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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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A  MUSEUM AT  WAR;  Snapshots of life at the Natural History Museum during World War One;  by Karolyn Shindler

Published by: The Natural History Museum
ISBN: 978  0 565  09461  4
Price £16.99

The author, a Scientific Associate at the Museum, has compiled a day-by-day diary of the Museum’s life during WW1.  At that time it formed part of the British Museum.  The diary is arranged in twelve chapters, each introduced by a brief summary. The chapters run chronologically from August 1914 through to November 1918.     They cover three dimensions of the war and its impact;

  • The effect on the Museum of the wartime measures introduced across the country, eg, blackout, rationing, conscription, employment of women and safety of the public ( opening hours ).
  • The experience and, in some cases, death of Museum staff on active service. There is detailed information on individuals in this context and pictures of the men.
  • The Museum’s contribution to the war effort through its resources  and the expertise of its staff.   Numerous enquiries were received asking for advice in the context of the conflict, eg, camouflage, danger to soldiers from pests in foreign climates ( lice, flies and leeches ), use of pigeons, sonic detection and propaganda.

There is a homefront hero in this story; Charles Fagan, Deputy Director throughout the War.  With the Director suffering from ill health, Fagan was the man who saw the institution through the duration, from one challenge to the next.  But he was never appointed Director because he wasn’t a scientist by training.

This an interesting and well presented narrative depicting the war years from a different angle.  A worthwhile record attractively offered.

Reviewed by Charles Kaye

November 2018

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The Gypsy Countess by Anne-Marie Ford

Published by: Romany & Traveller Family History Society
ISBN:  978-1-900660-50-1
Price: £18
Available through the Romany & Traveller Family History Society website rtfhs.org.uk

Anne-Marie Ford’s book tells the story of Catherine Cox from her poor upbringing in Dorset through marriage to George Henry Grey, Earl of Stamford and Warrington to life as a Countess. Georgian and Victorian society is shown as Catherine and her sisters move up the social scale by moving to London and becoming artistes at Astley’s Amphitheatre as the Fleming sisters before the marriage. This episode caused some notoriety in some social circles.

During her married life links to Catherine’s immediate and extended family play an important part as the less well off are supported. In the late Victorian and Edwardian periods associations with royalty and racing is discussed where a love of horses form a bond between the aristocracy and Romany & Traveller communities.

This book is a perfect piece of research and is a must read for being a well written family history in narrative form. As in all family histories the cast of characters can be overwhelming but Ford’s use of chapters covering different subjects and time periods gets over this problem. The research is of high standard and able to cope with conflicting evidence from other works while supporting the narrative. The author is not afraid to indicate where the lack of recorded evidence appears. The text is supported by a well organised family tree spread over seven pages and an index of the individuals.

Reviewed by Tony Sargeant, Bucks FHS

November 2018

Fallen Felons by Jonathan Livitt

Book available directly from the author Jon Livitt, 8 Woodberry Lane, Rowlands Castle, Hampshire, PO9 6DP email: jonlivitt@btinternet.com   Tel: 02392 412304

It took ten years to research the 283 lives of men listed in The Police Gazette Roll of Honour and registered in the Criminal Record Office. They were killed or died of wounds during World War One 1914-1919.

The entries in alphabetical order give a glimpse of life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their ages ranged from 18 to 58 but most were aged between 19 and 35. We learn about the character of individuals, the crimes committed and the range of punishments they received. The latter included birching, detention, fines and hard labour.

More than 40% had been detained in a Borstal institute. These men and boys came from all over Britain but I was struck by the number who came from Yorkshire with over 20 from Leeds! I was bemused by a number of entries but one in particular, William Hague from Barnsley, son of a miner, born 1876 was found guilty of a number of offences over a period stretching from 1900 to 1911. These included cruelty to a pony, stealing three ducks, drunk and disorderly, stealing a Canada goose and four other fowls! He spent time in and out of HM Prison Wakefield. He served in The York and Lancaster regiment [Barnsley Pals]. William was killed in action 1916 aged 40 years and buried in Tilloy British Cemetery, France. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Many of the entries are dealt with in great detail others only briefly. The regiments in which they served, manner of death and where buried are described. Although seen as criminals in society, they have a story to tell and with each name representing a life cut short.

The author provides a long list of Primary Sources, Publications and National Archive References along with many websites which researchers may not have been aware.

