Review: Supplement to How to Write a Family History

Charles Darwin. 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in....

A Supplement to How to Write the History of a Family: A Guide for the Genealogist. By W.P.W. Phillimore. London: the Author. 1896.

This is a continuation, pagination, included, of two previous editions of the volume. The author had decided to revise the earlier editions, but due to some inspiration, made a supplement to the second edition, instead. The chapters in the earlier volumes are referenced in this supplement, but due to the lack of the earlier edition online or in a library nearby, I can’t say how well linked they are.

Mr. Phillimore is perhaps better known as the publisher of many compilations of parish records, marriage, death, and birth, for various parts of England. These compilations, many of which are also available online now, are valuable resources. The presence online of the previous editions of this book would be more greatly appreciated, since the chapters and sections lack continuity in many cases.

There are numerous additions to the lists of records to be consulted by a genealogist. Some of these records perhaps don’t exist anymore due to age and the vagaries of time and war, but are valuable references to things that people used in their own studies. Some of the more interesting bits from other studies, such as biological science and law might also be helpful to serious researchers in other fields.

The notes on anthropometry are interesting as they formed the basis in later years for the study of eugenics, a practice used for racial and ethnic discrimination. The biological aspect of the study is Darwinian or Malthusian and reminds me of the study of peas in grade school. 🙂 The previous editions must have included much more of the same or more along these lines as Charles Darwin’s theories were published about the same time as they were.

They typography for the volume is interesting. It includes several “swashes” and ligatures to characters which add a dimension to what might seem to be an ordinarily boring old book. The typeface seems to be a form of Bembo, a classic typeface for scholarly work. It is an easily read face which adds character.

Due to the age of the writing and the content, with all of its period biases and knowledge gained to date by the author, the book has a sort of quaint feel to it. The additions to the pages seem like marginalia, but are meant to be addenda, much the same as notes made by a student continuing their study by writing in the book itself. (Personally an unwelcome practice, as it will reduce the book’s resale value.)

The lessons learned and the knowledge one will gain from having this unique perspective is invaluable, however. Knowing what records existed at the time and how they were used will give you a keener insight into the published genealogies from years past.

This book is freely available on Google Books.

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research