Over 50 years being a family historian and professional genealogist is explored in what is a very readable and highly informative book, published as one of a series of Street-wise guides by EER.
The adjective ‘Streetwise’ according to one online dictionary means: ‘….having the shrewd awareness, experience, and resourcefulness needed for survival in a difficult, often dangerous urban environment….’ This book certainly lives up the first part of the definition- how to deal shrewdly and resourcefully with the problems encountered when carrying out family history research.
Lady Teviot is well known from her association with the FFHS – former President and now life Vice-President- and her lectures especially overseas. This book distils the wisdom and information contained in those talks.
The format is interesting. Part is in effect an autobiography, referring to her experiences and those of her husband, Lord Teviot, in their family history researches. Part is an explanation of sources, which are regularly used by family history researchers: parish registers, censuses, the parish chest. However, the bulk of the book concentrates on sources and facts which will be unknown to most of its readers. The Chapters on Underused Sources of Genealogical Research, as well as those on Medicines and Illnesses, Baby Farming, Workhouses, Lunatic Asylums and Hospitals are quite a revelation.
In the chapter entitled ‘Sight Unseen’ the author gives a very good appraisal and overview of how Websites can assist the researcher, who uses the internet and a selection of Key Websites concludes the book. Almost worth buying for these chapters alone. The book will appeal to researchers at all levels: everyone who reads it will learn something new and it will assist them to carry out their hobby in new directions. A first class read!
Reviewed by David Lambert, June 2018
Sussex Family History Group
When I was first handed a copy of Lady Mary Teviot’s book, The Street-wise Guide to Doing Your Family History I did indeed consider myself to be already “Street-wise”. However, reading this I realise that not only are there more sources of information out there but sources I have already consulted could perhaps be used in a different and more successful way. We start with an introduction into how Lady Teviot became interested in family history and where that journey has led her to becoming an internationally known expert on family history research. This moves into a chapter on the General Register Office (GRO); usually the first point of call for those new to family history. We are guided through the history of the legal registration of births, marriages and deaths and how in the early days the system was open to exploitation by those looking to earn extra money. One Registrar in the All Souls sub-district for Marylebone between 1840 and 1844 was prosecuted for making huge numbers of fictitious entries! We continue into census returns; their history, their use to the family historian, the information we can glean from them and perhaps most importantly, the pitfalls and frustrations that they contain. Discussion then moves to the Parish Registers and their amazing 480 years of history and change. We are offered some fun anecdotes and excellent tips on where to find these registers, how to interpret them and how to use them. For me personally, the next chapter was extremely interesting; The Parish Chest. Here we learn about the documents that belong to the incumbent and the vestry: Churchwarden’s accounts, overseer’s accounts, rate books, apprentice records, highway accounts, glebe terriers, tithe records, removal orders, bastardy orders, settlement examinations vagrancy records, hearth tax and window tax. All of these are excellent sources for the family historian and we are guided through them with expert, practical knowledge and how to use them to add some meat to the bones of your ancestors. This leads us nicely into the underused sources of genealogical research in the UK; again this offers not only new places to search for information but where you need to go to actually find it! The chapter on baby farming made for a very interesting, if slightly morbid read, and as a lover of death certificates I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on medicines and illness. There is a lot of useful guidance on the terms and phrases seen on old death certificates and how illness has changed over the decades. This links nicely with the chapter on hospital records which guides us through where to find records, if indeed they still exist, and the information they may contain. Institutions like workhouses and lunatic asylums are an invaluable source of information and we learn about their history, the types of records that may be available and of course, where to find them. For the final two chapters we turn to the internet; guidance on using it and some of the best websites available. This book steers the family historian beginner in the right direction and for the more experienced it shows you some new avenues to explore. For me it offers two of the best pieces of advice for all family historians; take nothing at face value and Google everything! A good addition to anyone’s bookshelf.