nature of local history today and noting those who study, enjoy, research and publish it. There follow two important essays on the practice of local history. One explores whether it is still the ‘stronghold of the amateur’ or whether, instead, a fruitful interaction with professional historians of various kinds exists. The second studies the ‘great awakening’ of interest in English local history between 1918 and 1939. The book then contains thirteen essays under five headings: region, class and ethnic identity; making a living in town and country; religious culture and belief; sources, methods and techniques. The latter has one essay which is an exemplary exposition of a documentary source and one which looks at information computing technology and e-resources. This describes the cutting edge in the field, and family and local historians may find as much practical use in BALH’s Local History Internet Sites Directory, of which a second edition will appear next year.

Most of the earlier essays focus on a specific locality, from Skye to Salisbury, and some on the working lives of those who dwelt there such as butchers and graziers, lead smelters and merchants, and working wives. Others make comparisons over wider areas but with a specific theme, for instance Nonconformist chapel styles in Northern England. There is a full index of people and places, and family historians will find much of interest in exploring past lives.

Reviewed by Dr. Gill Draper, Associate Lecturer, University of Kent; Events and Development Officer, British Association for Local History
23 August 2011

cover of Tracing your Cork Ancestors

Tracing Your Cork Ancestors by Tony McCarthy & Tim Cadogan

Published by Flyleaf Press, Ireland
ISBN: 978-1-907990-01-4
Cost: 13 euro, £14.50 incl p&p

This book is one of a series which explore sources of genealogical information in the counties of Ireland; some eight have so far been produced.

Having ancestors from County Cork in both my wife’s and my family I was looking forward to the contents of this book. In many ways I was not disappointed for it deals well with the basic sources such as BMD’s (not BDM’s please), census and parish registers. There are good tables and maps of parish information in both numerical and alphabetical indices.  Administrative divisions are dealt with very comprehensively, an aspect which often puzzles those dealing with Irish records for the first time. There are helpful sections on directories and newspapers, electoral lists as well as Catholic and protestant church registers.  It should be noted that Church of Ireland does not keep death registers but does keep burial registers, as mentioned in the text but not in the tables of dates of holdings.

I was however disappointed to  find that the book was apparently trying to be all embracing for the family historian by including a section about starting one’s family history and finishing with a section on fictional feelings about using Dublin archives. As is stated in the book, not everything can be found on the internet and it is really necessary for the family historian to experience using these old original sources such those in the Registry of Deeds.

Leaving out the first section of the book would have released space for a table of registration districts in County Cork and the parishes they cover, very useful when analysing results from the GRO. Among the section of occupational sources mention of Irish Customs and Excise records in the National Archives at Kew (not the PRO anymore) would have been useful. Also missing is a section on Wills and administrations, surely a vital part of any family history research and does Ireland not have any Poor Law records?

Reviewed by Peter Davies Rugby FHG
NB This is a second edition (original publication 1998) now updated and revised. The review is based on the second edition alone
23 August 2011

cover for FLHH13

The Family and Local History Handbook 13

Published by Robert Blatchford Publishing Limited
ISBN 978 09552399 4 6
price £10.00 (+p&p)

Robert and Elizabeth Blatchford's  Family and local history handbook has come a long way since it began life as the Genealogical services directory in 1997, It was originally conceived as a directory to all the various organisations offering to help family historians – societies, record offices, libraries, publishers, professional genealogists, etc. The first edition had one article on 'starting your family history', and was stapled together as a 70 page pamphlet. Now, it is much more than that. The 13th edition has a weighty 448 pages. It includes no less than 60 articles on general 'Family and local history', followed by separate sections on Welsh, Scottish and Irish research, on digital genealogy, and on military history. It still includes a 'beginner's guide to family history', written by Doreen Hopwood, and giving brief information on the civil registers, census returns, and parish registers. There are a couple of other articles on the civil registers, including one on adoption; the Scots and the Irish registration systems are also described.  The handbook does not, however, attempt a comprehensive collection of articles on family history: for example, apart from Doreen Hopwood's article there is little on the census or on parish registers. Rather, the aim seems to be to bring together a wide range of articles on a diversity of topics. In that, it succeeds admirably. If your ancestor was a policeman, a railwayman, a boatman, an apprentice, a blacksmith, a prisoner of war, a lunatic, or even an arsonist, then there are articles here that may help you to trace him.  If you need to know about wills, the National Archives, social networking, the RAF Museum, or immigration to Natal, then you can find out here. Each edition has a completely different range of articles, so those of us who have collected previous editions are building up a substantial library of articles on numerous odd corners of genealogy.

