Family history, cultures, and faiths

Family history, cultures, and faiths: how your ancestors lived and worshipped

Michael Gandy
The National Archives, 2007, £7.99, Pbk., 278p., ISBN 9781905615117

This book is a guide to the wide variety of religious sources that are available for tracing family history. It is not a guide to sources for the history of religion, but rather a guide to sources for family history in the records of Christian denominations and other religions from the 16th until the 20th centuries. The book is in the small format that the National Archives use for a number of their family history guides, but its 278 pages are packed with information nevertheless.

Michael Gandy gives a brief historical background in the first chapter. He then devotes a whole chapter to records of ‘life stages’ – primarily birth/baptism, marriage and death. These are the core records for family historians of course. He then goes on to consider archives of particular denominations, sources for those who moved for the sake of religion, Catholic, Jacobite, Huguenot and Jewish records, and archives of South Asian cultures and faiths. He completes the book with an A-Z list of sources, a list of useful web sites and an index.

He not only describes well-known sources in local authority archives such as, parish registers, and records in the National Archives, such as pre-1837 non-conformist registers, but also lesser known sources. Did you know for example that the records of the Muggletonians are in the British Library? He offers advice about which sources are likely to be of most use for finding records of particular family events. For example, between 1753 and 1837, everyone, apart from Quakers and Jews, had to get married in an Anglican church. Many people from other cultures and faiths have long since settled in Britain from the 17th century until the present day. Michael Gandy also gives information about the sources that these communities created and other sources in which they may appear.

Family History Cultures and Faiths will be very useful to researchers tracing their ancestors as it is inevitable that they will need to use religious records since all our ancestors were involved with religious practice to a greater or lesser extent. Those who want to know more about the records that Christian and other faiths have created will also want to read this book.

 Contributed by: Richard Knight, BA, MCLIP, who is Principal Officer: Local Studies and Archives for the London Borough of Camden.