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• • • • Don't forget to read our reviews of recent CD Publications • • • •
Census – The Family Historian’s Guide (2nd Edition)
The first few chapters of the book cover the origins of the census and describe the Victorian and later censuses in detail. Although not directly relevant to family historians this chapter provides useful background and does help to dispel the myth that the censuses were designed with genealogy in mind. Four case studies are provided which show how the census records can be used in tracing individual families. I found the case studies excellent in bringing to life the information that had been covered in these chapters.
Perhaps the most useful chapter in the book is entitled ‘Why Can’t I Find My Ancestor?’. This covers a number of reasons why you cannot find people where and when you expected to find them. The many possible issues with names, dates, places, and statuses etc. are explained. Again two useful case studies are provided to highlight the issues described.
Having provided a good grounding in the history of the censuses and the possible problems of misleading, missing, or inaccurate information the online censuses are introduced.
Of particular interest is the section on indexing issues and accuracy. A 1% error rate is stated as an unachievable target given the skills and training of the indexers used. This means that at a minimum 300,000 people will be potentially unfindable in any particular online census. Using multiple services with different indexes is a way of overcoming this problem, and the subsequent chapters on individual online services describe from where they have obtained their indexes. This is important to know as using multiple services to try to overcome indexing issues will not be effective if they use the same index!
A chapter on online search techniques provides a useful overview of these techniques and covers the use of wild cards and features such as Soundex, Metaphone, and NameX.
A total of nine chapters describe the various free and paid for online services. The subjects covered include charge rates, searching, images, and saving results. The sharing of census data between the various sites is described in detail and this enables you to determine which services may help if you are trying to overcome indexing issues.
Surprisingly in these days of online access to censuses there are still valid reasons for using microfilm and CD-ROM /DVD census material. Indexes have often been compiled by people with local knowledge and thus can more accurate than generic indexes. In particular if you are looking to review a substantial amount of information, perhaps as part of a one name study then significant cost savings are possible against using an online service. Two chapters of the book cover use of these methods and described how you might benefit from doing your research this way.
Reviewed by Peter Barlow (Member of the Catholic Family History Society)
British Posters of the First World War -
by John Christopher
Published by: Amberley Publishing
This lavishly illustrated book is split is into 16 chapters and explores the art and themes of the many posters that emerged throughout the course of the war. Each chapter has a brief introduction and the illustrations have accompanying captions, but the images speak for themselves.
Using simple slogans and strong graphic imagery the posters were aimed at the working class, they were a form of mass communication that was easy to understand with a strong, clear message.
Many were calls to action such as those illustrated with the well known and much reproduced image of Lord Kitchener but there are other themes explored such as Women at War, Wartime Charities and The War Horses.
The author John Christopher has a degree in Graphic Art. With many titles on the subject of the First World War already published and more to come as we approach the centenary, this book is different; Christopher has drawn on a vast collection of works from a variety of organisations and individuals and has included cartoons from his own collection. All of these serve to explain and explore the importance and impact this medium had on the great British public.
Life in 1940s London – by Mike Hutton
Published by: Amberley Publishing
Price £20.00 RRP
Life in 1940s London is a nicely published book which covers a lot of ground in just over 200 pages. It is evident that the book has been well researched and well thought out. Topics are contained in single chapters. At the centre of the book there are a number of photographs which capture the spirit of life and times in London throughout the decade. In fact, if you want to get an idea of what wartime conditions were like in London, or if you are an older reader who remembers any part of the 1940s, then this is the book for you.
It should be mentioned that the author, Mike Hutton, is a London social historian who has published other titles. Mike has a good writing style which is to the point, and matter of fact, along with a very dry sense of humour! There are numerous stories in the different chapters. The stories serve nicely in spicing things up, while other tales will tug at the heart-strings. For example, in Chapter 6, which covers wartime entertainment, the overview of wartime films is well written with the spirit of celluloid tales neatly captured.
