Federation Of Family History Societies

New Books

If you would like to submit a new publication for review on the New Books page, or are interested in joining the Book & CD Review Club please email Philippa McCray, Administrator


The “Price” shown for each book reviewed may be the list price. Readers may be able to find lower prices by shopping around. For instance, the Bookprice24 site compares prices for a range of new and used books,  drawn from a number of online suppliers.

• • • • Don't forget to read our reviews of recent CD Publications • • • •

cover for Great Victorian Discoveries

Great Victorian Discoveries by Caroline Rochford

Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN: 9781445645421

Caroline Rochford's book is well researched, and covers a wide range of discoveries made by those living in the 19th Century. She has included discoveries made internationally, as well as those made by British Victorians. Some of the discoveries have accompanying illustrations. The subjects are set out under 10 categories ranging from Bewildering Phenomena to Time and Space. A very nice touch is how discoveries and various hypotheses made in the 19th Century have been taken through time to a proven or disproven conclusion, often in the 20th Century. So, you can read about the age of the earth, the four legged bird, or inoculating for disease; the subjects are diverse.

This book is amusing and great for dipping into to read about whatever takes your fancy. The subjects are well indexed.

However, there is a huge problem for the family historian. There are no name or place indexes. The book is full of the names of those who made the discoveries or carried out further research in connection with the discoveries. In my opinion, this leaves the book as a useful reference book of a general nature. It adds substance to the great age of 19th Century industrialisation and exploration.

Add the name and place indexes to future editions and the book will become a useful tool for the family historian.

Reviewed by Richard M Brown, member of East Surrey FHS & Lincolnshire FHS

August 2015

cover for Family Fables

Family Fables – How to write and publish the story of your family
by Maisie Robson with Steve Rudd

Published by: The King’s England Press
ISBN: 978 1 909548 49 7

What an excellent book! This is an updated, revised edition of an earlier publication {Family Fables - How to Write and Publish Your Family's Story Eynsford Hill Press (16 Jan. 2006)] including additions by Steve Rudd on publishing and marketing covering self publishing, editing, design and printing, e-books and legal matters as well as other important considerations.

The author, Maisie Robson, successfully shows how to apply creative writing techniques to turn your family history into a readable, coherent work that others might actually enjoy reading!!

As Ms Robson states, ‘ The options open to the family historian with an enquiring mind and a story to tell are limitless’.

The reader is encouraged not to see gaps in their research, or rather lack of detail, as a barrier but how to use contemporary documents and other sources to fill those gaps.

Instead of presenting the facts in a straightforward chronological fashion or worse, not writing up your findings at all but leaving your research in a series of boxes (or stored on your computer) the author offers advice over 9 chapters on a variety of topics including writing biography, organising your material and structuring your book, characters, time and place, plot, conflict and tension, theme and trouble shooting.

Chapter ten covers how to get your work published with the final chapter encouraging and suggesting how to ‘limber up’ with some creative writing exercises. A useful bibliography is included.

It is a well presented, no nonsense book that encourages and inspires. I would recommend it to anyone interested in presenting their family story in a creative way, irrespective of whether you hope to get as far as publishing, you are sure to pick up useful tips on how to turn your years of research into an interesting volume for family and friends.

Reviewed by Philippa McCray, Administrator FFHS

August 2015

cover for My Ancestor was a Leather Worker

My Ancestor Was A Leather Worker by Ian H Waller FSG

Published by: Society of Genealogists Enterprises
ISBN: 978-1-907199-31-8
Price £9.99

My g-grandfather having been a London leather merchant and my grandfather and uncle both tannery managers in Cheshire, I opened this book with much anticipation, hoping to find out more about the industries in which they worked. I was also aware that a key if controversial 18th century paternal relative was always known as William the Cordwainer, so at least two trades were of interest. Many other family historians will have similar connections and want to improve their knowledge of the leather trades.

Mr Waller’s book will certainly help these seekers after knowledge, if not quite in the way they may have expected. My tanning connections dictated a start on the chapter dealing with tanners and curriers. Mr Waller makes it clear that manual jobs in tanning before the days of factory-scale tanneries were pretty nasty by modern-day standards but he is notably unspecific on what those jobs actually were, and thus what might have been recorded against the individuals involved. It’s a pity that the illustrations he provides of tanning processes are so tiny that the captions are illegible, let alone the pictures.

