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A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England by Sue Wilkes
Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978 1 78159 2649
Price £12.99 (£10.39 from P&S at time of writing)
This is an ingenious volume. The author, who has written extensively on social history and on genealogy, provides us with a detailed guide book to the habits, facilities, sights and values of Southern England in the early 19th century. Her walk-through of the territory is attractively supported by extensive quotations from the works of Jane Austen herself and from other contemporaries. The author comments that ‘ Austen’s observations of society were exceptionally astute ( though she was not infallible).’
The whole gamut of middleclass society is covered from domestic details (candlelight and privies) through travel (phaetons, barouches and stagecoaches ) to fashionable life in London ( Beau Brummell and dandies ). Perhaps the most interesting section deals with the etiquette (and pressure) to find a suitable marital partner, but as the author observes, ‘ It’s a man’s world’. Or as Jane herself describes it; ‘ Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.’
The text is lively and well arranged and the anecdotes relevant and illuminating. There is a selection of contemporary engravings, an extensive bibliography and a useful summary of Jane’s life. This is a book which Janeites will enjoy and which will provide an informative context to the novels.
Reviewed by Charles Kaye
Uncle Tom at War: From Penmachno to Prison Camp
by Hywel Roberts
Published by: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst www.carreg-gwalch.com
This is the story of Thomas Williams of Penmachno in the Conwy Valley. It begins by giving some background information relating to the family’s history in the Valley during the nineteenth century, illustrated with family photographs. At the turn of the twentieth century Tom served his apprenticeship as a tailor before enlisting – travelling throughout Wales and England to gain employment and also to holiday. The information relating to his travels is compiled from the family collection of postcards, letters and photographs that he sent to various family members.
Most of Chapter 3 is focused on a World War I postcard encouraging financial support for the War and I feel has little significance to Tom’s story. He enlisted with the Liverpool Scottish Battalion after a recruitment campaign in Colwyn Bay in 1915, some background information relating to the Regiment is given along with details of the deployment of the Battalion to France in 1916 where Tom was stationed for a time.
In 1917 he was shot and became a prisoner-of-war in Germany, his time there is illustrated by photographs of fellow prisoners and a few letters that have survived. After his discharge from the Army he returned to work as a tailor in Colwyn Bay.
This was a very easy read about the life of one young man serving in the First World War, additionally illustrated by the wonderful photographs, postcards and few letters that survived within the family. It was not heavily laden with details about the War, just enough to give you some idea of the situation at the time. I hope such a book will encourage others to write similarly about their ancestors using surviving material within the family and further afield.
Reviewed Beryl Evans (Cardiganshire Family History Society)
It Runs in the Family – Understanding More About Your Ancestors
by Ruth A Symes
Published by: The History Press (2014)
ISBN: 978 0 7524 9702 0
I didn’t realise from the title that it is a book that places a lot of emphasis on the use of photographs to help you to discover more about your ancestors. The author does concentrate on less obvious details and refers to fellow family historians and authors Jayne Shrimpton and Robert Pols who she says ‘more ably address’ things such as dress, large props, backdrops and the history of photography.
Looking at social trends and clues contained in documents and artefacts, the author suggests how you might be able to find out more about your ancestor from other details, not all of which you could pick up from a photograph – e.g. the chapter on perfume.
The first chapter features eyes and advises you to try and focus on the expression of the eyes, whether or not the person was wearing spectacles and if the women were wearing eye make-up as pointers to try and help date the photograph. Queen Alexandra is referenced as being a trend-setter in the use of eye make-up but unfortunately the book says she was the wife of King George V when she was in fact the wife of Edward VII.
There are chapters on such topics as teeth, hair and beards which pose such questions as why didn’t your ancestor smile for the camera and did your ancestor follow the latest trend in hairstyles. Answers offered include that while sitting times for photographs were long your ancestor might have had poor teeth and therefore wouldn’t have smiled anyway and that un-styled hair was a sign of poverty.
The chapters on marks of distinction, tattoos and buttons suggest looking at military records as they will give details of any distinguishing marks and/or tattoos that your ancestor may have had. Also there is the suggestion of looking at passport records and immigration records. There are other chapters on such things as brooches, rings, cufflinks, flowers and dogs.
This is a book that suggests different ideas about tracing your ancestors and offers a different perspective when looking at old photographs. While this book may prompt you to further the research on people you already have on your tree it is unlikely to help you discover new ones. Each chapter has a further reading list if you wish to follow up on any of the topics. It’s a shame about the historical error in chapter one.
Reviewed by Jill Hickey, member of Felixstowe FHS and Cambridgeshire FHS
Militia Lists and Musters 1757 – 1876 (5th Edition)
by Jeremy Gibson and Mervyn Medlycott
Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978 1 906280 42 0
All family historians are well used to the census records from 1841 but earlier censuses are less known and much more difficult to find.
