Book Review: The Genealogist’s Internet

The Genealogist’s Internet, by Peter Christian

One thing that bothers me, and this is not so much an issue with the book as with the context in which I found it, is that my library stocks so many books about genealogy that are not necessarily helpful to most of the people from the library. This is a book that is a great read for someone who happens to be a British genealogist. I am not; I happen to be American, and this book was found in a suburban Oregon library system even though it is not particularly relevant in most of its contents to the vast majority of people there who are interested in family history. While I do have a fair amount of ancestry that comes from the British Isles, most of that ancestry left England, Scotland, and so on about 300 to 400 years ago, too far ago for most of this book’s contents to be of immediate use (there are some exceptions, discussed below). This book is written under the assumption that the reader is a British (or Irish) family historian who wants British internet resources for recent family history explorations, and that is not the sort of material that would be of use to me or to the majority of other family historians who like me share only distant ties to Great Britain from the colonial period. This is a useful book, but only for someone with the right recent British background.

This book is a pretty long one at more than 400 pages and 22 chapters. The book begins with a preface and a concern about disappearing resources. This is followed by an introduction (1) and a beginner’s guide to genealogy online (2). This is followed by a look at online starting points in the British Isles (3) as well as the importance of using online sources (4). This is followed by a discussion of civil registration in Great Britain (5), census information (6), church records (7), property, taxation, and the law (8), occupational data (9), armed forces (10) information, and migration and colonies (11). This is then followed by a discussion of migration and colonies (11), print sources (12), archives and libraries (13), and surnames, pedigrees, and families (14). This is then followed by chapters that deal with such matters as geography (15) and history (16) for the British Isles. The author then returns to sources by looking at photographs (17), discussion forums (18), and search engines (19). The author closes with chapters about publishing one’s family history online (20), looking at the world of family history (21), and dealing with issues for online genealogists (22), after which there is a glossary, bibliography, and index.

There are a few exceptions to the general uselessness of this book for American genealogists with distant ties to the British Isles, though, and these are worth pointing out. For one, the book does highlight a lot of regional sites as well as sites where one can interact with other family historians, and this is useful even if one’s ties to these families are highly distant, as is the case for me personally and many other potential readers of this book. This book also includes a lot of worthwhile references to parish churches and their information, and I have found myself that this information is immensely worthwhile and goes back a long way, making it a good source for people who can trace their ancestry back to the pre-colonial period and still find a few generations of data in small parish records, which is very useful. To be sure, most of this book deals with information from the last century or so, and makes a big deal about the digitization of the first post-independence Irish census, which is pretty useless to someone whose last Irish descendants left in the period decades before the famine. Even so, for those who will find this book useful, it is well worth reading nonetheless.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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