He includes useful material relating to leather-merchanting and the leather trade in Bermondsey and Walsall, but makes all this more difficult to understand because he splits the Bermondsey material into two (pp 25 and 36), interspersing it with discussions of Livery Company schools and the currier’s job. This organisational problem, regrettably, recurs throughout the book.

The rather lengthier chapter on shoe-making is far more detailed and much more useful as an explanation of the industry as a whole, of the various shoe-making processes, and of the jobs entailed. Yet here as well a curious repetitiveness has ensnared Mr Waller; on p 113 he reproduces verbatim the same quotation from H E Bates that he uses on p 92.

Throughout Mr Waller lists sources of additional information, from local curriers’ guilds to shoe company records to trade union archives. These alone make the book essential reading for anyone with leather connections. The book is effectively an industry primer for those with leather connections who wish to understand their relatives’ background. It’s a family history book rather than a genealogical source book. It should have been a readable narrative but is almost impossible to read through rather than use as a reference book on specific topics. Sadly, repetitiveness, inconsistent structuring, multiple typos and questionable illustrations get in the way.

Reviewed by Rod Moulding, a member of Keighley & District FHS and of the London Group of Yorkshire FHS

July 2015

cover for We Also Served

We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War by Vivien Newman

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978 1 78346 225 4
Price £19.99 (£15.99 at time of review)

This is an attractive and well presented book which is an account of the social history of women’s involvement in WW1. It reminds us that in August 1914 over three quarter of a million men were serving in our armed forces but only 640 women ( in the military nursing services ). Over the next four years women’s involvement in the war effort mushroomed and significant numbers of them died as they served.

Initially the book focuses on women working at home ‘knitting for our boys’ but then goes on to review roles in nursing, munitions and factories and food production. Not all of these female recruits were welcomed; men employed in these areas often resented women joining their ranks. Pay was not equal. The trauma of nursing casualties was considerable; one nurse describes having ‘ to assist at ten amputations one after another’.

The book moves on to share the stories and activities of many women acting in different roles. These personal accounts are vivid – and often tragic; one chapter is devoted to ‘ women who died’. The author reminds us that although the war brought women into new jobs and responsibilities this was not sustained after the war. The men returned and expected to reassume their pre-war position. But, of course, the ability of women to perform those tasks had been demonstrated; markers had been set down.

The book has a nice selection of illustrations and a useful bibliography ( with a section on ‘archives’). Sadly, for the genealogist, the index is rather sketchy and, frustratingly, many names in the text are not to be found there. All in all a good introduction to an important piece of history which directly affected many of our families.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

June 2015

cover for Shepherd's Huts

Shepherds’ huts and Living vans by David Morris

Published by:Amberley Publishing
ISBN: 978 1 4456 2136 4
Price £16.99

In the 18th century, shepherd’s huts were a common sight in rural areas but now have virtually disappeared with modern farming methods. 

These huts on wheels were basic shelters with little comfort, designed to be located in the open fields allowing the shepherd to be near his sheep at crucial times especially lambing. There was a bed and there may have been a stove for heating.

This well-illustrated book gives a short history of these huts from the earliest recorded in 1462, through their heyday to their decline and the decaying gems in the corners of fields awaiting rescue. It tells us of the many and varied types, which existed not only in southern Britain but also in Europe

The books talks also of the more mobile and better equipped showman’s and road mender’s vans.

Mr Morris goes on to talk of restoration techniques and the warns of the dangers of overlooking the interesting notes such as flock numbers and weather conditions which can be found written on the walls of the hut.

Space is given to the modern reproductions now being built and the many uses to which these are being put.

Overall this is an interesting coffee table book.

Reviewed by John Treby Member of Devon FHS, Gloucestershire FHS and East of London FHS.

June 2015

cover for Our Cousin

“He is our cousin, Cousin”: A Quaker family’s history from 1660 to the present day.
by Antony Barlow

Published by: Quacks Books
ISBN: 978-1-904446-60-6
Price £15.00

Antony Barlow has a long, interesting and important Quaker pedigree. He seeks to chronicle ‘this Quaker family’s history to inspire future generations with what it is possible to achieve when we listen to voices of the past’. He describes the book as not only a personal family history but also a history of the Society. It tells of the life, traditions and expectations he knew as part of this extended family.  There are influential stalwarts of the Society at national and international levels from the beginning of Quakerism right up to current times. The influence of Quaker boarding schools and philanthropy in cementing ideals and forging relationships is paramount.

