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Book Reviews - Local & Regional

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The Watford Knight's Fee: The Medieval Manors of Watford, Northamptonshire by Murray Johnston

Published by: Mill City Press
Price £12.87 paperback or £6.45 eBook on www.amazon.co.uk (correct at time of publication)

Watford is a small village in the north west of the county, adjoining the A5 Watling Street so on a strategic route through route in medieval times.

The book is a comprehensive record of the manors of which made up the village and commences after the Norman Conquest when it was awarded as a knight’s fee to the de Clare family and in the 12th century to the Arderns of Watford.

It was later split into three separate manors for the deceased lord’s daughters. These became the de Burneby manor, the de Parles & Cumberford manor and thirdly, the de Watford and Catesby manor.
Some 350 years later, the manors were recombined by a wealthy London merchant. 

The author has meticulously researched all the holdings and the families using a variety of sources such as patent rolls, inquisitions post mortem, charter rolls and fines and later deeds and other property records.  

The book is a narrative of the owners of these lands and follows the descent through marriages, wills, acquisitions and leases.  It is a mammoth work and is well illustrated throughout.

It will be of particular interest to those researching that particular area of Northamptonshire.  The reference list of documents used to research the book would also help others to undertake a similar work for their own parish.

Reviewed by Angela Malin

September 2018

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Directory of Suffolk Millers 1086-1986 by Eileen Blythe

£6 50 and Cheques to Eileen Blythe,
Kismet, Stombers Lane, Hawkinge, Kent CT18 7AP
Please allow 10 days for delivery.

This is a handy little 56 page guide if you have discovered you have ancestors who were Millers in Suffolk and is incredibly well researched.  The book includes details of the water and wind mills of Suffolk which were primarily cloth and corn mills.

There are some beautiful pictures included and details the names of the mills and some that are included in the book were around as far back as the Domesday Book.

The book is made up of 5 Sections and Section 1 and 2 gives details of all the Mills in Suffolk and details of the Mill Owners wherever possible.

Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the books include Burial Records and also names of millers who are mentioned in Wills and Burial Indexes and there has been a variety of sources used to obtain the information in this book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is researching a Miller in Suffolk.

Reviewed by Debbie Bradley, FFHS Administrator

August 2018

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Nannau, A Rich Tapestry of Welsh History By Philip Nanney Williams

Published by: by Llywn Estates, Llwyn. Manafon Welshpool SY21 8BJ
ISBN: 978-0-9955337-0-7
Price £30

The Nannau Estate near Dolgellau in North Wales grew out of the somewhat chaotic relationships between early Welsh Princes and this book tells the story of and the families which lived on the Estate from its beginning about 1100AD through turbulent times, its heyday and its decline to the present day. The house is now uninhabited and decaying.

The book describes this history in 12 chapters, each concentrating on a period in the life of the Estate and the characters involved.  

The first chapter describes in easy to read detail how the Estate was formed out of a confused and violent period of Welsh history.

Successive chapters tell of the different people who ran the Estate and how it grew to include other neighbouring Estates.

The stories of two royal visits are included (Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II).

The chapters on the later family members’ lives particularly Major-General John Vaughan and his love for Nannau, are especially fascinating.

The author, a member of the Nannau family has done his research well and presents a very interesting story.

The book is well produced and lavishly illustrated with superb photos.  A family tree is included as a separate chart with the generations colour coded. As these codes are referred to in the book it is easy to follow the family through the somewhat complicated tree.

A comprehensive bibliography is included.

Reviewed by John Treby

April 2018

Lasham Village – A Chapter in Time 1934 – 76 by V John Batten

Privately published (see below)
Price £5

The author has written an informal and attractive memoir of his childhood in the village of Lasham, outside Alton in Hampshire. It mainly focuses on the period from just before WW2 up to the 1940s although, as the title indicates, later material is included.

It describes a small rural community where life revolved around farming and the seasons. Many fascinating anecdotes and details about farming practice and lore are noted. If you want to know what a ‘Bavin’ is and its connection with The Great Fire of London, you’ll find the answer here. There are photos illustrating farming life during this period.

Not surprisingly the repercussions of the War are important markers in the narrative. The creation of an airfield on what was previously farmland changed the community and brought the war and its personnel to their doorstep. There is a splendid photo of the local Home Guard formally drawn up – and every soldier is identified ( many with their home address ).

