on September 9, 1998
"No other publication gives such comprehensive and up-to-date guidance on tracing British ancestry and researching family history. Illustrated throughout with more than ninety examples of the major types of records, and with detailed lists of further reading, Ancestral Trails will be the essential companion and guide for all family historians." Anthony Camp, Director, Society of Genealogists.
This excellent publication was created in association with the prestigious Society of Genealogists, perhaps akin to the US' National Genealogical Society. The author Mark D. Herber is a solicitor who began researching his family in 1979. He has successfully traced some of his lines back to around 1580.
Indeed I was impressed with this 674 page "encyclopedia." (Quotes added for emphasis!) The bibliography alone is twenty-two pages. My experience with English records has been limited to early parish records in Devon and some Court of Canterbury wills, so I was most eager to have the opinion of three friends who do extensive English, Welsh and Irish research, and indeed are successful in helping others make strong headway in their research. You can imagine the excitement at our local LDS Family History Center as they poured over the book with uncustomary enthusiasm!
The consensus is that ANCESTRAL TRAILS is as definitive of British research as Ancestry's THE SOURCE is of American genealogy. Lew, a 1st generation Brit, was impressed with the chapter on military records, and made a note to order the book forthwith. Elsie, born of English immigrant parents, had been inquiring previously about manor court records and found this publication provided more than she had found in explanation elsewhere. I was impressed with the 94 illustrations, including typical certificates of vital records, representative samples of wills and the like.
Also impressive is the attention given to beginning genealogists. Basics such as pedigree charts, personal recollections & memorabilia, spelling, handwriting, dates, obtaining certificates and organization of collected materials are discussed with ample illustrations.
Additional chapters include: General Problems Encountered by Researchers, Civil Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Census Returns, Parish Registers, Churchyards and Cemeteries, Directories, Combining Sources, Archives, Libraries and Family History Societies, Wills and Administrations,Catholic, Nonconformist and Jewish Records, Marriage and Divorce, Maps, Land Registrations and Property Records, Local and Social History, Newspapers and Elections,Parish and Town Records, Records of the Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, Records of Shipping and Seaman, Records of Trades, Professions and Business, Oaths, Taxation and Insurance Records Records of Civil and Ecclesiastical Courts, Records of the Criminal Courts and Criminals, Education, Peerages, the Gentry, Famous People and Heraldry, Further Property Records, Tracing Migrants and Living Relatives, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands Immigration, Emigration and Investigation Abroad
Appendices included essential information under the following topics: Codes for areas and volumes in the GRO Indexes, Indexes to other GRO records, Chapman County Codes, Seize Quarters of Bessie Maude Symes, Extracts from the Bullied and Keates family trees, Public Record Office Information Leaflets, County Record Offices & other archives, Commencement dates of the reigns of English and British monarchs, Wills & Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: A Summary of Finding-Aids, Records of the Court of Chancery: A summary of Finding-Aids.
Owing only to its tiny print, you'll need a magnifying glass in addition to your bi-focals to glean all that's contained in Ancestral Trails. On the best advice of our resident "British Research Gurus," I most heartily recommend this book.
Daily Genealogy Columnist
Genealogy Forum on America Online