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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Making the Cake Fruitier
Anyone who has done some serious genealogical work will probably have come across at some point the name of David Hey. In this book Hey seeks to enmesh the study of family history with that of local history. In his preface Hey writes, "In this book I try to interest family historians in wider concerns than the single-minded pursuit of their own family tree." In a sense he...
Published 13 months ago by Nicholas Casley


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Making the Cake Fruitier, 21 Nov 2013
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Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Family History and Local History in England (Paperback)
Anyone who has done some serious genealogical work will probably have come across at some point the name of David Hey. In this book Hey seeks to enmesh the study of family history with that of local history. In his preface Hey writes, "In this book I try to interest family historians in wider concerns than the single-minded pursuit of their own family tree." In a sense he is pushing at an open door, since anyone with an interest in the former will already want to place their discoveries in context.

So, as Hey goes on to say, "This is a book of encouragement and advice for those thousands of family historians who have already made some progress in tracing their family tree and have become interested in the places where their ancestors lived and worked and raised children."

The book has forty monochrome plates, five figures, and nine tables. It was published in 1987, that is before the age of the personal computer and internet, so much, but by no means all of its advice - Hey writes, for instance, how "It can take time to find exactly where the records one is searching for are kept" - has since been superseded.

The book's four chapters are arranged in chronological order. Hey writes, "In this book I have used the various branches of my own family as case-studies because their very ordinariness makes them typical. Nevertheless, when seen against the broader themes of English social and economic history their triumphs and disasters and their dogged persistence in a way of life takes on a wider relevance."

The first chapter (the shortest, with thirty-two pages) looks at the Middle Ages, "an area beset with pitfalls for the unwary." Hey first focuses on other detailed studies of particular localities, showing how the authors have managed to glean much genealogical evidence. But the bulk of the chapter explores the interaction between place-names and the origins of many surnames, an issue explored more fully in Hey's later books `Family Names & Family History' (2000) and `Surnames, DNA, & Family History' (2011). But it is notable that in this earlier work, Hey's emphasis is more on the mobility of families rather than on their persistence in the landscape.

`Early Modern England' is the subject of chapter two (seventy-four pages). After explaining about the much broader range of documents available, he again focuses on the work and conclusions of other authors in detailed studies of various parishes and townships in various parts of the country. As to London, its sheer size and with well over one hundred parishes, "My sympathies are extended to those family historians who are trying to locate an ancestor in the capital during this period." Perhaps the internet has now changed his view.

The longest chapter (ninety-three pages) is devoted to `Late Georgian and Victorian England.' This indicates the wider variety of document types and the wider variety of historical experiences. Hey focuses here on industries both traditional and new but does not neglect old market towns and the agricultural poor. Unfortunately, the examples in themselves often become lists without much of the underlying human interest to inspire close reading of Hey's text.

`Excursions into Family and Local History' is the title given to the final chapter (fifty-three pages). Here Hey uses some of his own ancestral lines to show how genealogy and local history can be combined to make a cake that is much richer in fruit as well as icing. He concludes, "The antiquary collects facts, the genealogist constructs family trees. Both these tasks provide enjoyment for a lot of people ... but the rewards in terms of personal satisfaction and contribution to knowledge are so much greater when the family historian tries to see his ancestors as people acting out their lives against a local and national backcloth, people who were caught up ... in the currents of their time."

This is all well and good and hardly objectionable. So why do I award only three stars? The sometimes dry reading of lists and statistics can be forgiven when other parts of the book are so rich in clear and detailed narratives. However, my main qualm is that this book is a product of its time, and that there are therefore better guides to be had that take account of developments since the mid-1980s, developments both in the availability and traceability of original sources but also in their analysis. Indeed, some of these better guides have been written by Hey himself. In summary, this book is far from useless, but time has moved on more swiftly than even Hey would probably have imagined.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 Nov 2014
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Family History and Local History in England
Family History and Local History in England by David Hey (Paperback - 8 Jun 1987)
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