For the genealogist the text is full of residents’ names with reminiscences about individuals and village institutions – a treasure trove of information. This is not a professionally written history but ‘on the spot’ account set down by a ‘local boy’. Well illustrated and well presented, it is an invaluable record by one who was there.

It is privately published but copies can be obtained, at a cost of £5+£1p&p, from John Batten, 12 Tanhouse Lane, Alton, GU34 1HR or from Jane Hurst, 82 The Butts, Alton, GU34 1RD.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

July 2017

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Irish Family History: A Beginners Guide by Stuart A Raymond

Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978-1-906280-56-7
Price £5.95 +p&p

Stuart A. Raymond has written a large number of books for Family Historians. They have all been meticulously researched and very informative. This new book is no exception.

Before I started reading this book I knew very little about Ireland’s history. The introduction gives an excellent brief history of Ireland, its troubled past and why the records are in so many different places. He then sets out where to look for the different resources.

Even if you know about Irish history and are someway along in your research into Irish Family History you may still find the book very useful. Just to read the list on the Contents page is to take a tour of a huge variety of repositories and sources. That page is a jumping off point for information on many specific topics. Take page 23 which offers us Monumental Inscriptions and Cemeteries: first a brief introduction to the value of such sources (this is, primarily, a beginner’s book remember) followed by a link to advice on the topic, supplied by the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and then six relevant web sites and a book recommendation.

Other topics are treated similarly and, where relevant and available, there are many web addresses offered. For beginners this is a “must have”; for the more experienced researcher it is a useful tool to add to your box. Do you think you have explored every avenue? Then I recommend this book as a checklist for confirmation or inspiration.

Reviewed by Ann Gynes

January 2017

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Tracing your Northern Irish Ancestors - 2nd edition
A guide for family and local historians by Ian Maxwell

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781473851795
Price £14.99

Ian Maxwell is a former record officer at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and so is an expert well placed to write about the records held there. The book is easy to use, is clearly set out in chapters, and has explanations about the different types of records. It also has a brief overview of the early history of the Province of Ulster and the establishment of Northern Ireland.

Although this is the second edition and the book has been updated, the last few years have seen a very welcome increase in the Irish records now available online so it is very difficult to keep up to date with these new sites, or additions to sites, in a publication.

The website for PRONI is now www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni and for the General Register Office for birth, marriage and death indexes and certificates online is www.nidirect.gov.uk/family-history.

The references given for PRONI documents on their online eCatalogue are also slightly different now. To correct them usually involves leaving out a /. That just means that T/808/14889 should be T808/14889 and MIC/1P/215 should be MIC1P/215 and so on. PRONI also has online now the Valuation Revision books for the years 1864 – 1933.

Any Northern Ireland Roman Catholic Registers which had been microfilmed and were available in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin, are also now also online at www.registers.nli.ie These are just the surviving registers up to 1880.

A welcome addition to online records is the collection of the many local Northern Ireland newspapers which are now available and searchable by name and subject. Some of these may be found on the commercial sites The British Newspaper Archive and Findmypast and these are continuously being added to.

The appendix to the book has a section called useful addresses. Unfortunately, several of these are out of date, including the address for our own society, the North of Ireland Family History Society.

This book is a very good initial guide to the records for Northern Ireland for anyone starting out on their family history research.

Reviewed by Ann Robinson, member of North of Ireland Family History Society

November 2016

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Tracing your Kent Ancestors
A guide for family and local historians by David Wright.

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781473833456
Price £14.99 (£12.00 from P&S at time of writing)

This book starts with an overview of Kent’s history and then moves on to discuss the genealogical resources available. It is a large county with a long and varied history. Its records are spread over many locations but are wide and quite comprehensive. However these can be difficult to find because of this.

The first section is a good introduction to the research of Kent records. It gives many practical tips on how to avoid difficulties and what to do if encountered.

It then goes on the talk about the basic sources, census, parish registers, BMD etc and how they relate to the Kent records.

The next chapter relates specifically to Kent records from Borough records all the way through to Voters records via Church Courts and Poor Law and many more besides.

The final chapter is all about National records. This includes such topics as Manorial, Military and Tax records.

There is a bibliography at the end of each chapter and each section in each chapter has an extensive list of relevant resources.

The index is well thought out and helpful as is the general bibliography at the end.

