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Recent Book Reviews

If you would like to submit a new publication for review on the New Books page, or are interested in joining the Book & CD Review Club please email Debbie Bradley, Administrator


The “Price” shown for each book reviewed may be the list price. Readers may be able to find lower prices by shopping around. For instance, the Bookprice24 site compares prices for a range of new and used books,  drawn from a number of online suppliers.

• • • • Don't forget to read our reviews of recent CD Publications • • • •

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My Scottish Common People - The History of a Scottish Family by George Smith

Published by: YouCaxton Publications
ISBN: 978 1912419234
Price £9.00

This is a story of the author’s research into his family history that spans more than four hundred years. His ancestors have lived in Angus, Perthshire, Inverness, Fife, Orkney and Dundee.

The story begins with a detailed examination of the Trade Union movement from 1945 to the 1980s in which the author’s father rose through the movement from union leader to president of the TUC. However it is a story of common working men and women and the pursuit of their livelihoods  and interests.

There are detailed descriptions of the jute industry in Dundee and family connections with India.  There are the many references to agricultural labourers and the effects on them by ‘the clearances,’ agrarian revolution and political changes that occurred.

Many of George’s ancestors worked in textiles as handloom weavers, plate layers on the railways, quarrymen, clickers in the boot and shoe industry and in the tanneries.  Each occupation is described in great detail. Then there was service in the militia and ‘fencibles’ during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars including a soldier who was involved in the mutiny of 1794.

There were dissenters from the Church of Scotland ,radicals, trade union members  and involvement with the growth of the Independent Labour Party as well as the Labour Party.

The research carried out meant many trips to Archive services in Angus, Dundee, Edinburgh and London.  An extensive bibliography is testament to the author’s quest for knowledge and to fascinating insights revealed among many members of George Smith’s family tree.

Reviewed by Ron Pullan – Wakefield & District Family History Society

August 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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Lady of the House by Charlotte Furness

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 781526 702746
Price £12.99 (£10.39 from P&S at time of writing)

Charlotte Furness tells the stories of three aristocratic ladies and their families to illustrate their roles as ladies of the house. This is accomplished well after a hesitant start where editorial choices are discussed. Furness provides a view of late Georgian society where the upper classes have roles in both London and county, and the opportunities for marriage fit into the social season. The case of Lady Harriet Gower is interesting in illustrating the diplomatic roles and the patronage involved.

Furness really gets into her stride with the chapter on producing a family to extend the dynasty and provide continuity of ownership of many manors and estates. The letters and research in both public and private archives show the social pressures within families for the newly wed woman to succeed. At the same time usurping of another as the new wife takes over running an unfamiliar house is also discussed. Both Elizabeth Manners, Duchess of Rutland and Mary Isham provide illustrations of both roles as new wives and handing on to the next generation. Through estate papers and journals their work can be seen both in running estates and remodelling ancestral homes where history and architecture go hand in hand.

Death and mourning inevitably play a role in any family and contribute to the stories of these ladies. Here Charlotte Furness uses newspapers and letters to understand the families. Although she may have been frustrated by the lack of surviving records.

I recommend this book to anybody who wishes to know more about the role of women in late Georgian and early Victorian society. It makes a good start for further study. Also great background reading for those visiting Belvoir Castle & Lamport Hall.

Reviewed by Tony Sargent, Secretary, Bucks FHS

August 2018

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John Jonas, Victorian Policeman by Paul B Davies

Published by: Altiorapeto
ISBN: 978-1-5262-0593-3
Price £9.99

This book is a biography of John Jonas born in Lavenham in Suffolk in 1818. His early life is covered in 8 pages and the remainder of the book deals with his life as a police officer against the background of the development of Policing in the UK.

