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Tracing Your Boer War Ancestors (Paperback)

Soldiers of a Forgotten War

Family History > Ancestors in the Armed Forces Military > Pre-WWI > Boer Wars

By Jane Marchese Robinson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Pages: 183
ISBN: 9781473822429
Published: 2nd November 2016


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The Boer War took place between 1899 and 1902, just 15 years before the start of the First World War. Some 180,000 Britons, mainly volunteers, travelled 6,000 miles to fight and die in boiling conditions on the veld and atop ‘kopjes’. Of the over 20,000 who died more than half suffered enteric, an illness consequent on insanitary water.

This book will act as an informative research guide for those seeking to discover and uncover the stories of the men who fought and the families they left behind. It will look in particular at the kind of support the men received if they were war injured and that offered to the families of the bereaved. Some pensions were available to regular soldiers and the Patriotic Fund, a charitable organisation, had been resurrected at the beginning of the conflict. However for those who did not fit these categories the Poor Law was the only support available at the time.

The book will explore a variety of research materials such as: contemporary national and local newspapers; military records via websites and directly through regimental archives; census, electoral, marriage and death records; records at the National Archives including the Book of Wounds from the Boer War, the Transvaal Widows’ Fund and others.

As mentioned in

Plymouth Herald, 19th November 2018 - words by William Telford

Robinson's book is a good read for anyone interested in learning more about the Boer War.

British Connections Vol. 18

Author interview & review

In this book, departing from the research-driven approach of others in the series, the author explores this blighted history in depth, aided by a fantastic collection of first-hand reports gleaned from families of men who were there. The actual research advice section forms an appendix and is a little brief perhaps, but nonetheless provides useful pointers, and overall this book is very useful for revealing the experiences our Boer War ancestors would have undergone.

Your Family History, Spring 2017

This book is full of interesting detail and is an engrossing read, with a full index and a list of sources for your own research.

Rotherham FHS

Researching Boer War ancestors is a popular genealogical trend. The
(Second) Boer War started in 1899 and continued until 1902. Many men from
both the UK / Commonwealth and “locals” served in this conflict. It was the
first large scale mobilization that the UK had conducted and there was about
180,000 Britons alone involved in the conflict.
Many of them were volunteers. Some enlisted in the UK and others made
their way to South Africa and then enlisted in “local” units. Around 20,000 of
them died whilst more than half suffered from enteric (an illness due to using
unclean water).
I can say from experience that researching Boer War personnel has been
made much easier by the introduction of this volume. It is a significant help
and is therefore highly recommended. It has sections on support for the war
wounded, assistance to bereaved families, pensions and similar payments as
well as many other aspects.
The book notes how newspapers, various websites, regimental archives,
census records, marriage / death records and records held by the National
Archives can be utilised. It helps by drawing into a concise volume all those
sources that can be used to develop and enhance research into this conflict. If
you wish to research a Boer War ancestor, then this volume will give you the
ideal background information necessary to produce a high-quality project.

Military Archive Research, Dr Stuart C Blank

As featured in

Tavistock Times

As featured in

Bury Times

Despite the fact that 180,000 Britons fought in the Boer War from 1899-1902, just 15 years before the start of World War I, few ordinary researchers know much about it. This new guide aims to fix that, providing a background to the war in South Africa, the regiments, the conditions, the battles, the men and the families they left behind, as well as the aftermath.

Here you can discover how to research their lives, their military service and their times using contemporary records, both on and offline, before you start exploring a lesser-known aspect of your family's story.

Family Tree, February 2017

Superb study of archive documents from a war that is now largely ignored by the vast majority of people. Jane Robinson's suggestions for finding out about an ancestor who served in this conflict are terrific, and the book will be immensely useful to archivists and genealogists.

Books Monthly, January 2017 – reviewed by Paul Norman

I read the book "Tracing your Boer War Ancestors, Soldiers of a Forgotten War" by Jane Marchese Robinson over the Christmas Period and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I know more than most people about the subject after studying it for the last 30 years as my grandfather Bombardier Thomas Wilson 54838 M Battery Royal Horse Artillery served in South Africa and got the South African Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Relief of Mafeking, Transvaal and Orange Free State.

I have corresponded with Jane over the years, as I got interested in how she was going to write a book about a war that was long over before she was born. She has done it brilliantly and it is quite refreshing to read a different account of the Boer War through the letters of the soldiers, wives, sweethearts and relatives of the soldiers pulling no punches in dealing with the social and military injustices and actions committed at the time and what we see as wrong today and would be seen as war crimes today.

Jane travelled the country and even went to South Africa to check places and facts. The result is a remarkable book that even taught me a few things I did not know. Once I picked it up I could not put it down and read it within 5 hours. If you have a relative that served in the Boer War, this book is a must.

Graham Knight, Freelance

This is an interesting work which covers aspects of the war not generally mentioned in purely military histories.

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine, January 2017 - reviewed by Phil Tomaselli

As mentioned in

The Cornishman

As featured in

The Dundee Courier

As featured in

Dorset Echo

As featured in

The Plymouth Herald

About Jane Marchese Robinson

After graduating from Birmingham University in Economic and Social History Jane spent some 30 years as an advocate for marginalised groups including the homeless, people with disabilities and mental health problems and latterly refugees. She had always loved writing but it wasn’t until 2010, when she finished working full time, that she could become fully committed and undertook the MA in Creative Writing at Plymouth University. An historical novel set at the time of the Boer War ensued. On discussion with Pen and Sword this became the basis for an historically researched book “Tracing Your Boer War Ancestors: Soldiers of a Forgotten War”. The book was published in 2016 and kindled interest in a subject which had been much overlooked.
The present book “Seeking Sanctuary, a History of Refugees in Britain” has been inspired by the work Jane undertook with refugees and asylum seekers in Plymouth as well as a personal discovery. It was only after her mother’s death in 2004 that she delved into her grandmother’s history and found that she had been one of the 250,000 Belgian refugees who fled here when the German army over ran their country in 1914. Uncovering her grandmother’s history meant learning about the fascinating story of those thousands of refugees who sought sanctuary here in the First World War.

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