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.

Book Review: Images of the Past – Coalminers by Brian Elliott

Coalminers-Images of the Past
Images of the Past: Coalminers by Brian Elliott.

Images of the Past: Coalminers. By Brian Elliott. Published by Pen & Sword History, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire S70 2AS, UK www.pen-and-sword.co.uk. £12.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 1950 Lawrence Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $24.95. 2015. 158 pp. Illustrations. Softcover.   

We all have an image of the life and working conditions of the coalminer and his family, whether from the movies, a governmental report, the news media, or the occasional image in a book. It is only when you see a collection of good quality photographs on the subject do you really come to appreciate the diversity of experience and hardship that a miner may experience.

Here is a collection of photographs in the “Images from the Past” series that gives a broad perspective on the life of coal miners and their community from around Britain (as opposed to one coal field).

The book begins by providing portraits and profiles of the miners. Here we find not only photographs but also copies of portraits, and sketches from a variety of media and time periods, showing a complete range of clothing for the working miner from 1814 to the present. In the following chapter on ‘Women and Children’ we see realistic museum dioramas, early carte-de-vistas, posed studio and informal on-the-job photographs of women and children, underground and on the surface. For the section on the ‘pit top’ we see the surface workers – engine drivers, cage operators, the pit baths (a major improvement), men getting into and out of the cages, plus surface operations from major operations down to a small adit driven into the side of a hill opened by striking miners to get fuel for their families. The chapter on the underground shows the hardship of the job, including everything from miners working with picks on their sides recovering coal from very narrow seams, to the large modern coal cutting equipment with conveyor systems to remove the cut coal.

The final chapters look at the strikes, lockouts and miscellany. The pictures of the 1972 strikes resonated especially with me as I grew up in a coal mining area and I was leaving that summer to go off to college to work toward a degree in Mining Engineering (which I got), but it was a time of uncertainty within the whole industry. The strikes and the lockouts required the ongoing support of the women and the community. The final miscellany shows images of the miners who gave their lives during the Great War, the strength of the unions, the closure of the pits and the development of the museums remembering the industry.

The photographs have good extensive explanatory descriptions, and they identify many of the people pictured. The images themselves are geographically diverse from all over England, Scotland and Wales. There is no index, so you cannot easily find images of individuals or places. This book of good clear photographs provides a good overview of the industry through time and place and is highly recommended.

Book Review: How Our Ancestors Died-A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills

How Our Ancestors Died
How our Ancestors Died: A guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills

How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians. By Simon Wills. 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. 2013. 214 pp. Softcover. Illustrations, index.

Mr. Wills, is a genealogist, journalist and regular contributor to genealogy magazines. Professionally he works as an information specialist, writer and advisor to the National Health Service and healthcare organizations. That experience in the healthcare industry clearly shows in this excellent guide to how our ancestors died.

The book is divided into 27 chapters with the opening chapters addressing the causes, diagnosis and treatment of illness and how that has evolved over time. For the family historian the places where a cause of death might be found is helpful to get one thinking of where to look – death certificates; registers of deaths abroad and at sea; obituaries; coroner’s inquests and legal proceedings; registers of parish burials; memorials and gravestones; newspapers; hospitals, workhouses and asylums; military records; employment records; specific medical problems; and epidemic statistics. Attention is given to records of accidents and disasters.

The remaining chapters in the book examine, in alphabetical order, major causes of death, such as: alcoholism; cancer; chest conditions; cholera; dysentery and bowel infections; execution and murder; influenza; plague; pregnancy and childbirth; scurvy; smallpox; tuberculosis; typhoid; venereal diseases; and more. For each of the medical problems there is a description of the symptoms, and how it was treated over time, bloodletting and purgatives being common for all sorts of ailments.  The true cause of a medical problem might take years to discover, or it may be discovered and the medical profession because of vested interests or disbelief may ignore the cure (e.g scurvy, cholera).

