Making a Pedigree : An Introduction to Sources for Early Genealogy - 3rd edn

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 116 pages
Author: J. Unett & A. Duncan
Year: 1997
ISBN: 9781859510483
Other: 3rd ed., bibliog
Publisher: Society of Genealogists


Making a Pedigree was the first genealogical book I ever bought, partly because of the appeal of its direct title, and partly because it was a short book available at a time when most research guides were bible-long. Although the world of genealogy has changed greatly since it was first written, it still has much relevance, and is a book to which I constantly return.

When John Unett first perceived the idea of the book, genealogical researchers in the United Kingdom were predominantly middle class, male, and confidently expected to find their ancestors among the annals of the yeomen of old England. Such is not the case to-day, with the genealogist enjoying access to an international network of sources, proliferating family history societies and more guide books on offer than one could read in a single lifetime. Help and advice is at hand to-day, not just for the genealogist in search of a traditional rural past, but for anyone interested in his roots, be they humble or exalted, solidly British or scattered worldwide.

I was delighted when asked to update this new edition of Making a Pedigree, for, although there are many hundreds of printed guides for the genealogist, John Unett’s work remains of great value. Most of the more recent genealogical guides have dealt with fairly modern records, or with locally-held material, and there is a danger of us neglecting the great series of archives held at the Public Record Office. While it is true that the assumption that his readers will have a rural background can no longer be made, he describes the philosophy behind genealogical research with a clarity that is unrivalled.

John Unett explains and illustrates many of the more daunting archives with brevity and lucidity. His detailed descriptions of legal, land and taxation records and their use to the genealogist are unequalled. While one may be a long way in one’s own research from an examination of the Feet of Fines or Close Rolls, his confidence that one will get there, and can cope with them, is heartening. He shows an understanding of the more ancient records, gleaned from years of patient research, in language both simple and eloquent. His reiterated advice that, no matter how convenient indexes, transcripts and abstracts may be, one must always return to the original source is salutary at a time when primary document research seems to be giving way to
reliance on the products of technological advances and other researchers’ labours. 

The other great lesson of the book is that one can never make assumptions from the records, one must always draw up the pedigree from what the document actually says, not what one thinks it might imply. Different pedigrees of the same family compiled from various records are set out, with the reasoning behind each one given clearly. It is a lesson that must be constantly re-learned by the genealogist, amateur or professional, and is one of the hardest of all to absorb.

In updating the book, a new chapter has been added. This deals with nineteenth century sources. Whilst it would have been tempting to include many other aspects of genealogical research, particularly consideration of the relevance of centralised records for Scottish, Irish and Welsh genealogy, and the impact of computerisation on family history research, such is not my brief. Unett is a short book, elegantly written, which should lead one to other, more detailed, publications. To that end, a bibliography has been added, and the text itself points out areas where further reading will be useful. Two new abbreviations are given: PRO for Public Record Office and CRO for County Record Office.

After much soul-searching, I have let stand the author’s allusion to the genealogistas ‘he’, although I am aware that many women have taken up genealogy in recent years. For me, much of the book’s charm lies in its evocation of days long past, when documents were read in their original form as a matter of course, when archivists had time to spend on individual enquiries from gentlemen genealogists, and parish registers were still housed in the parish chest in the custody of a male incumbent. I hope that the members of my own sex will excuse me this indulgence. 


Introduction to third edition
Introduction to 1961 edition
Nineteenth Century sources
Parish records, nonconformist sources
and the parish chest
Style of wills over the centuries
Administrations and Inventories
Holding and transfer of land
Court Rolls, copyholders and Charter Rolls
Inquisitions Post Mortem
Inquisitions ad Quod Damnum
Marriage settlements
Charters and leases
Law and administration
Ecclesiastical administration and records
Bills and Answers
Chancery Proceedings
Fine Rolls and Patent Rolls
Close Rolls
Pipe Rolls, Plea Rolls, and some central court records
Hearth Taxes, Poll Taxes and Muster Rolls
Knights, esquires and gentlemen
Visitations and the right to bear arms
Victoria County Histories, record societies, family
and parish histories
Select bibliography

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Making a Pedigree : An Introduction to Sources for Early Genealogy - 3rd edn

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