The first quarter of the book acts as a backdrop of colourful ancestral Quaker cameos leading the reader to the more recent players in the family’s history. The 284 page book has 10 pages of family trees, copious black and white photographs as well as illustrations throughout. The photographs are not always of the best quality, but they cover a vast range of family members and each has a story to tell.

The book will be of special interest to anyone with Quakers in their family for its early histories, Quaker Connectivity, Quaker and Bournville social philanthropic and business life.  As such funds from the Quaker Family History Society Small Research Award 2014 were given towards the production of the book.  The book goes towards fulfilling Antony’s role as a torch bearer for future generations not just in the family or Quakers. May it encourage QFHS members and other family historians to follow suit!

Reviewed by Margaret Page of the Quaker Family History Society

June 2015

cover for In The Family Way

In the Family Way: Illegitimacy between the Great War and the Swinging Sixties by Jane Robinson

Published by: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670922062
Price £18.99

I’m just old enough to remember the stigma of illegitimacy prior to the permissive 1960s. It’s a shock to realise that at the time it seemed so natural to view unmarried pregnant women (and single mothers) with repugnance, but now the wheel has turned full circle and the collective shame is ours.

In her book Jane Robinson analyses and discusses the concept of illegitimacy from roughly the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act (which enabled the State to categorise many unmarried mothers as ‘moral imbeciles’ and banish them to specific institutions like charitable hospitals, Magdalene and lunatic asylums and other dark sanctuaries) until its repeal in 1959. Of course the stigma and prejudice surrounding unmarried mothers existed earlier but In the Family Way is a collection of case studies and interviews with over one hundred women old enough to remember the difficulties of having a baby out of wedlock in this period.

Chapter One is a dazzling romp through history, drama, films and literature which discusses how our society dealt with fatherless children and unmarried mothers. There are examples from history like the African explorer Stanley who was illegitimate and from fiction like many of the characters out of Dickens. Other chapters discuss the meaning of illegitimacy (Chapter Two) and child migration and attitudes to single parents.

On the whole Jane Robinson has produced an important social history through personal stories that need to be heard but will soon be forgotten. It’s a fairly thick book of 317 pages (which perhaps accounts for the rather steep price) and thirteen chapters. There is a comprehensive bibliography and an index. There are also twenty-seven illustrations.

This is not dry-as-dust history but real people talking about their own experiences interwoven with the culture and politics of the day backed up by serious academic studies. I highly recommend this book very much indeed.

Reviewed by David Gilligan, North Cheshire FHS

May 2015

cover for The Family Bible

The Family Bible: A Priceless Heirloom Its history and Evolvement with Inscriptions of Family History Events
by Rena King

Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978-1-906-280-39-0
Price £6.50 + p&p

Rena King rightly claims in her book that family bibles are priceless heirlooms and points out an inscribed family bible is a matchless source of social and historic detail (p.5). Not many people would disagree but for those that might she offers hundreds of brilliantly chosen examples.

Of course, inheriting a family bible containing birth, marriage and death inscriptions would be extremely fortunate since most seem to mysteriously disappear over time. But Rena King has managed to collect and index over 2300 inscriptions over many years and the result is a fascinating medley of inscriptions and family details which, for example, includes the exact birth-time and weights of family children; some inscriptions describe accidents (Thomas Brown who lost an eye on 31st 1900) and the curious inscription in Fred Paine’s bible which noted his book ‘contained 3,386,489 letters and 173,692 words’ (p.23).

Rena King not only reports on the inscriptions she has collected from family bibles but also offers a brief history of its development and use within the family. She also reminds us that most post seventeenth century bibles are worth very little (but family bibles are, of course, priceless to their owners). What adds value to post seventeenth century bibles (and books) are the inscriptions.

Family historians can glean much from an inscribed family bible and local historians can discover even more from an inscribed dusty old bible found in a second-hand bookshop or in a car-boot sale. I can confirm this by recounting that I came across an 1826 Collingwood bible on a car-boot sale last year. It, too, had an inscription signed by one Edward Pease as well as copious marginalia in the same hand. After some interesting research I discovered this Edward Pease was the main promoter of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and is often referred to as the "Father of the Railways". The discovery triggered a spate of research into the history of Edward Pease and early railway history that proved to be very satisfying indeed.