The original title, 'Genealogical services directory', is still continued at the back of the volume. Here you will find the addresses of all the institutions you are ever likely to need to consult. Over 5,000 are listed. Yes, you can get all this information from the internet – but it is worth glancing through the list just to see the range of organizations now active in the field. That includes many museums and local history societies, whose activities are rarely mentioned in the genealogical press.

And all this for £10! There are many much less useful books costing more. This is a good read, and a good buy.

Reviewed by Stuart A Raymond

NB — Robert & Elizabeth Blatchford are to publish a brand new publication, The Irish Family and Local History Handbook, which will be launched in Dublin at the forthcoming Back to Our Past event running at the Royal Dublin Society from October 21st-23rd.

The British release date for the book will be January 1st 2012, but details of how to pre order will be published at www.genealogical.co.uk

3 August 2011

cover of History & Genealogy 2011

History & Genealogy 2011: Australia & New Zealand

Published by Unlock The Past
ISBN: 978 0 9808746 3 1
$29.95 (Australian dollars)

Please note that this is the inaugural annual edition

This nicely presented book compiled by Alan Phillips and Rosemary Kopittke runs to just over 300 pages and retails at $29.95 (Ca. £20.00).  It is packed full of historical and genealogical information though heavily biased towards genealogy with the minimal acknowledgement to any New Zealand historical matters unrelated to genealogy.  I expect, therefore, that it is most likely to appeal to those interested in family history research.

The book is divided into three sections. 

—- The first section of almost 250 pages covers around 66 articles written by a series of writers on various aspects of genealogy and historical events. Most are well illustrated with photographs, drawings and other documents and contain much helpful and interesting advice on how to research your Australian and New Zealand ancestors.  Since many people will have ancestors who originated in the British Isles those covering how to unearth ancestors in their home country would probably be of greatest interest to genealogists in Australia and New Zealand. You do not, however, need to be resident there to get some benefit from the articles, as I was able to pick up a couple of gems!

— The second section is a comprehensive directory containing a wide range of online sources of information and websites together with addresses which pull together the contents of the International Genealogical Research Directory and the Family & Local History Handbook. In addition it covers a whole range of details and contacts for various ethnic groups who have emigrated to Australia and New Zealand over the years and provides useful and essential information of serious students of the subjects.

— The third section contains a collection of vouchers for family and local historians covering a wide range of goods and services – almost all of which need to be redeemed in Australia or New Zealand.  Unfortunately, many of the vouchers have a validity which had expired before the book came for review.  The lesson of this is, if you wish to avail yourself of these vouchers, you need to purchase the book early in the year that it is issued. 

Finally there is a list of Major Events for the years 2011 and 2012, with details of a website where additional event can be found.

Reviewed by Jim Crabtree of Coventry Family History Society
22 July 2011

cover for Life Below Stairs

Life Below Stairs in the twentieth century by Patricia Horn

Published by Amberley Publishing
ISBN 9781848688124
price £15.29 (Free P & P in UK)

This is a revised edition of the book first published in 2001. It gives a very readable account of the story of domestic service and how it changed throughout the 20th century, looking at both indoor and outdoor service together with the social life of servants. There are plenty of anecdotes from both servants and their employers and an extensive bibliography for those who wish to read more.

Research by Ancestry.co.uk in partnership with the National Trust has shown that almost a fifth of Britons have an ancestor who worked in domestic service, therefore, it is likely that this book will be of interest to many, those keen to add to their knowledge of the lives of their ancestors, as well as social historians.

At the beginning of the century having domestic servants was something to which every family aspired. It was the largest female occupation in Britain and for many including girls leaving an orphanage or other poor law institution, service was the only option.

The First World War began to change this as women took over men’s roles as the men went off to war. After the war, both men and women were reluctant to enter service but for many high unemployment forced them to do so as the Government refused benefits to those who had been in domestic employment before the war and refused to go back.   There was steady increase in the number through the 1920’s.

The aftermath of the Second World War saw a decline in numbers in domestic service and it was only in the last decades of the 20th century that domestic service saw a revival to the extent that by 1995 we spent £3.85 billion on all forms of domestic service.