Chapter 12, a London love story, has been written with feeling. Mike discusses the situation of demobbed troops, and how they coped with civilian life and their families which had changed while they were away on active service.
Overall, this book is an enjoyable read which provides some nice pieces of information to flesh out the lives of your wartime family members and of their communities.
Life in 1940s London catches the spirit of the wartime years, and of changes and momentous events post-war.
This book certainly “does what it says on the tin”.
Reviewed by Richard M Brown, member of East Surrey FHS and Lincolnshire FHS
A Tommy in the Family: First World War Family History and Research -
by Keith Gregson
Published by: The History Press
This is a book that I was very keen to read and review for FFHS because of my interest in WW1 and I was not disappointed. It is a small A5 book but it packs quite a punch. It is divided into twenty individual chapters each relating to one of Gregson’s relatives. It is clear from the onset that the author Keith Gregson has not just a love of history, but many years’ experience both as a family historian and as an author of books including ‘A Viking in the Family’ and ‘Tracing your Northern Ancestors’ , he calls himself a ‘social historian’ which is very much reflected in this book. It will appeal to a wide audience both adults and children alike. It mentions important dates and battles, not necessarily previously known about in such detail. Gregson writes about his ancestor’s experiences in their own words then interprets this information from authentic known evidence, setting his ancestor in context and looks at both pieces of evidence critically and meticulously. In particular he mentions in ‘Chapter 7: Joe Bentley: a Mysterious Tale’ the sad realisation to him that Joe was one of the 250 men from ‘the Norfolk Regiment [who] mysteriously disappeared into the mist’ at Gallipoli in 1915. I remember watching the film All the King’s Men with David Jason in the lead role and the men from the Sandringham Estate. His reference to it in the book recreated the horrific images from that film in my mind and I can remember it vividly indeed.
Gregson follows a methodical and consistent format throughout. He has taken great care to elaborate where appropriate making it easier for the reader to understand terminology often found in War Diaries or Army Records. Chapter 19: Artie Watterson: A submariner’s tale was also engaging as it related to my part of the country (The Firth of Forth). I felt that this chapter could have included official naval documentation (references to where such records are housed perhaps on the ‘Kalamity Class’) of the incident particularly as the Forth played a major part in protecting Scotland from invasion.
The book is a well written and emotional, it relates directly to human tragedies of WW1 and one particular family’s experiences of the war. I admit I did shed a few tears at some of the personal accounts he told. Reading it has made me want to look again at my own family history and see where I can tease out and explore in more detail the experiences of my First World War ancestors.
A conclusion and bibliography at the end would have made it a good reference book too, although he does periodically reference well. The author’s meticulous attention to detail and his analysis of evidence is quite outstanding.
orna Kinnaird - Regional Representative for Scotland-South (Guild of One Name Studies) and a Professional Genealogist at Dunedin Links Genealogy and proud member of the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) & IHGS Student
Reviewed by Lorna Kinnaird - Regional Representative for Scotland-South (Guild of One Name Studies) and a Professional Genealogist at Dunedin Links Genealogy and proud member of the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) & IHGS Student
Methodist Records for Family Historians - by Richard Ratcliffe
Published by: The Family History Partnership
Price £4.95 RRP
This is a booklet that I was very happy to review because it is for anyone researching Methodist records providing them with good basic information - and for family historians and genealogists to use as a compact resource guide. It is a small A5 booklet with 32 pages. The author Richard Ratcliffe is a family history tutor and a keen student of the history of Methodism, Quarter Sessions Records and School Records and his expertise and understanding on the subject is perfectly displayed within the booklet. This booklet is the updated and revised edition of Ratcliffe’s earlier book ‘Basic Facts about Methodist Records for Family Historians’ (published 2005 and now out of print).
It is split into seventeen different chapters all relating to Methodist records from around the British Isles and each chapter is packed full of relevant background historical information, useful up-to-date references, and clear locations of where the records are located to help the historian research the subject to the best of their ability.
