Tracing Your Twentieth-Century Ancestors : A Guide for Family Historians
The recent past is so often neglected when people research their family history, yet it can be one of the most rewarding periods to explore, and so much fascinating evidence is available. The rush of events over the last century and the rapid changes that have taken place in every aspect of life have been dramatic, and the lives of family members of only a generation or two ago may already appear remote. That is why Karen Bali's informative and accessible guide to investigating your immediate ancestors is essential reading, and a handy reference for anyone who is trying to trace them or discover the background to their lives.
In a sequence of concise, fact-filled chapters she looks back over the key events of the twentieth century and identifies the sources that can give researchers an insight into the personal stories of individuals who lived through it. She explains census and civil records, particularly those of the early twentieth century, and advises readers on the best way to get relevant information from directories and registers as well as wills and other personal documents. Chapters also cover newspapers - which often provide personal details and offer a vivid impression of the world of the time - professional and property records and records of migration and naturalization.
This practical handbook is rounded off with sections on tracing living relatives and likely future developments in the field.
This is another of the seemingly unstoppable run of family history guides coming from this imprint which now cover many aspects of the main areas to research, but this tackles an area which is less often covered.
The author is a genealogist who has made a speciality of the recent past and is a great advocate for helping searchers find living relatives and to learn about their family and how it fared in, say, the two world wars. As we are now well into the 21st century we have many people who may come to research, having grandparents who were born in the 1940s-60s, and who need to start in a period much later that the 1911 census. This book helps with that considerably. As someone in middle age with all four grandparents born before 1895, but who has tried to help others with more recent mysteries I welcome this book. Books which acknowledge that for many, history may not stretch as far as the age of grandparents' memories or who, living far from other family members in our contemporary world, have not had the opportunity to grow up with family stories and memorabilia as perhaps the current generation of retired people with genealogical interests have.
The book has chapters on most of the obvious sources, such as the 1901 and 1911 Census, military records and newspaper research and they are all well set out for beginners use, with bullet-point lists of information which people can expect to find, and boxed text containing real life case studies which show what is possible. I think those with more experience of research generally would feel they might need more detailed help, and as there is a relatively detailed bibliography, that is useful as a pointer.
There is a chapter on tracing and contacting living relatives which is realistic about the fact that some relatives may well be reluctant to be found and even angry and suggests a model letter which can be used and other advice about doing this as tactfully as possible. This is something that certainly needs stating and people reminding as great stress and disappointment may be caused to both sides.
Similarly, the end chapter concentrates on current electronic storage and social media in researching and storing genealogical information, is an introduction to a vitally important aspect of modern family history technique. The book contains some clearly reproduced illustrations with a basic but adequate index. It would be a good purchase for anyone with as-yet-unknown recent ancestors.
Friends of The National Archives