Genealogy Book Reviews
It is, perhaps, inevitable that this selection has a heavy UK bias given that is the area from which my family originates. I hope, however, that it will also be of use to others with UK connections.
Although the links on this page page take one to the Amazon website the selection is mine and I do own, and have read, the books. The reviews are entirely my personal opinion and I have ignored the "publishers' blurb". My policy when selecting books for purchase over the web has always been to read the summary of the contents, and the reviews of impartial readers.
Having said that, should you wish to purchase one these, or any other book, I would be grateful if you would do so from this site. Web costs increase with the size of the site, and I would like to continue to add to, and improve the site. Thank you in anticipation - the images are the links!
To be fair to the "Who do you think you are?" series of books, I have only read two, the first and "...Back to the Tudors". They are based on a TV series which looked into the family histories of celebrities and used the process as being illustrative of the research processes.
They reproduce these family histories and give backgrounds to the historical context of the ancestors found, such as working conditions and the political situation thus giving an interesting background to the events affecting the families. However, because of the general nature of the books the detail research methods are not given, and in that respect have limited usefulness.
"The Genealogist's Internet" is my standard reference for genealogy sites in the UK, and is the one book which I update to the latest edition.
It does "what it says on the tin" and provides a very comprehensive list of internet sites, as may be expected from a book published by the National Archives. It covers the basic sites for censuses, birth, marriages, deaths, wills, parish registers, and sites giving details of archived records such as libraries etc.. Discussion forums and web publishing are also discussed.
If I was only allowed one book, then this would be it!
As a companion to "The Genealogist's Internet", "Collins Tracing your family history" probably has no equal, although the Readers Digest"Explore your family's past" (which as far as I can see is now out of print) would run it close.
This book starts at the beginning, giving the information available, where it can be found, and how it can be used. Each record is considered in detail, with a section devoted to each record type. In addition there are sections covering the armed forces, education, churches, immigration/emigration through to genetics and royalty.
I can think of no better way of starting genealogy than by buying these two books.
After one's research reaches the start of civil registration then it may be said that the real work begins! "Early Modern Genealogy" looks at the records available between 1600 and 1838. It obviously covers parish registration but includes more unusual record types such as taxation, property, manorial, courts of equity, and many more. Many of these are illustrated with examples from the author's own researches.
If I had to express a reservation it would be because I am from the north of England whilst the author is from the south; hence the examples given relate to the southern counties, in particular the area now known as East Anglia. Nevertheless the principles, if not the detail, still apply.
When I purchased "The Tribes of Britain" I expected a book comprising information relating to the tribes possibly up to Roman times and certainly not later than the Norman period. In fact it continues to the 20th century. Does it loose much because of this? Probably not, as by adopting this approach it gives a much better picture as to the background of the current population.
Naturally, there cannot be as much detail regarding the early periods as one may have wished, for example I had hoped for more regarding the interaction between the Picts and the Scots and it wasn't there. This may be a personal interest but it serves to make the point that one is unlikely to find detailed histories of particular periods.
The award winning "Ancestral Trails" comprises nearly 900 pages jammed packed with British genealogy references. Published in association with the Society of Genealogists this is a book which one will be using for years.
Its 30 chapters and 11 appendices cover all sources for information from personal recollections to the most obscure public documents, detailing where to find them, including internet sites when available. It includes 147 illustrations of a variety of documents with appropriate explanations.
This must rank as the most comprehensive source for British genealogy records available.
"In Flanders Fields" is not a genealogy book as such and from its name it can readily be seen as concerning the period of the first world war. I have included it because many of us will have had close relatives who will have fought there, been injured or even killed in the battles whose stories are given here.
This highly regarded book vividly illustrates the deprivations of trench warfare, particularly in the appalling weather conditions of those times. But it goes further than that by examining in some depth the decisions and petty feuding between the generals of the various allied armies, and the lack of political direction for much of the time.
If you had a relative who was there and wish to learn more, then this is the book for you.
If one expects "Tracing your Dublin Ancestors" to produce an internet source for an ancestor born Dublin in 1820 then it will not. Nor will any other book for that matter!
The fact is that following the destruction of Irish civil records it is necessary to revert to the traditional methods of searching using for example, church records, school records, trade directories, and so forth. What the book does, and does very well, is to give a comprehensive list as to where records of a Dublin ancestor may be found. Where the data has been put on the net, the URL is given.
When searching for Irish ancestors there are really only two options, visit Ireland or employ someone over there to conduct the search. Unless of course one lives there! "Tracing your Dublin Ancestors" enables one to draw up a list of probable resources which will lead to a saving in time or money, or both!
Whilst I have concentrated on individual books which I have read, it would be remiss of me if I did not bring attention to the books stocked by the National Archives. Many books, often small, relating to specific subjects can be found there; for example I have a copy of each of "Tracing your First World War Ancestors" and "Tracing Second World War Ancestors". Both are only around 150 pages, but packed with locations for information.
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Details accurate at the time of the last update.