BOOKS & DATA DISCS
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.