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Tracing Your West Country Ancestors (Paperback)

Family History

By Kirsty Gray
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing your Ancestors
Pages: 178
ISBN: 9781848847835
Published: 4th March 2013

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This book is an essential handbook for those researching their ancestry in the counties of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset and the city of Bristol. It begins with an introduction to the identity of 'The West Country', its geography and history over the centuries. It then guides family historians through the wealth of historical records available both online and in archives and libraries in order to add the 'flesh to the bones' of the names of ancestors on their family trees.

West Country expert Kirsty Gray highlights fascinating details that can be uncovered about the places where our ancestors lived, their occupations and the distinctive features, identity and character of the West Country itself. She provides case studies of some notable individuals from the counties as well as records of those individuals who never hit the headlines.

This practical and informative guide is a 'must have' for readers wishing to find out more about all aspects of life in this area of England.

A worth and valuable book

British Association for Local History

There is an extensive bibliography and the author includes individual case studies from a broad social structure.

Bristol and Avon Family History Society

The West Country of England is known for its distinctive character, much of which lies behind its enduring popularity for tourism. From clotted cream to tin mining, cider to the Hound of the Baskervilles, it's places, landscapes and traditions come readily to mind. The region has distinctive features for family historians, and here West Country and genealogy expert Kirsty Gray takes us on a tour of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Bristol, from a genealogical perspective. Specific chapters cover issues such as government, education, wealth, migration, military history and the importance of Nonconfirmism to the region.

Your Family Tree

It is an intriguing idea to treat the South West peninsula as a whole for family history purposes. Our ancestors did not treat parish and country boundaries as a barrier, so looking at the wider geographical area can give a new perspective. The book starts with a historical and geographical introduction to the countries of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall in addition to the city of Bristol, with discussions of populations and transport - a factor that has had a major impact of the whole of peninsula. Kirsty Gray then outlines the history of a number of different topics, including local government, the major influences the Army and Navy (Royal and Merchant) had on the region, parish registers, nonconformity and education, before concluding with a chapter on migration. I particularly liked the features in each chapter headed, 'Digging deeper,' drawing attention to some particularly helpful sources, as well as hidden treasures, which picks out some especially valuable collections or websites. There are several there that I was not aware of and I will be checking out for my own research. My main criticism, however, is the lack of any explanation of the book's layout. There are chapter-related bibliography's and lists of relevant websites, followed by a 'Resources Directory' (which includes Record Offices, Family History and other Societies and a further list of websites), but sometimes you have to hunt around to follow up an exciting looking reference in the text. In addition, though the loss of wills in Exeter in 1942 is mentioned - as is the Devon Wills Project to list many of the missing records - no mention is made of the Somerset wills destroyed in Exeter or the Cornish wills proved in Exeter, which were also lost. But despite these flaws, Tracing Your West Country Ancestors is a useful book for family historians looking to explore their roots in this fascinating region.

Who Do You Think You Are Magazine, May 2013

Tracing your West Country Ancestors will help you to place the history of your West Country family in its social and economic context. Anyone researching in Cornwall needs to know something about tin mining, whether or not their ancestors were miners. It is good to see the importance of roads, canals and railways mentioned in a book for family historians. We also need to be reminded that demography is relevant to our research. Topics such as these had important implications for all of our ancestors, and sometimes also for our research. If you want to put flesh on the bones of bare pedigrees, and to get a feel for the society in which your ancestors lived, then read this book.

Federation of Family History Societies

This book is an essential handbook for those researching their ancestry in the counties of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset and the city of Bristol.
West Country expert Kirsty Gray highlights fascinating details that can be uncovered about the places where our ancestors lived, their occupations and the distinctive features, identity and character of the West Country itself. She provides case studies of some notable individuals from the counties as well as records of those individuals who never hit the headlines.
This practical and informative guide is a ‘must have’ for readers wishing to find out more about all aspects of life in this area of England.

Kent FHS Journal

About Kirsty Gray

Kirsty Gray is a professional genealogical researcher who has made a special study of the history, and family history, of the West Country. She has been researching the story of her West Country family for many years and is the Chairman of the Guild of One-Name Studies studying the Sillifant surname and its variants. A full-time teacher by day, Kirsty also runs her own research company Family Wise Limited, is the Director of English Studies for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies and is a freelance author for various publications.

Perfect Partner

Tracing Your East Anglian Ancestors (Paperback)

Gill Blanchard's practical and informative handbook will help you to trace your ancestors in the traditional counties of East Anglia - Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex - and it will give you a fascinating insight into their lives. As well as guiding the researcher to historical records held in all the relevant archives, she explores the wealth of other resources that add the 'flesh to the bones' of our ancestors' lives. She describes how fascinating information can be discovered about the places they lived in and the important historical events they lived through, and she traces the…

By Gill Blanchard

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