Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ancestral trails : Featured library resource for October 2012

Anyone considering a genealogy trip to the British Isles would do well to consult this comprehensive volume well in advance.  In Ancestral Trails : the complete guide to British genealogy and family history, Mark Herber has created a work that is useful for beginners and experienced genealogists alike.  The book was first published in 1997, and the fully updated and revised second edition, which we have in the Genealogy Room, in 2004 (first published in the US in 2006).

Weighing in at 873 pages, this book has
  • 30 chapters, 
  • 11 appendices,
  • copious illustrations, 
  • a comprehensive bibliography (1342 sources!) arranged by chapter heading, and an
  • extensive index
Opening chapters deal with getting information from living relatives and basic sources, such as vital and census records.  All types of more advanced records are covered in succeeding chapters, including court, property, religious, military, educational, professional/trade, and more.  Herder covers special situations such as divorce and illegitimacy, as well the importance of understanding local and social history.  There's a chapter on the geographic areas of Great Britain (Scotland, etc.), and one on tracing the migrants that left Britain for other parts of the world.  Internet resources are fully incorporated into the discussion of records.

Herder uses examples from his own family history to elucidate the process of using the various types of records, with the illustrations providing samples of what one might expect to discover.  The text is peppered with initialisms (such as GRO for General Register Office), which I was pleased to find included in the index.  This volume won the [British] Library Association's prestigious McColvin Medal for an outstanding reference work.

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