Book Review: Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors – A Guide for Family Historians by Mike Royden

Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Mike Royden
Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Mike Royden

The posting of this review comes as a result of a specific question following one of my recent lectures at the Dupage County Genealogical Society Conference.

Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Mike Royden. Published by Pen & Sword Family History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK. www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. ₤14.99. US Distributor: Casemate Publishing, 1016 Warrior Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026. www.casemateathena.com. $32.95. Australia Distributor: Gould Genealogy & History, P.O. Box 119, St. Agnes SA 5097.  www.gould.com.au. AUS$44.95. 2010. 260 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Royden is a well-known writer-lecturer and authority on the history of the city of Liverpool in Lancashire, England. That knowledge, experience and advice comes through clearly in this research guide. This book is so clearly focused that it is a must for anyone with Liverpool connections.

The book is divided into two sections; work and economy; society; plus appendices. The book begins by describing the development of the city, beginning with its fishing village origins. It did not begin to develop until after 1647 when it became a free and independent port no longer subject to the Port of Chester. Rapid expansion occurred in the 1660s and 1670s with the expansion of the town, development of local industries, the discovery and development of local salt deposits. Then during the eighteenth century it rose to prominence because of the transatlantic slave trade, along with its growing importance as a port and center of shipbuilding. Until around 1700 Liverpool remained one township within the parish of Walton but land enclosure and land development was changing the rural agricultural area, but the town boundaries did not start to expand until the 1830s, while the close by towns of Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port did not exist yet. The geographical isolation of Liverpool within England changed during the industrial revolution with the development of roads and turnpikes, the construction of canals and in 1830 the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester railway.

The second section focusses on society by examining: housing development; poverty; health and charity; religion and migration; education; and the experience of war. In the process of examining these subjects Royden identifies the history and records of the local institutions and organizations that impacted the lives of our ancestors. No matter at what level of society, what ethnic or religious group your ancestor belonged to he or she will have been influenced by these institutions and local organizations. This book puts everything into local context and directs your research.

What makes this volume different and even more valuable, from other regional guides in this series, is the very frequent and extensive guides to further research and reading attached to every topic discussed in the book. Inter-library loan will give the reader access to most of these resources.

The book concludes with six extensive appendices (71 pages): a research guide – pulls together information on the familiar family history records we search; a listing of archives, libraries and local study centers – providing contact information and identifying their primary holdings; web resources – identifies local history links, local photography sites, and locally focused forums and message boards; other useful organizations and resources – describing purpose, meetings, publications and contact information; museums and heritage centers – contact information and descriptions of holdings ; and recommended reading. It should be noted that even though the recommended reading list is very extensive and arranged by topic making it easy to use, it is not comprehensive and that the relevant section within the text should also be read as often additional recommendations will be made.

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