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Tracing Your Ancestors Through Local History Records (Paperback)

A Guide for Family Historians

Family History > Types of Records World History

By Dr Jonathan Oates
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
Pages: 148
Illustrations: 40
ISBN: 9781473838024
Published: 2nd February 2016
Last Released: 27th February 2024


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Family history should reveal more than facts and dates, lists of names and places – it should bring ancestors alive in the context of their times and the surroundings they knew – and research into local history records is one of the most rewarding ways of gaining this kind of insight into their world. That is why Jonathan Oates’s detailed introduction to these records is such a useful tool for anyone who is trying to piece together a portrait of family members from the past.

In a series of concise and informative chapters he looks at the origins and importance of local history from the sixteenth century onwards and at the principal archives – national and local, those kept by government, councils, boroughs, museums, parishes, schools and clubs. He also explains how books, photographs and other illustrations, newspapers, maps, directories, and a range of other resources can be accessed and interpreted and how they can help to fill a gap in your knowledge.

As well as describing how these records were compiled, he highlights their limitations and the possible pitfalls of using them, and he suggests how they can be combined to build up a picture of an individual, a family and the place and time in which they lived.

As featured in June 2022

Who Do You Think You Are

All in all, I really enjoyed this book, it definitely inspires the reader to think outside the box when it comes to research. If you are a relatively new to Genealogy or Local History then this book will definitely prompt you to visit your local studies centre to see what might be on offer, it will also explain how to interpret this information. I really liked how the book provided a lot of interesting case studies showing what could be achieved from consulting some of these records.

Read the full review here

Treehouse Genealogy

As featured in

Essex Journal

Jonathan Oates’s detailed introduction to these records is such a useful tool for anyone who is trying to piece together a portrait of family members from the past.

Read the full review here

Parish Mouse

This is a book for local historians as much as those tracing families. Older books, such as those by F.G. Emmison and W.G. Hoskins, cover similar ground, but this book is a good up to date introduction to local history records for anyone embarking on research into local or family history.

Essex Journal Autumn 16

As featured in

West Surrey FHS March 2017

If you wish to gain an insight into the real lives of your ancestors then this is the book for you.

Essex Family Historian No.160

A good general overview to the subject and the author is not afraid to point out problems in the coverage and warn of possibly misleading information.

Kent Family History Society

Review on Amazon


The reader is given important guidance on how to get the maximum value from these resources.
I do not believe anything is gained by simply compiling lists of names; local history is a fascinating topic in itself. I recommend this book.

Rotherham Family History Journal Sept 2016

This new trusty Pen & Sword guide for family historians urges the more experienced researchers among us to delve deep into local history.
This is a great guide for more advanced family historians looking to move on to the next stage in the study of their family going back centuries.

Family Tree Magazine July 2016

Following an introductory brief history of England, the author moves on to the origins and importance of local history from the 16th Century onwards. He outlines the principal categories of national and local archives and explains how and where a variety of sources can be accessed as well as giving guidance to how those records can be interpreted.

B&A FHS Journal No. 164

As mentioned in

Wrexham Leader

Many of the sources discussed will be familiar to family historians to some degree, but this book offers a fresh angle on using them to learn more away from mere name-hunting.

Your Family History April 2016

There's plenty of sound and sensible advice, presented in an informal and relaxed style. While some readers might expect more factual information and less generalised description, the book is intended to give ideas and get you thinking about exploring your ancestors' world.

It is an introductory guide, to be read before you set off on that exploration.

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine May 2016

About Dr Jonathan Oates

Dr Jonathan Oates is the Ealing Borough Archivist and Local History Librarian, and he has written and lectured on the Jacobite rebellions and on aspects of the history of London, including its criminal past. His best-selling books on criminal history are John Christie of Rillington Place, John George Haigh, the Acid-Bath Murderer and London Serial Killers. He is also well known as an expert on family history and has written several introductory books on the subject including Tracing Your London Ancestors and Tracing Your Ancestors From 1066 to 1837.

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