The Militia Ballot lists were introduced to provide, parish by parish a list of all adult men. Ballots were then held to determine who should be called up to the Militia. These lists in theory provide a census of all men aged 18-50 (1758 – 1762) and 18 – 45 (1762 - 1831)
Defence lists, compiled in 1798 and 1803-4, were similar but were to be used to organise reserves of men to help the civil population and remove crops etc in the event of an invasion by the French.
The book goes into more detail about what information is contained in these lists. It will tell you which records survive and where to find them and includes a useful bibliography.
The information is well set out and easy to use and includes Archive and Record Offices references.
The fact that this finding aid has reached 5 editions shows that more of these records are coming to light.
Reviewed by John Treby
Breverton’s First World War Curiosities
by Terry Breverton
Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN: 978 1 4456 3341 1
Breverton’s First World War Curiosities By Terry Breverton.
Published by Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978 1 4456 3341 1 £9.99
The tommy, having had his baby’s head and spotted dog, pulled on his British warm and his Brodie. He met the old sweat and together they crept through the fire trench to the sap. They hoped that there would be no moaning minnies or coal boxes and that the Rupert would leave them alone until it was time to return to the cubby hole for a spot of crumbing up before doing it all again in a few hours.
The centenary of the start of the First World War has given rise to a plethora of books but this one concentrates on providing lots of interesting facts about all aspects of the war.
Its great benefit is that the chapters provide facts in bite size pieces of related information: The start of the war, the war at sea, the war on land, weapons, heroes and villains etc. This format allows the reader to learn a lot easily. If you want to know about the tunnels under enemy trenches, the information is there in a page and a half.
Learn how bees forced a British landing to retreat and how slugs were used as an early warning device.
Read the book to find out what the first sentence means!
The only criticism is that some of the proof reading was poor.
Reviewed by John Treby
Grandad Did a Dastardly Deed - 50 More Family History Traps
by Kate Broad and Toni Neobard
Published by: The Family History Partnership
This book is a "must have, must read" edition. I just love its erudition and wit. But behind and through the wit, lies an absolute treasure trove of knowledge, wisdom and truth about family history research, to suit the whole spectrum of family historians. The beginner will find really valuable tips and more lengthy direction on all likely and unlikely aspects of this absorbing hobby, this occupation, this obsession, even. The more practiced will enjoy this for its clarity, confirmation of their own methods and progress. I would be very surprised if they might not find a pearl if wisdom and truth that suits them also.
I have learned a lot more about googling, than I ever knew existed. It appears that I have been missing out, in so many avenues of enquiry, for far too long. The inside knowledge portrayed is obviously hard won. I shall use it frequently with mindful acknowledgement to these playful authors. Their expertise is easy-going and well directed in the aspects they portray. I didn't think I could gain much more enjoyment from my hobby than I already have. This little volume has transformed my expectations.
I'm sure others before and after me, will acknowledge the truth in their humourous asides dotted generously throughout. They guide and illustrate from personal experience, many potentially destructive actions that the unwary, unaware, researcher can so easily fall prey to. Having myself, drawn on the expertise of a professional researcher, I agree wholeheartedly that such guidance is invaluable.
These two delightful authors have created a reference, a guide, an advisor, an amusing friend, that will sit beside you and tirelessly prompt you in your endeavours, whenever needed. Modern archive practises are as nothing to them - they know where you should seek that elusive break-through, that almost everyone experiences.
I think I have said sufficient by now - just get it and you will find yourself immersed immediately. Be prepared to make notes or insert little index tags because I can guarantee you will want to return to it, again and again for that elusive piece of information you read but didn't put a marker at. It'll encourage you to re-examine the value of everything you have recorded, to date. I fully expect it will give you confidence in what you have achieved so far and most importantly, encourage you to produce that meaningful story with the tree you have researched to date. Now that is worth the price of this book, especially. Your fellow branches will be very pleased at the result.
Reviewed by Nigel Patterson Member of Aberdeen and North East Scotland Family History Society & Family History Society of Buchan
Making Sense of Latin Documents for Family & Local Historians
by Brooke Westcott
Published by: The Family History Partnership
“Latin”, the word used to send a shudder of dread through my whole body when I was at school: how I hated the lessons, but many years later and deep into family history I wish I had paid more attention in class because I now realise Latin can be fun.
Sooner or later every family historians or genealogist will come across Latin in their researches. Whether it will be in Parish Registers, Wills, Probates, Inventories, Citations, Writs, Post Mortem or Land Deeds, the former official language of documents (in the medieval period) will challenge the beginner and experienced researcher alike.
Making Sense of Latin Documents for Family and Local Historians has many examples of Latin text likely to be encountered by local and family historians. Please note: it is not a guide to studying Latin or reading old documents (which, I’m glad to say, does get easier with experience).
The book is both useful for those who have taught themselves some Latin (but who wish to look at examples of the text of documents they have encountered) or for those (like me) who know no Latin at all, but simply want a translation of some text they have found. For example in many parish registers I have often come across someone described as Jacobus and wrongly transcribed them as Jacob in English but Making Sense advises ‘that they were almost certainly James in English’ (p.5).
