Federation Of Family History Societies

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Books from The Federation

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cover for Putting your Ancestors in their Place

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
Price £7.95

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

March 2014

cover for The Lifeboat Service in Scotland

The Lifeboat Service in Scotland
- by Nicholas Leach

Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN-10: 1445613395
Price £14.49

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

March 2014

cover for Surnames of Wales

Tracing your Limerick Ancestors by Margaret Franklin

Published by:Flyleaf Press
ISBN13: 978 1 907990 069
Price £14.50

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

March 2014

cover for Jane Austen's England

Doctor Barnardo: Champion of Victorian Children
- by Martin Levy

Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978 1 4456 0923 2
Price £22.50

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

March 2014

cover for Jane Austen's England

The Family Historian’s Enquire Within (Sixth Edition)
- extensively revised and updated by Dr Janet Few

Published by:The Family History Partnership (January 2014)
ISBN 978-1-906280-11-6
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)

February 2014

cover for Surnames of Wales

The surnames of Wales by John and Sheila Rowlands

Published by: Gomer Press Llandysul Ceredigion SA44 4JL
ISBN 978 1 84851 775 2
Price £19.99

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)

February 2014

Tracing your Ancestors’ Childhood
by Sue Wilkes

cover for Tracing your ancestor's childhood

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 9781781591666
Price £12.00

Tracing your Ancestors’ Childhood By Sue Wilkes
ISBN 9781781591666

Sue Wilks has produced a very detailed book on how to trace your ancestors’ childhood. She has taken a lot of time and is very organised and detailed in what she has written. The Book is divided into two parts. The first is in Chapters, each dealing with issues that might affect a child’s life; e.g. The Poor Law, Growing up at Work, Education and, very topically, Children in Wartime.

She states her parameters; primarily records about children aged 0-16 years old in England and Wales 1750-1950. She also includes information about children being shipped to South Africa, Canada and Australia and the thinking behind the placements.
Included are Case Studies that usefully illustrate the points she is making, such as the Chorley Union Workhouse records showing how a boy called John Silk repeatedly came up in the punishment book and was ‘severely punished with a rod.’

This detailed book will help to provide a broad brush picture of life for your ancestors as children in a particular period. Greater detail for a particular child may be difficult or impossible as the author reminds us that many records are missing or destroyed.

The surviving records are in many and various places; local museums, History Centres/ Record Offices, Family History Societies and other repositories. The second part of the book is a Research Guide which lists many of those Archives and Repositories. It lists useful addresses, twelve pages of web-sites (some free!), Education Sources and more, under helpful group headings.

The contact addresses and web sites will lead, in most cases, to details of the organisation, for example a brief history and any previous names under which it operated, and further details of how to pursue enquires with them. Very few will lead directly to names. (St Georges’ House, Police Orphanage, Harrogate, is a lovely exception listing 644 names of children, some staff and includes some photographs.) For any hope of a successful search for a particular child one would need the child’s full name and very good idea of the geographical area in which they lived.

Not a book to pick up to read cover to cover, but definitely one for your bookshelf to dip into now and in the future as a reference source.

Reviewed by Ann Gynes – Dorset FHS

December 2013

In the Mind’s Eye: the blinded veterans of St Dunstans
by David Castleton

cover for In the Minds Eye

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 9781781593479
Price £19.99

If your ancestors were blinded whilst serving in the armed forces during the twentieth century, then the likelihood is that they were helped by St Dunstans. This charity for war blinded was established by Sir Arthur Pearson, the founder of the Daily Express, who himself suffered from glaucoma. It provided (and still, as Blind Veterans UK, provides) occupational training for over 3,000 blind ex-servicemen, and sought to demonstrate that there was life and hope after blindness. Whoever heard of the blind playing darts or climbing mountains? The answer: St Dunstaners!

This book recounts the history of St Dunstans from its founding in 1915, through two world wars. It is a story well-told, and includes the stories of many individuals. There was, for example, Thomas Drummond, blinded at Gallipoli, who had been second engineer on a passenger liner before the war, and who was the first St Dunstaner to train as a diver. Divers, of course, can’t see much under the water, so it is almost irrelevant if they are blind. Sometimes, the individual stories are so interesting that the author gets carried away and forgets he is writing about St Dunstans! Bill Stalham, for example, was forced to dig his own grave at Changi, before being sent off by his Japanese captors to clear the jungle for the Burma Railway. His exploits as a prisoner of war occupy four pages before we are told that his sight failed much later in life, and that he came to St Dunstans in 1977. Everyone whose relatives were helped by St Dunstans will find this book interesting. So will those who are interested in the history of disabilities in twentieth century Britain. However, I do have one complaint – probably due more to the publisher than the author. Where did the author’s information come from? And how would the researcher discover details of St Dunstaners? Presumably, the archives of St Dunstans are preserved somewhere, and it may be assumed that much information came from personal reminiscences. Other sources, such as newspapers, may have been consulted. But we are not told. Genealogists would have found this book much more useful if this information had been provided, so that they could trace the details of individual St Dunstaners.

Reviewed by Stuart A. Raymond

November 2013

For more information on tracing St Dunstan's veterans see this page

cover for Voices from the Asylum

Voices From The Asylum - West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum
- by Mark Davis and Marina Kidd

Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978 1 4456 2173 9

If you ‘lose’ an ancestor in or between censuses, there is the possibility that sadly they might have been incarcerated in an Asylum built by County Councils fulfilling their statutory duties to provide care and treatment of ‘lunatics’.

Within the last few days, ironically that happened to me. I discovered my ancestor died in the West Riding of Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum in 1877. That Asylum is the subject of this book, albeit that it concentrates on buildings at Menston erected 10 years after her death.

The author’s introduction and a section entitled Care and Treatment give an excellent and succinct overview of the way in which mentally ill persons were treated in an Asylum, such as Menston and its various buildings, which only closed ten years ago. By the middle of the 20th century the authors point out that such was its size, the Asylum had become ‘a self-contained village for the mad’.

Historians are fortunate that records of patients, including photographs and medical records, from admission to departure, are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) from the 19th century until the latter part of the 20th century. These can be seen by researchers, although there are some closures on more recent records. They are also available online via the WYAS website. It is these records which the authors use to good effect.

Mark Davis has already written a book about the High Royds Asylum entitled: ‘West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum Through Time’. [ISBN 978-1-4456-0750-4 Price £14.99]. He knows his subject well and enlightens the reader about a subject which until very recently was rarely discussed or acknowledged.

The book deals briefly with 37 individuals who were resident at Menston. The format used by the authors is, in most cases, to have a photograph of the resident, taken at the Asylum and on the opposite page a summary of their personal details on admission, history of their medical state and mental illness, demeanour (in particular if they were thought to be a danger to themselves or others). This information is taken directly from the archives held by the WYAS from the 19th century until the latter part of the 20th century. Their collaboration is acknowledged in the book.

In addition, notes by the authors are added at the end of each page stating what happened to the individuals about whom they written. Other items are referred to, including an ‘escape’ by inmates as reported in a local newspaper, sad letters written by patients to their relatives and at the end of the book one patient’s ‘improved’ version of Hamlet’s soliloquy: ‘To be or not to be’ .

The book contains 96 pages but through the skilful use of photographs and the biographic details, light is shed on the lives of patients who were ignored whilst alive and forgotten in death. The photographs are particularly haunting. Several are clearly ill and indeed several die shortly after admission as explained in the text.

A large number of patients remained in the asylum until death and many (2,861) were buried in a pauper’s grave in the cemetery adjacent to the Asylum on Buckle Road.

The book records the inspirational work by the Friends of High Royds Memorial Garden, who have restored the High Royds Mortuary Chapel and Memorial Garden which contains the unmarked graves of the 2,861 pauper patients. As the book says, the Garden is now a ‘beautiful and moving place to go to contemplate these sad stories’. The authors are generously donating the proceeds of the book to the Memorial Garden. The book costs £14.99.

The book I am now reviewing supplements Mark’s earlier work referred to above, which should be read if more detail is required about the way in which the mentally ill were cared for and specifically this Asylum, its employees and residents.

A minor error I noted on page 87 where the accompanying photographs are wrongly stated to be on page 80. They are actually on page 86.

It has helped me to appreciate what my ancestor’s life might have been like in the institution where sadly she stayed for 12 years. I can recommend this book.

Reviewed by David Lambert (FFHS)

November 2013

The Great War Handbook – a Guide for Family Historians & Students of the Conflict by Geoff Bridger

cover for the Great War handbook

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 978-1783461769
Price £10.39

I started thinking about the Great War in the summer and it occurred to me that as we approach the First World War Centenary next year I actually know very little about it. Like most people I know the basic details about it, I guess, like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which supposedly triggered off the war and that it was mostly fought in the trenches and millions died, but the rest of its history now seems hazy. I was very grateful, then, to find Geoff Bridger’s book The Great War Handbook which seems to have been written for people (like me) who are essentially family historians striving to make sense of the past and our ancestors lives.