John was sworn in in Essex on 22 April 1842 but moved to North Riding of Yorkshire in 1856 and the book is written as a series of case notes dealing with the incidents in which John was involved. They read like extracts from the local press of the time and show that most of the incidents were petty crime. The book uses the phrases ‘might have, ‘probably’ ’would have’ and similar many times which indicates that a lot of the text is supposition.

The book is 191 pages and John’s life story fills 116, the remainder are notes.   The Author has clearly conducted extensive research but does not say whether this is a part of his family history although there is an implication that it is.

The book is of interest to those researching policing but would also be of interest to those with an interest in the social history of North Yorkshire in Victorian times.

Reviewed by John Treby

August 2018

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London's East End by Dr Jonathan Oates

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-15267-241-13
Price £14.99 (£12.00 from P&S at time of writing)

Buckinghamshire based Dr Jonathan Oates is the Ealing Borough Archivist and Local History Librarian, and is prominent as an author and lecturer on both the history of London and on family history. As such, he was ideally placed to write this guide to the city’s East End.

Of course, the East End does not have a formal boundary, so the author begins by defining the area and communities that are his subject. He considers how several centuries of immigration have shaped the latter, with Huguenots, Jews and settlors from the Indian sub-continent all being considered in detail. The population’s diversity is particularly apparent when Dr Oates analyses religion in the East End.

The East End is known for its deprivation and poverty, and that provides the backdrop to several of the chapters. The author explores the industries in which people were employed, with poorly paid work in the dockyards, factories warehouses, markets and shops being prominent. He also considers the successive attempts to relieve this poverty and describes the education that a child being raised in the East End would receive. Linked to the poverty, Dr Oates explains how the area gained a reputation for vice, prostitution and criminality, with the activities of the likes of Jack the Ripper and the Kray Twins granting them something akin to celebrity status !

This volume comprises some 181 pages and is presented in a laminated soft cover. The text is indexed, whilst the author’s words are illustrated by the use of monochrome photographs. A bibliography of further reading is included for those who want to know more, as is a most interesting chapter on places to see and visit. This details the many archives, churches, cemeteries and other places of interest that an East End researcher might want to explore, as well as the websites that the historian will use to plan his trip.

Reviewed by Paul Gaskell, Hon General Secretary, Oxfordshire Record Society

July 2018

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Criminal Women - 1850-1920
by Lucy Williams and Barry Godfrey

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781526718617
Price £14.99 (£11.99 from P&S at time of writing)

As all experienced family historians will tell you, women are much more difficult to trace than their male counterparts are.  They appear to be quite expert at vanishing without trace. Sometimes though marriage and remarriage, abuse, adultery or in their attempt to hide from current or historical criminal activities.  Life for women was particularly hard.  They were rarely treated as anything more than personal slaves in so many working-class families.  They were seen as property and could, quite literally, be bought and sold as such.  Little wonder then that so many ran away, turning to crime and prostitution to feed themselves and their children.  The workhouse was feared and could so easily lead to further abuse or the cruelty of being transferred into an asylum.  After all, they had abandoned their husband – conclusive proof of their insanity. False names would help to hide them from authority – but also hide them from their past life and our research.

Criminal Women is a book consisting of three distinct parts.  It begins by placing the crimes and punishment of women into historical context, comparing their offences with those of men.  I found this section alone to be so informative that I just have to re-visit my personal Victorian family history and great/great-grandmother’s ‘ownership’ of much of Kingston upon Hull’s prostitution classes!  I have always thought that there must be more to her criminality and, reading Criminal Women, I am even more convinced that there is much for me to discover.  Already, this book has paid for itself in my mind.

Moving onwards, Lucy & Barry have included an extremely varied collection of case histories. They reveal the complexity of a range of criminal activities and the diversity of the lifestyle of female offenders, dispelling any suggestion that female offenders is a working-class only club.

For many of us, section three will be the icing on the cake.  It is the result of many years of experience and trawling through the archives.  They reveal many the very best of sources, and how to discover and explore the very best of them.  There is much that will be new to the reader of Criminal Women and I cannot wait to try out some of their shared experience.

