Tracing Your Ancestor Through Death Records 2nd Edition
Of all family history sources, death records are frequently the most revealing since they often give a far greater insight into our ancestors' lives and personalities than those records created during their lifetime. Despite this, many researchers are unaware of the treasure trove of information they contain which can prove vital for fleshing out a family tree and locating yet further record sources. Celia Heritage leads readers through all the essential types of death records, showing how they can be found, read and interpreted. This second edition of her best-selling handbook is packed with useful information and helpful research advice.
'This highly readable handbook is packed with useful information and helpful research advice. In addition, a thought-provoking final chapter looks into the repercussions of death its effects of the surviving members of the family and the fact that a premature death could sometimes affect the family for generations to come.'
Kent FHS Journal
The second edition of this useful volume, in the ever-expanding Pen and Sword Family History series, brings together information on all the main types of death records available in the UK. Six chapters centre on death certificates, burial records, gravestones and memorials, inquest records, newspaper and magazines as sources, and wills. A seventh chapter deals briefly with more obscure sources such as funeral cards, photographs and hatchments.
The book is well organised and many individual sections show how to use two sources together, or use them in conjunction with other sources, such as using wills and death certificates in tandem or with the Census. The explanations of using each section are clear and make it possible to formulate a research plan for a particular type of document. The author is always realistic and very well versed in likely reasons for confusion and error in the use of sources by beginners, as well as in resources that may still need explaining for the more experienced researcher.
The book is illustrated with annotated photographs, many of which are from the author's own collection and also with case studies (presented in shaded boxes) which give examples from her own family history of the way to carry out different research approaches. The case studies are good and relevant, but my only comment is that for some readers the black font on the dark grey box shading will prove awkward to read. Occasionally, there are resource lists that almost by their very comprehensiveness lead one ironically to wish they were yet more complete. An example of this is the list of newspaper databases online on p114, detailing major sources for the four British nations and some additional ones in New Zealand and Australia but does not mention, for instance, sources such as the National Library of Congress free database Chronicling America, or other major US sources.
However, these are small comments in the context of the book that is a major tool in the best use of death records and their relationship to other sources. There is a final short chapter which is an excellent attempt to get the reader thinking beyond the details in regular documents such as death certificates and burial registers; thus giving time to consider what effect the death in question had on a family. This could include events such as the death of a breadwinner causing relocation of a family, or the dispersion of children into other households, most often after a mother's death. Lastly, the book has an introductory hints and tips section, a bibliography classified by chapter subject matter, a fairly comprehensive index and a list of useful postal and email addresses.
This is a book that should be commended for many researchers reaching the stage where they want to develop their initial research but would also have some considerable use for both relative beginners and experienced genealogists.
Friends of The National Archives