Trac­ing Your Birm­ing­ham An­ces­tors

By Michael Sharpe

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

(Pen & Sword, 224 pages, £14.99) There’s been a gap in the mar­ket for a book like this and Michael Sharpe fills it very ably. He tells the story of Birm­ing­ham’s growth from small set­tle­ment to in­dus­trial pow­er­house, giv­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing pic­ture of the lives of early ‘Brum­mies’.

Each chap­ter has rec­om­men­da­tions of many of the books, web­sites and doc­u­ments that should help in find­ing out more about the place and the fam­i­lies who lived there. The au­thor isn’t al­ways spe­cific about which orig­i­nal doc­u­ments have sur­vived, but this broader brush ap­proach does mean that the book is very easy to read. The in­dex is user-friendly and there’s a direc­tory of re­sources at the end.

To get the most out of this book you’d first need to have a ba­sic knowl­edge of how to re­search your fam­ily tree and be fa­mil­iar with some of the terms used. Once you have that, most of the items you’d need to con­sult are ei­ther cited in the text or in the ta­bles in­cluded in nearly ev­ery chap­ter.

Like all large cities, Birm­ing­ham can be dif­fi­cult to re­search, not least be­cause it grew across the bound­aries of three dif­fer­ent coun­ties – War­wick­shire, Worces­ter­shire and Stafford­shire.

There are maps and reg­u­lar ad­vice through­out about what can be found on­line or at each of the three county ar­chives. This for­mat does un­for­tu­nately mean that the Black Coun­try Ar­chives, still im­por­tant for re­search­ing ar­eas to the west of the city, only gets a brief men­tion but a book on Black Coun­try re­search has re­cently been pub­lished in the same se­ries.

Trac­ing Your Birm­ing­ham An­ces­tors will be very use­ful to most re­searchers whether their an­ces­tors stayed put or were just pass­ing through.

Pam Ross is the au­thor of

and a mem­ber of AGRA, based

in the West Mid­lands

A bustling Cor­po­ra­tion Street in Birm­ing­ham around the turn of the 20th cen­tury

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