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Book Review Index

These reviews have been provided by members of our Society.

The reviewers are:
JD - Jean Debney, JG - John Gurnett, CMBH - Catherine Harrington, JM - Jill Muir, DS - Daphne Spurling

Please use the links to find cost and information on how to buy the books.

Historical maps of World War II - Europe by Michael Swift & Michael Sharpe [PRC Publishing Ltd 1st edn 2000]

This excellent new source reference book contains over 84 coloured maps with brief notes. They relate to the Second World War in Europe and North Africa, etc. on land, in the air and at sea. All are taken from the records of several government departments held in the Public Record Office at Kew: each one is fully referenced to enable further research. I was especially interested to see the 11 maps relating to D-Day on 6 June 1944. This is an excellent reference book if you or one of your ancestors served in that war or if you are just interested in military history. (JD - Dec 2001)

Windsor (Old and New) A Thousand Years - a living history [Windsor Local History Publications Group corrected reprint 2001]
pprbk (cld illus) 7.4" (188mm) x 10.7" (245mm); illustrations, bibliography, index, 176pp
booklist details (Berkshire Places)

This book is lavishly illustrated with photographs, prints, facsimile documents and sketches, etc. and at the back is a useful appendix listing the borough mayors and ministers of the various churches and chapels in Windsor. The main text is arranged chronologically, each section was written by individual authors from this very active Local History Group. Many names are included but, sadly, there is no index. The price is a bargain because the Group obtained several grants and also included some advertising. (JD - Dec 2001)

Reading (Britain in Old Photographs) collected by P G Southerton [Sutton Publishing Ltd 1988 reprinted 2000]
ppbk (cld), 6" (153mm) x 8.7" (22OMM), illustrated, 160pp
booklist details (Berkshire Places)

A glorious collection of photographs, many not previously published, of events and people in Reading and the surrounding area. The late Peter Southerton, a former probation officer, was very interested in the history of the town in which he lived for many years and the brief captions to each picture are therefore full of fascinating detail. The collection is presented in sections labelled The birth of photography, Streets and buildings, Trade & industry, Schools & the University, Transport, Reading at war, People & events - a miscellany and The countryside around. If, like me, you missed buying your copy the first time round, now is your chance to remedy that. (JD - Dec 2001)

Are you married, or do you live in Maidenhead? A Who's Who of Maidonians by Bridget Hole [Acorn Forum 1998]
5.7" (145mm) x 8.7" (222MM), hdbk/dustjkt with B/W illus, 316pp
booklist details (Berkshire Places)

After a brief description of Maidenhead, the seven chapters each open with a brief introduction followed by lists of names and brief details of Royalty, Mayors, Roll of Honour (WWI & WWII), Once upon a time, Leisure, Children's corner and In living memory. Even within the main text, the capitalised SURNAMES are followed by the forenames. However, despite lots and lots of personal names and details - there is no index! Also, the eight photographs in the centre of the book are undated. But - if it's further information about Maidenhead folk you want then you may well discover it within these pages. (JD - Dec 2001)

The Story of a Village - Eton Wick 1217-1977 by Judith Hunter [Eton Wick Local History Group reprint 2000]
B5, ppbk, gn, illustrated with sketches & maps, etc; 68pp.
booklist details (Berkshire Places)

Originally published in 1977, the Local History Group have now republished this fascinating account of a developing community from small beginnings in the 13th century to the late 20th. Judith Hunter always writes with historical accuracy and this substantially increases the book's value to both local and family historians. However, as with many other early historical publications, the sources used are only listed in very general terms in the original preface; and there is no index. (JD - Dec 2001)

Early Medical Services in Berkshire and South Oxfordshire from 1750 by Margaret Railton [Polmwood Publications 1994]
hdbk + royal blue dust jkt (b/w illus), 158mm by 24Omm; maps inside front & back covers, illustrated, sources, index, 244pp.
booklist details (About Berkshire)

This well-researched book traces the history of medical treatment for the poor against a background of social opinions and legislation. The story is traced from the Old Poor Law in the 18th century to health care under the terms of the New Poor Law from 1834, together with the development of hospitals, dispensaries and medical societies, etc. on which the future National Health Service was built. Illustrated with photographs, sketches, facsimile documents and tables this book provides the background and suggests many sources to discover more about your ancestors and any medical care they may have received in the old county of Berkshire. (JD - Dec 2001)

Parish Gate, Vol 1 Berkshire (S.E.)

Enquire about availability

This CD-Rom contains 523 photographs of 91 parish churches in South-East Berkshire as far west as Hungerford and Yattendon. Similar CD-Roms for North Hampshire and North-West Berkshire are being prepared.

The photographic standard is excellent. Although looking dark on the monitor, the pictures print out well. A few photographs have been manipulated to remove modern artefacts, such as road signs, with both before and after versions included. The photographs are in standard JPEG format and range in size from just over 400 KB to over 2000 KB, with the majority between 1000 and 1400 KB. All the pictures can be previewed and then resized, cropped, and the brightness altered when inserted into a Word document. This manipulation would be sufficient for most family history purposes. Because of the size of the files, some actions took sufficient time for the odd cup of coffee. The website,, contains some information currently missing from the CD. Clicking on SE Berkshire gives a list of the parish churches; this is important as the coverage is not complete. Each parish has a grid reference and a map and a few parishes have a book list. Two photographs can be down-loaded as samples but detailed instructions are needed on the website for those who are not experts. At only 3p per picture, the CD seems value for money. But, the copyright rules forbid any royalty-free use other than inclusion in your own not-for-profit printed documents. (DS - Dec 2001)

