Ancestral Trails


The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History (2nd. ed.)

by M.D. Herber

Published by: Sutton Publishing, in association with the Society of Genealogists (2005) xxi, 873 pp. ISBN 0-7509-4198-7.

This second edition of the award-winning original is indeed, as claimed on the cover, "fully updated and revised". The set of chapters remains unchanged, but the total number of pages has increased by over two hundred, due to all the additional material the author has incorporated, mainly in order to deal with new sources of information, especially online information, that has become available since the first edition was published.

Almost all of the thirty chapters have been significantly expanded, in particular those on: Census Records; Parish Registers; Archives, Libraries and Family History Societies; Wills and Administrations; Records of the Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force; Records of Shipping and Seamen; Records of Trades, Professions and Business; Peerages, the Gentry, Famous People and Heraldry; Further Property Records; Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; and Immigration, Emigration and Investigation Abroad.

For example, the chapter on Parish Records has ten more pages and includes entire new sub-chapters on The British Isles Vital Records Index, The National Burial Index, and the Family History Online Website, as well as lots of additional text about information that is now available on CD-ROM and on the Internet, either free or in pay-per-view sites. As a second example, the 57-page chapter on Records of Shipping and Seamen (which was only 40 pages before) has new sections on Naval Reserves, Servicewomen, Casualties and Honours, Naval Medals, Pensions for Ratings, Courts Martial, Registers of Seamen 1913-41, Registers of Seamen 1942-72, and War Service of Merchant Seamen.

There is one additional Appendix, Web Sites for Family Historians, which though it carefully provides details of more extensive such listings, itself lists almost two hundred carefully-selected web-sites. The Bibliography, which originally listed 978 books now contains no fewer than 1342 entries.

With all the effort that Mark Herber has put into updating and extending this, the most important single book on UK genealogy and family history, it is not surprising that the illustrative summary that he provided in the first edition, in the chapter Combining Sources of Information, of the results of his own researches into the lives of several of his ancestors has not been updated for the second edition. Indeed, it would not be at all surprising to learn that he has had no time at all for his own research in recent years, but in fact, from the illustrations he gives elsewhere of information from newly-available resources, in particular online resources, e.g. concerning census records, he has evidently found at least some time for his own family history.

To sum up, the review of the first edition described it as "amazingly comprehensive" - nevertheless this new edition is a significant improvement, and well worthy of space on every serious researcher's bookshelf. Brian.Randell[at]newcastle.ac[dot]uk