Dr Pamela Horn is listed in the FFHS Directory of Speakers and is available to give talks on various topics.

Reviewed by John Treby East of London & Devon FHS
23 June 2011

cover of Family History on the Net

Family History on the Net by Colin Waters

Published by Countryside Books
price £7.99 (currently £6.39 online)

This book is a new edition of a collection of websites useful to genealogists who are searching for their family roots.  It is organized by subject, has a very useful table of contents and is indexed for easy reference.  Hundreds of web sites are included, many are free, though those requiring a fee such as ancestry are included under some of the headings.

In addition to the compilation of websites there are numerous suggestions for searching more broadly than the list of subject headings might suggest. 

Family  History on the Net has, as its primary focus, topics pertaining to Great Britain such as the Domesday Book, British military history, Guilds,  parish records, emigration, newspapers, etc.  A list of general collections and references to North American sources broadens the scope beyond Britain but the book is most useful for searching British records on line.

Reviewed by Ardis D Kamra of Alberta Genealogical Society
27 May 2011

Tracing your Ancestors by Simon Fowler

Link to Pen & Sword Books

cover for Tracing your Ancestors £10.39
ISBN 9781844159482

As someone who has only been involved with Family History for a couple of years I found the book an invaluable source of information and assistance. Written by Simon Fowler it follows a logical approach to this intriguing subject.

The book starts by stressing the importance of what you may well have around you particularly old photographs, documents,diaries press cuttings etc and  how they can assist in understanding your ancestors and the type of life and experiences they may have had. How vital it is to talk to any relatives that may be able to identify photos of  individuals and groups. A  useful check list is given with tips as to how to get them reminiscing about the old days . We all have boxes of old photos and not a clue who they are.

Also mentioned is how to look after those family treasures which get stored in cardboard boxes, so they may be passed on to future generations and not perish through unintentional neglect.

The author  goes on to discuss On-Line researching and gives details of the two big sites Ancestry & Find My Past, reviews their sites, how to use them, with a list of for and against. An additional list of sites, some free and some with charges, is also given

The book moves on to recommend how to maximise the use of Public Libraries, the various archives both local & national, the local family history organisations and of course the Federation of Family History Societies. How to use and obtain Birth, Marriage, and Death certificates and the clues these certificates can give. Methods of access  and use of parish registers and the difference in the procedures of the various religions and faiths, together with interpretation  and use of The National Census with some of the pitfalls which may be encountered is discussed at length.

The occupations listed in the Census give direction in which to broaden your researches

The use of military records is covered in some detail and is further expanded in other publications by  Pen & Sword.

My only complaint about this well written and presented book is that it was not available when I started my researches. It would  have saved me a great deal of time and money.

Reviewed by Max Kitchen, a member of Lincolnshire FHS and the Witham U3A Family History Group
9 May 2011

cover for How to get the most from Family Pictures

How to get the most from Family Pictures by Jayne Shrimpton

Published by Society of Genealogists
price £12.99

If you only buy one book on the topic of studying images from the past then this one would be a sound investment.  Before you reach the end I guarantee you will be looking through your magnifying glass at those old black and white photos, which we all seem to possess, with a new found interest. 

The book is carefully laid out and covers the time period 1780 -1950.  It begins with portraits which rarely exist in family history collections due to their prohibitive cost at the time.   A history of photography follows covering both professional and amateur snapshots.  We all take cameras for granted these days but this book takes you through from the early formats of; daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cartes de visites, postcards and eventually the more familiar black and white prints.  A helpful date range for the various formats will help you to pinpoint a likely year for your own images.  Even the sizes of the photographs, studio settings, props and design of the card mounts themselves have their own distinct style and time period in history! 

Another area to explore is why the image was taken.  Does it signify an engagement, wedding, christening, coming of age, special birthday, anniversary or work promotion?

There is a section dedicated to the changing clothing fashions and hairstyles of men, women and children over the decades which will help you analyse your images.  I learnt about “breeching” which may make you question whether the little girl in a photograph could in fact have been a boy!

The only downside to this book is when the text refers to an image in a different chapter and you wish to flick to it quickly you are never too sure that you are looking in the correct chapter. 

We all wish our treasured photographs could speak but with the help of this book if you listen carefully they may begin to whisper their information to the reader.