The slim book (84 pages) is divided into fourteen chapters which gives examples from the kinds of documents researchers often come across. These range from parish registers and wills to land deeds and even excommunications. Anyone who has looked at older wills and deeds will know that certain phrases and words pepper such documents. For instance In dei nomine amen (In the name of God, Amen) and Hiis Testibus (These being witnesses) occur again and again. The author (Brooke Westcott) explains these phrases and words and with the help of this booklet otherwise incomprehensible documents are illuminated.
I recommend this useful book very strongly and at £7.50 it is a real bargain.
Reviewed by David Gilligan, North Cheshire FHS
London's Great Plague
by Samuel Pepys
Published by: Amberly Books
ISBN: 978 1 4456 3782 2
The book is a series of diary entries written by the famous diarist Samuel Pepys between October 1663 and September 1666. It therefore covers the time of the Great Plague, Fire of London and the second Anglo-Dutch War. The book lacks a brief foreword on the background of the times which I felt would have put the diary entries into context, and also doesn’t state whether the diary entries are written in full or simply extracts.
From the title of the book I was surprised at how much reference was made to the naval manoeuvrings of the ongoing war with the Dutch. But given that Mr Pepys was a well-respected naval administrator at the time, I should probably have realised such important events relating to his work would have been included.
The diary entries provide more of an overview of the plague rather than specific gory details, as it written by someone whose life is remarkably unchanged by the events. His personal family is largely unaffected, his fortune increases and his occupation carries on as normal, although not necessarily in the centre of London. What struck me most whilst reading the book, was the amount of travel and socialising Mr Pepys did during the plague. Evidently people got on with their lives as best they could and did not remain indoors in isolation. Yet, Mr Pepys’ descriptions of empty coffee houses, shut up habitations and quiet streets in what was once a bustling metropolis, leaves you with a sense of gladness that you were not living in London at that time.
Reviewed by Sue Steel, Bradford FHS
RMS Tayleur - The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic
by Gill Hoffs
Published by: Pen & Sword
For a few short months, reports of the revolutionary iron-hulled sailing clipper RMS Tayleur featured heavily in the Victorian press. She was new. She was big. She was fast. She was comfortable. She was safe. Yet at around 11 am on Saturday 21st January 1854, en-route from Liverpool to Australia, she smashed broadside into cliffs off the Irish coast and sank with the loss of well over three hundred men, women and children.
First and foremost, it must be said that Gill Hoffs’ book entitled ‘The Sinking of the RMS Tayleur – The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic’ is a very good ‘read’. Indeed, it could rightly be recommended for this reason alone as both the story and storytelling are truly compelling.
But the volume does much more than absorb the reader, it also informs and instructs. Gill Hoffs has cleverly interwoven technical details, eyewitness accounts and much all-important background information directly into the text. So as the story unfolds we not only discover the strengths and weaknesses of the vessel, but are also made aware of the positive and negative aspects of the various players involved too. Heroism and tragedy are demonstrated in huge measure, as is the rampant self-interest of a few participants.
Family historians in particular will do well to review the list of known passengers and crew provided.
Want to learn more? Watch Gill Hoffs talking about her book at: Waterstones Launch
Reviewed by Steve Manning –Peterborough & District FHS
Our Land at War: Britain's Key First World War Sites
by Nick Bosanquet
Published by: The History Press
This new paperback book from The History Press is yet another in the plethora of new titles emerging with the anniversary of the start of the Great War. It is well researched without being too academic in delivery, informative and easy to read and the content makes you look at areas that may be familiar to you in a different light.
There is an excellent introduction to the time, as Bosanquet informs us ‘The First World War was a challenge to a generation of Britons’, those serving in the Forces and those left at home supporting the ‘War Effort’, both male and female.
Each chapter covers a different topic, such as The Supply Lifelines, Intelligence and Propaganda and The Munitions Surprise, as well as sections on the three Services. Each chapter has a gazetteer element where, if you wanted to, you could plan a First World War trip around places in your locality.
There are endnotes for each chapter, excellently chosen illustrations, although sometimes the source is not noted, a good clear text, maps and Guide to places mentioned in the text, index and bibliography.
A book I would recommend to researchers of the Great War as well as those interested in their local area from an historical or family history point of view. It was interesting to learn about places I knew and their involvement in the War to End all Wars.
Reviewed by Jane Tunesi of Liongam
Hertfordshire FHS and Editor of Hertfordshire People (society journal)
Bishops' Transcripts and Marriage Licences, Bonds and Allegations (Sixth Edition)
Compiled by Jeremy Gibson
Published by: The Family History Partnership
Now in its sixth edition, this book should be one of the standard references for the serious or professional genealogist. For the amateur tackling the finer detail of their research, it will provide guidance on the general availability of resources.
As the title suggests, the book provides an overview of Bishops' Transcripts and Marriage Licences for each of the counties in England and Wales. The introduction provides an overview of the subject and acknowledges the generosity shown by archivists who completed Mr Gibson's surveys.
