Book Review: Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Church of England Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians. By Stuart A. Raymond. 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: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2017. 232 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Until the late seventeenth century, every man and woman in England was a member of the Church of England. Legally, that continued to be the case for several centuries, although in practice Non-Conformists and Roman Catholics denied their membership. Even today Anglican priests recognize they have an obligation to serve everyone within their parish. Thus, everyone, at least into the nineteenth century and earlier, can claim Anglican ancestors.

The Church of England is the established church of England and Wales, plus Ireland, but not Scotland. The records of Ireland and Scotland are not included here. This book focusses on the records created within the dioceses and parishes of England and Wales, although other records are mentioned when appropriate.

The first section in the book provides context of the institution. It provides a brief outline of the history of Anglicanism; describes the structure of the church, how clergy and laity operate within it, and why the records that we use were created. There is also a chapter on the preliminaries of research regarding the use of record offices, books, libraries and the internet. This is a good introduction to English research methods and sources.

The following two chapters examine what researchers are most commonly seeking, that is references to the baptism, marriage and burial of their ancestors.  The first looks in detail at the registers themselves, while the second looks at alternative records for the same information such as bishops’ transcripts, banns registers, marriage licence [MELISSA – correct English Spelling for record] records, monumental inscriptions, etc. The next two chapters examine additional records produced by the parish and diocese, such as: churchwarden accounts; vestry minutes; seating plans; tithe records; confirmation registers; visitation records; diocesan courts; records of loyalty; and more, introducing lots of lessor known or utilized records.

The next three chapters take a more in-depth look at specific topics. The church ran the English probate system until 1858, which is explained, along with guidance on how to find what is needed. This is followed by a discussion of Anglican charities, missions and religious orders. Then, for those with Anglican clergy in the family, there is a good chapter on the numerous sources that make tracing these individuals easier than tracing lay family members.

The books final chapter looks at additional sources that might provide clues or information about the clergy or church members, such as: Charles Booth’s interviews; diaries; Compton Census; 1851 ecclesiastical census; Glynne’s church notes; newspapers; Queen Anne churches; school records; and more.

Numerous bibliographic and web link references are included throughout the book, to take the researcher to more in-depth resources. Multiple indexes arranged by place, name and subject also simplify the location of material. This book is up to Mr. Raymond’s usual high standards of a practical, comprehensive, clearly written research guide. It is highly recommended.

Book Review: How to Read Scottish Buildings by Daniel MacCannell.

How to Read Scottish Buildings. By Daniel MacCannell. Published by Birlinn Ltd., West Newington House, 10 Newington Road, Edinburgh EH9 1QS, UK. www.birlinnco.uk. £9.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $14.99. 2015, reprinted with corrections 2017. 224 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This is a practical book, sized to fit in one’s pocket or purse, unlike many books on architecture. I wish I’d had it with me on my recent trip to Scotland when I was taking photographs of many buildings because I would have been able to take better photographs of many of the features mentioned in the book. In the meantime, I can use the book to more accurately analyze the photographs I have. This is where researchers will benefit when examining family photographs that include buildings.

This is not a book about the famous buildings: cathedrals, palaces or royal castles, which are only mentioned in passing. It is a guide to the curious, attractive, sometimes even beautiful old Scottish buildings for which there are no plaques, no websites, no costumed guides or colorful pamphlets or ‘ancient monument’ designations. The book “is intended to provide travelers and residents with an impartial, brief, clearly illustrated guide that allows them to place Scottish buildings and groups of buildings with regard to their ages, styles, influences and functions, as well as the messages that their builders, owners and occupants intended to convey” (p.9). In this it succeeds. It will help you determine if you are looking at an outstanding, typical or inferior example of a building feature, a style, or a period building. The book is designed to teach a deductive approach that can be applied equally well to Scottish buildings in any setting, in any region, or originating in any  time period. The author acknowledges that there may be regional variations, and some are touched upon, but the overall principles apply everywhere.  

Mr. MacCannell divides Scottish architecture into six style periods, which are explained and illustrated. The six style periods are: Style before 1540 – Middle Ages into the Renaissance; Style 1540-1660 – Baronial glory days and the overthrow of the church; Style 1660-1750 – de-fortification, symmetry and the emergence of architecture as a profession; Style 1750-1840 – Pan British Neo-Classical style consolidated, amid increasing scale and the first stirrings of ‘retro’; Style 1840-1920 – ‘retro’, diversity, mechanization and unparalleled prosperity; Style after 1920 – ‘retro’ perfected, Art Deco, Brutalism and green architecture.

