My Ancestor was a Leather Worker
By Ian Waller
(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 Although some online sources are mentioned, no web addresses are quoted, perhaps to avoid the book becoming out of date too quickly.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