The author deserves full credit for collecting, indexing and writing-up these precious inscriptions. It might just remind us (if we needed reminding) that inscribed books and especially bibles can sometimes whisper and connect to us across the wide gulf of time. I highly recommend this book very much indeed.

Reviewed by David Gilligan, North Cheshire FHS

May 2015

cover for Life in the Victorian Asylum

Life in the Victorian Asylum by Mark Stevens

The World of Ninteenth Century Mental Health Care

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781781593738
Price £19.99

In 166 pages the author explains the system adopted by our Victorian ancestors for treatment and care of the mentally ill.

As the author says “the hero of a tale entitled Life in a Victorian Asylum has to be the institution rather than the people within it …..”

He puts the reader in the position of a patient and explaining in the modern style of a ‘Handbook’ what happened from the moment of diagnosis and admission through the daily life in the asylum to eventual departure either cured or through death. The various roles of attendants and other members of staff are detailed as well as the layout of the institution and its deliberate siting in the countryside to give patients open air and the ability to work on the asylum’s farm which provided freshly grown food.

Until recently the great asylums were places of fear and stigma for those. Mark’s book explains how surprisingly caring the system was. The large rather austere buildings were places of kindness and help unlike those other Victorian institutions, the workhouses whose role was the relief of the poor.

We are fortunate that the Commissioners in Lunacy kept such detailed records of those in their charge and that many have survived. Records have survived of patients, include descriptions and even photographs as well as their medical records and treatment, which included employment where possible. The records are closed usually for 75 years.

Case studies are included towards the end of the book and a very helpful bibliography demonstrates the sources that can be followed up.

If you have ancestors who were admitted to a lunatic asylum in the middle to the end of the 19th century this book is will open your eyes! It is highly recommended. It will give you a great sense of what it must have been like and how well looked after the unfortunate patient was. It was better to be in an asylum than a workhouse the author suggests.

Reviewed by David Lambert - FHS of Cheshire, Metcalfe FHS

May 2015

cover for One House

The History and Hulley Families of the One House of Rainow near Macclesfield, Cheshire by Ray Hulley

Published by: Longview Publishing
ISBN: 0954031415
Price £7.95 plus postage (free to UK)

Ray Hulley has done a terrific job in collecting, assembling and writing up the histories of not just the One House of Rainow (Cheshire) but of tracing the Hulley name (in all its variants) around the North of England, especially Ashton under Lyne and the huge Macclesfield Forrest area.

The History and Hulley Families of the One House of Rainow is a revised and expanded second-edition of his 2001 monograph. This revised edition contains 86 pages of detailed research (the first edition of 2001 contained 57 pages). Clearly it was an on-going project and whilst Ray admits there is no evidence to connect his kin with the One House Hulley family (p.45) he persevered in outlining the Hulley One House family tree from 1490 to the present day (One House was demolished in August 1939).

The book is structured on six chronological chapters and ten Appendices. There is an extensive index and fifty-four illustrations (some in colour). The book also contains a list of previously published articles by Ray dating from 1990 to 2013.

The story of One House begins with references to it (as ‘an ancient stone mansion in Rainow’) in a charter of 1166 and ends with its demolition in 1939. Full credit to Ray Hulley for producing this fascinating history of One House and the folk who inhabited it. The scholarship and research which created it are remarkable. Ray is a Fellow of the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society and he has been a family historian for over 30 years and he deserves a glitzy commendation for all the time and patience (and, aye, money) he has put into this project.

The book deserves to be read not just for its content and style but for the sheer passion its author brings to the study.

Reviewed by David Gilligan – North Cheshire FHS

May 2015

cover for Lunatic

My Ancestor was a Lunatic - by Kathy Chater

Published by: Society of Genealogists
ISBN: 978-1-907199-32-5
Price: £8.99

This is another volume in the well established series from the Society of Genealogists.  Dr Chater is a highly qualified and experienced family historian and she has produced a thorough and workmanlike survey of the subject.

The book consists of eleven chapters which each trace the history of mental illness and  its treatment from the Middle Ages to the present time.  Each chapter starts with an historical review, gives a list of sites and locations where records can be found and finishes with suggestions for further reading. The author defines the subject in both historical and contemporary terms showing the influence of religion, superstition and science.   She highlights key changes in attitude and treatment.