Reviewed by Ron Pullan

October 2018

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Tracing Your Ancestors Through the Equity Courts
by Susan Moore

Published by: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 9781473891661
Price £14.99

One of many family history books by Publisher “Pen & Sword”, printed clearly. The author is experienced in researching such historical records via The National Archives (TNA).  She states the subject “Equity Courts” is one that many overlook when tracing ancestors.  The period that she has researched (with the generous help of her students visiting TNA on her behalf) is 1500 – 1876.  The book has six chapters including one on sample cases and one case study on a Jane Austen connection.  At the back of the book there are the usual Glossary, Index and Bibliography for this subject.  Although Wales Equity Courts are not kept at the TNA it is useful that all other Equity records are there (together with the map room records).  She notes that the records recite history and relationships of many generations which can clarify many queries and also add spice to the characters.

The background of Equity Courts began with the monarchs centuries ago who were responsible for disputes, which then evolved into the Kings deferring responsibility to a Lord Chancellor, Admiral, Marshalls.  Inns of Court were set up through the country – they have many names such as “Star Chamber” which dealt more with violent disputes.  Before 1733 records are likely to be written in Latin.  The reader would need to study the book before attempting a visit to the TNA for such records for their ancestors as it gives many examples and advice on the process.

Reviewed by Valerie A Taylor on behalf of Malvern Family History Society

October 2018

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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 thorough 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, the manors were recombined by a wealthy London merchant.  It eventually become the property of the Spencer family of nearby Althorp.

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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Barrow-in-Furness in 50 Buildings by Gill Jepson

Published by: Amberley Publishing
Price £16.99

Barrow-in Furness has a proud and distinctive identity, embodied in the many fine buildings that have shaped this Cumbrian town. At first glance, it appears to be seated firmly in the nineteenth century but a closer inspection reveals an architectural heritage that reaches back much further than the Victorian era. Prior to 1845 it was a significant coastal hamlet with little to its fame. Barrai, as it was first known was always secondary to the ‘ancient capital’, as Dalton-in Furness is now termed. The Furness railway was the springboard for the complete industrialisation of the Furness Peninsula where the iron speculators discovered rich seems of hematite and the railway means of transportation to the processing plants soon opened up.

Barrow-in Furness in 50 Buildings explores the history of this rich and vibrant community through a selection of its greatest architectural treasures. From the perpendicular style of Furness Abbey to the Gothic Town Hall, and from the Beaux Arts of the Public Library to newer building that have attracted disdain from the local residents, this unique study celebrates Barrow’s architectural heritage in a new and accessible way. Local historian Gill Jepson guides the reader on a tour of the town’s fine old buildings and modern architectural developments.

Gill Jepson is a well-known author from South Cumbria and a founder member of ‘Furness Abbey Fellowship’ a voluntary group who work alongside English Heritage to support the abbey. She likes nothing better than exploring the beautiful Furness peninsula and this is a great inspiration for her stories. She is a keen local historian and teacher and has researched the history of Barrow-in-Furness extensively.

Published by Amberley Publishing and priced at £14.99

Reviewed by Ian White of Cumbria FHS

September 2018

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Cumbria in Photographs by Steve Pipe

Published by: Amberley Publishing
Price £16.99

Here is a beautiful pictorial book that will fulfil the ‘homely desires’ of the many expatriate Cumbrian’s as well as the home based folk who live and work in this magnificent county and its environs. The county of Cumbria (I am greatly inclined to still refer to it as Cumberland) has an amazing diversity of beautiful landscapes. Photographer Steve Pipe has captured the counties essence in this collection of stunning images. From timeless fishing villages to the glorious Lake District National Park, famed for its lakes, fells and forests, from the majestic vistas of Scafell Pike to the beautiful expanse of Windermere and the other lakes, this book has it all covered. For its proud inhabitants and many visitors, Cumbria in Photographs is a must. Scan through these photographs and you’ll quickly see why this part of England has such appeal.

Steve Pipe returned to his roots in Cumbria in January 2011 and what started out as an enthusiastic and popular blog developed into a strong following across social media and led to writing and photographic commissions for a variety of magazines and websites. He is currently working with a range of organisations and publications including Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Lancashire Walks and Wildlife Magazine and the Camping and Caravanning Club. As an experienced hiker he tackles the outdoors in all weathers to find the spectacular and the dramatic be that a far reaching panorama or a tiny ecosystem hidden away within the limestone crags. He also has taken a keen interest in the history of the region.

Published by Amberley Publishing and priced at £16.99, the book is a worthy addition to any bookshelf.

Reviewed by Ian White of Cumbria FHS

September 2018

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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

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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

cover for the Oldest House in London

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

cover for Nannau

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



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