Each county entry consists of three parts, namely Bishops' Transcripts, Marriage Licences and an outline map of the county. The first section names the Diocese and say where the records are held, describe the scheme and highlights any parishes that are exceptions to the rule. This includes listing the peculiars, parishes not under direct control of the diocese.
The survival of marriage licences, as Gibson points out, is a matter of chance as they were passed to the groom to show the parson. As they are organised on a diocesan bases, they fit well with the Bishops' Transcripts. The detailed description of the records covering London and Middlesex also refers to other resources. The maps are simple and informative, showing positions of parishes mentioned in the text.
Here is a great way to discover what is available and where to make further enquiries. This book meets its brief admirably and reminds us that not all information will be online. It may not be for everyone, but using this book will improve your use of important genealogical resources.
Reviewed by Tony Sargeant, Buckinghamshire FHS
A Methodist in the Family? Answers to ten frequently asked family history questions- by Philip Thornborow
Published by: Methodist Publishing
Well it will come as no surprise that a second book relating to Methodist records has again grabbed my attention. This is a 56 page ‘accessible guide aimed at answering the top ten most frequently asked Methodist family history questions’, small and compact and it delivers. It will appeal to the professional genealogist, the family historian and the beginners who perhaps think they might have a Methodist ancestor in their tree. The author Philip Thornborow was a liaison officer for Methodist Archives for over 35 years and an advisor on archiving to the Methodist Council.
The guide is split into ten different chapters each looking at a particular frequently asked question on Methodists across Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. Thornborow’s approach is I feel unique. I don’t remember ever seeing a guide where it looks at the most common frequently asked questions and then builds a guide around them. I like this style of writing.
Each Question or chapter provides a good amount of important straight to the point information. There are also various websites listed with an indication on whether it is a free site or a subscription site. Alongside this information Thornborow has included symbols to indicate the nature of the information being recommended – such as book, CD, online or place to visit. Thornborow has packed lots of Methodist history in this little guide – just the kind of information that a researcher needs to be able to interpret and understand the records they are consulting. Thornborow looks at Baptism, Cradle Rolls, Marriage, Burial, Chapel role and Committee meetings, The Wesleyan Historic Roll, Census Returns, travelling preachers and where to find out yet more information.
The last page of the guide is a summary to how the guide works. If the reader wants to know if their ancestor lived in Wales or Scotland then Thornborow directs them to look at Question 5 then Questions 1 and 2 and so on.
In conclusion this book is exceptionally well sourced with credits given to primary and secondary sources including the images that he uses within the book. I think every FHS and local history libraries should have one in their collection as it will no doubt prove really useful to those interested in looking at Methodist records.
Member of the Scottish Genealogy Network
Dunedin Links Genealogy
Female Tommies – The Frontline Women of the First World War Front - by Elisabeth Shipton
Published by: The History Press
ISBN: 978 0 7524 9143 1
This is obviously a well researched book that gives the reader a lot of information and background detail on the military role of women in the war, the women’s organisations that participated in the First World War and a general history of worldwide attitudes to women doing ‘men’s’ work.
If you had any relatives that were in any of the nursing bodies, like the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and Scottish Women’s Hospital, then this is a must read book as it tells how and why they formed and the role they played in the First World War. Apart from the women who were instrumental in founding all of the women’s organisations there are also stories of women like Flora Sandes, who although British, served in the Serbian Army alongside men. There is also a chapter on the many Russian women that served in the war and one on the American women who got involved long before the USA officially entered the First World War, plus lots of other women’s stories including people like Mata Hari and Edith Cavell.
Women wanted their Corps to be a part of the Army and the book explains that men in government were keen for women to be enrolled as civilians and not enlisted as then they wouldn’t be entitled to the vote.
I found this book a very informative read and my only criticism would be that the shading on the maps didn’t vary enough to make them easy to read. There is a full bibliography included if you want some further reading.
Reviewed by Jill Hickey (Member of Felixstowe FHS and Cambridgeshire FHS)
Salford Through Time - by Paul Hindle
Published by: Amberley Publishing
This is basically a selection of then-and-now photographs of Salford with explanatory notes. It is good to have reminders that Salford is not just a bit of land tagged on to Manchester and that the origins of the two towns were in fact quite the opposite. The author has used the novel idea of mapping a walk through parts of Salford, illustrated by photographs of landmarks and well known buildings along the way, showing the changes which have taken place.
The first section of the book is devoted to the centre of the old town, starting at the Blackfriars bank of the River Irwell and ending on the far side of Buile Hill Park. Most of the buildings shown were built early to mid-19th century, the exceptions being Sacred Trinity Church(1693) and the Georgian Crescent. It is most revealing to see, in the modern photographs, how good the renovated old buildings look compared to the new replacements. Are there lessons to be learnt here?
The second section, which is much shorter, begins at Lower Broughton and ends at Kersal Cell. There are lovely pictures of Kersal Cell, originally part of a medieval monastery, but now two beautifully restored private houses and the old Toll House at Kersal Bar. Other pictures bring reminders that the Manchester Race Course, home of the original November Handicap, began life in Kersal and then moved into Pendleton.