In truth, thousands of books have been written and published about the conflict, the causes of the conflict and the consequences of the conflict, but I have found The Handbook is perfect for those who don’t really want to analyse the causes and consequences of the war but who simply want facts, figures and accurate data to help paint a picture of this momentous period.

I can confirm that Geoff Bridger's book answers many of the basic questions for those readers who are approaching this enormous and challenging subject for the first time. He tries to show not only what happened and why, but what was the Great War like for ordinary soldiers who were caught up in it. He describes the conditions the soldiers endured, the deadly risks they ran, their daily routines and the small roles they played in the complex military machine they were part of. His comprehensive survey of every aspect of the soldier's life, from recruitment and training, through the experience of battle and its appalling aftermath is an essential guide for students, family historians, teachers and anyone who is eager to gain an all-round understanding of the nature of the conflict. His authoritative handbook gives a fascinating insight into the world of the Great War - it is a basic book that no student of the subject can afford to be without.

His first chapter (Prologue and Overview of the War) sets the scene leading to the War he then has chapters on the army, the soldiers, trenches, weapons and Death in Many Forms (Chapter 7). Subsequent chapters cover everything from medical matters to ‘spies and their fate’. Chapter 11 is a Guide to Visiting the Western Front Battlefields and as I’m hoping to go over to France and Belgium next year this was very relevant indeed.

The handbook is packed full of detail and is lavishly illustrated with dozens of drawings, photos and diagrams. For instance I never realised conscription was only introduced in Britain halfway through the war (March 1916) and that while Conscription dates back to antiquity this was the first time Britain had used it (i.e. compulsory enlistment).

I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by David Gilligan of North Cheshire FHS

November 2013

cover for Jane Austen's England

Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England
How our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago
- by Roy & Lesley Adkins

Published by: Little, Brown
ISBN 1408703963, 9781408703960

With a total of 422 pages, Eavesdropping includes not only a compelling narrative of exceedingly well researched material, but also incorporates a comprehensive index; some fine black and white photographs depicting many aspects of the era; a chronological overview from October 1760 through to 1925; a large section containing notes from the text and, of course, a bibliography.

Austen's Pride and Prejudice celebrates it's 200th anniversary this year. Her eloquent story telling highlights a somewhat peaceful existence experienced by a privileged few whilst the vast majority of a war-ravaged England lived a harsh and brutal life. Eavesdropping looks at everyday events and activities of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, including the sale of wives in town marketplaces, forced marriages, childbirth, and death, to name but a few. The authors, drawing on their own thorough research of the period, often use comparisons from various descriptions of life in the upper echelons written by Austen in her novels, with those commentaries found in the journals, letters and papers of the ordinary people struggling to make a life for themselves. Their fulsome commentary thus allows the reader to get a real insight into the many aspects of life as it was lived then.

I found this book an excellent read. My only criticism of the Publishers is that I would have preferred the 'Notes to the Text' to be at the bottom of each page instead of in a specific chapter near the end of the book. Having to regularly flick through pages to find the corresponding notes became tedious and interrupted my flow of reading.

For those students who are studying Austen either in English Literature seminars or for sheer pleasure, reading the Adkins' book will make a compelling addition to their own understanding of the era, enabling them to gain a more rounded point of view to life as it was in Austen's England. For those social historians who wish to expand on their knowledge of the experiences of the everyday in Georgian and Regency England, I could not recommend a better read.

Reviewed by Stephanie Turner, member of Louth Branch of the Lincolnshire Family History Society

November 2013

cover for Granny was a brothel keeper

Granny was a Brothel Keeper - 50 Family History Traps
by Kate Broad and Toni Neobard

Published by: The Family History Partnership (Lancashire), 2013
ISBN 978-1-906280-38-3
Price £8.99

'Granny was a Brothel Keeper' is an entertaining collection of true stories which illustrate the fascinating and sometimes bizarre world of family history research.

This book certainly catches the eye! On first reading I found this book extremely entertaining – the cartoons are light-hearted and funny and the structure of each section is well balanced with interesting titles. It is certainly not a reference book for genealogists but rather one that outlines many of the common traps that those researching family history often find themselves in. This book lays all those embarrassing traps out hoping to show the reader that genealogy is actually quite difficult and how easy it is to get it wrong – but how to avoid them in future. I like the fact that this book targets the well experienced as well as the complete beginner family historian. As the authors say their aim is to show the reader what the ‘banana skins of family history can be and how to avoid skidding and landing on your backside’ – and with 45 years research experience between them I think they know what they are talking about. The traps are all explained in an easy to understand format which is both logically described and hilariously illustrated. Toni gives the reader his ‘tips’ while Kate gives her ‘comments’ after each ‘trap’. The book is split into five main sections each with ten traps described.

I really enjoyed this book and grinned from cover to cover – the illustrations are very entertaining. The reader will be nodding their head, laughing to themselves and agreeing that they have indeed fallen foul to at least one of the ‘traps’ as they read through this book. I must confess that even after reading the book I find that I have picked it up several times since! I have not seen this kind of book written and its’ light-hearted take on research will indeed appeal to a wide audience. The authors’ distinctive way of writing throughout and the cheerful illustrations means that this book requires no summary. Its’ companion is ‘Grandad Was A Dwarf Strangler’ – which if this book was anything to go by – should also be another entertaining read.

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

November 2013

cover for The Brewers ...

The Brewers and Breweries of Ayrshire, Buteshire and Renfrewshire - by Forbes Gibb and Rob Close

Published by: Lomax Press, 2013
ISBN 978-0-9560288-6-0
Price £10.00

Once again, Forbes Gibb and companion Rob Close have embarked on a fact-finding beer walk around part of Scotland, adding to their previous excellent accounts of the brewing trade in Stirlingshire, Fife and Linlithgowshire. The authors have brought together a wealth of information gathered from contemporary documents and newspapers describing brewers and brewing companies in the three counties over many years from the 18th century to the present day.

Brewers and breweries are listed by place within the three counties with the major breweries described in more detail in the second part; for the larger towns, background information on the brewing trade is given, particularly local legislation on the cost of beer. From the point of view of the family historian, perhaps the details of the many people involved in the brewing trade will be of most interest; in many cases significant dates and family members are mentioned. Accounts of the major breweries in the second part help to put these histories into context and give insight into their owner’s business activities.

The real ale enthusiasts are catered for, not only by the accounts of breweries no longer producing beer, but with information on currently working breweries and of the smaller operations, many recently established. Indeed the only brewery mentioned on the Isle of Arran began operations in 2000.

Full references are given to sources and both personal and brewery names are well indexed. Those with family connections in this part of Scotland may not have connections with brewing other than as consumers but should still consult this excellent source.

Reviewed by Stuart Laing, member of Scotslot

October 2013

Detained in England 1914-1920: Eastcote POW Camp, Pattishall
by Colin R Chapman & S Richard Moss

Published by Lochin Publishing
ISBN 978-1 873686 22 5
Price £9.99

For many of us, the phrase “prisoner of war” conjures up images of English officers digging long tunnels to freedom or planning ingenious routes out of Colditz Castle. “Detained in England” concerns a different dimension to the subject – the prisoners being Germans and the location rural Northamptonshire.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the Government faced many fresh challenges. One of these was what to do about the large number of Germans who either lived in Britain or were unfortunate enough to be present there when war was declared. This task was initially the responsibility of the Home Office and, although many of the civilians of German origins had by then already been interviewed and released, at the end of 1914 more than 17,000 civilians and over 6,000 military personnel were still in custody.

Not all internment facilities were provided by the Government. The camp at Pattishall, for instance, was established by the National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union to accommodate their German members who were held in Britain. It was not until October 1915 that control of the camp passed to the War Office, leading to a stricter regime and its use only for military prisoners. By October 1917, the main camp alone housed 3,493 POWs. In April 1919, that total had reached 4,509.

Specific chapters of the book address the subjects of escapes and of the prisoner’s lives and letters. 18 people escaped from the camp itself but the fact that the North Sea lies between Pattishall and Germany prevented any of the fugitives from reaching home. Only a small proportion of prisoners’ letters survive but some have been tracked down and quotations from them provide considerable human interest.

This very well-illustrated volume includes a useful bibliography and two indexes – one of personal names and the other of places mentioned. The personal names are of individuals mentioned in the text and inevitably list only a small proportion of the inmates and other individuals connected with the camp.

This book will interest a much wider readership than just those whose families were connected with the Pattishall area or the POW camp. It is a model of how to weave detailed evidence into a much wider tapestry of strategic questions, in this case about how enemy civilians and captured troops should be treated and how they could make the best of their boring, if relatively safe, circumstances.