Reviewed by Jo Hyndman, a committee member of City of York & District FHS

cover for English Village

The English Village Explained by Trevor York

Published by Countryside Books
price £10.99

If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of your village then Trevor Yorke’s book may be of interest to you as it explains the history of our rural landscape and settlements.  With the help of his guide we can deconstruct our village, identifying the features that give us clues as to the origins and development of our village.

The book is clearly written and divided into three sections.  In the first section each chapter covers a period of history, beginning with an outline of the English landscape from pre Roman times but concentrating on the period after 800AD.  Yorke looks at the different influences which affected the development of the village including political (such as the civil war and enclosure), health (the black death) and the changes in farming practises.  Each chapter finishes with a drawing of a village as it would have appeared at this stage of development.

The second part looks at the details of a village including the growth of the transport network, roads, canals and the railway, the village church & other buildings and features including the village stocks, windmills and schools.

The final section is very short in comparison; providing a quick reference guide which will prove very useful for anyone who wants to take their village research further.  It lists further sources of information including the Victoria County Histories, trade directories and original sources such as parish and manorial records.  There is also a glossary and a list of villages considered worth a visit.

The book is clearly laid out making good use of photographs and illustrations to explain different aspects of village growth.  It is a small book packed with information, ideal as a simple guide to village planning and excellent for those taking their first steps in landscape history.

Reviewed by Alison Caffyn of Sussex FHG

Tracing your East End Ancestors by Jane Cox

Link to Pen & Sword Books

cover for Tracing your East End Ancestors £12.99
ISBN 9781848841604

Jane Cox has already written a book on East End history, and she is an experienced genealogist. Her new book covers the area of the modern borough of Tower Hamlets, and the title page helpfully lists the parishes and hamlets involved. The author gives us a lively and authoritative history of the area, then guides us through its many sources for family history. The East End brims with history - medieval manors, pilgrim fathers, shipwrights and tailors, social reformers, strikes, workhouses, wave after wave of immigrants, the Blitz - and Jane Cox knows it all intimately.

She also has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the relevant records and where to find them, from the marvellous collections in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive to the ever expanding internet and national sources such as TNA, where the author  used to work. The result is a pleasure to read. In any book like this, there are always going to be long sections of bare facts, but Jane Cox has a habit at just the right moment of enlivening her text with a moving story or quirky gravestone inscription.

I have some quibbles: some of the maps are difficult to read;  and it was surprising not to find any mention of FreeBMD. But overall this is a marvellous book, one which will serve any East End researcher well for years to come.

Reviewed by James McCarthy (City of York FHS)

Tracing your Medical Ancestors by Michelle Higgs

Link to Pen & Sword Books

cover for Tracing your Medical Ancestors £12.99
ISBN 9781848842779

In recent years, family historians have welcomed many books on sources for tracing a variety of trades and professions: occupations as diverse as agricultural labourers, lawyers, soldiers, textile workers, clergymen, and servants, have all been considered. Until now, however, the only guidance to the Records of the medical professions has been a small pamphlet of that title by Susan Bourne and Andrew Chicken, published in 1994.

This obvious gap in the literature has now been competently filled by Michelle Higgs. She begins by tracing the history of medics, and showing how a variety of different specialisms have developed. Nursing history is also outlined, together with brief notes on patients. The author disclaims any intention of producing the definitive history, but she does provide the basic information that the family historian needs to know.

For the researcher, however, the most useful feature of the book is the detailed guide to sources. And what a range of sources there are! All the well-known sources, such as the Medical register and Munk's Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London are discussed. But so are such obscure sources as the national roll of the Queen's Nursing Institute, and the records of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain. There is a wealth of information here that offers many potential leads to the researcher.

I do have a few criticisms. A section on the major libraries in the field would have been useful. The treatment given to poor law records is somewhat cursory.  So is the bibliography: I was surprised to find no mention of Cliff  Webb's An index of London hospitals and their records (Society of Genealogists, 2002),  or of  Joan Grundy's History's midwives (FFHS, 2003).

These criticisms aside, the author is to be congratulated on producing a workmanlike text which ought to be consulted by everyone tracing medical ancestors.