Part 3 is devoted to a stroll along the Manchester Bolton and Bury Canal, one of the lesser known parts of the Manchester canal system. The canal which passes through much of the territory shown in Sections 1& 2 was opened in 1793 and closed in 1961. Restoration work began in 2002 and many of the before and after photographs show well-thought out improvements which have enhanced the landscape and presumably aided navigation.
The book illustrates that there is still a lot to be seen in the City of Salford and may encourage more people to explore its significant history.
Reviewed by Maureen Fitzgibbon, member of the Catholic Family History Society
Census – The Family Historian’s Guide (2nd Edition)
The first few chapters of the book cover the origins of the census and describe the Victorian and later censuses in detail. Although not directly relevant to family historians this chapter provides useful background and does help to dispel the myth that the censuses were designed with genealogy in mind. Four case studies are provided which show how the census records can be used in tracing individual families. I found the case studies excellent in bringing to life the information that had been covered in these chapters.
Perhaps the most useful chapter in the book is entitled ‘Why Can’t I Find My Ancestor?’. This covers a number of reasons why you cannot find people where and when you expected to find them. The many possible issues with names, dates, places, and statuses etc. are explained. Again two useful case studies are provided to highlight the issues described.
Having provided a good grounding in the history of the censuses and the possible problems of misleading, missing, or inaccurate information the online censuses are introduced.
Of particular interest is the section on indexing issues and accuracy. A 1% error rate is stated as an unachievable target given the skills and training of the indexers used. This means that at a minimum 300,000 people will be potentially unfindable in any particular online census. Using multiple services with different indexes is a way of overcoming this problem, and the subsequent chapters on individual online services describe from where they have obtained their indexes. This is important to know as using multiple services to try to overcome indexing issues will not be effective if they use the same index!
A chapter on online search techniques provides a useful overview of these techniques and covers the use of wild cards and features such as Soundex, Metaphone, and NameX.
A total of nine chapters describe the various free and paid for online services. The subjects covered include charge rates, searching, images, and saving results. The sharing of census data between the various sites is described in detail and this enables you to determine which services may help if you are trying to overcome indexing issues.
Surprisingly in these days of online access to censuses there are still valid reasons for using microfilm and CD-ROM /DVD census material. Indexes have often been compiled by people with local knowledge and thus can more accurate than generic indexes. In particular if you are looking to review a substantial amount of information, perhaps as part of a one name study then significant cost savings are possible against using an online service. Two chapters of the book cover use of these methods and described how you might benefit from doing your research this way.
Reviewed by Peter Barlow (Member of the Catholic Family History Society)
British Posters of the First World War -
by John Christopher
Published by: Amberley Publishing
This lavishly illustrated book is split is into 16 chapters and explores the art and themes of the many posters that emerged throughout the course of the war. Each chapter has a brief introduction and the illustrations have accompanying captions, but the images speak for themselves.
Using simple slogans and strong graphic imagery the posters were aimed at the working class, they were a form of mass communication that was easy to understand with a strong, clear message.
Many were calls to action such as those illustrated with the well known and much reproduced image of Lord Kitchener but there are other themes explored such as Women at War, Wartime Charities and The War Horses.
The author John Christopher has a degree in Graphic Art. With many titles on the subject of the First World War already published and more to come as we approach the centenary, this book is different; Christopher has drawn on a vast collection of works from a variety of organisations and individuals and has included cartoons from his own collection. All of these serve to explain and explore the importance and impact this medium had on the great British public.
Life in 1940s London – by Mike Hutton
Published by: Amberley Publishing
Price £20.00 RRP
Life in 1940s London is a nicely published book which covers a lot of ground in just over 200 pages. It is evident that the book has been well researched and well thought out. Topics are contained in single chapters. At the centre of the book there are a number of photographs which capture the spirit of life and times in London throughout the decade. In fact, if you want to get an idea of what wartime conditions were like in London, or if you are an older reader who remembers any part of the 1940s, then this is the book for you.
It should be mentioned that the author, Mike Hutton, is a London social historian who has published other titles. Mike has a good writing style which is to the point, and matter of fact, along with a very dry sense of humour! There are numerous stories in the different chapters. The stories serve nicely in spicing things up, while other tales will tug at the heart-strings. For example, in Chapter 6, which covers wartime entertainment, the overview of wartime films is well written with the spirit of celluloid tales neatly captured.
Chapter 12, a London love story, has been written with feeling. Mike discusses the situation of demobbed troops, and how they coped with civilian life and their families which had changed while they were away on active service.
Overall, this book is an enjoyable read which provides some nice pieces of information to flesh out the lives of your wartime family members and of their communities.
Life in 1940s London catches the spirit of the wartime years, and of changes and momentous events post-war.
This book certainly “does what it says on the tin”.