Reviewed by Francis Howcutt (FFHS)

October 2013

cover for The Cuckoo's Daughter

The Cuckoo's Daughter by Griselda Gifford

Published by Country Books
ISBN 978-1-906789-87-9
Price £6.29

Griselda Gifford is an established author who has written more than 30 books for children and short stories for adults. Her latest short (167 pages) novel, aimed at pre-teen girls, is set in rural Surrey in 1799. The novel is written in the first person and tells of a few months in the life of Louisa La Coast. She has lived since birth with foster-parents on their farm, and kept in ignorance of her parentage. The action in the novel centres on what happens when she begins to question this. It is based on a true story, that of the author's great great grandmother, and is an example of family history being fictionalised to bring a forebear’s story to a modern audience. In the author’s words “I felt her story had to be told as she was so badly treated by her real parents”.

It is a domestic account, tailored to its young audience. Louisa’s search for her origins is interwoven with the progress of her relationship with Captain Godfrey Macdonald, a penniless younger son brought up in Edinburgh. There is no reference to the political context, and only a passing mention by Captain Macdonald to a “perhaps ill-considered invasion” of the Low Counties. It is crisply written and fast-paced. However, to my adult perspective any possiblity of tension is undermined by an over-detailed blurb which summarises almost all the plot, with remaining uncertainty removed for anyone reading the author’s introduction.

At a time when concern is expressed about the ageing profile of local societies, this is an example of what can be done to make the lives of ancestors more accessible to a (much) younger audience. However Louisa's life and choices are far from typical of the agricultural or factory workers that are the norm for many family historians.

Reviewed by Karin Thompson (FFHS)

October 2013

Tracing Your House History – by Gill Blanchard

cover for Tracing your House History

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 184884254-6
Price £14.99

I was recently given a copy of this book to review and what a delight it was.

This book is more than a guide to researching the history of your house, or a house of interest. It is a font of interest if you are seeking to research and understand the social and domestic lives of people and their communities from early times.

The book is comprehensively laid out over 7 chapters and gently walks readers and researchers through where to find information. Starting with indexes, catalogues and transcriptions before moving along to finding archives in Records offices, local history libraries, heritage, local and family history organisations and numerous online resources.

The section on dating your home and house style is very comprehensive, starting with looking at architects and their role and then moving along to dating a building.

This nicely links into the third chapter which features architecture styles across the ages, commencing with Prehistoric through Norman, Medieval, Tudor, Stuart, Georgian, Victoria and Edwardian times. This chapter also looks at Modern homes, before moving onto discuss and provide resources for model villages, Garden Cities and Philanthropic Schemes, new towns and council housing. Also touched upon is the Public Health and slum clearances, why they were necessary and what gave rise to them in the first place along with locating the redevelopment and clearance records.

The book progresses to the process of building local knowledge, by looking at local histories, the importance of oral histories, local tales & legends and the foundations they can provide in research. This is followed by two important areas; finding out about local history and then about the resources of Societies, groups and information. Moving on from that is a section that looks at the visuals of such a study; photographs and postcards, along with paintings and drawings which add illustrative social context to your study.

Chapter 5 is a very full and comprehensive chapter on resources. Many will be already known to family historians, such as Birth, Marriage and Death records, Parish records, and Census returns. Also included is business and occupation records, directories and gazetteers, Electoral registers and poll books, Fire Insurance records, Glebe and estate records. Various taxes are looked at, such as Hearth, Window and Land taxes. Land registry, deeds, Manorial records, Maps and plans. The National Farm Survey 1941-1943 which is a an often neglected source in family history research, Quarter session records, Land Owner returns 1873 – 1876 and Valuation Office Survey 1910 – 1920 and finally Wills. A real bonus for this chapter is the inclusion of the useful and comprehensive timeframe for each resource.

The final two chapters deal with how you can present and write your own house history, but similarly this can apply should you be researching a One-Place study, before moving along to the directory of resources looking at Organisations, Websites and a selected Bibliography. There is an index at the end of the book.

All the way through there are illustrations in black and white with links to numerous and various web pages.
This book has been thoroughly researched and presented; and I believe it should be considered the book for those researching houses or a One-Place Study. It was a true delight to read and review.

Disclaimer – I was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by Julie Goucher

September 2013

cover for Suffragettes

Suffragettes: How Britain's women fought & died for the right to vote
by Frank Meeres

Published by Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978-1-4456-0007-9
Price £15.29

Frank Meeres’ careful chronological approach in Suffragettes: How Britain's women fought & died for the right to vote will be appreciated by those new to learning about British women's struggle to win the vote.

Meeres outlines the work of the major national suffrage organizations and suffrage campaigns and their tactics across Britain - from petitions, meetings and caravans to stunts like mailing women to the Prime Minister and to window breaking and the hunger strike. Those interested in researching suffragettes in the family may be especially interested in women's tax protests and the suffragette boycott of the 1911 census - “If We Don't Count We Shall Not Be Counted” (p. 118).

Meeres often quotes at length from those in the movement and the press. Anti-suffrage groups and prominent individuals are mentioned and quoted, if briefly.

Some readers will be frustrated to find Meeres' book has no index or references, but there are many other publications to lead those interested to relevant collections and information, for example, The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey by Elizabeth Crawford (Routledge, 2008).

‘Suffragettes’ does include a nice selection of photographs and images of posters and cartoons, many from the author's own collection.

Reviewed by M. Diane Rogers, member of the British Columbia Genealogical Society, Canada

August 2013

Tracing Your First World War Ancestors – by Simon Fowler

cover for First World War Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 978 1 78159 037 9
Price £10.39

This paper backed book is a delight! Clearly laid out and written expertly for the novice researcher in mind (although some military knowledge makes the task easier); full of detail, including black and white photographs, extracts from copious documents, VDU screen prints of salient visuals, to name but a few; the narrative is easy on the eye. Lots of web addresses are listed throughout, although I would prefer to have seen these emboldened or underlined. It is important to note that, although some of the accessible on-line information is free of charge, the researcher will need to watch their wallet carefully. Quite a few websites insist on 'pay per view' or subscription fees. These must be paid up front before any access to databases, photographs, newspaper cuttings etc is permitted. In some instances, when quoting a particular website, the author has been kind enough to list estimated costs involved, thereby assisting the researcher with discerning their expected project overheads.

There are 161 pages in total … comprising a detailed contents list, Appendices and Index, each chapter is clearly laid out so the reader is able to dip in and out as their research challenges dictate. The book's author has clearly done a tremendous amount of meticulous research, both on the ground and via the internet, enabling the die-hard enthusiast to sit comfortably at their desk and let their fingers do the walking!

All aspects of the First World War are covered : tracing causalities, locating and using service records, war diaries, pension record cards … the list is endless and thorough. All three services (the Army, Royal Navy and RAF) are covered in good detail with a chapter dedicated to Women and Civilians. The last chapter houses information pertaining to The Dominions - Australia, Canada, India, and various other countries are listed too.

With four appendices covering everything from useful addresses, key websites and battlefield tourism, there is also an informative section on how the army was organised. Interestingly, In Chapter 3 under the heading 'Service Records - other ranks and non-commissioned officers', the author has made a cautionary note where he elaborates on the loss of documents. These papers were unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1940. However, Simon does give detailed descriptions on how to trace any surviving records.

With the centenary of the First World War approaching, I am sure that there will be a lot of interest from all generations in finding out about the lives of their parents, grandparents and other family members during the early part of the last century. Priced competitively at £12.99, 'Tracing Your First World War Ancestors' therefore, in my humble opinion, is likely to become the First World War researcher's "Bible of Choice".

Reviewed by Stephanie Turner

August 2013

cover for How to Read Houses

How to read houses: a crash course in domestic architecture - by Will Jones

Published by The Bloomsbury Press 2013
ISBN 978-1-4081-8162-1
Price £9.99

This book offers a useful and very interesting perspective on the domestic architecture not just of the UK but also the USA and Europe, from where there are examples from the Low Countries, France, Italy and Switzerland.

It has two main sections, House Types, covering materials (straw, adobe, etc ) and components (windows, balconies, etc), and House Styles from Tudor to Kit, via Arts and Crafts and Prairie. Each section is illustrated with black and white line drawings and colour photos.

There is a short but helpful glossary and an index. The book is very attractively produced as a small softback with double flaps, and on good quality paper with clear print. One quibble is that the section headings are printed in grey and thus hidden behind the sub-headings: this does not really work and I am surprised the publisher did not pick this up. However it is a helpful introduction to the subject, and everyone would gain something new from reading it. It can be picked up and put down, dipped into and consulted, and would make an ideal read for a long plane journey.

Many of the examples are of the grander sort of houses and perhaps the next book in the series of which it is part should be 'How to read Humbler Homes ', the sort where most of our ancestors lived!

