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• • • • Don't forget to read our reviews of recent CD Publications • • • •
Tracing your Welsh Ancestors, a guide for Family Historians
by Beryl Evans
Published by: Pen & Sword
Price £14.99 (£11.99 from P&S at time of writing)
This book is a valuable read for beginners and more experienced researchers alike. It guides one through the basics with suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter. For me, it complements John and Sheila Rowlands’ 2 Volume ‘Welsh Family History – a Guide to Research’ (1993/4) which still has so much valuable information despite the advances in internet sources etc.
Beryl Evan’s book will be a sort of ‘Bible’ for us family history enthusiasts, for many years to come. I only wish it had been around when I was starting out!
It is practical, concise and yet gives plenty of background information. When one comes up against that inevitable ‘brickwall’ it will be there to provide suggestions of where to go next or how to ‘go around it’ and solve things in another way. I found the chapter entitled ‘the Parish Chest’ yet another example of a source not usually discussed and there are many other such resources explored in the book.
Perhaps a greater emphasis on what information that can be gleaned from Newspapers might be helpful, and one omission is Cemetery records – all burials are recorded there including stillbirths, unlike Parish Registers. Cemetery memorials provide more information than just names, dates and addresses. This is, of course what our Society is doing at present with our MI booklets, which only goes to show how important Family History Societies are!
The Appendices at the end provide useful information quickly and will prevent wasting time searching for material which has been lost or helping to solve problems which crop up during our research – such as what bits of which census have been destroyed or interpreting Welsh bits and pieces.
An excellent addition to your bookshelf!
Reviewed by Delyth Wilson, Cardiganshire FHS
Family First – Tracing Relationships in the Past
by Ruth Alexandra Symes
Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978 1 47383 388 3
Price £19.99 (£15.99 from P&S at time of writing)
This is certainly an interesting book that will grab and hold the reader’s attention from the onset. Ruth Alexandra Symes looks at and discusses many aspects of the many relationships that structured and stereotyped family life in Victorian and Edwardian England. Symes provides a comprehensive and well explained introduction to the structure of her book which is split into seven chapters organised around particular roles within the family: husbands and fathers; wives and mothers; infants; sons and daughters; adult siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins; and grandparents and great-grandparents. The last chapter looks further into the families interaction within social circles through various friendships, club associations and neighbourliness. The topic of the book has been well researched and a great deal of thought has gone into the presentation and aim of it. The reader will be focused on those resources and issues which interest and engage them from family photographs to censuses, certificates and other written genealogical records. The author looked at the social side of what constituted ‘a family’ not often obvious just from vital records. By understanding why and how our ancestors conformed to a particular ideal of what was then understood to mean ‘a father’ or ‘a mother’ or ‘a brother’ etc, the book shows how each role was significant within family living. But the author takes this further, looking at the social and economic developments that arose from the Great War and the Second World War, the emancipation of women and the continual transforming and reshaping of the structure of families during that period and the effects of the rise of the Welfare State. It is without doubt based extensively on the social evidence of families from the photographs that have survived from that time and remain within private family collections. Symes looks at the factors that influenced the size of our ancestor’s families, how poorer families often had up to 15 children while more well off families had 2 to 4 children (this often highlighted the social divide between the classes) where those well off could afford private or home education, whilst those on the poverty line had to rely on older children to assisting with bringing home a wage. The increase in single parent families or blended families and the decrease in children being born in subsequent generations - are also discussed. As a genealogist, this book provides an alternative approach to writing an historical account of our ancestors by analysing the social backgrounds to families that is not obviously found from vital records. The author looks at the power of photographs in creating Victorian ideals of family roles, and this provides a good theme throughout the book where photographs have provided images and visual evidence of our ancestors experiences. Symes shows through the use of these photographs (collectively placed in the centre of the book which covers all seven chapters) that Edwardian photographs often showed couples standing apart, yet the father stood predominantly behind the wife usually with a protective arm around or near children or the wives. Any touching in that era therefore indicated ‘possession or belonging to’ rather than anything romantic or sexual attraction. The author has certainly researched well the many factors that might have influenced the size of a family and whether the order in which children were born mattered and how families coped with multiple births, stillbirths, abortions and infanticides and how these were recorded or not recorded within vital records. As a guide to understanding how roles within families worked between 1800 and 1950 and the changes that took place, this book is excellent. As a social history of the period, it is again excellent. This is certainly a book that the reader will consult many times during their journey to understanding all they can about their Victorian and Edwardian ancestors in England.
