Putting Your Ancestors in their Place

A Guide to One Place Studies – by Janet Few

(The Family History Partnership, 2014), A5, perfect bound, 96 pp.

Janet is a well-known and experienced historical interpreter, lecturer, family, social and community historian. She works as an historical interpreter, spending time living in the C17th as Mistress Agnes. Her recent works include editing The Family Historian’s Enquire within (2014) and writing Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs: the lives of our C17th ancestors (2012).

The sub-title of this book – A Guide to One Place Studies – may suggest that it holds only limited interest for family historians. But the book is just as valuable to family and local historians as it is to students of the history of one place, as researches into these three historical branches frequently overlap and support each other. The author’s experienced style means the main text of the book is clear and well written.

The author has divided the twelve chapters of the book into three parts: Setting the Scene, Sources for One Place Studies and Pulling it All Together.

The first part of the book, of three chapters, describes how to choose your location; understand its boundaries and route ways; and get to know its past and present inhabitants. The next seven chapters of the book comprise its second part and look at the main research sources available, century by century, highlighting the most useful sources for each period. The final part deals with putting the information gathered together, making connections through kinship webs, occupations and residential histories. Dr Few rounds off her book with example one place study websites, and references to relevant magazines, societies and courses.

The main text of the book comprises short articles, often including website sources of information. Frequently scattered throughout the book are the project “homework” articles on each topic, together with practical advice on achieving completing the project task. The latter often give added clarity to the main text articles preceding them, although some readers may find their inclusion disrupting to the flow of the main text.

While this book is principally concerned with one place studies, it does nevertheless provide a wealth of useful information to the family historians, particularly for those who need to find less usual sources of information on their ancestors or wish to flesh out the times and social contexts of them. As such this interesting and readable book can be thoroughly recommended to family historians.

Tony Roberts

Additional information