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

August 2013

cover for Titanic Voices

Titanic Voices by Hannah Holman

Published by Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978-1-4456-1443-4
Price £14.99

This is a paperback edition of the book which was first published in 2011.

Reading a book when you know the ending can prove to be disappointing but not with this book. This is a fascinating compilation of the stories of 63 survivors of the Titanic disaster.

Their stories are told by the use of transcripts of the US Senate Inquiry, the British Board of Trade Inquiry and interviews with the survivors.

The Author has taken the stories of a few persons from each lifeboat and used these stories to paint the picture of the confusion which reigned that night. She presents these stories in chronological order of the time each lifeboat was launched

She shows how the belief that the ship was unsinkable stopped many people getting into lifeboats  which resulted in many lifeboats being under filled but as the disaster unfolded this attitude changed although even at the last, there were empty seats available. This was mainly due the ‘women and children first’ policy.

Reading the accounts one is moved by the poignancy of the separation of families, of those who chose death rather than separation and the needless loss of life.

The account of the captain of the Carpathia (which rescued the survivors) gives a heart-warming account of humanity in contrast to the despair of those afloat in tiny boats  and I found the book full of hope.

The accounts are well presented and gripping and to anyone interested in the Titanic this is essential reading despite the plethora of Titanic books .

Reviewed by John Treby

July 2013

cover for Evacuees

Evacuees - Growing Up in Wartime Britain
by Geoffrey Lee Williams

Published by Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978-1445613345
Price £9.99

Geoffrey Lee Williams has written about the wartime experiences shared by his twin brother Alan and himself for the duration of the Second World War.  The boys’ family home was close to Shooters Hill in Woolwich.  They were evacuated on three separate occasions to different parts of England, but returned home in between times to experience aspects of intense enemy action against London.

The book is a delightful tale of their wartime experiences and shows how children’s’ antics could produce amusing outcomes, even under the conditions of the time.  Geoffrey’s light style of authorship captures the spirit of the times; it is fascinating to read how inventiveness and play acting helped children cope during those years.

There are some interesting snippets about wartime propaganda and certain war efforts which came to nothing.  For example, you will be surprised to read what happened to the pots, pans and railings collected for the war effort!  Geoffrey’s commentary on social change in Britain is interesting.  The author has included a couple of chapters on the life of the twins in the post-war period.  This rounds off the tale rather nicely.

My only criticism is that the book isn’t indexed.  However, an index isn’t really essential and its absence should not detract from your experience as a reader.

Overall, this book is an enjoyable read which provides some nice pieces of information to flesh out the lives of your wartime family members.

I would certainly recommend this book as a holiday read.


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

July 2013

cover for I Survived the Titanic

THe Loss of The Titanic : I Survived the Titanic
by Lawrence Beesley

Republished by Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978 1 4456 1383 3
Price £9.99

Last year's centenary commemoration of the Titanic disaster saw two new museums opened (in Southampton and Belfast) and a shoal of publications, including the re-issue of this classic account of the voyage by a survivor.  Lawrence Beesley was a schoolteacher in his 30s on his way to meet his brother in Toronto.  He was a second class passenger and was one of the fortunate ones who got on board a lifeboat and was rescued by the Carpathia.  He started to write this book on board that vessel, completed it within weeks and it was published in 1912.  He was an alert and keen observer and gathered eyewitness accounts from fellow survivors.  It is a thoughtful and balanced narrative which avoids the sensational.  There is anger about the mistakes he describes as contributing to the sinking and loss of life but his tone is always restrained and rational.  He is particularly interesting when he describes the atmosphere surrounding the abandonment of the ship :

".... the principal fact that stands out is the almost entire absence of any expressions of fear or alarm on the part of passengers"

His detailed account of the collision with the iceberg (almost imperceptible in his cabin) and of the following events is graphic and still holds the attention today.  He was not right in every particular but undoubtedly his is a convincing story.

This edition is enhanced by a generous selection of illustrations, mainly related to the ship but including some of the author.  It also includes a very useful preface, written in 2011 by Beesley's grandson, which fleshes out the portrait of the man himself, who comes across as a fascinating, if unconventional, individual.  All in all, a book well worth reading!

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

July 2013

cover for Understanding Documents

Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History
by Bruce Durie

Published by The History Press
ISBN 9780752464640
Price £20

I felt a bit overwhelmed when I received this book for review. Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History is not an easy book to read. Weighing in at 2.2 lbs and 448 pages and measuring 24.1 x 16.8 x 3 cm it is a weighty book in size and content.

The good news is the book is crammed with information to help researchers work with a variety of old records. Although the primary focus is on documents from Great Britain the techniques will help with old documents from about the 1560s to 1860s in any of the countries that were once part of the British Empire.

I was a surprised by the claim in the Introduction and on the blurb that “Genealogists and local historians have probably seen every birth, marriage, death and census record available, and are adept at using the internet for research” because in my experience it is simply not true. I've met quite a few researchers (and not just beginners) who haven't a clue with regards computers and the Internet - but more of that another day.

It is true that considerably more images of original records are now available online. This has brought a new emphasis on being able to read and understand these documents, which makes this book so invaluable.

The first chapter goes into great detail about transcribing and palaeography. After reviewing the best practices for transcriptions, the rest of the chapter deals with handwriting. From hands to letters, abbreviations, to numbers, the book explains concepts and provides numerous examples for each to help users read documents. The biggest part of the first section, however, is dedicated to Latin. Many early documents are written in Latin. The obvious ones are church records, but many legal documents were also written in Latin. Those who learned classical Latin in school may have an edge, but the early-modern Latin in which the documents genealogists use are written is very different from classical Latin. This section provides everything you need as a genealogist to understand the language.

Additional chapters explain more fundamentals of records: Dates and Calendars; Money, Coinage, Weight and Measure; Inscriptions and Gravestones; Heraldic Documents and Artefacts; and Gaelic Words in Scots and English. Finally nearly half the book is taken up with Part III: Glossaries which is additional reference material.

Although this is a book for the serious or would-be serious genealogist, I can safely declare that any UK genealogist will find this book helpful and useful as a work of reference.

Reviewed by David Gilligan, North Cheshire FHS

June 2013

Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet – by Chris Paton

cover for Irish FH on the Internet

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 978 1 78159 184 0
Price £12.99

This volume is an addition to the Pen and Sword list of Family History Guides. The author, in his introduction, states that it is complementary to his previous volume in the same series 'Tracing your Family History on the Internet' which, for reasons of space, omitted Ireland. This book handsomely makes good that omission with a wide ranging listing and analysis of websites relevant to tracing your Irish ancestors, both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

The author prefaces it with a very relevant health warning :

"The internet is most definitely not the be all and end all of your research .... but be in no doubt, the internet will certainly help provide you with one heck of a starting point"

The contents are laid out in a logical and approachable manner, starting with the wide spectrum 'Gateways, Institutions and Networks', moving through 'Vital Records' (e.g. Civil Registration, Parish Registers, Wills), on to Censuses ('Where They Lived') and then to geographical locations. Professions and emigration ('The Irish Diaspora') are also covered in separate chapters. It would be an extremely unfortunate researcher who couldn't find some leads from this range of sources.

This is essentially a reference book and occasionally the sheer weight of website references can be rather overwhelming. However a useful index, and the logic of the book's progression, help to bring you back to the specific area of research you are pursuing. The author illustrates the book both with pictures from his own family album and with relevant anecdotes from his own research. He also adds the odd humorous comment, entertaining but not intrusive (as in referring to a Clan History Site as being "a wee bit Sir Walter Scott-ish in content").

This book is a veritable quarry for the family researcher into family branches in Ireland and there is little to criticise (except to say that inevitably some of the references will become outdated). However it was surprising that no map was included to provide an immediate reference point (the book does include a good review of maps online). And perhaps a mention of the Irish Genealogical Society Library in London ( might have been included.

However the multiplicity of references will greatly assist researchers and, undoubtedly, result in many of them carrying their quest over the water to the Island itself.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

June 2013

cover for British Herring Industry

The British Herring Industry - The Steam Drifter Years 1900-1960
by Christopher Unsworth

Published by Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978-1-4456-1081-8
Price £14.99

This is an excellent book in terms of its scope of the British Herring Industry and the people who worked within it.

Unsworth breaks The Herring Industry into readable chunks with nine chapters each covering productive years of the industry. Cleverly put together in an easy to follow and logical format, I like the style and the printing of the book.

It is not as statistically written as Mark Taylor’s article on ‘Wet fish and damp squids: The UK fishing industry’ where he tells the story of the economic and social changes within the UK following the Olympics of 1908 and 1948 in London, but it’s not far off. I am unaware of any other such book in publication, so this fills that void.

