Tracing Your Ancestors From 1066 to 1837
The trail that an ancestor leaves through the Victorian period and the twentieth century is relatively easy to follow the records are plentiful, accessible and commonly used. But how do you go back further, into the centuries before the central registration of births, marriages and deaths was introduced in 1837, before the first detailed census records of 1841? How can you trace a family line back through the early modern period and perhaps into the Middle Ages? Jonathan Oates’s clearly written new handbook gives you all the background knowledge you need in order to go into this engrossing area of family history research.
He starts by describing the administrative, religious and social structures in the medieval and early modern period and shows how these relate to the family historian. Then in a sequence of accessible chapters he describes the variety of sources the researcher can turn to. Church and parish records, the records of the professions and the courts, manorial and property records, tax records, early censuses, lists of loyalty, militia lists, charity records all these can be consulted. He even includes a short guide to the best methods of reading medieval and early modern script.
Jonathan Oates’s handbook is an essential introduction for anyone who is keen to take their family history research back into the more distant past.
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Dr Jonathan Oates, Ealing Borough Archivist and Local History Librarian, acknowledges how difficult it can be for a family historian to research before 1837. Here, he guides you in a way that is clear, helpful, and honest. After a run-through of the times from Domesday to Victoria, he sorts categories of documentary records into chapters - those created by the state, the church, professionals, by the courts, by taxation; he covers land and property - deeds and leases - and an intriguing 'miscellaneous' (naturalization to coroners, tontines, heraldry and more). He encourages you to delve into manorial records, which can reveal much about the life of everyday folk - the villeins and the freemen. Each chapter is supported with examples and pleasant monochrome illustrations.
In an appendix on palaeography and Latin for family historians, he suggests a sensible and practical way of working if you are trying to decipher old handwriting or Latin. Finally, a good contents list and an Index make it easy to find your way round, and there is a manageable bibliography for further reading.
Dr Oates encourages you to visit the places where records are held and tells you about everything - what to find where and to how to get a reader's ticket. There are contact details for the major repositories and advice about how to research. And, of course, there is also a list of the websites that have partnered with record-holders to give online access to digitised material.
Published by Pen & Sword in their Family History series, the book is nicely produced but, alas, includes the occasional proofreading slip. However, Dr Oates certainly achieves his stated aim of helping you push back the chronological borders of your knowledge. Whether you are researching your own family or undertaking a one-name or one-place study, this book should be essential reading.
Friends of The National Archives