Tracing Your Georgian Ancestors 1714-1837: A Guide for Family Historians, due to be published by Pen & Sword in March 2018, is aimed not only at total newcomers to research before 1837, but also at readers with more experience who wish to improve their knowledge of the sources available and the relevant historical background. The four Hanoverian kings named George reigned successively from 1714 to 1830, but the Georgian era is often considered to include the short reign of William IV, whose death in 1837 ushered in the long Victorian era. This definition is particularly relevant in a family history context, as William died only eleven days before civil registration was introduced.
Fewer sources are available for researching ancestors who lived before 1837 than for those who lived in the Victorian era with its civil registration and census records. Church records recorded less genealogical information than was recorded in civil registration records, and no national censuses recording place of birth were taken before 1851, although this information can sometimes be found in, or inferred from, other sources. The information recorded in church registers is often insufficient in itself to enable sound relationships to be established, so it is frequently necessary to seek corroborating evidence in other sources. Overcoming brick walls before 1837 often requires identifying very specific sources, as well as establishing where they are held or how they can be accessed. Although many books have been published in which information on sources for the Georgian era can be found, basic books on family history often give greater prominence to more recent sources, and it is not always obvious which sources are particularly relevant to the Georgian era in those books that encompass the whole of the period from the Middle Ages to the present day. Furthermore, understanding the significance of information in historical records often requires greater knowledge of the historical context than is provided in most family history books. Researchers venturing into the more challenging period before civil registration without such knowledge are more likely to encounter brick walls or be led astray. Although historical knowledge can be gradually built up through wide reading, few books on relevant topics have been written with family history researchers in mind.
Many years ago I recognised the need for a book focusing on the sources available for research in the hundred years or so before civil registration, which would also include relevant historical background information, and after several years as a professional genealogist, I decided to write such a book myself. Copies of Tracing your Georgian Ancestors 1714-1837 can be pre-ordered from booksellers or directly from Pen & Sword.