Reviewed by Richard M Brown, member of East Surrey FHS and Lincolnshire FHS
A Tommy in the Family: First World War Family History and Research -
by Keith Gregson
Published by: The History Press
This is a book that I was very keen to read and review for FFHS because of my interest in WW1 and I was not disappointed. It is a small A5 book but it packs quite a punch. It is divided into twenty individual chapters each relating to one of Gregson’s relatives. It is clear from the onset that the author Keith Gregson has not just a love of history, but many years’ experience both as a family historian and as an author of books including ‘A Viking in the Family’ and ‘Tracing your Northern Ancestors’ , he calls himself a ‘social historian’ which is very much reflected in this book. It will appeal to a wide audience both adults and children alike. It mentions important dates and battles, not necessarily previously known about in such detail. Gregson writes about his ancestor’s experiences in their own words then interprets this information from authentic known evidence, setting his ancestor in context and looks at both pieces of evidence critically and meticulously. In particular he mentions in ‘Chapter 7: Joe Bentley: a Mysterious Tale’ the sad realisation to him that Joe was one of the 250 men from ‘the Norfolk Regiment [who] mysteriously disappeared into the mist’ at Gallipoli in 1915. I remember watching the film All the King’s Men with David Jason in the lead role and the men from the Sandringham Estate. His reference to it in the book recreated the horrific images from that film in my mind and I can remember it vividly indeed.
Gregson follows a methodical and consistent format throughout. He has taken great care to elaborate where appropriate making it easier for the reader to understand terminology often found in War Diaries or Army Records. Chapter 19: Artie Watterson: A submariner’s tale was also engaging as it related to my part of the country (The Firth of Forth). I felt that this chapter could have included official naval documentation (references to where such records are housed perhaps on the ‘Kalamity Class’) of the incident particularly as the Forth played a major part in protecting Scotland from invasion.
The book is a well written and emotional, it relates directly to human tragedies of WW1 and one particular family’s experiences of the war. I admit I did shed a few tears at some of the personal accounts he told. Reading it has made me want to look again at my own family history and see where I can tease out and explore in more detail the experiences of my First World War ancestors.
A conclusion and bibliography at the end would have made it a good reference book too, although he does periodically reference well. The author’s meticulous attention to detail and his analysis of evidence is quite outstanding.
orna Kinnaird - Regional Representative for Scotland-South (Guild of One Name Studies) and a Professional Genealogist at Dunedin Links Genealogy and proud member of the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) & IHGS Student
Reviewed by Lorna Kinnaird - Regional Representative for Scotland-South (Guild of One Name Studies) and a Professional Genealogist at Dunedin Links Genealogy and proud member of the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) & IHGS Student
Methodist Records for Family Historians - by Richard Ratcliffe
Published by: The Family History Partnership
Price £4.95 RRP
This is a booklet that I was very happy to review because it is for anyone researching Methodist records providing them with good basic information - and for family historians and genealogists to use as a compact resource guide. It is a small A5 booklet with 32 pages. The author Richard Ratcliffe is a family history tutor and a keen student of the history of Methodism, Quarter Sessions Records and School Records and his expertise and understanding on the subject is perfectly displayed within the booklet. This booklet is the updated and revised edition of Ratcliffe’s earlier book ‘Basic Facts about Methodist Records for Family Historians’ (published 2005 and now out of print).
It is split into seventeen different chapters all relating to Methodist records from around the British Isles and each chapter is packed full of relevant background historical information, useful up-to-date references, and clear locations of where the records are located to help the historian research the subject to the best of their ability.
I like the presentation and format of the booklet – it’s simple and doesn’t use jargon and terms that you can’t understand. But I would have liked to have seen at least one or two examples of original Methodist records included – so that a researcher could see what the documents actually looked like. Ratcliffe has, in my view, provided a good balance between just the right amount of information to references - without extending it to pages and pages of descriptive information. I always find it useful to read in such a booklet how Nonconformist records are organised and where they can be found – and this booklet provides that information and much more, in a very straightforward and logical approach. He discusses Methodist baptismal, marriage and burial records and offers some examples too as well as looking at records of a Methodist Circuit, what they might contain and where they might be found.
Chapter 15 (a select bibliography) lists many other equally good books for further reading and referencing. But I particularly like the Calendar (Chapter 16) in which he lists in date order the important key events surrounding the Methodist Church as this helps put any Wesleyan ancestor into context.
His references include full postal and contact addresses, email and websites and the person in charge at the Wesley and Methodist Studies Centres that should be contacted. Again, this kind of information is very useful to anyone looking for an up to date, easy to follow and informative reference booklet.
I really do think this is an excellent reference booklet and I for one will be suggesting to fellow genealogists and family history societies that they should include this within their libraries.
Reviewed by Lorna Kinnaird – Regional Representative for Scotland-South (Guild of One Name Studies) and a Professional Genealogist at Dunedin Links Genealogy and proud member of the Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) & IHGS Student,
‘Hiding the Past’ A Genealogical Crime Mystery
- by Nathan Doyle Goodwin
Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
There are a small but increasing number of authors writing books whose hero uses family history or genealogical techniques and skills to solve mysteries of murder and mayhem!
This book is the first novel by the author and is the first of what promises to be a series involving Morton Farrier, ‘the forensic genealogist’.
