BOOKS & DATA DISCS

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Karen Bali

This month’s fam­ily his­tory in­spi­ra­tion

The his­tory be­hind a fam­ily’s mi­gra­tion fr­rom Kenya, and the de­cline in op­por­tu­ni­ties for work in do­mes­tic ser­vice. A teacher’s thoughts onn hear­ing that the fa­thers of half her pupils had gone down with the Ti­tanic. These are among the sub­jects un­earthed by this ex­cel­lent new book from Pen and Sword.

Karen Bali has de­voted much of her work­ing life to help­ing peo­ple find liv­ing rel­a­tives. She has vast ex­pe­ri­ence of re­search­ing fam­ily his­tory in mod­ern times and this shows in her new guide to re­search in the 20th cen­tury.

The book starts with a pot­ted his­tory of the cen­tury, set­ting our own and our an­ces­tors’ lives into con­text – any­one re­mem­ber when the choice of com­puter was Acorn, Am­strad or Sin­clair? Or when the neigh­bours came in to ad­mire a new-fan­gled wash­ing ma­chine? When a di­vorce in the fam­ily was widely con­sid­ered a dis­grace?

The rest of the book dis­cusses in de­tail the main sources avail­able and where you might find them. She also touches on some less fa­mil­iar ar­eas – for ex­am­ple the chap­ter on con­flict and de­fence in­cludes use­ful sec­tions on air raid war­dens and the Women’s Land Army. Not ev­ery­thing avail­able is on­line, but a con­sid­er­able amount is. For the records that aren’t made avail­able for rea­sons of pri­vacy, there’s dis­cus­sion of how to make an ap­pli­ca­tion, and the like­li­hood of suc­cess.

There’s a help­ful sec­tion on how to ap­proach liv­ing rel­a­tives (a let­ter gives the best chance of suc­cess while an ex­cited phone call might cause a panic about iden­tity theft), plus a dis­cus­sion on the dif­fer­ence be­tween re­quests cov­ered by the Data Pro­tec­tion and Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Acts.

The book is writ­ten in an easy style with help­ful il­lus­tra­tions, a work­able in­dex and plenty of open­ings for fur­ther re­search, all in­ter­spersed with il­lus­trated case his­to­ries from the au­thor’s own ex­pe­ri­ence. The main fo­cus is on re­search in Eng­land and Wales, but re­search pos­si­bil­i­ties in Scot­land and Ire­land are fre­quently men­tioned. It’s also a book you’ll find use­ful if you’re search­ing from over­seas.

The book is widely re­searched and has been as­sem­bled on the ba­sis of long ex­pe­ri­ence in us­ing the doc­u­ments con­cerned.

If you’re hav­ing trou­ble with your most re­cent an­ces­tors Karen Bali may have come up with a so­lu­tion for you – it’s cer­tainly well worth a look.

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