The following section examines the cross-period issues that may create problems for the observer, but may, with some knowledge and understanding, aid in narrowing down dates, such as: dated stones; arms; marks of quality that transcend periods; symmetry and the notion of ‘Georgian style’; ownership; and how to read a house built in multiple periods.

The next section looks at the individual external features of a building starting at the roof, and working down looking at windows, walls, doors and all their multiple variations. You will understand what to look for and how to distinguish between original and ‘retro’ versions of features after reading this section.

The book concludes with a table, designed for quick onsite estimation of time period. It looks at the observable features and describes what to look for in each period, knowing that some features go across multiple styles. The style periods go across the table and the features described like the buildings start at the top and work down. The table is not a summary of the prior section but contains significant information not mentioned elsewhere.

This is a practical book well worth looking at by anyone interested in Scottish architecture and the everyday buildings in which our ancestors lived. Users will come away with better understanding of how designs changed over time.

Boring Speakers Talk For Longer

As I prepare for my talk – “Tips for Improving Your Genealogical Lecturing Skills” to be given at the Professional Management Conference of the Association of Professional Genealogists held over the next three days in Kansas City, a letter caught my attention. The piece of correspondence is in the 27 September 2018 issue of Nature (Volume 561. Page 464) and was brought to my attention in John Reid’s excellent blog Anglo-Celtic Connections (citing my sources 😊)

The correspondent, Robert M. Ewers, of Imperial College, London wanted to address an observation that at conferences boring talks often feel interminable but are they actually longer. I am going to quote from his letter, used with the author’s permission.

“I investigated this idea at a meeting where speakers were given 12-minute slots. I sat in on 50 talks for which I recorded the start and end time. I decided whether the talk was boring after 4 minutes, long before it became apparent whether the speaker would run overtime. The 34 interesting talks lasted, on average, a punctual 11 minutes and 42 seconds. The 16 boring ones dragged on for 13 minutes and 12 seconds (thereby wasting a statistically significant 1.5 min; …) For every 70 seconds that a speaker droned on, the odds that their talk had been boring doubled. For the audience this is exciting news. Boring talks that seem interminable actually do go on for longer.”

I will be encouraging all my fellow speakers to not be boring and will be providing tips on how to improve their speaking skills. Heaven forbid that we would fall into this category, of being boring. But only the audience will be able to answer that question.

Book Review: Tracing Your Ancestors Through the Equity Courts by Susan T. Moore

Tracing Your Ancestors Through the Equity Courts
Tracing Your Ancestors Through the Equity Courts by Susan T. Moore

Tracing Your Ancestors Through the Equity Courts: A Guide for Family & Local Historians. By Susan T. Moore. 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: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $26.95. 2017. 211 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

These voluminous records of the equity courts contain a wealth of family details, both in terms of relationships and character. Was your ancestor kind, compassionate, giving or rather cruel, belligerent and miserly? What was their day-to-day life like? The equity court records often reveal the answers to questions like these.  They are also valuable for the local historian seeking information on the social networks, land ownership and the economics of a given locality.

The numerous courts of equity include: Chancery; Star Chamber; Requests; Exchequer; Duchy Chamber for Duchy of Lancaster; Palatinate of Durham; Exchequer of Chester; and Welsh Courts of Equity. “The principal difference between the common law courts and the equity courts was that the equity courts were based on what is right morally, whereas the common law courts relied on the law” (p.3).  From the researcher’s perspective, the principal difference is that the equity court records are all in one location at The National Archives (except the Welsh courts); and are in English rather than Latin as for criminal records until 1733.

The Court of Chancery is the most voluminous record collection originating in 1377 and running through 1876. It is from this court that the bulk of the examples originate. Lots of cases here refer to the possession or the occupation of land, rather than legal ownership as would be in under common law, because so much land was held in trust or mortgaged. The other equity courts are explained and illustrated to a lessor extent. Furthermore, the book provides additional background on items that will be useful to the researcher, such as paleography, understanding of wills, deeds and legal terms. It also provides a broad overview of the types of documents to be found and where they come in the process, but these are more fully described later.