The story starts with a presumed murder of a mother in 1940s wartime Britain. It then moves to the present and finds Morton struggling, unsuccessfully, to find the birth of the father of his client, who 5 days earlier had paid Morton a very handsome fee! His client dies suddenly- seemingly suicide but was it? Morton fortunately was quick to bank the cheque as he did not have any problem in it being cleared before his client’s death!
Interwoven in the story are Morton’s own ambivalent feelings to his adopted father and brother with flashbacks to Wartime Britain as Morton discovers more. All contribute to an entertaining read. The book, like every good ‘thriller’ will not allow you to put it down. You do want to know what Morton’s next attempt to trace the parentage of his client is going to reveal and with it the consequences, increasingly dire, as he edges nearer to the truth. Being a forensic genealogist clearly is not without its hazards as readers soon discover.
Morton follows up leads and uses records known to all family historians and eventually with several clandestine escapades, which James Bond would have been proud of, the mystery of his late client’s ancestors unravels.
I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book!
For more details about the author see his website www.nathangoodwin.co.uk. Follow him on Twitter @nathangoodwin76 and
‘Like him’ on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nathandylangoodwin.
Reviewed by David Lambert
Putting Your Ancestors in their Place
– A Guide to One Place Studies by Janet Few
Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978 1 906280 43 7
There are so few books dedicated to the subject of One Place Studies therefore this is a very welcomed addition to the genealogical and local history arena.
The book has been thoroughly researched and whilst is heavily slanted at such studies in the United Kingdom, those who are pursuing studies, or contemplating studies outside of the United Kingdom would without a doubt benefit from reading this book.
The book is divided into three distinct sections, Setting the Scene, Sources for One Place Studies and Pulling it All Together written over 12 chapters.
Part One covers the What and Why of One Place Studies, Reconstructing the Place and Populating the Community.
Part Two, Sources for One Place Studies covers Locating Sources from before 1600 to after 1900.
Part Three includes the final chapter which considers publishing your study, whether that is through a book or website. It also looks at the aspect of funding for a study and the importance of the future of your study.
The final pages are given over to examples of some studies, a comprehensive bibliography, magazines and journals, Societies and addresses, courses and an index.
At the end of each chapter there is further reading and of course many website addresses are presented so that you can explore as you read. There are also projects that can be undertaken as you read. I particularly like this idea, as it enables you to look at your place and community, layer by layer, by person and surname and understand how the individuals were in relation to their community.
This is a good grounding for those undertaking One Place Studies anywhere. The resources are obviously aimed at those within England and Wales, but that itself can give rise to contemplation of what similar records exist in your location where ever you or your study are in the world. I personally recommend this thoroughly researched and comprehensive guide to anyone who has an interest in understanding the places in which their ancestors lived.
Reviewed by Julie Goucher
The Lifeboat Service in Scotland
by Nicholas Leach
Published by: Amberley Publishing
The history of the lifeboat service in Scotland is one of outstanding bravery and tragedy: bravery exemplified in the Gold medal-winning rescues by the Peterhead lifeboat in 1942 and the Lerwick lifeboat in 1997; and tragedy when lifeboat men gave their own lives at Arbroath, Fraserburgh, Longhope and elsewhere to help others in distress.
This comprehensive new book looks in detail at the work of the lifeboat stations in Scotland, past and present. The RNLI currently operates forty-seven lifeboat stations in Scotland, and this volume contains details of every one, with information about their history, rescues and current lifeboats. The author Nicholas Leach has amassed a wealth of information about Scotlands lifeboats and lifeboat stations, visiting every one of them to provide a complete and up-to-date record of life-saving in the seas off the rugged and beautiful, but often treacherous Scottish coast.
To the local and social historian, especially those studying areas along the Scottish coasts, this book provides a wealth of information about the local lifeboats, the equipment they have used over the years, many of the rescues they have undertaken, the disasters which have befallen them, and the place of the lifeboat service in the local community.
Whilst genealogists and family historians may be a little disappointed that there are few mentions of the names of the brave men who crewed and maintained these lifeboats, except in times of bravery or tragedy, they may be aware that their ancestors had been involved at some time in their life with the work of the lifeboats. This book will certainly allow them to add some background detail, to add flesh to the bones of their seafaring ancestors, and it certainly warrants a place on the bookshelves of anyone studying the history of families in Scotland’s seafaring communities.
Reviewed by Bruce B Bishop FSA Scot, ASGRA
Tracing your Limerick Ancestors by Margaret Franklin
Published by:Flyleaf Press
ISBN13: 978 1 907990 069
This is a revision of the previous volume in the series published by the Flyleaf Press. This new and expanded guide to Limerick Ancestors is by Margaret Franklin, who has recently retired as Local History Librarian in Limerick County Library. It follows the pattern of other County books in the series.
Margaret writes in an easy to read and lucid style. All the “Standard” chapters have been included and there is a useful list of parishes under the Church record section. It is also helpful to be given the name of the Diocese to which the parish belongs.
