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Never Been Here Before? A Genealogists’ Guide to the Family Records Centre. Public Record Office Reader’s Guide No. 17 by Jane Cox and Stella Colwell. Published by PRO Publications, Public Record Office, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU. 1997. vi, 112 pp. Illustrated. Softcover. £5.99.

This book is a must for anyone planning to do research in London at the new Family Records Centre at Myddelton Place. This new facility is operated jointly by the Office for National Statistics and the Public Record Office. The facility brings together the records formerly at St. Catherines and the microfilm records of the Public Record Office on Chancery Lane.

On the ground floor is the General Register Office (GRO) with its indexes for births, marriages and deaths since 1837, plus many miscellaneous indexes such as: births and deaths at sea; birth marriage and deaths from army regiments, army chaplains returns, Service Department registers, Royal Navy, consulates, civil aviation, high commissioners, chaplain registers from the Ionian Islands and more.

On the second floor is the Public Record Office collection where you can search on microfilm or fiche the 1841 through 1891 census returns, the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1796 to 1858 Death Duty Registers, 1775-1837 Nonconformist Registers, Miscellaneous Registers of births, marriages and deaths of British citizens abroad 1627-1960. You also have access to the IGI and Family Search CD-ROM.

Most of this material can be searched in the U.S. so you can do lots of advanced preparation before going to England.

This book is a valuable resource, even if you are not going to England. The explanations of the various records at the Family Records Centre are extremely well illustrated down to the fine details. For example, when discussing the PCC wills, the indexes provide the quire number, this means the will is found on one of the following 16 pages, and it illustrates which numbers you will find that you can ignore. The practical discussion on the Death Duty indexes is one of the best I have seen anywhere. The descriptions of the miscellaneous birth, marriage and death indexes are detailed enough for you to understand if you should be spending your time here looking for those missing records. For fun, the cartoons that are sprinkled throughout the book will delight any genealogist.

This is a valuable, practical book that is easy to recommend for any English researcher, whether you are going to England or not.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.5 no.5, 1998