The second chapter answers the question, “Why look at the courts of equity?” It provides examples of: the type of information to be found in bills and answers, explains relationships in detail, often across multiple generations, tells  how and why women and children can be parties to a case, quotes other records such as wills, deeds, leases, and mortgages, and  details where and how a family may have lived even in terms of details of the house or land, and finally, details business transactions. The records can also be of value in proving immigrant origins or business ties.

Chapter three starts by examining the paleography of records. and continues by describing what the various types of documents are likely to contain. In this context, it covers records such as: pleadings, bills and answers; interrogatories and depositions; decrees and orders; Chancery masters’ reports; Chancery masters’ exhibitions; masters’ documents; cause books; affidavits; petitions; and account books. The chapter concludes by looking at the key phrases that will help identify specific types of documents.

Chapter four addressing indexes is important as so much has changed and continues to change regarding what is online, in print, or only available through calendars at TNA. There are tables for each of the courts explaining what indexes are available where, and in some cases digital images of the records themselves. The up-to-date tables alone make the edition worth buying, even for researchers who may have an earlier edition.

Throughout these first four chapters, extensive use is made of transcripts and case summaries to highlight the value of the records. Chapter five uses sample cases to go into more depth, illustrating the more common reasons for using the records. , Even, so these samples still only provide a snapshot of the detail that can be found for: loans and debts; probate disputes; marriage settlements and annuities; management of property from afar; merchants and mariners; trades and tradesmen; American connections; field names; and former monastic lands. The final chapter is an interesting though voluminous case study of the Lefroy family and its connections with Jane Austen’s family. The book concludes with a glossary and bibliography.

Chancery records are an underutilized record group which can be very valuable for reconstructing families and their characters. This book provides a clear guide into how to access and use these records. It is thus highly recommended for any English/Welsh researcher and all types of genealogical collections.

Book Review: Lost Lives, New Voices: Unlocking the stories of the Scottish Soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar 1650

Lost Lives New Voices
Lost Lives, New Voices: Unlocking the Stories of the Scottish Soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar 1650 by Christopher Gerrard, Pam Graves, Andrew Millard, Richard Annis and Anwen Caffell

LostLives, New Voices: Unlocking the stories of the Scottish Soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar 1650. Christopher Gerrad, Pam Graves, Andrew Millard, Richard Annis and ANwen Caffell. Published by Oxbow Books, The Old Music Hall, Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 IJE, UK  www.oxbowbooks.com. £20. And Oxbow Books, 1950 Lawrence Rd, Havertown, PA 19083. www.casemateacademic.com/ oxbow. $35.00. 2018. xvi, 368 pp. Color and B&W Illustrations, index. Softcover. Also available as an eBook.

Though this book has a broad context in the stories of all soldiers from the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, its Appendix A will likely be of most interest to the American researcher seeking Scottish ancestors. This is because no passenger list for the Unity that arrived late in 1650 carrying Dunbar prisoners exists, The appendix is divided into four sections: (1) Definite – men who appear in association with the Saugus Ironworks and are not on the John and Sara list: (2) Probable – men who first appear in records shortly after the likely end of indentures, or who have strong associations with groups of Scots in Oyster River, NH, York, ME, or Block Island, RI, or who are founders of the Scots Charitable Society, and who are not on the John and Sara list; (3) Possible – men with weaker associations, with slightly later appearance in the records, who possibly appear on the John and Sara list or where the team has failed to find evidence suggestive of their status as Scots and/or prisoners; (4) Doubtful – men who have been named as Dunbar prisoners in the past, mostly by George S. Stewart, but for whom no evidence seems to show they arrive in New England other than on the Unity, mostly because they appear on the John and Sarah list or they first appear well after 1660. Entries for each individual in the four alphabetical lists provide surnames (with known spelling variations) and forenames, residences listed by state, date of first known appearance in New England records, years of birth and death based on evidence contemporary with the name, and brief notes justifying the categorization or offering other items of interest, followed by sources.

Chapters 7 and 8 will also interest American researchers. They provide context and describe the experience of the approximately 150 Scottish Dunbar prisoners transported to New England in 1650. The majority were destined to serve five to eight-year indentures working in the iron works at Braintree and Hammersmith and in the northern timberlands on the frontiers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, though others were sold off to local farmers, merchants and craftsmen. The study shows that prisoners’ lives were very different from their former lives in Scotland. Descriptions illustrate, using both archeological and documentary evidence for personal living and working conditions and industrial context of the time. This information is applicable to anyone living in the area at the time, not just the Scots, though they are used as examples.