When appropriate if there are specific locations or time periods when deaths occurred in significant numbers these are noted, so we learn about famines, plagues, and epidemics. This is helpful if you want to know, for example, if your ancestor’s cholera death was an isolated incident or part of a larger outbreak. The book also helpfully highlights some geographical specific medical issues such as: Devonshire colic resulting from drinking cider made in lead containers – died out by the end of the eighteenth century; or “Derbyshire Neck” from a lack of iodine in the soil, with a lack of iodine stopping the human thyroid gland from working resulting in a large swelling under the chin (goiter) – resulting in adults often being slow in movement and thought.

This is an excellent resource for putting your ancestor’s ailments into perspective, understanding the symptoms, how it was treated, whether it was contagious creating fear in the family and community, and when and how the ailment was eventually treatable or cured through modern medicines. This is a guide you will use, rather than doing online searches which give you all the modern treatments for an ancestor’s ailment.

Book Review: A Dictionary of Family History: The Genealogists’ ABC by Jonathan Scott

A Dictionary of Family History: The Genealogist’s ABC by Jonathan Scott

A Dictionary of Family History: The Genealogists’ ABC. By Jonathan Scott. 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. $24.95. 2017. 247 pp. Softcover.

Who would have thought it would be so delightful to read a dictionary? But this one is fun to read and is a great learning experience.

This book has thousands of A-Z entries, that are definitions, timelines and terminologies, providing details on archives and websites along with advice on research methodology and problem subjects. The book is a mixture between an encyclopedia, dictionary and almanac. The book is valuable for English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh research.

The book contains the expected descriptions for the major genealogical records, national and county archives with links to their catalogues and research guides. But there are also definitions for: obscure terms; old occupations; important government acts; cultural events; museums and much more. Scattered throughout the book are addresses for familiar and obscure but well-developed websites.

In the age of the internet why have a dictionary? In this case, it’s because the author has done the work explaining terms, defining topic making them all relevant to the family historian. He has separated the wheat from the chaff for you saving you time and effort. In the process he provides guidance on where to go for the best websites and believe me he has found some great obscure sites as well as the familiar.

As I was reading this book I was marking the margins for entries and websites to follow up with for personal research but also to include in lectures. This is a reference book that is now within arm’s reach of my computer, joining my other favorite reference books. It will be used in the future I am sure.

 

Book Review: Manorial Records for Family Historians by Geoffrey Barber

Manorial Records for Family Historians by Geoffrey Barber

Manorial Records for family historians. By Geoffrey Barber. Published by UnlockThePast Publications, PO Box 119, St Agnes SA 5097, Australia. www.unlockthepast.com.au/unlock-past-publications. AUS $15.31. Available as an e-book from http://www.gen-ebooks.com, AUS$9.95. 2017. 80 pp. Index. Softcover.

The manorial system introduced into England and Wales by the Normans, following their conquest in 1066, lasted until 1926. For family historians the primary period of interest will be the 16th through the 18th centuries, with coverage before and after depending upon the what records have survived and how long the manor and its courts continued to function. These records when combined with all the church records, including those in the parish chest, can bring the lives of our ancestors to life.

The book begins with how to use the Manorial Documents Register to identify which manorial records have survived for a given location. These are, now online for most counties, with the remainder expected soon. The example used, Rotherfield in East Sussex, highlights that multiple manors, in this case six, can exist within one parish. The following three chapters provide: an overview of the manor; a description of the social structure (free and unfree tenants); and explanations of  how the manor is administered identifying the officials and their roles that are likely to be found running the manor.

The manorial system is the origin of the present land system in England and Wales. It is at the heart of manorial studies, and of great relevance to family historians. Mr. Barber thus explains the differences between: demesne land; copyhold or customary tenure; freehold land; and leasehold land, identifying how each can be recognized in the records and what it meant for the people themselves.

The most voluminous records of the manor are likely to be the those of the Court Baron and Court Leet, with the other courts being mentioned briefly. These court records give us “details on changes in property ownership, lists of people attending court, appointments to community positions, names of people fined for minor infringements and in some cases even deaths and details of oral wills witnessed by manorial officials (p.46).”

