Sunday 10 February 2013

A new book and a new blog (not mine!)

As a rule I'm not the newshound kind of blogger, I leave that to others who do it much better. But once in a while I want to draw attention to something new and worthwhile. I have to declare an interest,here, because I count both of these authors as friends, and one is a co-author and former colleague too. I can assure you that they are also excellent genealogists, that's why I like them.

The book is the very welcome new edition of Easy Family History by Dave Annal. I know it says David on the cover, but trust me, he answers to Dave. It is the book I would recommend to anyone starting out on family history in the UK. Like me, Dave is an 'undercover Scot'; we have both spent most of our lives in England, we sound English and people assume we are English unless we happen to drop into the conversation that we are in fact Scottish. We usually manage to do this fairly early on. Dave is particularly well placed to write a book of this kind because he has been tracing his own, mainly Scottish, ancestry since the 1980s. But being based in England, his work as a professional genealogist has been in English records. He also spent 10 years working for The National Archives, first of all at the Family Records Centre where he was Development Manager. When the FRC closed he moved to Kew, where he became the Principal Records Specialist - Family History. So he has experienced the world of family history research from all angles, over a period of enormous change, and he can write a bit, too! My only quibble with the book is its title, because family history isn't necessarily easy. But I suppose 'Family-history-isn't-always-easy-but-this-is-how-you-can-make-it-as-easy-as is-practicable' would be hard to fit on the cover, so I'll concede that one. As for the contents of the book, you don't have to take my word for it; my geni-mate and blogger Jill Ball aka Geniaus mentioned the first edition in her blog in 2011
'I am sorry that I did not also purchase Easy Family History. I rejected this title because it was a beginner's guide - I should not have done so because I am sure that I would have learnt something from this little book...'
Later, when she did obtain a copy, she said that she did indeed learn some things from it that she didn't previously know, so there you are The new edition includes some essential updates on major document releases and digitisation projects since the original version was published, and has decent sized pages instead of the chunky and inconvenient 'pocket-size' format of the previous one.

The aforesaid Geniaus provides a neat link to my other recommendation, the new blog Paul Milner Genealogy. They have just sailed out of Sydney Harbour together - no scandalous goings on, they are with a whole lot of other people on the Unlock the Past genealogy cruise. Paul is new to blogging, but I am sure he will take to it with his customary thoroughness. I first met Paul in 2003 in Orlando, when I was one of a band of Brits manning a booth and presenting at the FGS conference. This was a new experience for us, as US and UK events are very different. We looked at the schedule for the weekend, and wondered 'Who is this Milner person, who is talking on British records?' When we met him, we were impressed. He was kind enough to give me (signed) copies of his books 'Discovering your English Ancestors' (2000) and 'Discovering your Scottish Ancestors' (2002) both co-written with Linda Jonas. I scoured both volumes from cover to cover, and couldn't find any mistakes or omissions! So much has changed since they were published that both books are now sadly out of date, but at the time they were the business. Since then I have met Paul on a number of occasions, on both sides of the Atlantic, and have heard him speak several times. Thomas MacEntee provides a brief bio of Paul in his Geneabloggers post New Genealogy Blogs February 2, 2013. Paul is a Brit by birth, but has lived in the US since 1975, so you might wonder why I recommend him so highly when there are plenty of resident British genealogists, but there two good reasons. First of all, distance is not the barrier to research that it used to be, and Paul takes great pains to keep up with all the new developments. Secondly, it is precisely because he does not live in the UK that he understands the difficulties of researching from a distance, and can provide the best advice to others in the same position. This makes him an excellent choice as a speaker Down Under, where I am sure he will gain a lot of new fans.  


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