I like the presentation and format of the booklet – it’s simple and doesn’t use jargon and terms that you can’t understand. But I would have liked to have seen at least one or two examples of original Methodist records included – so that a researcher could see what the documents actually looked like. Ratcliffe has, in my view, provided a good balance between just the right amount of information to references - without extending it to pages and pages of descriptive information. I always find it useful to read in such a booklet how Nonconformist records are organised and where they can be found – and this booklet provides that information and much more, in a very straightforward and logical approach. He discusses Methodist baptismal, marriage and burial records and offers some examples too as well as looking at records of a Methodist Circuit, what they might contain and where they might be found.
Chapter 15 (a select bibliography) lists many other equally good books for further reading and referencing. But I particularly like the Calendar (Chapter 16) in which he lists in date order the important key events surrounding the Methodist Church as this helps put any Wesleyan ancestor into context.
His references include full postal and contact addresses, email and websites and the person in charge at the Wesley and Methodist Studies Centres that should be contacted. Again, this kind of information is very useful to anyone looking for an up to date, easy to follow and informative reference booklet.
I really do think this is an excellent reference booklet and I for one will be suggesting to fellow genealogists and family history societies that they should include this within their libraries.
Reviewed by Lorna Kinnaird – Regional Representative for Scotland-South (Guild of One Name Studies) and a Professional Genealogist at Dunedin Links Genealogy and proud member of the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) & IHGS Student,
‘Hiding the Past’ A Genealogical Crime Mystery
- by Nathan Doyle Goodwin
Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
There are a small but increasing number of authors writing books whose hero uses family history or genealogical techniques and skills to solve mysteries of murder and mayhem!
This book is the first novel by the author and is the first of what promises to be a series involving Morton Farrier, ‘the forensic genealogist’.
The story starts with a presumed murder of a mother in 1940s wartime Britain. It then moves to the present and finds Morton struggling, unsuccessfully, to find the birth of the father of his client, who 5 days earlier had paid Morton a very handsome fee! His client dies suddenly- seemingly suicide but was it? Morton fortunately was quick to bank the cheque as he did not have any problem in it being cleared before his client’s death!
Interwoven in the story are Morton’s own ambivalent feelings to his adopted father and brother with flashbacks to Wartime Britain as Morton discovers more. All contribute to an entertaining read. The book, like every good ‘thriller’ will not allow you to put it down. You do want to know what Morton’s next attempt to trace the parentage of his client is going to reveal and with it the consequences, increasingly dire, as he edges nearer to the truth. Being a forensic genealogist clearly is not without its hazards as readers soon discover.
Morton follows up leads and uses records known to all family historians and eventually with several clandestine escapades, which James Bond would have been proud of, the mystery of his late client’s ancestors unravels.
I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book!
For more details about the author see his website www.nathangoodwin.co.uk. Follow him on Twitter @nathangoodwin76 and
‘Like him’ on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nathandylangoodwin.
Reviewed by David Lambert
Putting Your Ancestors in their Place
– A Guide to One Place Studies by Janet Few
Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978 1 906280 43 7
There are so few books dedicated to the subject of One Place Studies therefore this is a very welcomed addition to the genealogical and local history arena.
The book has been thoroughly researched and whilst is heavily slanted at such studies in the United Kingdom, those who are pursuing studies, or contemplating studies outside of the United Kingdom would without a doubt benefit from reading this book.
The book is divided into three distinct sections, Setting the Scene, Sources for One Place Studies and Pulling it All Together written over 12 chapters.
Part One covers the What and Why of One Place Studies, Reconstructing the Place and Populating the Community.
Part Two, Sources for One Place Studies covers Locating Sources from before 1600 to after 1900.
Part Three includes the final chapter which considers publishing your study, whether that is through a book or website. It also looks at the aspect of funding for a study and the importance of the future of your study.
The final pages are given over to examples of some studies, a comprehensive bibliography, magazines and journals, Societies and addresses, courses and an index.