As well as the general chapters there are detailed considerations of suicide, the criminally insane, those with learning disability and of the relevant systems in Scotland and Ireland.

Overall the book is of a high standard but the index is rather sketchy and several of the illustrations are so faint in reproduction as to be almost unreadable.   And why do we have to have a French illustration as the cover?  We have our own pioneers in this field to celebrate.

A practical and useful survey which can be fully recommended.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

April 2015

cover for County Tyrone

Researching your Ancestors in the North of Ireland
– County Tyrone

Published by: North of Ireland Family History Society
Price: £7.50 (+p&p outside UK)

This book is the third in the series of books to cover the counties of Ulster. It is published by the Society and lists  sources of genealogical information in the county of Tyrone. The subject of this review is the first edition in A5 format and is some 54 pages in length.

In many ways the book is a treasure trove of information, dealing with all the topics of an Irish genealogical nature that researchers need. The book starts with a brief description of County Tyrone, it’s lands, maps and surveys, before moving on to 17, 18 and 19th century sources. It then covers in detail and in tabular form the churches in Tyrone of all denominations and their records. This is followed by a number of short sections on topics ranging from The Ulster Plantation, through Estate Records and School Records to Wills and Workhouses. The book finishes with a list of Books and websites,

Throughout the book each topic includes references to online sources, many of which would be useful for other counties.

My main criticism is that there is no index. For someone looking for a particular topic this would be helpful, rather than having to leaf though the book and for someone who is new to Tyrone, a way of linking the graveyards to parishes or even a map of their locations.

It struck me that the two thumbnail extracts on pages 7 and 46 are difficult to read and therefore do not add anything of use.

All in all a very useful and handy sized reference book.

Reviewed by Peter Davies, Rugby FHG

April 2015

cover for The Lost Ancestor

The Lost Ancestor - by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A Morton Farrier Forensic Genealogist Story

Published by: Good Reads

This is the second book in what promises to be series of Crime Mysteries with a genealogical twist.

The hero is Morton Farrier who works as a ‘forensic’ genealogist. He is asked to trace Mary Mercer by his dying client who wants to know what happened to his aunt. Morton embarks on an interesting genealogical journey not without its surprises and danger. The story is set in two time zones. The present in which Morton follows up leads and traces the family history of the Mercers, using aids known to family historians. The past, revealing to readers what actually happened to them.

Needless to say the hero does manage to ascertain what had occurred and the reason for the secrecy of the aunt’s disappearance. It’s a good story and well written like the first. Possibly less dramatic than the first book in the series but encouraging you to turn the page to see what happens next. It would make a good present for a family historian who enjoys detective stories.

Reviewed by David Lambert

March 2015

cover for Victorian Lodging House

The Secret World of the Victorian Lodging House
by Joseph O'Neill

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781781593936
Price £19.99 (£15.99 from P&S at time of writing)
Also available in ePub and Kindle formats

Joseph O'Neill's book, The Secret World of the Victorian Lodging House, covers a fascinating topic. The author has researched his subject well and each chapter covers an aspect of life in these houses with the subject matter introduced in a brief anecdote.

The book serves well as a social history and will go a long way in fleshing out the lives of ancestors who endured a migratory existence, or lodged in a lodging house, or lived in a workhouse.  The book has a very good subject index and bibliography.  However, I was disappointed to find that the names of folk written about were not fully indexed. There are a number of drawings and photographs in the centre of the book which give a nice perspective to aspects of the conditions and hardships endured by the poor and working classes. I do wish the illustrations were indexed - however that is a personal niggle.  Another downside was that the proofreader let a handful of errors slip through. Then, there is a section describing the Metropolitan Association for improving Dwellings etc which needs to be rejigged to remove confusion in the naming of buildings.

The various downsides should not overly detract from an otherwise excellent book. The subjects covered range from urban life to rural life, epidemics, types of occupier and lodging house keeper.  The squalor - looking at the lowest villainous lodgers and dregs of society - certainly features.  Joseph O'Neill has succeeded in bringing to life the world surrounding lodging houses and workhouses. Many of the stories and anecdotes from the Victorian era sadly ring true of aspects of life at the end of the 20th Century.

This book gives a good springing point for research into facets of life of the poorer classes in the 19th Century.