Reviewed by Stuart A Raymond, author of several books for family historians

Tracing your London Ancestors by Dr Jonathan Oates

Link to Pen & Sword Books

cover for Tracing your London Ancestors £12.99
ISBN 9781848841307

Many people have been born in, lived in or passed through London, perhaps about one fifth of the population. With this vast number there is sure to be someone in your family tree who is included.
Dr Jonathan Oates is the Ealing Borough archivist and his book explores the city’s history and provides guidance on the resources available to the family historian. In information packed chapters he looks at the information available in the Greater London area ranging from censuses and directories to taxation of hearths, windows and Poll taxes.
The ecclesiastic records cover CofE, nonconformists, Jews and Catholics whilst education records include schools, universities and apprenticeships.
The details available on medieval London through to London under attack during the World War are also covered.
With the vast area of the capital the social and cultural aspects are large, including ill- health, orphanages, the poor and crime.
A chapter on Businesses and Working London points the way to professions, shopkeepers, Livery Companies, the Police and London Transport.
Perhaps you are descended from incomers to the UK who settled in London, these immigrants cover all nationalities including those who arrived and served in the military.
When you have discovered your relations you may then be able to find the history of the houses and streets where they lived.
The extensive bibliography gives a listing of family history societies and Record Offices in and around Greater London.

Reviewed by Malcolm Shearwood, a member of Suffolk & Glamorgan FHS's

Tracing your Family History on the Internet by Chris Paton

Link to Pen & Sword Books

cover for Tracing your Family History on the Internet £12.99 (on offer at £10.39 at time of writing)
ISBN 978-1-84884-268-268-7

This is an invaluable and up-to-date handbook. I am not a family historian but have a parallel interest to that of the author in finding and evaluating websites for local history research.

The book is not a technical tome but primarily a guide to the most useful websites for genealogy, both commercial and free. It is useful both for beginners and the experienced.  The first chapter on Gateways and Institutions covers the whole of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, an approach repeated throughout the book. The second chapter covers the Essentials of electronic access to BMD records, censuses, maps, gazetteers, directories, newspapers, and wills and probate. A useful project to compile an online finding aid to early probate records is described, although the author’s wise words about investigating exactly what is covered needs to be recalled. Subsequent chapters cover ways of finding online occupational and denominational records and then, most substantially, a review websites county by county.

The author points out that some websites such as the British Library’s Burnley Collection of early newspapers are effectively available only to those who have access through a subscription by a local authority or educational institution. On this see ‘Connect to the Native Interface’: access to electronic resources for independent scholars, in The Local Historian 40:4 (November 2010) from the British Association for Local History.

Amen to the preface which stresses the need to understand the research process and the nature of the records which are being consulted! Many family historians who want to go beyond the basics will find courses advertised as ‘local history’ useful. The overlap between family, local and social history is very great, and locating records and learning to read them is fundamental to all.

The book is attractively presented with a glossary, further reading and index.

Reviewed by Dr Gill Draper, Events and Development Officer, British Association for Local History

Cover of A Grandsons Inheritance

A Grandson’s Inheritance - Admirals, farmers, merchants and a gun-runner.
By Max Peberdy, Felicity Evers and Alyson Peberdy.

Self-published by the family £20
ISBN 9780956783707

This book has been written by three grandparents, for the future benefit of their two grandchildren. Their objective was to go back seven generations, tracing, identifying and writing about these two little boys’ 252 ancestors. After three years’ work, they had traced and recorded 203.For those of us (like me) who still have five out of eight great grandparents to identify – after many years of work – this is an amazing achievement.

However, when we read that amongst those 203 were admirals and doctors, knighted Coronation guests, debutantes, wealthy merchants, prosperous tea-planters from the Raj and boys who had attended Winchester, Westminster, Repton and Eton, then our surprise at the achievement is just a little lessened. Such people leave a trail as broad as the yellow brick road that leads to Oz.

The book is in two parts; part one describes the four ancestral lines leading up to the four grandparents and part two tells, in much greater detail, the stories of the four grandparents. The personal accounts are interspersed with snippets of social history, to set events in context for the two young recipients. I am sure that the boys will find it very useful in future years, to be able to look up great aunt Edith and see where she fitted in to the family story. But for the uninvolved reader, the book is hard work.

Most family historians will want to know; ‘where did you get that bit of information? What archive did you get that from?’ We want to be able to read across from their research to our own unsolved problems. But the only thing I learned was that the essential source for British India is Thackeray’s India Directory. Some of the research was done by four professional researchers; it would have been impossible for the family to have completed the work in three years without such help.

