Bestselling family history books to buy this Christmas


18 November 2020
Read our top 10 recommended books for family historians to buy this Christmas.

1. Introducing Manorial Records: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Manor for Family Historians By Ian H Waller

Subtitled ‘Unlocking the Mysteries of the Manor for Family Historians’, Introducing Manorial Records really does do this – making the intriguing, but perhaps daunting, topic of manorial records suddenly seem a lot more comprehensible.

There are chapters on using and finding manorial documents, and also coverage in the book that explains the history of the manor, the reason behind the courts, why certain types of records were created, the various roles of the manorial officials and the meaning of many of the terms and phrases.

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2. Tracing Your Scottish Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians By Chris Paton

Chris Paton’s latest book is packed with enticing, intriguing nuggets such as these woven in, as well as – primarily of course – containing a thoroughly comprehensive overview of the wealth of internet related resources useful for researching Scottish ancestors.

With dedicated chapters and sections on specific occupations and for each county for instance, the book is an extremely useful reference guide to dip into and find websites to help you learn more about a specific record. 

3. Defiant: The Untold Story of the Battle of Britain by Robert Verkaik

Casting new light on the role of the third British fighter – the Defiant – in combatting the Luftwaffe onslaught of 1940, Verkaik has uncovered records and top secret memos. Using this new-found information, and interviews with relations of Defiant pilots and gunners, he aims to set the record straight, even if it means revealing some inconvenient truths about the Dunkirk myth.

4. Children at War 1914-1918 By Vivien Newman

Looking at the experiences of children on both sides of the conflict (allies and enemies) – in the classroom and at the Front – this is a remarkable book that will add so much to our understanding of a child’s life during World War I. One of the striking aspects was the many first-hand accounts of the war, that Dr Newman has uncovered, which allow us to hear their voices and views in their own words – at times surprisingly perceptive, at others surprisingly gory, at all times poignant

5. Finding Your Scottish Ancestors: Techniques for Solving Genealogy Problems By Kirsty F Wilkinson

Whether you’ve only just discovered Scottish ancestors in your lineage or have been tracing forebears from Scotland for decades, Kirsty Wilkinson’s new guide has plenty of helpful advice and ideas for resources.

The book begins with a helpful overview of the main records used to trace Scottish ancestors, moving on the repositories and websites where you might find these.

6. Secret Casualties of World War Two by Simon Webb

Subtitled ‘Uncovering the civilian deaths from friendly fire’, this book looks at ‘one of the last secrets of the Second World War’. Namely the casualties caused as a result of the government decision to direct British Army shells towards the cities, to deter people from fleeing the German bombing raids. A policy that Simon Webb lays firmly at the feet of Winston Churchill. Uncomfortable reading, but as family historians perhaps we should not shy from turning over such stones.

7. A Schoolmaster’s War By Jonathan Rée

In the summer of 2016, 15 years after his father Harry Rée had died, historian Jonathan Rée received a message inviting him to France, to attend the rededication of a memorial plaque. It was this spark, and the realisation that there was so much more about his father that he never knew, that encouraged Jonathan to research his father’s war years.

Fortunately his father – while not speaking of his war experiences, except in the self-effacing, understated way that many of us might recognise in our parents or grandparents – had left behind war writings and correspondence too. These pieces of evidence were to prove essential to his research.

8. The Home Front 1939-1945 in 100 objects by Austin J Ruddy

Austin J Ruddy employs images of his life-long colletion of WW2 artefacts with his decades of research into the Home Front to create a fascinating visual read. Great for bitesize reading and sparking family memories too.

9. Churchyards by Roger Bowdler

Part of Amberley’s Britain’s Heritage series, this slimline volume packs in plenty of interesting facts. Roger Bowdler’s simple delight in, and respect for, churchyards emanates from every page as he strives to explain ‘why these places matter so much.

Social history and geology; religious belief and the rise of literacy; lettering and the history of taste; carving and poetry; and the attempts of the British to accept the inevitability of death and come to terms with sorrow’

10. Cobbold’s Wortham: The Portrait of a Victorian Village edited by Sue Heaser

An extraordinary discovery in the archives of Suffolk Record Office has led to the creation of this beautiful and enlightening book, which features the artwork of the Reverend Richard Cobbold (1797-1877), who was rector of the village of Wortham for half a century.


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