My An­ces­tor was a Leather Worker

By Ian Waller

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

(So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists, 259 pages, £9.99 9) This au­thor­i­ta­tive ad­di­tion to the So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists’ ‘ My An­ces­tor Was...’ se­ries is jam-packed with in­for­ma­tion about Bri­tish leather trades.

It’s di­vided into chap­ters on tan­ners, cur­ri­ers and leather mer­chants; the shoe­mak­ing in­dus­try; sad­dle and har­ness mak­ers; glove mak­ing; and other leather trades such as book binders and cricket ball mak­ers. This ti­tle is par­tic­u­larly strong on shoe­mak­ing – the au­thor’s an­ces­tor was a cord­wainer.

As the book as­sumes some pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of fam­ily his­tory, it’s not ideal for begin­ners. Sug­gested sources to trace leather worker an­ces­tors in­clude records of fire in­sur­ance, ap­pren­tice­ships, bank­ruptcy and guilds. Al­though some on­line sources are men­tioned, no web ad­dresses are quoted, per­haps to avoid the book be­com­ing out of date too quickly.

There is much to learn from this book, for in­stance, the dif­fer­ence be­tween learn­ers and ap­pren­tices, and the fact that shoe­mak­ers usu­ally had a se­cond oc­cu­pa­tion. With such a high level of de­tail, the amount of in­for­ma­tion can be dif­fi­cult to di­gest and will re­quire re-read­ing sev­eral times.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion of the text within the chap­ters could per­haps have been more reader-friendly. For ex­am­ple, the term ‘ last’ is men­tioned early in the shoe­mak­ing chap­ter but is not de­fined un­til much later on (it’s the model of the foot around which the shoe is formed).

This ti­tle boasts 121 il­lus­tra­tions but sadly, large num­bers of them are too small to be use­ful – un­less you have a mag­ni­fy­ing glass to hand. The in­dex con­sists of sur­names and or­gan­i­sa­tions men­tioned in the book but it does not in­clude sub­jects. This means that the reader needs to trawl through the text to find ref­er­ences to, say, cur­ri­ers or glovers. Aside from th­ese mi­nor is­sues, this book is a well-re­searched hand­book for any­one with an­ces­tors in the leather trades.

Michelle Higgs is an au­thor spe­cial­is­ing in so­cial

his­tory and fam­ily his­tory This down­load of parish reg­is­ters for Beaudesert in War­wick­shire also con­tains nu­mer­ous other records plus a wide range of his­tor­i­cal in­for­ma­tion and pho­tos. It also boasts records of bap­tisms 1661-1781; mar­riages, 1664-1776; and buri­als, 1662-1776.

is par­tic­u­larly strong on the tra­di­tional trade of shoe­mak­ing

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