Reviewed by Alan Brigham, East Yorkshire Family History Society

July 2018

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The Wicked Trade - by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A Morton Farrier Forensic Genealogist Story

Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1977083845
Price: £8.99

This is the seventh book in the Morton Farrier ‘Forensic Genealogist’ Series and is all about the smuggling of contraband that took place in Kent and Sussex in the early 1800’s and this book is set in the 1820’s and introduces you to smuggling which was also known as “The Wicked Trade”. 

Morton is persuaded to take on the case of searching for Ann Fothergill reluctantly as he is suspicious as to the motives of the family.  The family want to find out about her rags to riches story and Morton quickly discovers she was involved in the Aldington Gang.  This was an infamous Smuggling gang operating in Kent at this time.  The story is told through Ann’s eyes as well as the eyes of Samuel Bannister who was another high-ranking member of the gang and the book follows Ann’s association with the members of the Gang and her possible involvement in it.  The characters in the book even uses the language of the time and really transports you back to that time.

The book follows Morton’s research process exploring the various Archives.  Morton takes us with him to the Archives he visits and takes you though the various documents he uses to learn more about Ann Fothergill and the Aldington Gang.  Also intertwined is the continuing sage of  Morton’s family life and his relationships and the result of his own family research.

The book takes the reader down many different avenues and keeps you guessing right until the end and is a real page turner. 

I would thorough recommend this book and found it a hugely entertaining read! 

Reviewed by Debbie Bradley

June 2018

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The Street-wise Guide to Doing Your Family History
by Lady Teviot

Published by: Edward Everett Root Publishers
ISBN: 978-1-912224-35-7

Over 50 years being a family historian and professional genealogist is explored in what is a very readable and highly informative book, published as one of a series of Street-wise guides by EER.

The adjective ‘Streetwise’ according to one online dictionary means: ‘….having the shrewd awareness, experience, and resourcefulness needed for survival in a difficult, often dangerous urban environment….’ This book certainly lives up the first part of the definition- how to deal shrewdly and resourcefully with the problems encountered when carrying out family history research.

Lady Teviot is well known from her association with the FFHS – former President and now life Vice-President- and her lectures especially overseas. This book distils the wisdom and information contained in those talks.
The format is interesting. Part is in effect an autobiography, referring to her experiences and those of her husband, Lord Teviot, in their family history researches. Part is an explanation of sources, which are regularly used by family history researchers: parish registers, censuses, the parish chest. However, the bulk of the book concentrates on sources and facts which will be unknown to most of its readers. The Chapters on Underused Sources of Genealogical Research, as well as those on Medicines and Illnesses, Baby Farming, Workhouses, Lunatic Asylums and Hospitals are quite a revelation.

In the chapter entitled ‘Sight Unseen’ the author gives a very good appraisal and overview of how Websites can assist the researcher, who uses the internet and a selection of Key Websites concludes the book. Almost worth buying for these chapters alone.

The book will appeal to researchers at all levels: everyone who reads it will learn something new and it will assist them to carry out their hobby in new directions. A first class read!

Reviewed by David Lambert

June 2018

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THE HALF-SHILLING CURATE; A Personal Account of War and Faith 1914-18; by Sarah Reay

Published by: Helion and Company
ISBN: 978-1-911096-46-7
Price: The RRP is £25 but discounted signed copies (£18.99) can be purchased from the website www.halfshillingcurate.com

This is the story of Herbert Butler Cowl, a Wesleyan Methodist minister and Army Chaplain in World War 1.  It is written by his granddaughter who has drawn on family letters and papers to present a full picture of a modest man decorated for his bravery in the war.  She shows how he was brought up in a Methodist household – his father was also a minister – and volunteered to serve at the Front where he was severely wounded.  While being repatriated across the Channel, the hospital ship in which he was travelling struck a mine and sank.  Despite further wounds he was active in trying to save others and for this and his service in the frontline he was awarded the Military Cross. After recovering from his wounds, he continued his ministry and during World War 2 he served in London where he experienced the force of the Blitz.