I like the fact that Unsworth covers both England and Scotland, although its scope is limited and it could have been expanded upon.  What this book does well is it cleverly brings in real ‘Herring People’ and tells their stories at the end (occasionally in the middle) of each chapter.  The author mentions names, tells us about their lives, stories that appear to have been handed down from generation to generation, the reader gets a real sense of what it must have been like for the herring people in their own words.

I particularly like Chapters 2: The Glory Years 1910 to 1914 and Chapter 4: 1914 to 1919 – War!  He gives us interesting statistics for the time, but I felt it didn’t go into any great detail. I was disappointed as I wanted more. There is lots of evidence stated, and it makes for excellent historical reading, however, there are no references as to where he found the information.

The author seeks to engage the reader’s attention further by pinpointing specific areas of the photographs – something that the reader may have missed on first reading.  I particularly like the references to the ships (Chapter 4) that were around at that time.

The cover displays perfectly the contents of the book.  It is eye-catching, a good use of photographic evidence, is well-researched and gives good coverage. There is a list of further information, a glossary of terms and useful websites although I feel the lack of references and a bibliography let the book down.

Overall, as a historical reference to the industry it is worthy of reading and I really enjoyed the book and I feel it will engage a wide audience.

Reviewed by Lorna Kinnaird, member of GOONS, Scottish Genealogy Society & The Heraldry Society of Scotland

June 2013

Jewish Lives: Britain 1750-1950 – by Melody Amsel-Arieli

cover for Jewish Lives

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 978 1 84884 411 7
Price £10.39

In this intriguing book Melody Amsel-Arieli uses ten case studies of Jewish families who came to England, and in one case Wales, to illustrate aspects of immigration, of Jewish society within society at large, and of Jewish family life.  She takes information about individuals that she has gleaned from descendants or relatives, and incorporates it into a free-flowing narrative that will interest non-Jewish and Jewish readers alike.

The author’s subjects are a varied bunch and range from Raphael da Costa who arrived in London from Lisbon in 1746, through Mosiek Hauzer who came to Cardiff from Brzeziny, Łódź, Poland in 1889, to Feige Mendzigursky who was sent to Manchester from Leipzig, Germany in 1939.  Wisely, she has steered clear of the better known Jewish immigrants such as Michael Marks (of M&S) and instead has focused on ordinary families.

The author has much more success with some of her subjects than with others.  Raphael da Costa’s chapter is heavy on speculation and remarkably short on demonstrable facts;  in fact Melody Amsel-Arieli refers to his story as a ‘genealogical leap of faith’.  Chapters that are more firmly founded in fact read much better, such as the story of Samuel Wolfsohn, who came from Prussian Poland to Sheffield in about 1857 and became (of all things) a policeman.

The author is an Israeli-American amateur genealogist and professional writer.  She has evidently tried hard to understand the British, but misses the target just slightly too often for comfort.  She seems to think, for example, that ‘The Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 ... united Britain and The Netherlands ...’ (it didn’t, it brought William and Mary to the throne in place of James II), that Sheffield plate is a 19th century variety of steel (it isn’t, it’s silver-coated copper, a predecessor of electroplating), and that in the 1880s fashionable Victorians travelled around London in open sleighs (Moscow perhaps, but not rain-lashed London).

The text is sprinkled liberally with sometimes-jarring American usages, and ‘perhaps’ and ‘possibly’ recur frequently, often relating to events in the central characters’ countries of origin or to their living conditions.

The problem with these successive speculations and mistakes is that cumulatively they build from amusement at the odd howler into a general impression of fallibility.  If the author cannot get simple things right - matters that could be easily checked on-line - how far is she to be trusted with the more personal and specific matters that form the real core of the book?  This is a real shame since the main thrust of the book - illuminating historic social questions through individual case studies - is an object lesson to all of us who are trying or have tried to write our own family histories.

As a model for the aspiring family historian this book has many good features.  Integration of historic, geographic, political, economic and occupational themes into pure genealogical data adds enormously to a successful family history, and Melody Amsel-Arieli provides some excellent examples.  If only she had managed to check her facts more carefully her book would have been thoroughly recommendable.  As it is - treat with caution!

Reviewed by Rod Moulding, of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain

May 2013

cover for Welsh Genealogy

Welsh Genealogy by Bruce Durie

Published by The History Press
ISBN 978 0 7527 6599 9
Price £17.99

When I discovered that one of my g/g/g grandfathers was a David Davies from south Wales, I panicked. With a name like that, from a parish of uncertain name, location and spelling, and a birth date before general registration, what chance did I have? Consequently, I leapt upon this book with glee.

First, let me say that the book is aimed at those of us in the earlier stages of family history. As Dr Durie says himself, he does not wade into the murky water of Wills, Manorial records and so on.  It is also probably of greater use to those of us who are not Welsh, but have Welsh ancestry. Perhaps three-quarters of the book could profitably be read by anyone interested in family history – Welsh or not. He addresses statutory registration, census records and parish registers clearly and he tells the reader where the relevant records are held. He is particularly helpful with historical banana skins like calendar changes and regnal years.

The meat of the book, though, lies in the differences between England and Wales. Welsh administrative areas have been tossed into the pot and more thoroughly stirred than English ones.  Despite several English administrative reorganisations, we still think in terms of ‘one county, one county record office’. Wales doesn’t work like that and Dr Durie guides us helpfully through the swamp, as he does through the Anglican diocese arrangement (there are six and we are told which parish lies in which diocese).  There is a chapter on Welsh surnames (I was right to be terrified – 40 surnames account for 95% of the Welsh) plus chapters on Welsh heraldry, Welsh emigration and the Welsh language (insofar as it is relevant to genealogy).

Dr Durie has a light and engaging style, making the book a pleasure to read. There is a good index and examples of the records you may encounter plus maps and drawings, particularly in the Heraldry chapter.

Do I now know where to find David Davies, born 1765, somewhere in south Wales ? No – but the book has given me the courage to go and look.

Reviewed by Mike Whitaker, of Cornwall FHS; Devon FHS; Wiltshire FHS; Somerset & Dorset FHS; Dyfed FHS; Norfolk FHS

May 2013

Air Force Lives – by Phil Tomaselli

cover for Air Force Lives

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 9781848847439
Price £10.29

Phil Tomaselli wrote in his introduction that after writing Tracing your Air Force Ancestors he was not sure that there was much that could be added. He then goes on to say that on reflection there were people in his first book that deserve a more in-depth treatment. I agree with him, his method gives us a glimpse of the human face(s) of Air Force Service.

He gives an out line of the history of the Air Forces mentioned and then, in each chapter, gives a variety of people with the places they were in, and of course the planes that were being flown. As one would expect with Phil Thomaselli there are excellent references at the end of each chapter. He also adds extra information e.g. what is not there - so records for RAF Officers are in AIR 76 at TNA (The National Archives) and on-line, whereas those for ordinary airmen are at TNA in AIR 79 but, contrary to popular belief, are not on-line.

Phil has also covered a huge time span from the Wright brother to the 1970s. Some of the Air Force personnel worked, and flew, during the First World War, and were still involved in the Second World War. They therefore coped with a tremendous learning curve going from String Bags to jets.

The author uses a variety of sources for his research and readily shares them with the reader. Most of us think of the on-line resources first, he prefers to use original sources where possible, he uses newspapers both national and local, oral history backed up by documented evidence, personal diaries and Log Books. He has also visited places where the action happened, taking photos to illustrate his points. I recommend this book for all researching their Air Forces Ancestors.

Reviewed by Ann Gynes, Publicity Officer of Dorset Family History Society

May 2013

cover for West Widing PLA

West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum Through Time
by Mark Davis

ISBN 978-1-4456-0750-4
Price £14.99

I had a particular interest in reviewing this book by Mark Davis as I helped index the South Yorkshire Asylum Records (Wadsley Asylum) 1872-1911 for Sheffield Archives.

The book is well illustrated throughout and contains lots of photographs, not only of the buildings but of the doctors and staff who worked there. It is an extremely informative read for genealogists who had family members who may have been admitted to these institutions.

Mark Davis writes, ‘the word ‘asylum’ denotes a place of safety away from danger’.  There is no doubt that the plight of the pauper insane was dire. They were cast out from society and treated no better than animals. The dangerous were chained and the harmless ignored and left to cope as best they could.

This book concentrates on the West Riding, the first asylum having been opened in York. Initially, intentions were good, but the potential to make money, by the medical director and staff, meant the York Asylum soon became one of the worst in the country.  Local Quakers, particularly William Tuke, was shocked by some of the conditions at the York Asylum and set about raising money to establish The Retreat, York c.1792 to pioneer more humane treatment for the mentally insane.

The book goes on to tell of the pioneers of mental health in the 1800’s onwards.  Early treatment consisted of emetics, bloodletting and purges. Samuel Tuke, the grandson of William, set about reforming mental health. The humane treatment practised at the Retreat, York became world renown.