Reviewed by Lorna Kinnaird, PGDip, FSA Scot of
Dunedin Links Genealogy
The America Ground - a genealogical crime mystery by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
The history of part of Hastings known as ‘the America Ground’ forms the background to this interesting murder mystery story. The America Ground really existed. It comprised an eight acre no-man’s land outside the town boundary, occupied by a thousand inhabitants by the 1820s. Hastings tried to exert control over the area to the resentment of the residents, who declared themselves to be an Independent State of the USA. The Crown successfully claimed ownership of the land so eventually the residents were forced to leave.
Morton is persuaded to discover who murdered (180 years ago) a woman, resident on the America Ground, whose portrait is to be the auctioned shortly. He embarks on the case and discovers more than he bargained for!
This is the third novel, readers of the previous two novels involving Morton Farrier ‘the forensic genealogist ‘ will know what to expect and will not be disappointed.
The author’s skilful juxtaposition of Morton’s research in the archives and online and what actually happened to the families being researched, makes for interesting reading. He has some narrow escapes from persons who do not want him to succeed in his research, whilst at the same time he furthers his personal family history search for his real father. Well written and an enjoyable ‘whodunit’ and thriller.
Reviewed by David Lambert FHS of Cheshire & Metcalfe Society
The Family History Web Directory: The genealogical websites you can’t do without by Jonathan Scott
Published by: Pen & Sword
Price £14.99 (£12.00 from P&S at time of writing)
A practical book for beginners and the more experienced. I liked the logical introduction to the aims of the book. The clear, concise instructions to accessing the websites would enable a novice user of technology to get to grips with searching on the internet quickly. Each website is given a clear standardised entry i.e. name, internet link and a description of what the website does and the information included.
It would be a tall order to be a completely comprehensive guide to internet sources, but this book has a good stab at it. The section headings are clear: First Steps, Digging Deeper, Military and Conflict, Occupations and Miscellaneous with subject related sub sections within each with many ‘see also’ cross references. In the miscellaneous section there are useful sub sections on sharing your research, social media and software and apps. The index is excellent.
This author has done the hard work for you by visiting the websites and finding specialist sites that may be hard to locate using a search engine. He also gives sage advice to researchers: websites are changing all the time so there may be sites listed that are no longer live and to ‘make notes, either digital or physical. If you don’t leave a trail of breadcrumbs sooner or later you will end up going round in circles’.
Reviewed by Jane Tunesi (Hertfordshire FHS)
Irish Family History On The Web
by Stuart A Raymond
Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978 1 906280 51 2
This is the Fourth Edition of a comprehensive and well-organised listing of Irish Family History sites on the web. It is not – and doesn’t aspire to be – a step by step guide to the process of tracing your Irish forebears but it is a remarkable compilation, with brief descriptions, of many (I almost said innumerable) sites to which you can go for information and/or guidance.
At the heart of the book are two long sections; Births, Marriages and Deaths (covering over forty pages in double columns) and Other Sources (fifty pages, also double columns ). The former is self explanatory in terms of subject but lists sites both thematically and geographically. Most entries are short with brief descriptions of contents but some are helpfully treated at greater length. ‘Other Sources’ covers a wide range from Admiralty Examinations to Witness Statements. Some of these entries are generic but many, again, are set under geographical headings.