The appendices of Kent parishes and Directory of Archives Libraries and Societies are helpful pointers for your research.

A very useful reference for all those with Kent ancestors.

Reviewed by John Treby Member of Devon FHS, Gloucestershire FHS and East of London FHS

July 2016

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Tracing Your Leeds Ancestors
A Guide for Family & Local Historians by Rachel Bellerby

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781473828001
Price £14.99

This title is a welcome edition to the Pen & Sword series of handbooks for those of us who have Leeds ancestry. It is an engaging and well-written book.

It gives an interesting history of Leeds, from its beginnings as a settlement in the kingdom of Elmet through to medieval times. Bellerby then turns to the dual catastrophes of Civil War and the Black Death, which between them decimated the population of Leeds in the 17th century.

The book continues into the era of expansion of this 'city of 1000 trades'.

In the 19th century the need to mechanise Leeds' well-establish textile trade stimulated an engineering industry in the city. Railways arrived in 1811, which all culminated in 'one of the most vibrant and memorable eras in the history of Leeds' to quote Bellerby: the Victorian age. The population expanded through Victorian times from 150,000 to half a million - which means of course that many will have ancestors that were born in or migrated to Leeds during those times. This brings me to one shortcoming: Bellerby's descriptions of the areas of the city would be enhanced by including relevant maps, especially for those who are not so familiar with the city's districts and landmarks.

Tracing Your Leeds Ancestors gives a very good overview of how to get started with research, as well as giving pointers to other records for those who want to dig deeper into their families' lives. It gives a comprehensive list of archives and their key holdings, such as World War records, as well as suggesting online resources, including one of my own favourites, Leodis. This website at www.leodis.net is a searchable visual archive of Leeds.

Bellerby also highlights the West Yorkshire Archive Service's key partnership with Ancestry, which means that many of the key records are now digitised and available to subscribers - or visitors to libraries that offer Ancestry access. These include parish records such as marriage certificates, and criminal and school records.

All-in-all, a very informative and easy read for family historians who have links with Leeds, whether they are just starting their research or already have made some progress.

Reviewed by Emma Waltham

May 2016

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Tracing your Welsh Ancestors, a guide for Family Historians
by Beryl Evans

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781848843592
Price £14.99 (£11.99 from P&S at time of writing)

This book is a valuable read for beginners and more experienced researchers alike. It guides one through the basics with suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter. For me, it complements John and Sheila Rowlands’ 2 Volume ‘Welsh Family History – a Guide to Research’ (1993/4) which still has so much valuable information despite the advances in internet sources etc.

 Beryl Evan’s book will be a sort of ‘Bible’ for us family history enthusiasts, for many years to come. I only wish it had been around when I was starting out!

It is practical, concise and yet gives plenty of background information. When one comes up against that inevitable ‘brickwall’ it will be there to provide suggestions of where to go next or how to ‘go around it’ and solve things in another way.  I found the chapter entitled ‘the Parish Chest’ yet another example of a source not usually discussed and there are many other such resources explored in the book.

Perhaps a greater emphasis on what information that can be gleaned from Newspapers might be helpful, and one omission is Cemetery records – all burials are recorded there including stillbirths, unlike Parish Registers. Cemetery memorials provide more information than just names, dates and addresses. This is, of course what our Society is doing at present with our MI booklets, which only goes to show how important Family History Societies are!

The Appendices at the end provide useful information quickly and will prevent wasting time searching for material which has been lost or helping to solve problems which crop up during our research – such as what bits of which census have been destroyed or interpreting Welsh bits and pieces.

An excellent addition to your bookshelf!

Reviewed by Delyth Wilson, Cardiganshire FHS

January 2016

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Irish Family History On The Web
by Stuart A Raymond

Published by: The Family History Partnership
ISBN: 978 1 906280 51 2
Price £7.95

This is the Fourth Edition of a comprehensive and well-organised listing of Irish Family History sites on the web. It is not – and doesn’t aspire to be – a step by step guide to the process of tracing your Irish forebears but it is a remarkable compilation, with brief descriptions, of many (I almost said innumerable) sites to which you can go for information and/or guidance.

At the heart of the book are two long sections; Births, Marriages and Deaths (covering over forty pages in double columns) and Other Sources (fifty pages, also double columns ). The former is self explanatory in terms of subject but lists sites both thematically and geographically. Most entries are short with brief descriptions of contents but some are helpfully treated at greater length. ‘Other Sources’ covers a wide range from Admiralty Examinations to Witness Statements. Some of these entries are generic but many, again, are set under geographical headings.