The Wakefield Asylum was built c.1818. One of the features was a spiral staircase which allowed patients to be unobtrusively observed. Patients were engaged in useful employment within the asylum and were rewarded with little luxuries, a little tea, tobacco or beer. Workshops were established were patients were taught basic skills.

As the population of the West Riding increased in the mid/late 19C, so did the volume of mentally ill patients. It was decided to open a third asylum at Menston about 1884.

I   am glad that our mentally ill today, do not have to endure some of the very harsh conditions of the early years.

Correction. Page 26 should read Mount Pleasant close by on Sharrow Lane NOT Jarrow Lane.

Reviewed by Anne McQueen, of Sheffield & District FHS

8 May 2013

Tracing Your Army Ancestors (2nd Edition) – by Simon Fowler

cover for Army Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 9781844154104
Price £12.99

This is the second edition of Simon Fowler’s guide, first published in 2006 and fully updated to include online resources and information on major archives and museums.

It is what I call a ‘dip into’ book, for each chapter is packed with information some of which may be of immediate use whilst other information may not be relevant to your particular line of research.

A complete beginner to family history? You are exhorted by the author to read Chapter 1 and this I would fully endorse, beginner or not,  to ensure that you have covered all that can and could be done before embarking on the quest of tracing your army ancestor.  Having read Chapter 1 then follow your heart to the Chapter that would seem to echo your needs into army research.  Most of the chapters are followed by lists of books to provide further reading and scattered throughout the book are references to 'Further Information'. The appendices covering such items as army service numbers and army ranks are a welcome addition.

Yes, there are other books on army ancestry but I found this book both readable and informative, however, as an avid reader of indexes, I must confess to being disappointed by the brevity of the index for there are things within the text that you will only find by reading the actual section. To have included them within the index would have encouraged the reader to that section, perhaps a section which they may not otherwise have thought of reading.

Reviewed by Dominic Johnson, of Nottinghamshire FHS

26 April 2013

cover for War Memorials and Local History

Remembrance And Community: War Memorials and Local History – by Kate Tiller

Published by The British Association for Local History (BALH)
ISBN 978-0-948-140-01-3
Available from  BALH at PO Box 6549, Somersal Herbert, Ashourne DE6 5WH Tel: 01283 585947 £6.95 (£5 to BALH members)

Published at this time,  prior to the Centenary of the outbreak of WW1, this new title from BALH written by Kate Tiller, Reader Emerita in English Local History, University of Oxford and a Visiting Fellow, Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester provides an informative  guide for anyone wishing to conduct a study into local war memorials whether for personal interest  or as part of a community project.

Within this slim volume of just 56 pages, the author identifies  a variety of sources and suggests ways in which one might research how a particular memorial came into being, how it was viewed within the community and those it commemorates.

An interesting and enlightening opening chapter on local memorials before 1914 sets the scene before concentrating on remembrance and memorials 1914-18. Ms. Tiller makes use of four interesting Case Studies to demonstrate the use of resources suggested, however, with the emphasis, not surprisingly, on  ‘local’ history, the aspect of research concerning the lives of those commemorated on the memorials, i.e. their ‘family history’  is not covered in any great detail.

The book is well illustrated throughout with excellent colour photographs and provides a Further Reading list as well as a short list of Websites which omits some that I would have expected to see e.g .

At a time of heightened awareness of the Great War and a need to ensure that memorials are preserved and recorded, this book might hopefully inspire newcomers to local, social and family history to get involved in this rewarding aspect of research. An interesting addition to the book shelf.

Reviewed by Phiilppa McCray

11 April 2013

Tracing Your Ancestors through Death Records – by Celia Heritage

cover for Death Records

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 978 1 84884 784 2
Price £12.99

Family historians search avidly for their ancestor's tombstones but often neglect to search for burial records and other records which will help them to go beyond a chronicle of dates to a more complete picture of how their family lived and of the effect of a family death on the surviving members.

Celia Heritage has attempted to help the beginning genealogist by identifying the places to look for information, useful websites, and summaries of English laws and regulations that help one understand the information found in various records. Her focus on historical context makes the book an interesting read. Also the "Introduction" contains a checklist of tips for research which will be useful for framing subsequent searches. The book is illustrated with copies of documents found during the author's hunt for her own family history. On-line searching is emphasized, accompanied by lists of useful websites. But also described are books that help locate and interpret data.

The information in this book will be most useful to those searching for antecedents in England but sources of data in Scotland, Ireland and Wales are discussed where those differ from English laws and documents. She includes sources for North America but these are not presented with the same depth.

Reviewed by Ardis D. Kamra, Ed. D. member of Alberta Genealogical Society

11 April 2013

Tracing Your West Country Ancestors – by Kirsty Gray

cover for West Country Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 1848847831
Price £14.99

As a West Country man, I enjoyed reading this book, although I am not sure that it lives up to its title. It provides a short introduction to the history of the West Country (here defined as consisting of the counties of Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset, and the City of Bristol), written with family historians in mind. It offers many suggestions of sources to consult.

However, the coverage is far from being either comprehensive or totally accurate. Some important institutions, such as the West Country Studies Library, and the Royal Institution of Cornwall, are completely ignored. There are a number of mis-understandings; for example, we are told that there was no consistency in the way that parish registers (sometimes referred to here, confusingly, as parish records) were kept until 1812. This is only partially true, since Hardwicke’s Marriage Act established the use of a printed form to record marriages in 1754. We are also told that most parishes had several parish constables. In fact, they usually only had one. Admittedly vestries could make multiple nominations to the local JP, but the latter would only choose one. Churchwardens and overseers were never appointed by manorial courts, despite the assertion to the contrary.

Many references which ought to have been given are ignored; for example, the important county volumes of the National Index of Parish Registers are omitted. I was even more surprised that Ian Maxted’s In pursuit of Devon’s history: a guide for local historians in Devon (Devon Books, 1997) is not mentioned –although it provides a more comprehensive overview of Devon sources than this book. Researchers in Somerset should have been told that most Somerset wills were in the Exeter Probate Registry when it was bombed during the Second World War.

Despite these failings, Tracing your West Country ancestors will help you to place the history of your West Country family in its social and economic context. Anyone researching in Cornwall needs to know something about tin mining, whether or no their ancestors were miners. It is good to see the importance of roads, canals and railways mentioned in a book for family historians. We also need to be reminded that demography is relevant to our research. Topics such as these had important implications for all of our ancestors, and sometimes also for our research.  If you want to put flesh on the bones of bare pedigrees, and to get a feel for the society in which your ancestors lived, then read this book. But use it with caution.

Reviewed by Stuart A Raymond

3 April 2013

cover of Richard III

Richard III - by David Baldwin

Published by Amberley 2013
ISBN: 978-1445615912
Price: £9.99

History does not get much bigger than Richard III. Whether he was a 'good lord' or 'Machiavellian villain' we will never know for certain, but the discovery of skeletal remains under a Leicester car park and detailed investigation proving 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the remains were of King Richard III has made the story of his meteoric rise and fall incredibly topical and very interesting.

David Baldwin's book is as mesmerizing as Richard himself and while the author aims "to offer a fairer, more balanced, portrait of him than some others" (p.12) there is no doubt that the Richard III of Baldwin's biography is less of a baddie and more a pragmatic man of his time.

Baldwin tells us that Richard III 'is an enigma'; born Richard Plantegenet he was King of England for just two years (from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field) and he was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field - the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England. Understanding this complex period of English history is absolutely crucial to understanding the narrative of English history. David Baldwin is inspired in this respect: his prose flows like a gently running brook. The twists and turns of the plots, counter-plots and conspiracies are explained in a crystal clear manner so much so that any general reader can easily understand them.

The book was first published in 2012. This new edition is basically that book with a supplementary chapter. As an interesting aside it should be pointed out that David Baldwin was the one who indicated where the remains of Richard III would be found.

The Book is lavishly illustrated with 81 pictures - 57 of which are in full colour. It is well researched, well written and well argued. The book also has a fine index as well as twenty pages of notes and references and a good bibliography.

I'm really pleased I was asked to review this book and I cannot praise it enough: it is to be highly recommended.

Reviewed by David Gilligan member of North Cheshire FHS

March 2013

cover of Hoddlesden

Hoddlesden And Its Satellite Villages
by Roy Parker

Published by Scotforth Books (2012)
ISBN: 978 1 904244-84-4
Price: £14-99

This is a unique book that explores the remarkable survival of Hoddlesden, Blacksnape, Eccleshill and Yate & Pickup Bank in North East Lancashire. Their locations were originally wild, barren and very sparsely populated. The villages flourished and grew, until well into the 19th century, when the introduction of power looms caused the weavers to leave as they sought work in the developing urban centres. 