The reader will need to comb carefully through these lists since the variety of resources is rich, not to say almost bewildering, in its range. The only criticism I would have of these two sections is about the layout. Key subject headings should have been set in block capitals to enable them to stand out and be more quickly identified. The present layout doesn’t adequately distinguish them from their subheadings which can make locating them difficult.
Elsewhere in the book there are useful sections on Gateways, Libraries and record Offices, Family History societies, Discussion groups, Surnames and Occupational Records. In addition there are three indices; by subject, by place and by Institution.
This is a densely packed and authoritative survey of currently available sites. The author acknowledges that this is an ever changing scene that needs continually updating but it is difficult to imagine anyone presenting a better picture of today’s resources. A book to be thoroughly recommended to any researcher into the Hibernian genealogical hinterland
Reviewed by Charles Kaye
The Justice Women, The female presence in the criminal justice system 1800-1970 by Stephen Wade
Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978 1 47384 365 3
Price £12.99 (£10.00 from P&S at time of writing)
Who were Edith Smith and Ivy Williams? Both were pioneers in their chosen professions and this book recording the rise of women in the Justice System tells us they were the first woman police officer and the first woman barrister.
The Justice System is defined by the author as the Courts, lawyers and legal executives, police, prisons, High Sheriffs, Lords Lieutenant and coroners.
There were virtually no roles for women in this field until the Great War. This means that for a large part of the period of the title there is limited information available to the author so this becomes a book showing how the rise of women in this field mirrors the rise of women in society.
This is well researched but as it covers a very narrow subject, it results in a book for a limited market. It would have benefitted from better editing. The lack of material has resulted in sections of padding and the topic could easily be an add-on chapter to other books about the rise of women in public life and would have been more effective that way.
There is a bibliography and a good index.
It is a book which is of more interest to social historians than to genealogists.
Reviewed by John Treby Member of Devon FHS, Gloucestershire FHS and East of London FHS
The Inheritor's Powder by Sandra Hempel
Published by: Pheonix, an imprint of Orion Books
ISBN: 978-1-7802-2222-6 paperback
The in depth research for this book has turned it away from a macabre look at murder by poison to an interesting study of Georgian and Victorian law surrounding unlawful death. By following one case from newspaper reports and branching out to tell the history of poisons an interesting story is told. Other cases are used to illustrate the progress of the law and medical science in the field of pharmacology and how the coroner system evolved. The book presents arguments by defence lawyers that lead to more effective ways to prove the existence of poison and consequent changes of scientific practice. The inquest of the main case is reported in detail and through the testimony of the witnesses the scene is illustrated.
For those who are unsure about their relatives dying in suspicious circumstances, the cases discussed will complete a picture of what is involved. The descriptions can be a touch graphic and detailed, but they are essential to the social history. Proof is given that the legal system was on trial as it tried to cope with the new scientific thinking concerning poisons. This comprehensive guide is worth the read and a great addition to the bookshelves of anybody interested in crime or the Victorian Period.
Reviewed by Tony Sargeant of Buckinghamshire FHS
What’s In A Name? by Ian Murray Tough
Published by: Austin Macauley
In What’s In A Name? Elgin-based author Ian Murray Tough examines the roots of etymology, with particular focus on surnames and their socio-geographical context.
“A name is not only important in its own right, but it is the conduit of many subjects of history, science, inspirations and oblique associations”. Ian goes on to say that “the book itself is aimed at those who have not as yet experienced exploring Family History, and in the event encourage them to do so. I hope that those devotees in Family History Societies will also find some elements of interest in the book”.
The theme of the book is to explore the diverse nature of names, and their place in family history research. There are three chapters of special interest to the Family History researcher; Family Research, Genealogy and Surnames, but sections on Dialect and on the early British languages also make informative reading. In addition there are other chapters which discuss the relationships between names and other symbols and logos which are in general use, and with the wider world in general.
This book will be of interest to any reader with an interest in the wider concepts and names and symbols.
Reviewed byBruce B Bishop FSA Scot, ASGRA
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.