The reader will need to comb carefully through these lists since the variety of resources is rich, not to say almost bewildering, in its range. The only criticism I would have of these two sections is about the layout. Key subject headings should have been set in block capitals to enable them to stand out and be more quickly identified. The present layout doesn’t adequately distinguish them from their subheadings which can make locating them difficult.

Elsewhere in the book there are useful sections on Gateways, Libraries and record Offices, Family History societies, Discussion groups, Surnames and Occupational Records. In addition there are three indices; by subject, by place and by Institution.

This is a densely packed and authoritative survey of currently available sites. The author acknowledges that this is an ever changing scene that needs continually updating but it is difficult to imagine anyone presenting a better picture of today’s resources. A book to be thoroughly recommended to any researcher into the Hibernian genealogical hinterland

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

January 2016

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Researching your Ancestors in the North of Ireland
– County Tyrone

Published by: North of Ireland Family History Society
Price: £7.50 (+p&p outside UK)

This book is the third in the series of books to cover the counties of Ulster. It is published by the Society and lists  sources of genealogical information in the county of Tyrone. The subject of this review is the first edition in A5 format and is some 54 pages in length.

In many ways the book is a treasure trove of information, dealing with all the topics of an Irish genealogical nature that researchers need. The book starts with a brief description of County Tyrone, it’s lands, maps and surveys, before moving on to 17, 18 and 19th century sources. It then covers in detail and in tabular form the churches in Tyrone of all denominations and their records. This is followed by a number of short sections on topics ranging from The Ulster Plantation, through Estate Records and School Records to Wills and Workhouses. The book finishes with a list of Books and websites,

Throughout the book each topic includes references to online sources, many of which would be useful for other counties.

My main criticism is that there is no index. For someone looking for a particular topic this would be helpful, rather than having to leaf though the book and for someone who is new to Tyrone, a way of linking the graveyards to parishes or even a map of their locations.

It struck me that the two thumbnail extracts on pages 7 and 46 are difficult to read and therefore do not add anything of use.

All in all a very useful and handy sized reference book.

Reviewed by Peter Davies, Rugby FHG

April 2015

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London's Great Plague
by Samuel Pepys

Published by: Amberly Books
ISBN: 978 1 4456 3782 2
Price £8.09

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

September 2014

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Salford Through Time - by Paul Hindle

Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN: 978144563611
Price £13.49

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

September 2014

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Life in 1940s London – by Mike Hutton

Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN: 9781445608266
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

April 2014

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The Lifeboat Service in Scotland
- by Nicholas Leach

Published by: Amberley Publishing
ISBN-10: 1445613395
Price £14.49

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

March 2014

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Tracing your Limerick Ancestors by Margaret Franklin

Published by:Flyleaf Press
ISBN13: 978 1 907990 069
Price £14.50

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

March 2014

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The surnames of Wales by John and Sheila Rowlands

Published by: Gomer Press Llandysul Ceredigion SA44 4JL
ISBN 978 1 84851 775 2
Price £19.99

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)

February 2014

Detained in England 1914-1920: Eastcote POW Camp, Pattishall
by Colin R Chapman & S Richard Moss

Published by Lochin Publishing
ISBN 978-1 873686 22 5
Price £9.99

For many of us, the phrase “prisoner of war” conjures up images of English officers digging long tunnels to freedom or planning ingenious routes out of Colditz Castle. “Detained in England” concerns a different dimension to the subject – the prisoners being Germans and the location rural Northamptonshire.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the Government faced many fresh challenges. One of these was what to do about the large number of Germans who either lived in Britain or were unfortunate enough to be present there when war was declared. This task was initially the responsibility of the Home Office and, although many of the civilians of German origins had by then already been interviewed and released, at the end of 1914 more than 17,000 civilians and over 6,000 military personnel were still in custody.

Not all internment facilities were provided by the Government. The camp at Pattishall, for instance, was established by the National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union to accommodate their German members who were held in Britain. It was not until October 1915 that control of the camp passed to the War Office, leading to a stricter regime and its use only for military prisoners. By October 1917, the main camp alone housed 3,493 POWs. In April 1919, that total had reached 4,509.