The addition of three case studies showing how to use manorial records to physically locate properties on the ground enhances the value of this book. All examples are from Rotherfield in East Sussex. The first is a straightforward copyhold example showing a widow taking possession in 1691, following the ownership succession until it leaves the family in 1801, and locating the property using the tithe maps of the 1840s. The second example is a named and described piece of freehold property, owned by the family from before 1580 until 1781, located through a manorial survey, though the property name was still being used in 1911 census. The third more complicated example involves a specific copyhold house in the village of Rotherfield, occupied by the family between 1530 and 1650, and being eventually sold in 1677, yet its description was used to identify its location on the tithe maps from the 1840s.

The book concludes with a helpful glossary and bibliography.

This can be a complicated subject, but Mr. Barber has succeeded in explaining the operations of the manor succinctly. Few of these records will have been digitized, some have been published, and some have been transcribed and translated from the original Latin, but the examples and case studies highlight their value for family historians.

Review: How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians by Simon Wills.

How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide For Family Historians by Simon WIlls

How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians. By Simon Wills. 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. 2013. 214 pp. Softcover. Illustrations, index.

Mr. Wills, is a genealogist, journalist and regular contributor to genealogy magazines. Professionally he works as an information specialist, writer and advisor to the National Health Service and healthcare organizations. That experience in the healthcare industry clearly shows in this excellent guide to how our ancestors died.

The book is divided into 27 chapters with the opening chapters addressing the causes, diagnosis and treatment of illness and how that has evolved over time. For the family historian the places where a cause of death might be found is helpful to get one thinking of where to look – death certificates; registers of deaths abroad and at sea; obituaries; coroner’s inquests and legal proceedings; registers of parish burials; memorials and gravestones; newspapers; hospitals, workhouses and asylums; military records; employment records; specific medical problems; and epidemic statistics. Attention is given to records of accidents and disasters.

The remaining chapters in the book examine, in alphabetical order, major causes of death, such as: alcoholism; cancer; chest conditions; cholera; dysentery and bowel infections; execution and murder; influenza; plague; pregnancy and childbirth; scurvy; smallpox; tuberculosis; typhoid; venereal diseases; and more. For each of the medical problems there is a description of the symptoms, and how it was treated over time, bloodletting and purgatives being common for all sorts of ailments.  The true cause of a medical problem might take years to discover, or it may be discovered and the medical profession because of vested interests or disbelief may ignore the cure (e.g scurvy, cholera).

When appropriate if there are specific locations or time periods when deaths occurred in significant numbers these are noted, so we learn about famines, plagues, and epidemics. This is helpful if you want to know, for example, if your ancestor’s cholera death was an isolated incident or part of a larger outbreak. The book also helpfully highlights some geographical specific medical issues such as: Devonshire colic resulting from drinking cider made in lead containers – died out by the end of the eighteenth century; or “Derbyshire Neck” from a lack of iodine in the soil, with a lack of iodine stopping the human thyroid gland from working resulting in a large swelling under the chin (goiter) – resulting in adults often being slow in movement and thought.

This is an excellent resource for putting your ancestor’s ailments into perspective, understanding the symptoms, how it was treated, whether it was contagious creating fear in the family and community, and when and how the ailment was eventually treatable or cured through modern medicines. This is a guide you will use, rather than doing online searches which give you all the modern treatments for an ancestor’s ailment.

Book Review: Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors: A Guide to Research Methods for Family Historians by John Wintrip

Genealogy Research Methods - British Perspective - English Perspective
Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors: A Guide to Research Methods for Family Historians by Jon Wintrip

Tracing Your Pre-Victorian Ancestors: A Guide to Research Methods for Family Historians. By John Wintrip. 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. $24.95. 2017. x + 214 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This book caught me by surprise for it looks like all the other books in the series and has a similar title. However, the subtle change in the subtitle is important. Usually it is a “guide for family historians” while here it is a “guide to research methods for family historian.” Usually these guides focus on the records and the contextual history. Here the author focusses on the methodology for doing research, thus the book is a well written complement to all the other books in the series.