The biography has vivid excerpts from his letters home, both during the war and afterwards and the illustrations show his life in the army and at home.  The importance to him of his faith and family is evident as is the high regard in which he was held by colleagues and congregations.  One interesting anecdote, however, relates the disapproval of some to whom he ministered at his war service – as pacifists they could not accept his involvement with the armed forces.  The title of the book comes from a description he made of himself when writing home; he referred to his youth and inexperience, saying ‘he’s not the full shilling, but a damn good worker’.

The book is well presented with plenty of relevant illustrations and maps and has a full bibliography  ( including a number of genealogical sites ) and an index.   It is an affectionate and convincing portrait and describes well the varied role of an army chaplain in the thick of war, including the ironic reality that wearing a white clerical collar made him a sniper’s target.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

May 2018

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Explore the Past

Published by: Worcestershire Council
Price £6 (download)

This 70-page research guide, written by Worcestershire Council, is a pdf download. It aims to help family historians trace their roots wherever they live, though it will be particularly useful to people whose forebears hail from this part of England.  It shows family historians what types of resources an archive holds and how to make use of them in family history research, giving a general overview of what you might find in an English archive, while using examples from Worcestershire's collection.

Explore the Past also explains how to access help from the archive, wherever you live. Links to the archive's catalogue are included, so you can search the holdings. There are details of how to get in touch with the archivists and order digital images from the Worcester archive collection at The Hive in Worcester. It runs through how to find and use reference numbers to order documents for your visit.

The guide points out that there is an absolute treasure trove of information available in county archives that is not digitised, but it is of great interest to genealogists, including poor law records, maps and photographs. In additions, the reference library at Worcestershire Archives includes around 20,000 books that cover topics ranging from biographies of local notable families, transport and industry, to sport and leisure. The archive also holds a newspaper collection. All these sources can really make the history of a community come alive and turn a dry family tree into a much more vivid family history.

An entire chapter of the guide is devoted to maps, a fascinating source that is key to understanding our ancestors' lives. The guide explains how maps can place a family in a geographical context, tracking changes in landscapes over time that will have impacted your family's story and show the boundaries of the large estates which were so influential. They also show the development of roads and railways and how the land was used.

This guide is an interesting and easy-to-use resource. It is clear and accessible and does a very good job of showcasing just what is on offer in our overlooked archives. Although it focuses on Worcestershire records, even if your family have no connections to the county, reading the guide will whet your appetite for what you could find in other archives. Archives can be intimidating places when you are not used to using them and this guide reassures the reader that they will receive a warm welcome and have an interesting and productive visit.

Why not visit an archive? You won’t regret it.

Reviewed by Emma Waltham, Marketing Manager, FFHS

June 2018

cover for Tracing your Georgian Ancestors

Tracing your Georgian Ancestors 1714-1837 by John Wintrip

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781526704221
Price £14.99 (£11.99 from P&S at time of writing)

This new book by John Wintrip is essentially an overview of sources that can be used to trace your ancestors in the Georgian era.  This spans the years 1714, the death of Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch and the succession of King George I, to 1837, the death of King William IV and the accession of Queen Victoria and the start of Civil Registration.

It is a great starting point for researchers new to this era of research, putting the era into context of wider events in the UK and the world, and the types of records available. 

