Book Review: Unlocking the Past: A Guide to Exploring Family and Local History in the Isle of Man by Matthew Richardson.

Unlocking the Past – A Guide to Exploring Family and Local History in the Isle of Man by Matthew Richardson

This review got posted as a result of meeting two special ladies in Cumbria looking for research resources for the Isle of Man. I hope this helps.

Unlocking the Past: A Guide to Exploring Family and Local History in the Isle of Man. By Matthew Richardson. Published by Manx National Heritage, Kingswood Grove, Douglas, Isle of Man 1M1 3LY, British Isles. 2011. 210 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover. £12.

Geographically the Isle of Man is part of the British Isles. It is a Crown Dependency owing its allegiance to the British Crown with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II holding the title Lord of Mann. But the island has never been part of the United Kingdom. What this all means for the genealogist is that things are done differently there. Yes, there are a lot of similar records, but beginning and ending dates, access procedures, contents and relative importance are often different than we are used to finding in England.

The book opens with a historical overview of the Isle of Man, from the early native Celtic population to the present time, which will be especially valuable for outsiders, like most North American readers. The second part is a detailed guide to the main Isle of Man repositories, providing names, addresses, contact information and a summary of what is likely to be found there. The bulk of the book is a guide to areas of research, arranged alphabetically, and being one to eleven pages in length.  The topics include: Castle Rushen (prison) papers; cemeteries; census; church court records; court records; customs records; directories; emigration records; folk life survey; friendly societies; internment records; land and property records (two large important geographically separated collections); mapping; military and naval records; mining records; rolls office records; shipping company and shipping records; and more for a total of 53 different topics. For each topic you get a detailed description of the records, how and why they were created, where they are now and how to access them, and where they fit in context. Many of the topics are illustrated and contain examples of the types of information found in them.

The book concludes with five case studies tracing the context and ancestors of a: miner; soldier; broadcaster; housekeeper; and blacksmith. These case studies show how different records can be pulled together to create a good family picture, and they are well worth reading.

The book is lavishly illustrated throughout, provides a bibliography and is indexed. This book is current, tells what is coming, and is a good replacement to The Manx Family Tree by Janet Narisimham, originally published in 1986, with the 3rd ed. in 2000.

Anyone searching for ancestors or investigating the history of the Isle of Man will find this book beneficial.

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