In this book Dr Roy Parker traces the developments of these villages from their beginnings as tiny settlement right up to the modern day. He explains how the impact of the cotton mills affected their growth. He explores how the communities had to find new ways to earn a living. He discusses their struggles for survival and thus he reveals much about the people of the area and their families.

The book is based on Dr Parkers PhD thesis and as such is packed with a great deal of information which has been drawn from a wide range of primary and secondary sources. By the meticulous use of parish registers, census returns and other sources he has been able to portray all aspects of life This has much to offer the family historian who wishes to develop an insight into a local community. The book is well illustrated.

Copies can be purchased from Darwen and Blackburn Libraries and other outlets or directly from Dr Roy Parker. For postage and package rates contact Dr Parker Tel: 01204-64424 or Email:

Reviewed by Tony Foster, member of Lancashire Family History & Heraldry Society

March 2013

cover of Easy Family History

Easy Family History - by David Annal

Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408175705
Price: £9.89 from the National Archives Bookshop

As soon as I saw this book I was hoping for something comprehensive and understandable, hopefully to take new family historians from the absolute basics through to fairly advanced family research. It did not disappoint.

The book takes the reader, step by step, through the processes. It starts with the  fundamentals - talking to family to collect your oral history, then looking at birth, marriage, death and census records. These, obviously, are the basic tools we need to look into the family tree. Then, David Annal instructs the reader in the murky waters of probate, pre-1837 records, military service, pictures, newspapers, immigration and the world wide web. It's a comprehensive guide and if you follow it all, I think you'd be beyond the realms of what I'd call easy - but it's all done in a clear and accessible way.

This is, incidentally, a completely new edition, bang up-to-date and thoroughly revised. That's so important with family history books because the resources are changing literally every year. This book compares well with other current favourites such as 'Teach Yourself Tracing Your Family History' by Stella Colwell(which is an equally good book but offers very little help with regard to immigrants and emigrants) or 'Tracing Your Family Tree' by Kathy Chater (which is very good with lovely illustrations, but more expensive and a bit more elementary in content - great for school projects).

Suitable for readers who are complete beginners in family research; intermediate enthusiasts who have gaps in their knowledge; advanced hobbyists as an up-to-date reference. Nicely bound and well-produced, important since this book should become much-loved and well-thumbed. The text is not large but the general layout is clear and, incidentally,  quite well adapted to those with a visual difficulty.

Reviewed by Jennifer Pittam Member of East of London FHS & Romany & Traveller FHS

March 2013

Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors - A Guide for Family and Local Historians
By Anthony Adolph

cover for Wills of our Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 9781781591642
Price £11.99

This comprehensive, but heavy in places, guide to researching and interpreting aristocratic records covers history, heraldry, genetics and royalty.

The author, Anthony Adolph, has made a study of the history of aristocracy in the United Kingdom and across the world. His book covers the story of aristocracy from its early origins in Mesopotamia, Greece, through European royal houses to our own British orders.

If you have any British ancestry then it is virtually impossible not to have a small dose of blue blood in your veins and this book will guide you through the processes of proving descent from blue blooded forebears.

Going back through your own family tree, the number of your ancestors doubles in each generation, producing over 33 million ancestors by the time you reach 1200AD! The population in Britain in 1200AD was only about 2 million. Thus these figures do not appear to add up, because we are all terribly inbred over the years where cousins have intermarried.

Aristocrats tended, as a class, to marry within their own social group. In Britain families usually practiced primogeniture where the eldest son inherited the estate undivided, leaving younger siblings to drop into a class termed The Gentry. These then married into other “lower” classes and so the aristocracy became diluted. Many families have ancestors born as a result of a liaison between an aristocrat and someone of a lower class. Tracing back your family tree may produce such links through this way to aristocratic bloodlines.

Before starting to research a family line it is worth finding the origin and meaning of a surname, and where it was distributed in the country, e.g. Folkard was in Suffolk. There are surnames specific to Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall. There are also five categories of surnames, namely locative, topographical, patronymic, nicknames and jobs.

Heraldry, and the right to have a coat of arms, is closely connected to aristocratic ancestry. Discovering a coat of arms amongst family heirlooms or on gravestones can provide valuable clues. The history of heraldry and the visitation of Heralds are clearly described in several chapters. In one chapter the lineage of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge is traced back through various lines to Edward IV, although immediate ancestors were Durham coalminers.

Who were the aristocrats? They range from Emperors, through Kings, Princes, the English Peerage to Knights. The Gentry are not aristocrats, though they tended to behave as if they were. The author gives extensive records of pedigrees of noble and gentry families, all of which are easy to find as they are in print in various publications. However, early versions of Burke’s Peerage gave apparently family myths within the derivations of family trees. These were eliminated in modern editions.

Further chapters give links to overseas royalty, Clans and Kings of Scotland and Ireland, and to Welsh and Ancient British royal and noble roots. Many people can find links to these back through English Gateway Ancestors to Rhodri Mawr (Roderick the Great) who extended his rule across all of Wales.

Genetics and DNA is the new science of genealogy and may be used to prove aristocratic ancestry. It can often be used to prove connections to aristocrats, or to anyone, that could never be proved using paper-based research.

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

March 2013

cover of My Ancestor was a Gentleman

My Ancestor Was A Gentleman
by Stuart Raymond

Society of Genealogists Enterprises Ltd., 2012
ISBN: 9781907199165
Price: £8.99

My Ancestor Was A Gentlemen: A Guide to Sources for Family Historians by Stuart Raymond provides a thorough framework for research into the lives and families of English and Welsh gentry from the 16th to the nineteenth century.

As Raymond says a "mountain of paper" relating to the gentry is available to be read and analyzed, but finding these records may take time. Documents and books could be anywhere in the world. There are no comprehensive listings for published family histories, biographies and pedigrees. Family papers held in archives may not easily found either, if they are among the many collections not yet described and included in national catalogues. On the other hand, many records, for instance, heraldic visitation returns and hearth tax lists, have been published, indexed and abstracted, and some collections are already digitized.

After a short history of the gentry to World War I, Raymond points out the importance of reviewing genealogical research from the past. English genealogy began with the gentry, so for many families, there will be good material.

In the next chapters, he outlines the most valuable sources with examples from heraldry, the law, land and estate records, personal and government records, including the variety of taxes and local offices for instance, Justices of the Peace. Last, he offers a look at 'gentlemanly' professions, like law and the army.

For each topic, published, Internet and archival resources are listed, with more detailed discussions of particularly relevant records, as for strict settlement and marriage settlements, meant to ensure the security and continuity of family assets and land ownership by preventing the sale or seizure of land when family assets were threatened by bankruptcy or even treason.

Readers will appreciate Raymond's clear, well organized style, his annotated references and his book's indexes of personal names, places, and subjects. For those researching gentlemen and their families, this would be an indispensable guide.

Reviewed by M. Diane Rogers, British Columbia Genealogical Society

11 March 2013

The Wills of our Ancestors - A Guide for Family and Local Historians
By Stuart A Raymond

cover for Wills of our Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 978-1-84884-785-9
Price £12.99

This book is written for people just starting out on their Family History and also for those who are much more experienced.  It takes the reader through the different ages, times and complexities of the legal system.  It explains the different courts, why they came about, and who ran them.  The writing is clear and concise, with many examples of wills from many different parts of England and Wales.

The author has contributed a good deal to Family Historians through his many excellent publications.  This one is of the high standard we have come to expect from his hand.  He has concentrated on England and Wales but offers information for those searching the in the UK at large, including the Channel Islands.

He has a wealth of knowledge.  This he uses to good effect.  Ample illustrations are supplied, which are both relevant and informative. Below the picture he gives a translation of any Latin used.

I found I was able to enjoy reading it while I learnt a lot about Probate, Inventories, Prerogative Court Archives etc. and how and why they changed over the years.

All through the book there are a number of web sites, some are pay to view and some free.  I tried several and found some useful information.  One mentioned early in the book, the National Archives ‘Documents on line’ site, has now been integrated into ‘Discovery’.  Use:

There is an impressive list of further reading, a comprehensive Appendix of where wills are likely to be held (which may not be where one would expect them to be), a Latin Glossary, an appendix of terms used in probate record and another of legislation affecting Probate.

This book is a good read and is also a good reference book for Family Historians as well as Local Historians.

Reviewed by Ann Gynes, Publicity Officer Dorset Family History Society

11 February 2013

Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors – by Sue Wilkes

cover for Lancashire Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 184884744-1
Price £12.99

I particularly chose this book to review because of my Lancashire ancestors, and I have not been disappointed.

I was fascinated with the opening story of Lancashire and its people even though I am Yorkshire by birth. It must have been dreadful to live in those times when the lands were continually being either given or taken back by the King, Earls and landed gentry being beheaded or stripped of goods, not to mention the humble folk having ruinous taxes when the frequent wars were being raged.

