Tracing Your Birmingham Ancestors
By Michael Sharpe
(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