The book is in sections describing and discussing the historical context of and available records for the different overarching topics.  The hierarchy of the government, parish and church to enable the reader to understand how communities worked in this era, and the records such as registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, Vestry, Churchwardens and Overseers records, Tithes, pew rents and well as Probate, Marriage Licences, Bishops Transcripts. Nonconformity, i.e. any other religious persuasion apart from Church of England, such as Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, Quakers, Methodists and Roman Catholics; Education, from parish schools to Universities and Employment with a discussion on selected occupations, from the Clergy and Customs and Excise officer to Servants and Innkeepers.  Military service, be it Army, Navy, Royal Marines or Local Militia and the Poor Law. Settlement and Removal is succinctly discussed as is Parish Apprenticeship and Bastardy records. Land and Property, with description of types of records available at the National Archives, ownership and occupation of land and the history and records of Enclosure. Law and Order, discussing criminal courts, punishments, Debtors and Equity Courts.  The records and history of immigration and emigration as well as migration are also discussed.  Social Status and Prosperity was the section which was I felt was an amalgam of everything that didn’t comfortably fit in any other section - Class, Titles, Monetary values, inheritance, Pedigrees and Family Histories, Changes of Surname, Memorial Inscriptions and Freemasonry, all of which may prove to be part of your family history research journey. There is excellent use of references throughout the text to internet and book sources that will prompt the reader to investigate further. The last section contains useful and practical advice on how to do research properly, discussing family reconstitution, research tools and archive sources versus those that are internet based.

There is a timeline, a very useful glossary and an excellent bibliography and index.  A book full of useful snippets for the beginner as well as the more experienced family historian.

Reviewed by John & Jane Tunesi of Liongam – Hertfordshire FHS

May 2018

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Weavers, Wanderers, & Wigneys by Tim King
(research by Heather King nee Wigney)

Published by: Lasius Press, Oxford
ISBN: 978-1-910301-43-2
Price £8.99

A good review for this book is provided by the author under the chapter Conclusion on page 170.  The history of the family starts around the wool weaving mills in the North of England but the whole family story is “no run of the mill” and moves to popular Brighton.  The various Wigneys family vary in their background and much is documented to prove the research.  There are many variations on the name of Wigneys too and due to the male line almost dying out made the researching of the name much easier. There is much historic and social information given as it affected the individuals of the family lines with their mixture of affluence and some interesting shady characters.  The main objective for the Wigneys appears to be getting involved in business of any description such as drapery, brewery, wool industry, public houses, shipping and so on.

Travel seemed to be no barrier for the Wigneys throughout the centuries going to America, Australia and Europe and education of a high grade was important too.  Marrying to the right circle played a part in the Wigneys improving themselves and even to baptising offspring with unusual or celebrity names.  Near the end of the story the male line hasn’t done so well and this has limited the expansion of the name in most lands.
The quality of paper in the book is good as is the printing and photos but some drawings are very small to read well.   

It was a good read and easy to follow, studying the printed family trees at the beginning giving their tree locations for each family line.

It was a fantastic read that I wanted to read straight to the end and not put the book down which I did in one day.  Not picking out specific points except for a local item for me is the Wigney who was interested in horses and has an event called “Bob Wigney Handicap” held annually at Cheltenham, he was “Clerk to the Course” including Pershore.

After reading the book I feel there are more questions such as where did the Wigney name come from, was it Belguim?

Reviewed by Michael J Taylor, Malvern Family History Society

April 2018

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The Oldest House in London by Fiona Rule

Published by the History Press, The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud GL5 2QG
ISBN: 978 0 7509 6837 9
Price £20

To write a book about the Oldest House in London first needs a definition of what should constitute the Oldest House. The author’s definition is ‘it must be in the City of London and have been built as a home and still be a home today’. The result is 41-42 Cloth Fair.

First occupied by William Chapman in 1614, the ground floor was rapidly converted into an alehouse called the Eagle and Child. The use of the ground floor changed several times.

Each of the books 14 chapters deals with the occupancy of a different owner or owners and tells of the national and local events and social conditions and discusses the effect these have on the owners of 41-42.

The story of this house is a fascinating read and takes the reader through such diverse events as the Civil War, the plague and Great fire of London, Bartholomew Fair,   the Rise of Methodism, (John Wesley was an occupier), the Gordon Riots and both World Wars.