Basic Facts about ... using Colindale and other Newspaper Repositories byAudrey Collins [Federation of Family History Societies 2001]
booklist details (Basic Facts)

This is the fifteenth of the 'Basic Facts' series and books of this kind can be very helpful to those starting out on the trail to find their ancestors. However, a booklet of only 16 pages can only give a glimpse of the scale of material in local and national newspapers. The London Gazette (first published in 1666) which contains information on government appointments, bankruptcies, changes of name, and honours (and incidentally is indexed) is not mentioned, but apart from one or two minor errors, it remains a good introduction to the subject. (Anon - Sep 2001)

Basic Facts about ... Research in London, Part 1: Researching London Ancestors by Lilian Gibbens [Federation of Family History Societies 2001]
booklist details (Basic Facts)

A very welcome new title to the useful 'Basic'series which, in just a few pages, gives you a quick overview of this vital topic. Anyone struggling with ancestors in London - and most folk struggle in that 'soft sand' at some time or other - would be advised to obtain a copy. (Anon - Sep 2001)

Change at Cholsey Again! by Judy & Stuart Dewey [Pie Powder Press 2001]
booklist details (Berkshire Places)

Originally published in 1986, this is a completely revised and largely re-written edition with nine special feature articles, over 400 photographs - many never published before - footnotes, references and an index. Additional information about sources and the names of the people in the many photographs are in the authors' database. It is carefully researched, well written, and a must-have for anyone with an interest in the area - which includes Moulsford and the County Asylum. (Anon - Sep 2001)

Identifying your World War 1 soldier from badges and photographs by lain Swinnerton, illustrated by Roland Symons [Federation of Family History Societies 2001]
booklist details (Military Information)

Anyone who has tried to identify a military badge will find this new publication extremely useful. It contains page after page of clear black and white drawings of cap and collar badges, badges of rank, trade and proficiency, regimental arm badges, shoulder titles, medals and, of course, 'Miscellaneous'. Three appendices cover the infantry battalions 1914-i8, Army Orders and Ranks 1915 and the Jervis WWI Photographic Index. The only defect in this otherwise excellent publication is the lack of an index; a page by page search is necessary to find an individual badge. There is ample space for this in the four blank pages at the end. (Anon - Sep 2001)

Londoners' Occupations - a Genealogical guide compiled by Stuart Raymond [Federation of Family History Societies 2nd ed 2001]

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A veritable cornucopia of printed sources to enable you to discover more about your ancestor's occupation. Arranged in sections from actors to zoo-keepers and, on the way, including gardeners, piano makers and smugglers (surely not in London?). In between there are the more familiar clergymen, policemen and many, many more. (Anon - Sep 2001)

Gibson Guide: Bishop's Trancripts & Marriage Licences, Bonds and Allegations (a guide to their location and indexes) compiled by Jeremy Gibson [Federation of Family History Societies 5th edn 2001]

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This always useful guide to sources contains updated information on addresses, relevant publications and items in the Society of Genealogists' library. The area covered includes England, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Each county section includes an outline map of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and peculiars, to assist in identifying where, and what, duplicate parish registers (bishops' transcripts) and marriage licences may be located. (Anon - Sep 2001)

Irish Ancestry - a beginner's guide by Bill Davis [Federation of Family History Societies 3rd edn 2001]

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Originally published as an introduction to Irish research this greatly expanded edition has been rewritten from the author's 20-year experience of researching his own Irish ancestors. He has also studied and given lectures on Irish history and migration. The five appendices include sections on Irish heritage and research centres, family history societies, useful addresses and websites, records and their sources and a universal bibliography.(Anon - Sep 2001)

Unlocking the Past': The Story of a Benwell family from Berkshire by Carol Angus
published by the author, 3 Southfield Road, Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire. tel: 01235 848635

booklist details (Berkshire)

This book was produced primarily for the author's mother's 80th birthday, and is an excellent idea for other family historians to emulate.

The story is set firstly in Beenham, Berkshire, in 1748 and takes us to various parts of the country before ending in Reading and Bristol around the 1940s. It begins with the marriage of Charles Benwell to Elizabeth Ayres and continues down the years, unfolding the family's history.

The book of 138 pages of text with photographs has approximately seven family trees, but sadly in the interests of space, occupations and place names have been omitted.

Each chapter contains essential historical background of the period and discussion of occupations. It was here that I wanted to return to the main story, where the author shows a good sense of living through the tragedies and happy times of her family.

It is a book with particular interest for those having Berkshire ancestors and with an interest in the surnames covered. Generally, it has a warm, family feel running throughout the book, and an excellent first attempt at putting one's research into print. A good read for the cover price of £6.00. (JM - June 2001)

DNA for Family Historians by Alan Savin [Published by the author]
booklist details (Useful Books)

As well as securing the conviction of criminals DNA is fast becoming a new way of proving relationships for the family historian. One of the author’s primary aims is to explain a complex area of genetics in language that can be understood by laymen. The book explores the potential use of DNA especially when a dead end has been reached due to the lack of traditional documentary evidence. The author uses real case studies like the skeletons found which were finally identified as the last Czar of Russia and his family only after Prince Philip gave a blood sample. A useful introduction to an area of research that may be used much more in the years to come. (JG - June 2001)

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© Berkshire Family History Society 2001, 2002

updated 23rd June 2002
reorganised 25th February 2003
amended 3rd September 2004