Specific chapters of the book address the subjects of escapes and of the prisoner’s lives and letters. 18 people escaped from the camp itself but the fact that the North Sea lies between Pattishall and Germany prevented any of the fugitives from reaching home. Only a small proportion of prisoners’ letters survive but some have been tracked down and quotations from them provide considerable human interest.

This very well-illustrated volume includes a useful bibliography and two indexes – one of personal names and the other of places mentioned. The personal names are of individuals mentioned in the text and inevitably list only a small proportion of the inmates and other individuals connected with the camp.

This book will interest a much wider readership than just those whose families were connected with the Pattishall area or the POW camp. It is a model of how to weave detailed evidence into a much wider tapestry of strategic questions, in this case about how enemy civilians and captured troops should be treated and how they could make the best of their boring, if relatively safe, circumstances.

Reviewed by Francis Howcutt (FFHS)

October 2013

Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet – by Chris Paton

cover for Irish FH on the Internet

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 978 1 78159 184 0
Price £12.99

This volume is an addition to the Pen and Sword list of Family History Guides. The author, in his introduction, states that it is complementary to his previous volume in the same series 'Tracing your Family History on the Internet' which, for reasons of space, omitted Ireland. This book handsomely makes good that omission with a wide ranging listing and analysis of websites relevant to tracing your Irish ancestors, both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

The author prefaces it with a very relevant health warning :

"The internet is most definitely not the be all and end all of your research .... but be in no doubt, the internet will certainly help provide you with one heck of a starting point"

The contents are laid out in a logical and approachable manner, starting with the wide spectrum 'Gateways, Institutions and Networks', moving through 'Vital Records' (e.g. Civil Registration, Parish Registers, Wills), on to Censuses ('Where They Lived') and then to geographical locations. Professions and emigration ('The Irish Diaspora') are also covered in separate chapters. It would be an extremely unfortunate researcher who couldn't find some leads from this range of sources.

This is essentially a reference book and occasionally the sheer weight of website references can be rather overwhelming. However a useful index, and the logic of the book's progression, help to bring you back to the specific area of research you are pursuing. The author illustrates the book both with pictures from his own family album and with relevant anecdotes from his own research. He also adds the odd humorous comment, entertaining but not intrusive (as in referring to a Clan History Site as being "a wee bit Sir Walter Scott-ish in content").

This book is a veritable quarry for the family researcher into family branches in Ireland and there is little to criticise (except to say that inevitably some of the references will become outdated). However it was surprising that no map was included to provide an immediate reference point (the book does include a good review of maps online). And perhaps a mention of the Irish Genealogical Society Library in London (www.igrsoc.org) might have been included.

However the multiplicity of references will greatly assist researchers and, undoubtedly, result in many of them carrying their quest over the water to the Island itself.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

June 2013

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West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum Through Time
by Mark Davis

ISBN 978-1-4456-0750-4
Price £14.99

I had a particular interest in reviewing this book by Mark Davis as I helped index the South Yorkshire Asylum Records (Wadsley Asylum) 1872-1911 for Sheffield Archives.

The book is well illustrated throughout and contains lots of photographs, not only of the buildings but of the doctors and staff who worked there. It is an extremely informative read for genealogists who had family members who may have been admitted to these institutions.

Mark Davis writes, ‘the word ‘asylum’ denotes a place of safety away from danger’.  There is no doubt that the plight of the pauper insane was dire. They were cast out from society and treated no better than animals. The dangerous were chained and the harmless ignored and left to cope as best they could.

This book concentrates on the West Riding, the first asylum having been opened in York. Initially, intentions were good, but the potential to make money, by the medical director and staff, meant the York Asylum soon became one of the worst in the country.  Local Quakers, particularly William Tuke, was shocked by some of the conditions at the York Asylum and set about raising money to establish The Retreat, York c.1792 to pioneer more humane treatment for the mentally insane.

The book goes on to tell of the pioneers of mental health in the 1800’s onwards.  Early treatment consisted of emetics, bloodletting and purges. Samuel Tuke, the grandson of William, set about reforming mental health. The humane treatment practised at the Retreat, York became world renown.

The Wakefield Asylum was built c.1818. One of the features was a spiral staircase which allowed patients to be unobtrusively observed. Patients were engaged in useful employment within the asylum and were rewarded with little luxuries, a little tea, tobacco or beer. Workshops were established were patients were taught basic skills.

