Journeys in Family History: Exploring Your Past, Finding Your Ancestors Hardcover – 30 Apr 2003
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'a highly enjoyable book that every member of the family is bound to find fascinating' -- Practical Family History Magazine
Author David Hey is a leading family historian who reveals the basics on how to conduct a family history research project in Journeys in Family History: The National Archives' Guide to Exploring Your Past, Finding Your Ancestors. From chief problems in verifying records and recorded ages to using ethnic, national and government records more effectively, in Journeys in Family History should be the starting point for any conducting serious family background checks.
About the Author
David Hey is Emeritus Professor of Local and Family History at the University of Sheffield. His previous books include How Our Ancestors Lived, The Oxford Guide to Family History, The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History and Family Names and Family History. He is President of the British Agricultural History Society, Chairman of the Local Population Studies Society and consultant editor for The National Archives' family history magazine, Ancestors. He lives in Derbyshire.
Top customer reviews
This is a review of the 2004 edition. It comprises an introduction and four chapters. Like genealogy itself, these four chapters work backwards chronologically, from recent times, through the nineteenth century, the early modern period and so back to the Middle Ages.
Each of these four chapters is itself split into two parts. In the first (‘Exploring Your Past’) Hey provides a context of the times, looking at features such as the size of families, the quality of housing, the nature of work and travel. These are only broad pictures but which can add flavour to the genealogy itself. These sections are very well-written. Hey has perforce to concentrate on generalities, but he has nevertheless managed to make references to particular areas of the country in order to provide pertinent examples.
The second parts of each chapter (‘Finding Your Ancestors’) guide the reader into how flesh can be put on the bones of your family tree. Examples here include advice not only on the immediately obvious such as registers and census records, but also on gravestones, photographs, newspapers, etc.
Taking the subject of newspapers, Hey is here already a little out of date, since most newspapers are now online and are fully searchable (for a fee, of course). Things have moved on elsewhere too: Hey mentions the FreeBMD project as “in progress,” and most of us now no longer need to visit London to scan the registers or the census entries. Even such items as Post Office staff appointments and surname distribution maps are now online. And so it goes on. Recently World war One service records started appearing as well as twentieth century voters’ lists, the last not mentioned by Hey.
More generally, though, it can be asked, in the age of the internet, what use are these kinds of books? Well, as Hey points out in his preface, “Even the most skilled computer buff still has to book a place at the local records office and search through the archives, we still have to know which records to look at, to learn how to read various styles of handwriting, and to understand what the documents are telling us.”
But there is still much to learn from this book, such as the fact that BMD records are arranged by districts rather than parishes, or that the ages in the 1841 census were largely rounded down. And there is much guidance about searching for elusive ancestors in physical records can easily be transformed into search engines online.
In his introduction Hey advises that the beginner’s first port of call is what he already knows (or has been told) about his family tree, and to seek out relations to trawl through memories. Hey then briefly touches on organising the information gained, remarking how “we each have our own ways of doing things and it is pointless recommending a single approach.”
If there is one complaint, it is that too many of Hey’s examples are from his native Sheffield and surrounding districts and counties. It is also very much an English focus with Wales, Scotland, and Ireland barely mentioned. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable resource bank for those new to genealogy, and old hands will also find it of worth.
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