To get a stronger sense of the people involved and their lives, mini biographies are provided for James Warren, William Furbusch, Peter Grant, William Cahoon, and William Paul. Appendix B, also provides transcripts of New England wills and inventories for Nyven Agnew, Arsbell Anderson, John Berbeene, Alexander Bow, Alexander Bravender, John Clarke, Alexander Cooper, Patrick Fassett, Peter Grant, George Gray, Robert Junkins, John Maccoon, Robert Mackclafflin, Alister Mackmallen, Alexander Maxwell, Micom McIntire, Henry Merrow, James Moore, Finaly Ross, John Taylor, John Upton, and James Warren. These men, and the other Dunbar prisoners, are tied together through family, marriage, and mutual support networks, each illustrated. The men also have an impact on the naming of the places where they settled throughout New England.

The impetus for this book was an archaeological find. In November 2013 two mass burials were discovered unexpectedly while excavating the foundations of a new café at the Palace Green Library, part of Durham cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thirty bodies were excavated, with other bodies left undisturbed, under the walls of the surrounding buildings. The goal was then to identify these men. One option, later confirmed, was that they were some of the thousands of soldiers taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in Scotland in September 1650, marched south to Durham Cathedral and held prisoner. In putting this event in context, the book provides context for the battle and its results.

The book also describes in detail the archaeological dig to unearth the prisoners who died in Durham. It makes fascinating reading in explaining why this was a mass grave rather than an old cemetery and examining old maps and construction sites around the cathedral. The discussion of skeleton science showing which bones survived for which skeletons, identifying their preservation, fragmentation and completeness, whether young or mature adults, their dental health, and skeletal pathology (scars, inflammation, sinusitis, hollows, nodes, etc). For a non-archaeologist reader, this was in places technical, but clear and understandable. The scientific analysis of the teeth and bones provided impressive clues about where in Scotland many grew up, but also showed that a significant number had spent time in continental Europe, all under differing living conditions.

The book continues by describing the battle and then what happened to the survivors, of which the New England soldiers were a very small number, though the only group individually identified by name. Other survivors worked in the coal mines and salt pans in the Northeast of England, others were sent as laborers to drain the Fens, as soldiers to France, along with discussion of other places considered but apparently not acted upon – Crete, Virginia, West Indies – mainly because of political leanings.

The book is heavily footnoted, with an extensive bibliography, providing lots of additional options for further research. Certainly, for anyone with known or possible Scots ancestry in New England this book is a must read, but it is also of value to others wanting to understand life in New England. This book combines archaeology, modern DNA studies, and documentary research, illustrating life during the English Civil War, in the context of European and North Atlantic trade.

Book Review: Tracing History Through Title Deeds: A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Nat Alcock

History THrough Title Deeds
History Through Title Deeds: A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Nat Alcock

Tracing History Through Title Deeds: A Guide for Family & Local Historians. By Nat Alcock. 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: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $26.95. 2017. 217 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Dr. Nat Alcock is an emeritus reader at the University of Warwick and is one of the most knowledgeable people on title deeds in England. I have his 1986 first edition book on the subject, so I was immediately interested in how this edition compared. The opening paragraph of the preface explains, “this book has a new title and a new publisher, but it otherwise a direct successor to my previous book, Old Title Deeds. It has the same intention: to explain the significance of title deeds for the study of local and family history, and more generally for wider aspects of history. The period since the second edition of Old Title Deeds [2001] has seen an explosion in the use of personal computers, laptops and tablets, and of digital photography. With this has come important developments in the availability of online catalogues at many record offices. All these changes are mentioned where appropriate. However, the essentials of the study of title deeds – like the deeds themselves – are unchanged, so this book tells the same story as its predecessor, though with changes of emphasis and detail.” (p.xi)

The book, following an introduction to deeds as history, is divided into three sections – Why, Where and How. The Why chapter is divided into three sections according to subject: first using deeds as evidence for people, especially for the family historian with some excellent examples of multigenerational family trees generated from deeds; second as evidence for places, houses and buildings, likely of more interest to the local and house historian; third looking briefly at how large groups of deeds can be analyzed by computer to discover their historical evidence.