At the end of each chapter there is further reading and of course many website addresses are presented so that you can explore as you read. There are also projects that can be undertaken as you read. I particularly like this idea, as it enables you to look at your place and community, layer by layer, by person and surname and understand how the individuals were in relation to their community.
This is a good grounding for those undertaking One Place Studies anywhere. The resources are obviously aimed at those within England and Wales, but that itself can give rise to contemplation of what similar records exist in your location where ever you or your study are in the world. I personally recommend this thoroughly researched and comprehensive guide to anyone who has an interest in understanding the places in which their ancestors lived.
Reviewed by Julie Goucher
The Lifeboat Service in Scotland
by Nicholas Leach
Published by: Amberley Publishing
The history of the lifeboat service in Scotland is one of outstanding bravery and tragedy: bravery exemplified in the Gold medal-winning rescues by the Peterhead lifeboat in 1942 and the Lerwick lifeboat in 1997; and tragedy when lifeboat men gave their own lives at Arbroath, Fraserburgh, Longhope and elsewhere to help others in distress.
This comprehensive new book looks in detail at the work of the lifeboat stations in Scotland, past and present. The RNLI currently operates forty-seven lifeboat stations in Scotland, and this volume contains details of every one, with information about their history, rescues and current lifeboats. The author Nicholas Leach has amassed a wealth of information about Scotlands lifeboats and lifeboat stations, visiting every one of them to provide a complete and up-to-date record of life-saving in the seas off the rugged and beautiful, but often treacherous Scottish coast.
To the local and social historian, especially those studying areas along the Scottish coasts, this book provides a wealth of information about the local lifeboats, the equipment they have used over the years, many of the rescues they have undertaken, the disasters which have befallen them, and the place of the lifeboat service in the local community.
Whilst genealogists and family historians may be a little disappointed that there are few mentions of the names of the brave men who crewed and maintained these lifeboats, except in times of bravery or tragedy, they may be aware that their ancestors had been involved at some time in their life with the work of the lifeboats. This book will certainly allow them to add some background detail, to add flesh to the bones of their seafaring ancestors, and it certainly warrants a place on the bookshelves of anyone studying the history of families in Scotland’s seafaring communities.
Reviewed by Bruce B Bishop FSA Scot, ASGRA
Tracing your Limerick Ancestors by Margaret Franklin
Published by:Flyleaf Press
ISBN13: 978 1 907990 069
This is a revision of the previous volume in the series published by the Flyleaf Press. This new and expanded guide to Limerick Ancestors is by Margaret Franklin, who has recently retired as Local History Librarian in Limerick County Library. It follows the pattern of other County books in the series.
Margaret writes in an easy to read and lucid style. All the “Standard” chapters have been included and there is a useful list of parishes under the Church record section. It is also helpful to be given the name of the Diocese to which the parish belongs.
Margaret has greatly expanded and updated the previous edition providing a very comprehensive guide of local sources. There is however unfortunately very little reference to sources for occupations (with the exception of Flax growers), education or immigration, which other volumes in the series include. Perhaps these topics could be included another time.
In this ever changing electronic age, Margaret lists many of the websites, where the information can be found, which is very commendable. The reader would need to beware however that some of these change or may even disappear as time goes on.
The section under civil registration, lists other records held by the GRO, was very illuminating and may even be the reason that an event can’t be found in the normal BMD indexes. Did the event take place at sea or did your ancestor die in the in the British Army. Margaret Franklin has suggestions as to where these might found.
Overall a very readable and informative book especially for those with Limerick Ancestors.