As the population of the West Riding increased in the mid/late 19C, so did the volume of mentally ill patients. It was decided to open a third asylum at Menston about 1884.

I   am glad that our mentally ill today, do not have to endure some of the very harsh conditions of the early years.

Correction. Page 26 should read Mount Pleasant close by on Sharrow Lane NOT Jarrow Lane.

Reviewed by Anne McQueen, of Sheffield & District FHS

8 May 2013

Tracing Your West Country Ancestors – by Kirsty Gray

cover for West Country Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 1848847831
Price £14.99

As a West Country man, I enjoyed reading this book, although I am not sure that it lives up to its title. It provides a short introduction to the history of the West Country (here defined as consisting of the counties of Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset, and the City of Bristol), written with family historians in mind. It offers many suggestions of sources to consult.

However, the coverage is far from being either comprehensive or totally accurate. Some important institutions, such as the West Country Studies Library, and the Royal Institution of Cornwall, are completely ignored. There are a number of mis-understandings; for example, we are told that there was no consistency in the way that parish registers (sometimes referred to here, confusingly, as parish records) were kept until 1812. This is only partially true, since Hardwicke’s Marriage Act established the use of a printed form to record marriages in 1754. We are also told that most parishes had several parish constables. In fact, they usually only had one. Admittedly vestries could make multiple nominations to the local JP, but the latter would only choose one. Churchwardens and overseers were never appointed by manorial courts, despite the assertion to the contrary.

Many references which ought to have been given are ignored; for example, the important county volumes of the National Index of Parish Registers are omitted. I was even more surprised that Ian Maxted’s In pursuit of Devon’s history: a guide for local historians in Devon (Devon Books, 1997) is not mentioned –although it provides a more comprehensive overview of Devon sources than this book. Researchers in Somerset should have been told that most Somerset wills were in the Exeter Probate Registry when it was bombed during the Second World War.

Despite these failings, Tracing your West Country ancestors will help you to place the history of your West Country family in its social and economic context. Anyone researching in Cornwall needs to know something about tin mining, whether or no their ancestors were miners. It is good to see the importance of roads, canals and railways mentioned in a book for family historians. We also need to be reminded that demography is relevant to our research. Topics such as these had important implications for all of our ancestors, and sometimes also for our research.  If you want to put flesh on the bones of bare pedigrees, and to get a feel for the society in which your ancestors lived, then read this book. But use it with caution.

Reviewed by Stuart A Raymond

3 April 2013

cover of Hoddlesden

Hoddlesden And Its Satellite Villages
by Roy Parker

Published by Scotforth Books (2012)
ISBN: 978 1 904244-84-4
Price: £14-99

This is a unique book that explores the remarkable survival of Hoddlesden, Blacksnape, Eccleshill and Yate & Pickup Bank in North East Lancashire. Their locations were originally wild, barren and very sparsely populated. The villages flourished and grew, until well into the 19th century, when the introduction of power looms caused the weavers to leave as they sought work in the developing urban centres. 

In this book Dr Roy Parker traces the developments of these villages from their beginnings as tiny settlement right up to the modern day. He explains how the impact of the cotton mills affected their growth. He explores how the communities had to find new ways to earn a living. He discusses their struggles for survival and thus he reveals much about the people of the area and their families.

The book is based on Dr Parkers PhD thesis and as such is packed with a great deal of information which has been drawn from a wide range of primary and secondary sources. By the meticulous use of parish registers, census returns and other sources he has been able to portray all aspects of life This has much to offer the family historian who wishes to develop an insight into a local community. The book is well illustrated.

Copies can be purchased from Darwen and Blackburn Libraries and other outlets or directly from Dr Roy Parker. For postage and package rates contact Dr Parker Tel: 01204-64424 or Email:  royparker@talktalk.net.

Reviewed by Tony Foster, member of Lancashire Family History & Heraldry Society

March 2013

Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors – by Sue Wilkes

cover for Lancashire Ancestors

Link to Pen & Sword Books

ISBN 184884744-1
Price £12.99

I particularly chose this book to review because of my Lancashire ancestors, and I have not been disappointed.

I was fascinated with the opening story of Lancashire and its people even though I am Yorkshire by birth. It must have been dreadful to live in those times when the lands were continually being either given or taken back by the King, Earls and landed gentry being beheaded or stripped of goods, not to mention the humble folk having ruinous taxes when the frequent wars were being raged.