The section on where the deeds may be found is designed to get one thinking about where they might be but also how to find them. Collections of deeds for a given piece of property, family or estate could be nicely found in one obvious record office, or The National Archives, but in reality, they could be anywhere the owners may have chosen to deposit them. The worse situation is when the deed collection has been broken and sold individually thus loosing the linkage desired across time and space. The tables in this chapter, identifying the classes containing deeds at The National Archives, are especially good at identifying which have been indexed in Discovery, the online catalog.

The How chapter explains how to recognize the important types of deed and how to extract their historical significance from the legal jargon. The links between the various types of deeds are examined but the purely legal aspects of how conveyancing was undertaken and how it changed over the centuries is not overly emphasized. The key sections of a deed type are extracted and explained, making it easier for the reader to compare their deeds to the examples provided. Deeds become much easier to understand towards the end of the medieval period (around 1550), when the deeds generally change to being written in English rather than Latin. The chapter is thus divided into Post-Medieval and Medieval deeds.

The book contains four appendices. The first is a very practical flowchart to help identify the type of deed you may be looking at based on date, shape, size, phraseology, etc. A second appendix provides a template form for extracting the valuable information contained in the deed. A third appendix provides a sample page of various post-medieval letter forms that may be encountered. The final appendix provides the full text of typical deeds that have been explained. The chapter footnotes, resources, bibliography and glossary have all been expanded and updated.

For those new to the topic and for genealogy libraries this is a must for dealing with English or Welsh deeds. For those individuals who own one of the author’s earlier volumes, a comparison should be made depending upon one’s personal experience and recent knowledge on the subject.

Book Review: The Story of Mining in Cornwall by Allen Buckley

Story of Mining in Cornwall
The Story of Mining in Cornwall by Allen Buckley

The Story of Mining in Cornwall. By Allen Buckley. Published by Cornwall Editions, Ltd., 8 Langurtho Road, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1EQ, England. www.cornwalleditions.co.uk. 2005. 240 pp. Bibliography, illustrations, index. Hardcover. £45.

This is a beautiful book to look at with lots of excellent color, black and white photographs showing places, documents, maps and mining activities (surface and underground, modern and period photographs) in Cornwall, on the surface and underground. The excellent illustrations are combined the most comprehensive and easy to understand history of mining in Cornwall that I have read, and I do have a number of Cornish mining books to compare it with. Readers need to be aware that I was educated in Cornwall as a mining engineer and worked underground in Wheal Jane one of the mines discussed in the book. I just wish I had Cornish ancestors.

The book begins by looking at the ancient tin industry (prior to the Norman Conquest), dispelling the Phoenician myth that I certainly heard about and have seen in print, but examining surviving evidence for what is reality. The next two chapters look at the late medieval and early modern periods examining the changes in management and technology, with an especially good explanation of the Stannaries. Reading the rest of the book moves by century through both the tin and copper industries describing: the changes in mining equipment and techniques; the problems with water and how to remove it from the mines; labor and union issues; religion among the miners; female labor; capitalization of the mines as they grew in size and consolidated; cost book system; global politics and discovery of deposits elsewhere in the world with the effect on tin and copper prices; the rise and fall of the mines that accompanied the rise and fall of tin and copper prices. We learn about the great mines like the Dolcoath, Cooks Kitchen, Botallock, East Pool, and South Crofty. The last tin mine, South Crofty closed in March 1998.

Tin and copper were not the only economic minerals in Cornwall. There is a chapter on the many other unique minerals found within the county, with photographs of some wonderful mineral specimens, plus a description of how they were exploited. There are additional chapters for the China Clay and State industries within Cornwall. The book concludes with a good bibliography and glossary of mining terms.

This book provides an excellent overview of the mining industry within Cornwall. You are not likely to learn about your individual miner, but you will understand the big picture and be able to put the miner and their family into context, learning about the good and the learn years and how they coped. This book is highly recommended for those with Cornish mining connections.

Editorial – This older review for a book which should be available through inter-library loan or as a used is being added because of comments from a couple of Australian readers responding to my latest review on coal miners, mentioning that they had Cornish miners. There are major differences between coal mining – a soft rock, and tin/copper mining – a hard rock. It appears to not be available from the publishers website.