The ‘Matter of Religion’ is colourfully dealt with. It includes details of the trial of 19 people from the Pendle and Samlesbury areas being tried as witches, and this section also touches on parish registers, church records and marriage bonds etc

A chapter on ‘rags to riches’ follows showing how the new industries made fortunes for the mill owners.  It also highlights the dreadful living and working conditions of those working in them and in particular the children and how Sir Robert Peel campaigned tirelessly for better conditions.

This section led neatly into the chapter on transport and industry, in which I was particularly interested myself. My grandfather worked on the railways in Manchester and had an accident at work in which he lost an arm.  I have had difficulty finding the details for this but I found clues and websites in this chapter which I am hoping will lead me to answers.

The last part of the book deals with how to search, which leads into a research guide and archive directory. Useful addresses in alphabetical order and two separate lists on free on line resources and subscription ones make this book an invaluable companion.  I am working my way through all the sites mentioned, many of which I knew but there are a lot which I did not know about.

Reviewed by Marcia Kemp of HDHFS

7 February 2013

cover for Victorian Elliots

The Victorian Elliots in Peace and War by John Evans

Published by Amberley Publishing 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4456-0507-4
Price: £25.00

Subtitled Lord and Lady Minto, Their Family and Household between 1816 and 1901, this is a meticulously researched volume (351pp) detailing the lives of the Elliots, a large aristocratic family based in Roxburghshire, Scotland. The family descends from a line of successful lawyers, politicians and diplomats, a number of whom held important national offices. This book is based largely on original research focusing on George Elliot, second Earl of Minto, his wife Mary and their 10 children, and on Catherine Rutherford for 5 years governess to the younger children. Lord Minto was a Whig politician, with his five sons respectively a diplomat, MP, soldier, sailor and lawyer. One daughter married Lord John Russell, future British prime minister (and was influential grandmother to the philosopher, Bertram Russell). Like their peers, the family spent time on their estate near Hawick in the Scottish borders, in houses in London and the Home Counties, and in the many countries where family members were based because of roles as diplomats, military leaders and colonial administrators.

The book blends domestic details with personal perspectives on lives spent in key political and administrative positions around the globe. It is structured around an introduction outlining the lives of the main characters, followed by individual chapters on each and an epilogue covering the decline of the family’s fortunes in the 20th century. There are comprehensive chapter notes, photos, and bibliography and an extensive index.  

For genealogists, probably the most useful chapter describes life on the Minto estate in the 1830s and includes lists of tenants and details of contemporary estate management. The individual perspective occasionally casts a somewhat prosaic light on moments of national importance  but also provides evocative insights into Victorian social history (continental travel details, domestic arrangements and upper-class budgets) and some intriguing anecdotes (Queen Victoria sending for Lord John Russell in Edinburgh to attend her immediately on the Isle of Wight).

Reviewed by Karin Thompson, member of Wiltshire FHS and the Highland FHS.

7 February 2013

cover of Westmeath Ancestors

Tracing your Westmeath Ancestors by Gretta Connell

ISBN: 978-1-907990-03-8
Price: Euro 13.00

The credentials of the author of this book are that she is a senior librarian in the County of Westmeath, and her interest and knowledge of the area is very much evident in this well thought  out book.  It begins with a short history of the County, which left me wanting to know more about the area of Westmeath, my Irish ancestors coming from a different part of Ireland. 

There are chapters on most of the usual subjects, i.e. Census, Civil Registration, Church Records, and Wills etc.  Of particular interest was information given pertaining to Land Records.  As well as Tithe Applotment Books and Griffiths Valuation, Field Books, Tenure Books and House Books are described, records I have not seen mention of before.

Westmeath seems to be particularly lucky in having quite a large number of Census Substitutes, the earliest being1640, though the majority are from 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.  An interesting fact was that a lot of Westmeath residents emigrated to Argentina, but the author didn’t tell us why.

Further sources of research covered include newspapers, memorial inscriptions, education records and occupation sources, together with a chapter on family names and histories in Westmeath.  Finally there is a list of useful resources and an index.

This is a well written book, easy to read and use.  I was pleased to see that a very clear typeface had been used and all tables, maps and illustrations, of which there are many, were very clear.   Throughout, pitfalls and possible errors are pointed out, as is the need to find proof of family connections.  I feel confident it will prove a useful aide to research.

Reviewed by Pam Richardson, Ormskirk & District FHS

29 January 2013

cover for The Home Front

Protesting About Pauperism: Poverty, Politics and Poor Relief in Late-Victorian England, 1870-1900
by Elizabeth T Hurren

ISBN: 9780861932924
Price: Available new via Bookprice24 for less than £20.00.

Workhouses were abolished, at least in name, in 1930. Despite the time that has since elapsed, even today most people have heard of their shortcomings. But what was it really like to be poor during Queen Victoria’s reign ? And what did the paupers themselves say and do about their plight? A range of answers to these questions can be found in this book.

Elizabeth Hurren’s investigations focus on the rural area contained within the Brixworth Poor Law Union, whose 87 square miles included the extensive estates of Earl Spencer in Northamptonshire. The earliest workhouse building at Brixworth was opened in 1837. Almost immediately, it attracted controversy when accusations of excessive strictness in dealing with applications for relief led to a Bow Street Runner being sent from London to investigate. Despite these complaints, it is clear from its “application and report books” that in the early 1840s the Union granted “outdoor relief” to many applicants, allowing them to remain in their homes and not forcing them to enter the institution when they fell on hard times.

The book focuses on a period of agricultural depression. Requests for relief increased at a time when the farming profits and rental incomes on which many local ratepayers depended were falling. Groups such as the Charity Organisation Society crusaded for stricter controls on the provision of relief and, initially, were encouraged to do so by civil servants at the Local Government Board.

The author provides a detailed account of contemporary policy debates and practices, at a national as well as local level. Tightening up in the administration of relief meant that paupers were generally denied either food or medical treatment unless they entered the workhouse. This policy was so strictly applied at Brixworth that the numbers receiving outdoor relief, which stood at 1,118 in 1871 had been reduced by 1892 to just 55. We can read pitiful accounts of bereaved relatives begging for funeral expenses to avoid the bodies of their loved ones being taken away for dissection – the sale of “unclaimed” bodies to medical schools was another way to reduce net expenditure on poor relief. In contrast, the average cost of maintaining those held in the workhouse was greater than the average outdoor relief payment and some officers of the Brixworth Union were extremely well paid.

It is hardly surprising that restrictions on outdoor relief stimulated political awareness and activity by the poorer members of society. Agricultural trade unions attracted much local support at this time and extensions to the franchise allowed successful challenges to be mounted at the election of the Guardians who directed the policy of the Poor Law Union. 1896 was the year in which control of the Brixworth Board of Guardians changed hands and the tight control of outdoor relief in the area started to be eased.

This hardback volume of over 300 pages has an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources. It will appeal to two groups of readers. Those who wish to understand the shifts of theory and practice in poor relief will find a coherent analysis that challenges some conventional wisdom. If, like me, you have ancestors from the area between Northampton and Market Harborough, your relatives may appear among the paupers whose stories are told in detail; these accounts sometimes include letters to the Local Government Board  in which applicants for relief explained their plight.

Reviewed by Francis Howcutt (FFHS)

19 January 2013

cover of Marriage Law

Tracing Your Caribbean Ancestors by Guy Grannum

Publication – September 2012, (3rd Edition) 208 pages
Published by National Archives Guide, Bloomsbury Press
ISBN: 9781408175699
Price: £14.99

A few months ago I was given the chance to review this book. I do not have any direct ancestral links to the Caribbean or West Indies, but in recent years I have established that an individual that slots into my One Place Study migrated with one of his children to Jamaica. Bearing this in mind I was interested to read the latest edition of Guy’s book, and I was not disappointed.

Firstly, this is not a how do you research your ancestry type book. It is a guide which really does provide a solid foundation on which to establish your research or interest.

The book is laid out into a series of 11 chapters. Starting with how to get going, then progresses the records of the Colonial Office, Migration, Life Cycle records (Isn't that a nice way of putting Birth, Marriages and Deaths?), Land and Property records, Military Records, Slave and Slave Holder Records, Civil Servant Records. The final chapter that deals with the life in the Caribbean looks at migration from the region and then the final two chapters of the book feature each individual country of the British West Indies and records of the Non West Indies such as the influence on the region of Countries such as Cuba, Denmark and France just to name a few.

The book contains illustrations, details on where records are located, in many cases providing the classification number and then steers readers to further sources such as books, websites and societies. The final pages of the book provide a very detailed Bibliography, Name and Addresses section and a comprehensive index.

This is a great resource to those researching their Caribbean roots, and for those interested in general researching the region and for those interested in the social, and economic development of the Caribbean.

This is a revised edition and takes into account recent changes in access to documents and research in the region.

Disclaimer - I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by Julie Goucher

3 January 2013



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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