Family History For Beginners
Dabbling in family history is a pastime anyone of any age can enjoy, but the massive proliferation of websites, magazines and books in recent years can baffle the would-be genealogist to a standstill. This is an ideal introduction to the tools and processes of researching your past. It will teach you how to get the most information from living relatives, how to negotiate the vast quantities of census data with ease, and the best way to store, catalogue and present the information you discover.
"Family History for Beginners" will also help you take your research to the next level, beyond the simple facts of birth, marriage and death, with chapters on occupation, emigration and military service.
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Curiously as family history moves more and more online, the need for a decent handbook on the subject becomes ever greater. Few if any websites offer as much information in as an accessible format as a good book. Each author emphasises the family history journey in different ways. There are no right or wrong ways of doing so.
The strengths of this book lie, I suggest, in the advice provided about organising yourself and your research, and how to collaborate with others in researching a common family tree. All these are important aspects of family history. There are also a number of useful flowcharts and other ways of displaying information graphically that really help readers understand the process of research and how the records can help in that process.
Karen Foy is perhaps less sure on the records themselves. She does a competent job, and definitely covers the basics, but she does not offer any special in-depth knowledge that offers real insight into the subject. Take for example the Irish censuses. She makes no mention of the 1901 Census, which would have been online by the time her book was published, and her suggestion of workhouse records as an alternative source is a little bizarre.
Naturally she mentions the First World War medal index cards and British Army service records but does not describe this material in any depth let alone include any examples. I am not sure, however, that I could accurately trace any soldier of the Great War from her text.
To conclude this is a competent attempt to get people started on their family history journeys, but if they want to learn about the records that will take them on this journey there are better books available.
Friends of The National Archives.