It tells of the perils which threatened to destroy the house and how despite all odds the house still survives and how the current owner regards himself as a caretaker of the property.

There are some interesting photographs of the house and surroundings with some early maps.

The author provides a route for a walk around the area of Cloth Fair which encompasses many of the sites mentioned in the text.

An excellent book for those interested in London’s history but also for those interested in Britain’s social history.

Reviewed by John Treby

April 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

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The Victoria Crosses of the Crimean War
- The Men Behind the Medals by James W Bancroft

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-15267-106-11
Price £20 + £4 p&p

A number of recent publications have looked at the recipients of military awards such as the Victoria Cross, and this volume follows suit as it considers the 111 men who were awarded the VC for heroism during the Crimean War. However, what is different is that the VC was introduced during this particular conflict, and hence the author has spent four decades researching its very earliest recipients.

Mr Bancroft tells the stories of these 111 men, describing who they were, why they gained the Victoria Cross, and what happened to them afterwards. The men were from all parts of the British Isles, and included the likes of Claude Thomas BOURCHIER of Barnstaple, Devon ; William REYNOLDS of Edinburgh ; William COFFEY of Knocklong, County Limerick ; and even Henry James RABY, who was born in Boulogne in France. I found it interesting to note that a high proportion of the men seemed to originate from Scotland and Ireland.  

The pen pictures of the men give family details, information gleaned from census returns and newspapers, details of awards taken from the London Gazette and subsequent occupations. Other military awards are noted too. Hence, we learn that Corporal Matthew HUGHES of the 7th Royal Fusiliers received the Crimea Medal with Alma, Inkerman and Sebastopol clasps and the Turkish Crimea Medal, in addition to his VC. The author takes care to record the men’s burial places and to give details of new memorials, as well as detailing the whereabouts of the medals and their accessibility. For example, we are told that Corporal HUGHES’ medals are held in the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London.

The men recorded here all displayed valour and determination, with the author’s descriptions of their courageous deeds having resulted in a most interesting volume. It comprises of some 234 pages and is presented in a hard cover with a colour dust jacket. The text is indexed, whilst the author fully documents his sources in an appendix. A bibliography of further reading is also included for those who want to know more. The author’s words are illustrated by the use of monochrome photographs.

Finally, prospective purchasers are advised to carefully check the publisher’s website before buying this volume. At the time of writing, it was on sale at a 20 per cent discount - £20.00 rather than £25.00 - whilst postage charges could be avoided by those spending in excess of a certain amount. Meanwhile, the title is also available in electronic - “Kindle” and “ePub” - formats, via its publisher’s website, at substantially discounted prices.

Reviewed by Paul Gaskell, Oxford Record Society

April 2018

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Records of Holton Park Girls’ Grammar School (1948-1972)
Edited by Marilyn Yurdan

Published by: Oxfordshire Record Society Vol 71 (2017)
ISBN: 978-0-902509-87-0
Price - see their website

School records are a great source of information that provide so much social history and this collection is a fine example. The detail given in the headteacher’s reports over the life of the school gives depth and quality to the situation of a grammar school. Changes in education lead to the creation of the school as the fee paying Thame Girls’ Grammar School closed. Further changes lead to the amalgamation with Shotover School to form Wheatley Park School with the advent of the comprehensive system and the raising of the leaving age to sixteen

The attitude of parents held lead to many daughters leaving before completion of courses and this became a constant theme as staff worked to show opportunities education gave. Other struggles like inadequate facilities, school buses, and lack of cleaning staff shows the concerns of the headteachers and present a full view of the life in schools.

Many readers will recognise parts of the daily routine but this is not a romantic look at the past. The editor allows the headteachers express themselves through their reports. A school is a reflection of the headteacher’s personality and this is seen throughout the book. As these records report on living people, some work has been done to hide identities, this has been done with care and does not detract from the information. A wonderful record of a school that fills the gap between the pupils and the aims of the education system in Oxfordshire. I recommend this book to anybody interested in secondary education in this period as this type of record do not usually survive.