Reviewed by Peter Davies – Rugby FHG
Doctor Barnardo: Champion of Victorian Children
by Martin Levy
Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978 1 4456 0923 2
This is an attractive and well presented volume which describes a fascinating man who founded a 19th Century charity in London's East End, which is still powerfully active today. Michael Levy details Thomas Barnardo's career from his birth in Ireland to his death in 1986. While full credit is given to Barnardo for his Herculean labours to better the lives of the children of the poor, attention is also focused on the less attractive side of his personality and practice. The institutions he founded expanded rapidly to meet a pressing need but his high-handed and litigious behaviour involved his charity in a number of extremely difficult situations. He was often guilty of ignoring the rights and wishes of the families of his charges (only a quarter of whom were orphans). His scheme for shipping youngsters to Canada to give them a fresh start was significantly flawed, to the detriment of many children involved. Barnado comes across as a determined and driven man, an evangelical Protestant.
Sadly the style in which the book is written is, to this reviewer, uninviting and detracts from the subject. It is cliché-ridden, repetitive and meandering. Annoyingly it paraphrases rather than quotes source material and 'invents' historical conversations. Much of this gets in the way of a fuller analysis of Dr Barnardo ('Dr' by courtesy since he dropped out of medical school) and his paradoxical character, but if you can get beyond the style, the story rewards the effort.
Reviewed by Charles Kaye
The Family Historian’s Enquire Within (Sixth Edition)
extensively revised and updated by Dr Janet Few
Published by:The Family History Partnership (January 2014)
Price £12.95 (RRP)
Family historians can never have enough reference books and although I have probably got more than most I gladly accepted the offer to review the latest edition of The Family Historian’s Enquire Within (Sixth Edition). This book (edited by Dr Janet Few) is considered ‘one of the standard reference works for family historians’ and rightly so.
First published in 1985 and regularly updated to reflect the rapidly changing face of family history research - Janet Few says ‘family history research has changed beyond all recognition since 1985’. The book gives clear and concise information on more than a thousand alphabetically arranged entries with explanations, definitions, dates, recommended books and useful website addresses. The topics covered are wide-ranging (as you would expect). As well as the usual stuff on parish registers, monumental inscriptions and probate there are extensive entries on Civil Registration, relationships (which includes an easy-to-read chart), prisons and prisoners.
No reference book can be completely comprehensive, of course, and I did find a few omissions in this one. On page 288 Jane Few mentions the popular television programme, Who Do You Think you Are? - and she rightly mentions the monthly magazine but not the accompanying book to the series (published 2004) by Dan Waddell which, I think, is an interesting introduction to genealogy in general. In addition I thought the space and depth give to some topics like MIs, funeral customs and death was a little lightweight. I was disappointed, for example, that she didn’t mention Julian Litten’s magnificent The English Way Death – The Common Funeral Since 1450 (1991) in the entry on funerals.
At 248 mm x 172mm and 293 pages the book is easy to handle and read (nice big type) and while many entries are very short there is on the whole enough information to follow the topic further with many excellent textual references and a selection of recommended books.
This is one of the most generally useful genealogical books on the market. In dictionary format, it provides clear sign-posts to point you in the right direction at every stage in your research.
Reviewed by David Gilligan (Member of North Cheshire FHS)
The surnames of Wales by John and Sheila Rowlands
Published by: Gomer Press Llandysul Ceredigion SA44 4JL
ISBN 978 1 84851 775 2
This is an updated revised edition of this book which was first published in 1996. Although a scholarly work it is an interesting study of the development and distribution of Welsh surnames. Anyone who is researching a Welsh ancestor will be very aware of the difficulties resulting from the patronymic names.
The book takes one by the hand and leads one gently but very clearly through the minefield of Welsh patronymic surnames, their origins and distribution. It starts by describing the history of Welsh surnames and describes how they developed
This is followed by chapters on the origin and distribution of the names as well as the meaning and origin of many given names. These chapters are accompanied by good, easy to use maps.
The authors then describe several different ways to use their surveys and finish by discussing migration.
There is an extensive bibliography and useful appendices listing the Hundreds in Wales. If you are looking for your ancestors with Welsh names this book will certainly help point you in the right direction
Reviewed by John Treby (Gloucestershire FHS, Devon FHS, East of London FHS)
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.