Margaret has greatly expanded and updated the previous edition providing a very comprehensive guide of local sources. There is however unfortunately very little reference to sources for occupations (with the exception of Flax growers), education or immigration, which other volumes in the series include. Perhaps these topics could be included another time.
In this ever changing electronic age, Margaret lists many of the websites, where the information can be found, which is very commendable. The reader would need to beware however that some of these change or may even disappear as time goes on.
The section under civil registration, lists other records held by the GRO, was very illuminating and may even be the reason that an event can’t be found in the normal BMD indexes. Did the event take place at sea or did your ancestor die in the in the British Army. Margaret Franklin has suggestions as to where these might found.
Overall a very readable and informative book especially for those with Limerick Ancestors.
Reviewed by Peter Davies – Rugby FHG
Doctor Barnardo: Champion of Victorian Children
by Martin Levy
Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN 978 1 4456 0923 2
This is an attractive and well presented volume which describes a fascinating man who founded a 19th Century charity in London's East End, which is still powerfully active today. Michael Levy details Thomas Barnardo's career from his birth in Ireland to his death in 1986. While full credit is given to Barnardo for his Herculean labours to better the lives of the children of the poor, attention is also focused on the less attractive side of his personality and practice. The institutions he founded expanded rapidly to meet a pressing need but his high-handed and litigious behaviour involved his charity in a number of extremely difficult situations. He was often guilty of ignoring the rights and wishes of the families of his charges (only a quarter of whom were orphans). His scheme for shipping youngsters to Canada to give them a fresh start was significantly flawed, to the detriment of many children involved. Barnado comes across as a determined and driven man, an evangelical Protestant.
Sadly the style in which the book is written is, to this reviewer, uninviting and detracts from the subject. It is cliché-ridden, repetitive and meandering. Annoyingly it paraphrases rather than quotes source material and 'invents' historical conversations. Much of this gets in the way of a fuller analysis of Dr Barnardo ('Dr' by courtesy since he dropped out of medical school) and his paradoxical character, but if you can get beyond the style, the story rewards the effort.
Reviewed by Charles Kaye
The Family Historian’s Enquire Within (Sixth Edition)
extensively revised and updated by Dr Janet Few
Published by:The Family History Partnership (January 2014)
Price £12.95 (RRP)
Family historians can never have enough reference books and although I have probably got more than most I gladly accepted the offer to review the latest edition of The Family Historian’s Enquire Within (Sixth Edition). This book (edited by Dr Janet Few) is considered ‘one of the standard reference works for family historians’ and rightly so.
First published in 1985 and regularly updated to reflect the rapidly changing face of family history research - Janet Few says ‘family history research has changed beyond all recognition since 1985’. The book gives clear and concise information on more than a thousand alphabetically arranged entries with explanations, definitions, dates, recommended books and useful website addresses. The topics covered are wide-ranging (as you would expect). As well as the usual stuff on parish registers, monumental inscriptions and probate there are extensive entries on Civil Registration, relationships (which includes an easy-to-read chart), prisons and prisoners.
No reference book can be completely comprehensive, of course, and I did find a few omissions in this one. On page 288 Jane Few mentions the popular television programme, Who Do You Think you Are? - and she rightly mentions the monthly magazine but not the accompanying book to the series (published 2004) by Dan Waddell which, I think, is an interesting introduction to genealogy in general. In addition I thought the space and depth give to some topics like MIs, funeral customs and death was a little lightweight. I was disappointed, for example, that she didn’t mention Julian Litten’s magnificent The English Way Death – The Common Funeral Since 1450 (1991) in the entry on funerals.
At 248 mm x 172mm and 293 pages the book is easy to handle and read (nice big type) and while many entries are very short there is on the whole enough information to follow the topic further with many excellent textual references and a selection of recommended books.
This is one of the most generally useful genealogical books on the market. In dictionary format, it provides clear sign-posts to point you in the right direction at every stage in your research.
Reviewed by David Gilligan (Member of North Cheshire FHS)
The surnames of Wales by John and Sheila Rowlands
Published by: Gomer Press Llandysul Ceredigion SA44 4JL
ISBN 978 1 84851 775 2
This is an updated revised edition of this book which was first published in 1996. Although a scholarly work it is an interesting study of the development and distribution of Welsh surnames. Anyone who is researching a Welsh ancestor will be very aware of the difficulties resulting from the patronymic names.
The book takes one by the hand and leads one gently but very clearly through the minefield of Welsh patronymic surnames, their origins and distribution. It starts by describing the history of Welsh surnames and describes how they developed
This is followed by chapters on the origin and distribution of the names as well as the meaning and origin of many given names. These chapters are accompanied by good, easy to use maps.
The authors then describe several different ways to use their surveys and finish by discussing migration.
There is an extensive bibliography and useful appendices listing the Hundreds in Wales. If you are looking for your ancestors with Welsh names this book will certainly help point you in the right direction
Reviewed by John Treby (Gloucestershire FHS, Devon FHS, East of London FHS)
The FFHS takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any statements, information, opinions, recommendations and views contained in these reviews by any reviewer or any third party.