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Railway Ancestors: A Guide to the Staff Records of the Railway Companies of England and Wales 1822-1947 by David T. Hawkings. Published by Alan Sutton Publishing Limited, Phoenix Mill, Far Thrupp, Strood, Gloucestershire, England. 1995. xviii, 509 pp. Tables, figures, bibliography, index. Hardback. £25.

This excellent research tool can be divided into two sections. The first section of nine chapters covers 181 pages and provides us with a description of the railway records that provide information about individuals. The second section provides seven appendices, a bibliography and indexes covering a further 329 pages.

In the nine chapters we find descriptions with examples of the different records groups. We read about: George Wynne who investigates the crash in April 1850 caused by the collapse of a bridge; Ralph Turner who asks in 1858 for a subscription towards the expense of a cork leg to replace his real leg lost when it was run over by an engine; Mr. James Edward Mumford who at age 56 retires due to failing eyesight after 26 years of service and seeks a gratuity of £60 instead of annuity so that he can open a small shop to support his wife and 26 year old cripple son. These are some of the many examples cited in the text.

The appendices provide valuable research tools. The first appendix lists alphabetically all 988 railways known to have operated prior to nationalization in 1947, with their date of incorporation, and dates covered by any records known to exist. Appendix 2 provides a list of railway companies by county so you know which railway companies are possibilities for you to check. As the author rightly points out neighboring counties need to be examined because an ancestor may have traveled a long distance daily on trains operated by one company to get to work, only to be employed by a different company. Appendix 3 provides a listing of known surviving company records, with their PRO class numbers. This listing includes all companies that were forced by the government to merge in 1923 to form four regional companies. The index of persons includes all people named in the text, or typed in the many tables but does not include people named in copies of actual documents.

If you think you have railway ancestors then this book is a must.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.3 no.4, 1996