Mr. Wintrip, a professional genealogist, started his career as a research science librarian in universities so understands research methodology. He points out that these days it is generally easy to get your English ancestral research back to the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign because of the large national online indexes (census, civil registration, church and cemetery burial records). But more care is needed in earlier research because the content of the records often doesn’t provide the information needed to prove the links between individuals and generations. He rightfully states that “this book is not intended for complete beginners but for researchers who already have some experience of genealogical research, so comprehensive descriptions of sources are not included, but specific aspects of sources that affect the outcome of research are discussed” (p.ix).

Mr. Wintrip describes his required competencies for genealogical research as: (1) knowledge of sources; (2) searching skills; (3) analytical and problem-solving skills; (4) external knowledge. A fifth skill involving the recording of information, citation of sources and good record keeping is acknowledged but is not covered in this book. Chapter 2 outlines these 4 competencies, giving a excellent case study of how external knowledge (general and specific) solved a problem of how apparently geographically unrelated events were actually for the same family members.

As researchers would expect, there is rightfully an emphasis on knowledge of the sources, thus the many books that address sources. But here in chapter 3 we get a framework for understanding the sources themselves in terms of how and why the sources are created, what an individual record is within a source, and how to analyze derivative sources, copies, transcripts, authored works, etc. In addition, there is a discussion on methods to find what records have survived and where they might be located now.

Following chapters discuss information used to uniquely identify individuals being researched. These include: names; social status, religion, occupation and how these may be made more complicated by relocation. These topics need to be addressed in any family research but are particularly important and need to be understood in an English context.

The final seven chapters in the book cover: searching for information; archives and libraries; evidence and proof; family reconstruction; missing ancestors; mistaken identity; and help from others. Mr. Wintrip is current with American methodological ideas found in the Genealogical Proof Standard, and works by Elizabeth Shown Mills and Robert Anderson. He puts these ideas into an English context, expanding and explaining through English examples.

Throughout the book, short examples and case studies illustrate well-research problems that do occur and how to overcome them through expansion of one’s knowledge of the records themselves, their history, and external knowledge that puts the results into context. Success also requires a careful research process that can be followed, and this is well illustrated through decision (Venn) diagrams.

This book is highly recommended, especially for researchers wanting a thorough framework by which to do their English research, or those North American researchers wanting to better understand how English research processes are different.

Book Review: Tracing Your Trade & Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Adele Emm

Tracing Trade & Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians by Adele Emm

Tracing Your Trade & Craftsman Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians. By Adele Emm. 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 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $29.95. 2015. 214 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

Our ancestral trees may abound with common laborers but we will also have tradesmen – such as the butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. This book puts these tradesmen and craftsmen into historical context and shows how they can be traced.

The first three chapters explain how an individual would have become a tradesman or craftsman, and why. The medieval guilds, common in many localities, controlled who could ply their trade within their area, the most familiar and most important being the London guilds. In 1515, the forty-eight London livery companies were placed in order of precedence based on power and financial status, creating what has become known as the great twelve, mostly merchant guilds. These twelve are listed in order along with the date of their original charter, not necessarily from when records survive and their website. Later a list is provided of the remaining London companies up to 100, giving name and website. Some of these are 20th century creations, and some you may not even know what the occupation is, such as fletchers, broderers, horners, paviors, and loriners.  Importantly, a chapter discusses: the training and apprenticeship to become a freeman of a guild; indentures and deeds of apprenticeship; pay; school leaving age; working hours; holidays; pensions; health and safety; trade unions and friendly societies, all of which is good contextual information.