The ‘Matter of Religion’ is colourfully dealt with. It includes details of the trial of 19 people from the Pendle and Samlesbury areas being tried as witches, and this section also touches on parish registers, church records and marriage bonds etc

A chapter on ‘rags to riches’ follows showing how the new industries made fortunes for the mill owners.  It also highlights the dreadful living and working conditions of those working in them and in particular the children and how Sir Robert Peel campaigned tirelessly for better conditions.

This section led neatly into the chapter on transport and industry, in which I was particularly interested myself. My grandfather worked on the railways in Manchester and had an accident at work in which he lost an arm.  I have had difficulty finding the details for this but I found clues and websites in this chapter which I am hoping will lead me to answers.

The last part of the book deals with how to search, which leads into a research guide and archive directory. Useful addresses in alphabetical order and two separate lists on free on line resources and subscription ones make this book an invaluable companion.  I am working my way through all the sites mentioned, many of which I knew but there are a lot which I did not know about.

Reviewed by Marcia Kemp of HDHFS

7 February 2013

cover of Westmeath Ancestors

Tracing your Westmeath Ancestors by Gretta Connell

ISBN: 978-1-907990-03-8
Price: Euro 13.00

The credentials of the author of this book are that she is a senior librarian in the County of Westmeath, and her interest and knowledge of the area is very much evident in this well thought  out book.  It begins with a short history of the County, which left me wanting to know more about the area of Westmeath, my Irish ancestors coming from a different part of Ireland. 

There are chapters on most of the usual subjects, i.e. Census, Civil Registration, Church Records, and Wills etc.  Of particular interest was information given pertaining to Land Records.  As well as Tithe Applotment Books and Griffiths Valuation, Field Books, Tenure Books and House Books are described, records I have not seen mention of before.

Westmeath seems to be particularly lucky in having quite a large number of Census Substitutes, the earliest being1640, though the majority are from 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.  An interesting fact was that a lot of Westmeath residents emigrated to Argentina, but the author didn’t tell us why.

Further sources of research covered include newspapers, memorial inscriptions, education records and occupation sources, together with a chapter on family names and histories in Westmeath.  Finally there is a list of useful resources and an index.

This is a well written book, easy to read and use.  I was pleased to see that a very clear typeface had been used and all tables, maps and illustrations, of which there are many, were very clear.   Throughout, pitfalls and possible errors are pointed out, as is the need to find proof of family connections.  I feel confident it will prove a useful aide to research.

Reviewed by Pam Richardson, Ormskirk & District FHS

29 January 2013

cover of Marriage Law

Tracing Your Caribbean Ancestors by Guy Grannum

Publication – September 2012, (3rd Edition) 208 pages
Published by National Archives Guide, Bloomsbury Press
ISBN: 9781408175699
Price: £14.99

A few months ago I was given the chance to review this book. I do not have any direct ancestral links to the Caribbean or West Indies, but in recent years I have established that an individual that slots into my One Place Study migrated with one of his children to Jamaica. Bearing this in mind I was interested to read the latest edition of Guy’s book, and I was not disappointed.

Firstly, this is not a how do you research your ancestry type book. It is a guide which really does provide a solid foundation on which to establish your research or interest.

The book is laid out into a series of 11 chapters. Starting with how to get going, then progresses the records of the Colonial Office, Migration, Life Cycle records (Isn't that a nice way of putting Birth, Marriages and Deaths?), Land and Property records, Military Records, Slave and Slave Holder Records, Civil Servant Records. The final chapter that deals with the life in the Caribbean looks at migration from the region and then the final two chapters of the book feature each individual country of the British West Indies and records of the Non West Indies such as the influence on the region of Countries such as Cuba, Denmark and France just to name a few.

The book contains illustrations, details on where records are located, in many cases providing the classification number and then steers readers to further sources such as books, websites and societies. The final pages of the book provide a very detailed Bibliography, Name and Addresses section and a comprehensive index.

This is a great resource to those researching their Caribbean roots, and for those interested in general researching the region and for those interested in the social, and economic development of the Caribbean.

This is a revised edition and takes into account recent changes in access to documents and research in the region.

Disclaimer - I was provided with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by Julie Goucher

3 January 2013



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