Top positive review
24 people found this helpful
An excellent primer for amateur genealogists
on 21 September 2009
I have been researching my family tree for a few years as a keen amateur. I wish I had this book when I started, because it is a fabulous resource. It won't turn you into a professional genealogist, but it provide you will all you need to get started on your research.
Although the book is clearly a tie-in with the BBC television series "Who Do You Think You Are?" it overlaps with the series only by calling upon examples from episodes of the series. For example, it uses the "Bill Oddie" episode to explain a point about researching death certificates. Thus, you don't need to have seen the series to use the book. Indeed, I would argue that the series does not really show much useful "real" genealogy at all.
Barratt begins the book showing you how to start your research - by collecting information from living relatives, such as stories, certificates, photos, the family Bible, medals, and so on, and then using this to build a basic family tree composed of what you know (rather than guesses and myths). The rest of the book takes you through the key areas of genealogy, including civil registration documents, parish records, military records, and so on. He also takes a look at researching overseas relatives, slavery, immigration, medical records, and many other kinds of records and resources. This book focuses mainly on UK ancestors, which is inevitable for a book aimed at a UK-based readership. It therefore won't be especially helpful if you were born in England but 90% of your ancestors lived in America.
It sometimes skims over the trickier details of subjects, giving the basic facts but leaving you with questions. I would defend that design decision, as the book covers a huge number of subjects in just 531 pages. It would be a far bigger book if it really did cover every subject exhaustively.
The writing style is clear and concise. The book is broken into chapters and sections that make it easy to dip into and find what you want. The book's design is wonderful. It sets out information clearly and uses fonts very nicely, too. It all goes to make the text easy to read and the information accessible. There are occasional typographical errors and grammatical faux pas, but these are minimal for a publication of this size.
I can't find any major faults with it. It does excellently what it sets out to do. If you are starting out on UK-based genealogy as a hobby, this is a brilliant book to have with you. I read mine from cover to cover, and I re-read relevant chapters when return to study particular kinds of records.