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Saturday, 20 May 2017

Books that have Inspired my Family History

         "Which five books have you found most useful  in your  
                                         genea activities?

This is the challenge that Jill Ball  of GeniAus has thrown at us, picking up on a  blog post from Meg Carney blogging on the QSQ blog.

My focus is more on the  books that have inspired my family history writing,  and given me a better understanding of the lives of my ancestors. 

  • Wiliam and Christina:  One Woman's Search for her Ancestors, by Hilary Wallace Forester.   Published by William Sessions Limited, 1988.
 I first came across this book years ago  at my local archive centre  and was immediately attracted by its format.  The author traces the story of her great grandparents,  William Wallace and Christina Galbraith   - their ancestors and descendants;  the background to their lives;  and the places and times in which they lived.  

My own story of "James and Maria" owes much to her approach,  though it is over several volumes narrating each branch of the family,.


  • Who Do You Think You Are?  The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History. by Dan Waddell.  BBC Books, 2004.
I bought this at an early stage of being serious about my family history. Written to accompany the major BBC TV series, it offers a basic guide to research with examples of the lives unearthed by the celebrities in the TV  - an inspiration for us to take up the research challenge. 

  •      "How to be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman, published by the Penguin Group in 2013.
Do you want to find out what life was really like for your ancestors living  in Victorian Britain?    The book gives us an insight  into how Victorians lived their daily lives, whether they be rich of poor, town or country based.  Material has been gathered from contemporary accounts,  letters, diaries, newspapers and magazines.   

The author takes an innovative approach by following a typical routine  day in all its detail  from Waking Up in the Morning  to Evening Behind the Bedroom Door.

Of added interest are the descriptions by the  author of her attempts to experience some aspects  of Victorian life  - such as doing the laundry, trying out Victorian recipes, heating the home or  struggling into the multi layers of dress.

We often can gather information quite easily on the life of the upper classes, but the emphasis here is very much on the day to day lives  of ordinary people - in other words like most of our ancestors. 

  •  Out of the Dolls House, by Angela Holdsworthy:  the story of women n the 20th century,. BBC Books, 1988,
In many ways the book complements my third title listed above.   It presents a social history  exploring  the changing role of women of all ages and social backgrounds, and relates to the lives of our mothers and grandmothers. 

  • Local Histories - too numerous to mention individually.

    Again these are invaluable in  putting our ancestors lives in the wide context of where they lived.  My "ancestral" home is Poulton-le-Fylde near Blackpool, Lancashire and I try to buy every local history book on the small town.   I have discovered photographs of my great uncle in a local football team,  early class photographs of where my aunt and mother went to school, and the terraced house (since demolishes),  where my great grandmother raised  a large family of eight  sons, one daughter and one granddaughter.   


A message from Jill of GeniAus
To participate in this meme,  simply pen a blog post sharing details of five books written by others you have found most useful in your geneactivities.  Use the above graphic to decorate your post if you wish. Please let me know via a comment on my  post HERE  or via another form of social media when your post is done and I will add it to a compilation that I will publish on this blog in early June. 



  1. Thanks Sue. A fascinating list - the How to be a Victorian title sounds like a good read.

  2. I have seen "How to be a Victorian" from the library - I should revisit. I have "What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew" to also be very useful in understanding the nineteenth century.



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