Reviewed by Tony Sargeant, Buckinghamshire Family History Society

March 2018

cover for Victorian Policing

Victorian Policing by Gaynor Haliday

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781526706126
Price £12.99 (£10.50 from P&S at time of writing)

Gaynor Haliday lives near Holmfirth in Yorkshire and became interested in the history of Victorian policing when researching the life of her great, great grandfather, a police constable in Bradford.

The story begins with a brief description of policing in the middle ages when watchmen were employed to patrol the streets. Progress in law enforcement was haphazard and slow until the 19th century.

Increasing industrialisation led to the rapid growth of towns and cities and there was a corresponding increase in crime rates. Local authorities began to realise that a more formal and efficient approach was needed.  Training, discipline and pay provided by local councils were practically non-existent for the ‘bobby on the beat.’

For the patrolling policeman drunken behaviour was a constant problem and intervention would often lead to serious injury. 

Particular attention is given to the difference between urban and rural criminal felonies. There may be plenty of problems in the towns but poaching on private land could be just as dangerous for the local bobby because animal theft was not only carried out by armed individuals but also armed gangs.

Much of the research is taken from local newspapers, Minutes of Borough Watch meetings,
Police records and registers which are located in local archives or police museums.

Gaynor’s research is methodical and often in great detail. There are moments of humour when the author quotes from a citation written when her ancestor, PC Bottomley claimed he had whispered to a drunk man in the street,’ If tha’ don’t go home to thi’ wife and bairns a s’al ‘av to run thee in.’

A long list of street offences that a local bobby had to bear in mind included ‘Wanton discharge of firearms’ and ‘ kite flying or making slides on ice and snow.’

A policeman’s lot could be often brutal and dangerous in Victorian Britain and I was left wondering

 how this might compare with modern policing.

Reviewed by Ron Pullan, Wakefield & District Family History Society

January 2018

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Tracing History through Title Deeds by Dr N Alcock

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978 1 52670 345 3
Price £14.99 (£11.99 from P&S at time of writing)

This is an excellent book for newcomers or those who have researched title deeds before. They are by far the most numerous surviving records but least known or used. One single deed might supply clues to family relationships to be found nowhere else. 

As Dr Alcock says in his introduction this paperback is a direct successor to his previous book ‘Old Title Deeds’.   He refers to the development of the use by researchers of computers, laptops and tablets and the enhanced availability of online catalogues, since his previous book was published.

That book has been my ‘bible’ when it came to trying to understand and interpret title deeds. This new book will supersede it! It seeks to answer three questions in 199 pages –with an additional 18 page index. Why use deeds and what do they contain? Where are they located? How can their ‘evidence be extracted’. The latter chapter goes into detail by using examples –photographic and transcriptions – explaining the various types of deeds used by lawyers over the centuries, their wording and form. It demystifies much of the format and terminology enabling the reader to understand what was previously incomprehensible. 

The 4 appendices are very useful especially the flowcharts on pages 165-167 to enable one to appreciate what type of document is being researched.  If I have any criticism it is that these flowcharts, which are immensely useful, together with some of the examples, are printed in very small font and I found it very hard to read them without a magnifying glass!

So if you ever wondered what a quitclaim looked like or where to find a final concord and what it signified or what an indenture was this book will explain and more besides!  Highly recommended!

Reviewed by David Lambert

January 2018

cover for One Family, Six Names

One Family, Six Names by John and Anne Hercus

Pprivately published ( Christchurch, New Zealand ) 2017
ISBN: 978-0-473-38446-3
Enquiries to Dame Ann Hercus email ann.johnhercus@hotmail.com.