The remaining chapters address specific groups of occupations including: merchants and mercers; shopkeepers; builders and the building trades; smiths and metal workers; cordwainers and shoemakers; clothing and allied traders; and a miscellaneous group under other trades. Expanding upon the builders and building trade chapter as an example, this includes details on: auctioneers and house agents; bricklayers; brickmakers; carpenters, joiners, turners and sawyers; road builders and menders; painters; stone masons; and thatchers. As you might anticipate not every occupation is included, as I was hoping for plumbers and glaziers. But there are enough clues in these chapters to provide ideas of where to look for information on any desired missing occupation. For those that are included you get a description of the occupation (often for different periods), examples of records or possible places to find records (e.g. guild or union records), and museums that may focus or illustrate well the occupation. The book has good illustrations of the large variety of records that mention our ancestors plus places and tools associated with the occupation. The printed resources mentioned within the text are generally not included in the select bibliography at the end of the book arranged by chapter and topic, so both places need to be checked for potential leads.

This is an excellent guide to get you researching the trade of your ancestors, pointing you to published and online resources, plus how to put them into a correct social context. For the trades included you are well on your way to learning about your ancestors. For those not included you will have ideas of where to look.

Book Review: Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records by Stuart A. Raymond

Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records A Guide for Family and Local Historians by Stuart Raymond

Tracing Your Ancestors’ Parish Records: A Guide for Family and 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. £12.99. US Distributor: CasemateIPM 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateipm.com. $24.95. In Australia from www.gould.com.au. $30.25.  2015. 148 pp. Illustrations, index. Softcover.

This is a subject I know something about having written two recent books on English parish registers and the Parish Chest records. Yet, this book was a delight to read adding details and expanding upon what I already knew about the subject.

For many family historians it is the baptism, marriage and burials registers that are first and often only records used to identify an ancestor and put them into a specific time and place. These registers are covered in this book, but in one short chapter in the middle of the book. It is the other records created by the parish that will make our ancestors come alive. Their level in society is irrelevant as they will either be conducting the business of the parish, working for the parish in one of many capacities, or receiving assistance from the parish and its officers. In other words everyone can and should be found in these records, assuming they have survived for your parish of interest.

So what is here? The English parish was an integral part of English life for at least a thousand years, certainly up through the early twentieth century. Order within the country was maintained through the parish its officers and institutions, including: clergy; guilds; vestry; churchwardens; overseers; constables; highway surveyors; parish and vestry clerks; beadsmen; beadles; organists and singers; dog-whippers; and sidesmen all of whom are put into context and all of whom generated records and accounts. The parish itself is governed by the vestry so it is the vestry minutes and account books of the different officers that are often the most voluminous and detailed records within the parish, and unfortunately the least indexed or published. Until the mid-nineteenth century the parish was responsible for the poor and the book explains how and what shape that care took, how it changed over time, and what records were generated along the way. Care needs to be taken of the church buildings and its contents so we find: inventories of church goods; bede rolls; glebe terriers; Easter books; faculties; seating plans; magazines; sermons; registers of services and preachers. The church and its members were often involved in litigation as witnesses, petitioners, or as accused in the church courts, all leaving records. To put ancestors physically on the ground and understand their worth within the hierarchy of the parish look for the tithe records; the enclosure awards and maps; or the details on the parish charities.

Throughout the book the emphasis is on understanding the history of the records, their context and what they provide or tell a researcher. The researcher is pointed towards more in depth resources through annotated recommendations often history books that have used a specific record set to describe a specific place or time period. These histories are extremely valuable in putting ancestors and the places in which they live into a correct detailed historical context, for no parish is an island unto itself. The contents of specific document types are often extracts from published sources, only a few original documents are illustrated or extracted. The reader needs to look at both the citation endnotes and the recommended reading lists within each chapter for rarely will a source be in both lists.

I agree with the descriptive text on the cover, at least for English researchers, that this “is a book that all family and local historians should have on their shelves.” You will not be disappointed as this is a big subject and this book will start you off well.

Side note – my books Discover English Parish Registers and Buried Treasures: what’s in the English parish chest by Unlock The Past focus more on how to find, use and interpret the records,, and provide lots of practical advice. The above book adds more context and history.