Reviewed by Richard M Brown, member of  East Surrey FHS & Lincolnshire FHS

February 2015

cover for History of Adoption

A history of Adoption in England and Wales 1850 to 1961
by Gill Rossini

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978 1 78159 395 0
Price £19.99 (£15.99 from P&S at time of writing)

Adoption is a very emotive subject and this book seeks to tell us how adoption developed from the haphazard conditions of the nineteenth century to what we know today.

The book starts with the background and describes what adoption is and tells of the situation under to Poor Laws prior to 1850. The illegitimate child was socially stigmatised and the mother was regarded as morally unsound. Unwanted children were often abandoned.

The author then goes on to describe how children were treated during the next 70 years. There are stories of displaced children, the ‘Street Arabs’ who had no one to care for them.

She talks of how society disapproved of the fallen woman and the  solutions to unwanted pregnancy; marriage to the father or any man who would have her, abortion (very uncertain and dangerous), give the child to another family member to bring up, find a baby minder or sell the baby.

It was the latter two options which gave rise to the ‘Baby Farmer’. These were usually women who for a payment would take the baby and look after it. This arrangement gave rise to the many harrowing stories related in the book. Many baby farmers simply took the mother’s money and then either killed or so neglected the child that it died. Two of the most notorious were Margaret Waters and Amelia Dyer both of whom were executed for their crimes.
I am sure that not all baby farmers behaved this way.

As the century went on, society began to have a conscience about the unwanted child and bodies such as the Children’s Home and the Waifs and Strays Society came into being. These organisations sought to protect the child and improve its quality of life.

After the First World War, there was a significant increase in the number of births outside marriage leading to an increase in the number of children needing a new home and there was pressure to do something about this. The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child sought to keep mother and child together. Adoption Societies aimed to arrange satisfactory adoptions. Social pressure grew and the Adoption of Children Act 1926 was the result.

Legal adoption still had issues to overcome and even as late as the 1930s, baby farming was being practised and informal adoptions were taking place. The Horsburgh Report aimed to strengthen the position of adoption societies and resulted in further legislation.

It is interesting to note that in a pamphlet, aimed at fathers, published for National Baby Week said ‘It is harmful for children to be in an atmosphere laden with tobacco fumes’.

There was an adoption boom after 1945 as there had been after 1918, with more than 17000 babies being adopted each year to 1949. Twenty years after the Adoption Act, the idea was firmly established. Although the unmarried mother and illegitimacy were still very much frowned on, there was a regular supply of infants to be adopted from Mother and Baby Homes. Protection was now being given to the mother as she could not give consent to the adoption for 6 weeks after the birth and adopters were carefully scrutinised and of course the whole process was cloaked in anonymity to protect the child and adopting family.

The sixties saw a rise in adoptions with 24,831 adoptions in 1968, despite the pill. In 2013/14, 5206 adoptions were made.

As any family researcher will know, adoption is a difficult problem to overcome in the family history and this book devotes 20 pages to sources and advice and it provides a guide to further reading which includes web sites.

I have just one minor criticism, the index could be more extensive, but that said this is a worthwhile book.

Reviewed by John Treby

Reviewed John Treby

February 2015

cover for Jane Austen's England

The Housekeeper's Tale by Tessa Boase

Published by: Aurum Press Ltd, London
ISBN: 9781 78131 043 4
Price £20.00 (£16.10 from Amazon at time of writing)

This book consists of five main stories presenting housekeepers, their employers and work. Each case has been fully researched and the social circumstances discussed in an even handed manner. Tessa Boase's writing brings these characters to life with well observed detail. Here the stories are told as presented by the record with social history adding context. The examples are chosen to show a wide history from Dorothy Doar working for Lady Stafford at Trenthem Hall, Stafford to Charleston, Sussex where Grace Higgens worked for Vanessa Bell of Bloomsbury group fame.

The research for this book has not been skimped. Boase's writing highlights the joy of using old records and bundles of letters in archives. Where the records are lacking, reasoned argument is used to complete the story. Family scrap-books and albums play their part and living relatives also contribute. Where there is no evidence, the unanswered question is presented.  Even H.G. Wells contributes to the story of Sarah his mother, who worked for Miss Fetherstonhaugh at Uppark, Sussex. For the family historian this book is a brilliant example of how to present the lives of these women and gives great insight to social life within a large country house.

