02 March 2013

Book Review: Birth Marriage And Death Records

Birth Marriage And Death Records
by Audrey Collins and David Annal
A Guide For Family Historians
Format: Paperback
Date of publication: September 2012
Publisher: Pen and Sword
ISBN: 9781848845725
I've been looking forward to reading this book since Audrey Collins mentioned she was working on it over two years ago, and finally got my hands on a copy at WDYTYA Live.
The first six chapters take you through records for vital events in England and Wales from the establishment of the requirement to keep parish registers under King Henry VIII to the present day. Changes to institutional arrangements and regulations are covered such as during Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth period. There are mini-biographies of the main people who influenced the evolution of the system. The last of these chapter's touches on how the horrendous task of compiling the indexes was managed before computerization; as a full time job sorting must have been mind-numbing - it's surprising the indexes are as good as they are.
While these chapters account for the bulk of records there are numerous other sources: nonconformist registers; overseas and at sea; military; Scotland; Ireland; the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, all given explicit coverage.
Divorce and Adoption records warrant separate chapters as do Unexpected Records and advice on accessing the records An appendix on legislation, a bibliography and index complete the volume.
This is as comprehensive a treatment as most would want in order to understand the records and their idiosyncrasies.
If the authors ever update the book I hope they consider providing citations, not just a bibliography. I'd also hoped to find a consolidated discussion of the year to year variation of the statistics pointing out how social and administrative changes are reflected.

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