This is a comprehensive study of the origins and history of the Scottish surname Hercus and its variants. Having written two previous books about their family history the authors, New Zealanders by birth and upbringing, decided to explore ‘the world of the medieval origin of our family name’. This book is the product of ‘the last decade of our retirement years’. They describe themselves as  ‘family history detectives’.

Over eight chapters, from How It All Started to DNA, they very thoroughly trace the surname back to its Scottish place of origin in Berwickshire and to distinguished ancestors of the late12th/early 13th centuries. En route they cover the history of the development of surnames, the migration of their own surname from Southeast Scotland up to the Orkneys and Shetland, the evolution of coats of arms and the significance and interpretation of DNA testing.  They identify 101 variations of the name, pinpoint its origin to one geographical location and its meaning to be a ‘grey rock or marker’.  Their industry and enthusiasm are admirable; they advise fellow researchers always to question and doublecheck and to take nothing at its face value. 

The book comes in A4 format, sturdily bound with a double column of print on each page – not the easiest layout to assimilate.  All in all, an impressive achievement.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

January 2018

cover for Planning a future

Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past by Marian Burk Wood

Published by: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1539124429
Price £7.99

The Author is American who gives talks on genealogy   The Ancestry book is an essential read for those just starting on the path. It uses the PASS code (Prepare, Allocate, Set up, Share) which is used in each chapter. It goes into great detail as to how to present your research which means before you start your research you need to know how you want the end result to look.  The presentation of your findings can vary in its cost.

Marian, in particular, has emphasised in easy “summing up steps” on each chapter what the reader should approach.  She talks about your research and evidence kept in box/folder to be stored either at home or by approaching a local Archive centre.  This is good for when we pass so that we can ensure the future family tree researchers can get access to the trawled research.

Another point which I found crucial is photographs in the form of slides.  She recommends sorting out those not needed such as fields, animals and so on (slides being a rather out-dated form of photograph now) and get them digitised.  The reader should if possible consult with other family members for updates on names to be put on the back of the photograph and also to digitise names and superimpose names to photographs. On page 32/33 she points out one or two pitfalls that can happen to the researcher such as losing data on your computer, so backing up is essential.

Overall, this is an essential must read for anyone starting their Family Tree or as a “check-list” for those already in the middle of their research.

Reviewed by Val Taylor for MFHS

January 2018

cover for Penny Lane

Penny Lane and All That - Memories of Liverpool by Ann Carlton

Published by and available from: Y Lolfa
ISBN: 9781784613693
Price £9.99 + p&p

Ann Carlton was born in Liverpool around the end of World War II, a city that is something of a cultural hotchpotch. Many of its inhabitants can trace their roots back to Ireland, whilst the author’s family had Welsh origins, with large numbers of Welsh people having headed to the city to find work. Liverpool also had significant Chinese and African populations, a diverse mix creating a true multicultural city.

Ms Carlton’s family lived in the city’s Penny Lane neighbourhood, an area that achieved fame because of the Beatles. She had a comfortable, middle class upbringing, with her father earning his living as town clerk of Liverpool, before becoming the first chief executive of Merseyside County Council. The author herself wrote an undergraduate study of the city’s housing department, which highlighted from her personal experiences of the poverty and disadvantage to be found in the squalid city slums. The text attributes these difficulties as one of the reasons for Liverpudlians being passionate about their city.

The sense of humour of many “Scousers” is admired. And the drastic outcomes of the city’s extensive slum clearance programme are recorded. Ms Carlton also deals in the minutiae too - her childhood stays in hospital, the garters of her woollen socks, her mother’s chip pan and her attendance at primary school are all elucidated. 

This social history comprises of 191 pages and is presented in a soft cover. The author’s words are illustrated by the use of facsimile documents and monochrome photographs. The text is not indexed and a bibliography of further reading has not been included. Both of these would have been useful additions to what is otherwise a most engaging and interesting volume that I am happy to commend.

Reviewed by Paul Gaskell, Hon General Secretary, Oxfordshire Record Society

January 2018



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