The stories well are chosen for themes within a housekeeper's life, keeping the house prepared, appointing and managing servants, devotion to duty and eventual loss of their own jobs. The housekeeper's position is a difficult, between upstairs family and downstairs service. The case of Ellen Penketh at Erddig Hall shows another problem, managing the accounts. The First World War changed the role of a housekeeper like Hannah Mackenzie when Wrest Park, Bedfordshire became a hospital.

The epilogue compares the life of a modern housekeeper to highlight the themes. This book is a fascinating read and a great contribution to understanding the social history of domestic service in Victorian, Edwardian and modern times. Highly recommended. 

Reviewed by Tony Sargeant – Buckinghamshire FHS

February 2015

cover for War Memorials

War Memorials - A Guide for Family Historians
by Susan Tall

Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978-906280-46-8
Price £6.50

With the renewed interest in our relatives who were involved in the First World War this book will be useful.  It is divided into two parts: how you might locate a war memorial on which a family member is named and how to research the names and find out a person’s military history.  The author states ‘Do your research carefully, and, although you will often uncover sad and heart-breaking stories, by finding out about the people behind the names on war memorials, you can help make sure they are remembered by future generations.’ 

In the first section there is a good overview of the procedure for the erection of war memorials and the criteria for placing names on the memorials for the First and Second World Wars and subsequent Wars and Conflicts.  In some cases men appear on several memorials; in a town, workplace, school, club or church roll of honour. It is well illustrated with lots of website links to delve into. 

The second part gives advice on researching the names on the memorials from documentary sources to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, datasets such as Soldiers Died in the Great War and local newspapers.  It also guides the reader through sources for military service records.

This is a step by step ‘how to’ guide to locating memorials and the people who may be on them, that I would definitely recommend.

Reviewed by Jane Tunesi

January 2015

cover for Jane Austen's England

A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England by Sue Wilkes

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978 1 78159 2649
Price £12.99 (£10.39 from P&S at time of writing)

This is an ingenious volume. The author, who has written extensively on social history and on genealogy, provides us with a detailed guide book to the habits, facilities, sights and values of Southern England in the early 19th century. Her walk-through of the territory is attractively supported by extensive quotations from the works of Jane Austen herself and from other contemporaries. The author comments that ‘ Austen’s observations of society were exceptionally astute ( though she was not infallible).’

The whole gamut of middleclass society is covered from domestic details (candlelight and privies) through travel (phaetons, barouches and stagecoaches ) to fashionable life in London ( Beau Brummell and dandies ). Perhaps the most interesting section deals with the etiquette (and pressure) to find a suitable marital partner, but as the author observes, ‘ It’s a man’s world’. Or as Jane herself describes it; ‘ Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.’

The text is lively and well arranged and the anecdotes relevant and illuminating. There is a selection of contemporary engravings, an extensive bibliography and a useful summary of Jane’s life. This is a book which Janeites will enjoy and which will provide an informative context to the novels.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

January 2015

cover for Uncle Tom at War

Uncle Tom at War: From Penmachno to Prison Camp
by Hywel Roberts

Published by: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst
ISBN: 978-1-84524-224-4
Price £8.00

This is the story of Thomas Williams of Penmachno in the Conwy Valley. It begins by giving some background information relating to the family’s history in the Valley during the nineteenth century, illustrated with family photographs. At the turn of the twentieth century Tom served his apprenticeship as a tailor before enlisting – travelling throughout Wales and England to gain employment and also to holiday. The information relating to his travels is compiled from the family collection of postcards, letters and photographs that he sent to various family members.

Most of Chapter 3 is focused on a World War I postcard encouraging financial support for the War and I feel has little significance to Tom’s story. He enlisted with the Liverpool Scottish Battalion after a recruitment campaign in Colwyn Bay in 1915, some background information relating to the Regiment is given along with details of the deployment of the Battalion to France in 1916 where Tom was stationed for a time.

In 1917 he was shot and became a prisoner-of-war in Germany, his time there is illustrated by photographs of fellow prisoners and a few letters that have survived. After his discharge from the Army he returned to work as a tailor in Colwyn Bay.

This was a very easy read about the life of one young man serving in the First World War, additionally illustrated by the wonderful photographs, postcards and few letters that survived within the family. It was not heavily laden with details about the War, just enough to give you some idea of the situation at the time. I hope such a book will encourage others to write similarly about their ancestors using surviving material within the family and further afield.

Reviewed Beryl Evans (Cardiganshire Family History Society)

January 2015



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.

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