Sporting Ancestors : Tracing Your Family's Athletic Past
Sport, in its many forms, is an important part of British heritage and our family histories are littered with amateur and professional sporting references. As people moved from country to town, sport became fashionable and organised, and our ancestors left us with records of their sporting deeds. Newspaper reports, minute books, club histories, team photographs and even cartoons are all available to the family historian.
Discover which sports were played when, where and why. Read example case studies, find out how to begin your own research and learn what resources are available to help you progress. From Victorian prizefighters to Edwardian ladies' archery, from inter-war football teams to the shin-kicking contests of the Cotswold Olimpicks - Sporting Ancestors is the essential guide for those wanting to explore what part sport has played in their national and family history.
First of all, I am not sport minded and looked at this book from the family history point of view. The book is laid out in seven headings starting with 'How to use this book'. This not only shows the change in sport during the Victorian and Edwardian time, but the start of sport as we know them today.
The second part covers a short condensed chapter on 'British Sporting History: Introduction'. I found this chapter interesting as it gave a great deal of information and dates that could be of use when researching your family. The chapter starts with past time activities developing into games and then sports, passing through the centuries to the twentieth century
The third and fourth parts covered 'The Professionals' and 'The Amateurs'. These chapters were full of facts about the professional and amateur side of sport with many stories of founding fathers of various sports, with dates and places. The chapters give a good basic knowledge and I enjoyed reading them, and was fully absorbed by the material presented although not a sporting person.
The rest of the book (80 pages) covers how to carry out your research with case studies to help you make use of the material available, and finally pages of places, sites and archives for you to use in your research. The book also has sketches, photographs and copies of records to break up the reading and shows examples of the type of records available.
I feel that 'Sporting Ancestors' offers a good grounding for anyone starting to trace their family's athletic past and provides plenty of leads into the sporting world and how to research your sporting history.
'Mallard', originally published in 2008, has been updated this year (2013) to mark the 75th anniversary of the world steam record of 126 mph achieved in July 1938. It has a very brief chapter (three pages) bringing the reader up to date with arrangements for the anniversary celebrations at the National Railway Museum. This edition was officially launched there in July 2013 as part of those celebrations.
Don Hale OBE, is a railway enthusiast, a former professional footballer, a journalist and campaigner against miscarriages of justice. He received the OBE for services to journalism in 2002 following the Stephen Downing case.
The book recounts the story of how Mallard's triumphs were achieved and why. The narrative provides an interesting and easy to read description of the background to the world record, the key characters involved - notably Nigel Gresley, the chief mechanical engineer for LNER, and the wider context of national competition and international collaboration. Drawing on the reminiscences and anecdotes of those involved and the records of the Gresley Society, Hale admirably captures the atmosphere of the time.
The book has a useful index, a helpful bibliography for further reading, and four pages of interesting monochrome pictures. However, Hales' sources are not referenced and although there are acknowledgements, the research historian will need to look elsewhere for the specific documentary context of the achievement. Of particular interest is the extent to which British and European engineers collaborated and assisted each other in the design and technological advancements of railway traction, even up to the cusp of the Second World War.
Overall the account of the events and developments leading to the record being set between Grantham and Peterborough in 1938 is very thorough and well written. This book is for railway enthusiasts and will be an interesting and enjoyable read.
Dr Tony Wakeford
Friends of The National Archives.