There are a few irritations for the uninvolved reader; at times the tone resembles one of those dreadfully smug Christmas circular letters – skiing at Klosters, the son becoming captain of rugby, victor ludorum, and friends with Prince Andrew and so on. Anyone with an interest in family history should know that it’s a RegistER office, not a RegistRY office. The motto of Winchester College is MannerS makyth Man (plural) and the Catholic martyr Francis Ingleby was male – so Francis is spelt with an ‘i’ not an ‘e’( they’ve got it right in the index). I’m sorry to carp but they are asking £20 for the book.

The book has a professional feel and looks good. It has a good index, a bibliography and plenty of illustrations.

If you are not from any of the families described, you might buy this book as a template for writing a similar one of your own. But there are no great methodological revelations in this work – just find out what you can and write it down. At £20, I’ll pass.

Reviewed by Mike Whitaker of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, Wiltshire, Norfolk and Dyfed F H Societies.

Nipper Daly cover

Nipper: The Amazing Story of Boxing's Wonderboy by Alex Daley

Published by TPD Associates, price £15.99+p&p
ISBN 978-0956749406
Available from nipperpatdaly.co.uk and all good bookshops

This book has been written by the Grandson of Pat Daley (1913-1988), known as Nipper Pat Daly in the British boxing circles of the first half of the 20th century.  Alex Daley has written a compelling biography which has been well researched.  It is, in essence, a “Fistic Feast.”

The book is a lovely example of how an ancestor’s biography should be written.  It captures the spirit of the times, and gives an insight into how the working classes found entertainment up to the First World War, and during the inter-war depression.  Nipper was a child boxing prodigy.  His trainer, “Professor Newton”, put him through a punishing routine of training and fights against boxers of a good standing.  As a consequence, there are many many names in the book.  The names are contained in a good, comprehensive index.

Pat was based in London at first in the Edgware area, and then in Peckham in his later years.

This book is nicely written in an engaging, and easy to follow style.  It is peppered with good anecdotes, and sections are particularly atmospheric.  Useful footnotes, which explain boxing terms and cover certain developments, appear from time to time.  Throughout much of the text, there is a sense of Pat’s underlying frustration with his career as he was growing up.  This is despite his successes as a boxer.

There are a couple of criticisms.  Firstly, there isn’t an index of illustrations and photographs.  Secondly, there are minor grammatical slips towards the end of the book.  However, these are minor gripes which should not detract from the book.

Overall, this book is an enjoyable read which provides a social statement of the Nipper’s world and times.

Reviewed by Richard M Brown, of E Surrey FHS and the Lincolnshire FHS

cover for Tracing your Galway AncestorsTracing your Galway Ancestors by Peadar O'Dowd

Published by Flyleaf Press, price £14.00
ISBN 978-0-9563624-2-1

I very much enjoyed Chapter 1, (Introduction) The 2006 census information and (news to me and others too) that Galway city was not founded by a Viking influx but owes its origins to 13th Century Norman adventurers, led by Richard de Burgo. This was the most westerly of his Anglo-Norman settlements in the 1230s. The De Burgos whose name was later anglicised to Burke, (possibly a relative of  ex Irish President, Mary Robinson, nee Burke) introduced newcomers to their confiscated western lands including the powerful Berminghams of Athenry.

Galway is known as the City of the Tribes. Peadar names all of them in his book.
He also mentions English Plantation policies in the 16th/17th century, which introduced new family names to County Galway. Geoghegans were transplanted from the Midlands to Connemara, underlining yet again the infamous “to hell or to Connacht”.

I found the information given by the author of this book quite useful. Although Galway is in the title, it did not cover the area of the County I was interested in, so that was a disappointment, however there is a lot of useful contact addresses and names of places where information can be found.

Pictures throughout the book are very interesting, and the chapter telling the reader how to start tracing your ancestors is also a very useful tool.

In summary: Tracing your Galway Ancestors is a splendid read and I would recommend to anyone tracing relatives in the area.

Reviewed by Josie Yates of FHS of Cheshire



The FFHS takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any statements, information, opinions, recommendations and views contained in these reviews by any reviewer or any third party.

© 2011-12 The Federation of Family History Societies. All rights reserved

Registered Charity No. 1038721    Company No. 2930189 (England)

Page updated by the webmaster on 6 March 2012

website designed by Pete Hunnisett