Top critical review
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An overview of sources rather than a guide to tracing ancestors
on 13 July 2016
This is really a guide to sources in which records of ancestors might be found, rather than a guide to tracing them. Even to get back to the Tudor period is a major achievement for most family historians. Sources for research in the medieval period are significantly different and considerable experience in palaeography and Latin is necessary to use them effectively. It would have been better if the content of this book had been split into two, as was done by Paul Chambers when he wrote 'Medieval Genealogy' and 'Early Modern Genealogy'.
Attempting to cover the whole period from 1066 to 1837 means that some topics are given scant attention, and significant facts are omitted. For example, the author states correctly that there were four archdeaconries in the Diocese of Exeter, but since he chose this diocese as an example, it would have been pertinent to mention that the probate records of three of them no longer survive, as they were destroyed during the Second World War. He also states 'Remember that several wills proved prior to 1733 will be in Latin', but virtually no wills were in Latin after the mid-sixteenth century. It is the records of the probate courts, such as grants of probate and administration, that are in Latin before 1733. There is only a short paragraph on marriage licences and no mention of why they could potentially be useful in research.
Generalisations are made that contain an element of truth but are not entirely accurate. The author states that Dade registers were in use in the dioceses of Chester and York in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the implication being that they were widely used in both dioceses, but they are found in only a minority of parishes in the Diocese of York and only a very small number of parishes in the Diocese of Chester. The author refers to the Poor Law Act of 1662 as the Act of Settlement. The 1662 Act was the Act for the Better Relief of the Poor of this Kingdom, commonly known as the Settlement Act or Settlement and Removal Act, and the description Act of Settlement usually refers to the Act of 1701 which settled the succession to the throne.
Referring to nonconformist registers, the author states that 'Unlike Anglican Registers, the baptism registers note the mother's maiden name', which is quite incorrect. Maiden name was recorded in the baptism registers of some nonconformist congregations, but this was far from universal. The author has nothing to say about Quakers, their extensive records, or the fact that unlike other nonconformists, they performed their own marriage ceremonies.
In writing this book the author has clearly attempted to squeeze several quarts into a pint pot. The book works reasonably well as an overview of genealogical sources in the period before civil registration, but is not really a guide to tracing ancestors.