Top positive review
One person found this helpful
A book any family historian can benefit from reading
on 2 October 2017
I know quite a bit about history, and I also know quite a bit about family history research, since I've been researching my own family for around 20 years. What I didn't know about until I read this excellent book was the links between the two - that is, the historical reasons for the recording of the various types of data, and the ways in which they were recorded. This has proved enormously enlightening for me and will definitely improve my approach to interrogating the data in future.
For instance, I'd noticed that the ways of recording in parish registers had changed over the years - from what was often a pretty ad hoc way of jotting down the baptism, marriage and burial records (often all jumbled up) by the local minister in a notebook, through the various types of official forms that were then tried out to improve recording methods and make everything more legible and therefore accessible. (No, they weren't thinking about the avid bands of 21st century family historians - they were thinking about making it possible for contemporaries to have access to their own data for legal reasons). Now that I've read the book I understand how recording methods changed, and why. I know what Bishop's Transcripts were, and Fleet marriages. I know what Thomas Cromwell's part in it all was.
Plus, there's a whole lot more to this book than its analysis of church and civil BMD records in the UK. It looks at nonconformist, Catholic, and Jewish records too and there are chapters on military records, immigrants and emigrants, divorce, and adoption. And yes, a book like this can get out of date pretty soon as far as the availability of records online is concerned - but once you start accessing online data, the new stuff pretty much presents itself to your attention. For the historical background, this book is ideal and I have no hesitation in recommending it most heartily.