Genealogical Research in England's Public Records Office: A Guide for North Americans. 2nd Editionby Judith Prowse Reid and Simon Fowler. Published by Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 North Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202. 2000. xiv, 167 pp. Illustrations, index. $22.50 plus $3.50 p&h.
The Public record Office in Kew, outside of London is one of the richest genealogical repositories in the world, equivalent in many ways to the U.S. National Archives. Ms. Reid provides a book designed for North Americans in when, why and how to use the PRO.
After addressing these basic questions she continues by examining emigration and immigration records as they specifically relate to North America and the West Indies. This covers correspondence, registers, passports, port books, passenger lists, land grants, convicts, bonded emigrants, loyalist claims, naturalization, denization, aliens and Palatines. This is followed by other records in the PRO that may be used by researchers as they progress into English and Welsh records. These include censuses, nonconformist church records, vital records, probates, letters of administration, military records, taxation, association oath rolls, maps, parliamentary papers and court records.
What makes this book so valuable is that it references the many printed guides and indexes available in this country that provide access to so many of these complicated and often very large record groups. The text notes when the records, indexes or guides are available in the Family History Library.
This is the second edition and it begs the question what has changed. The bulk of the content and approach within the text remains the same. However, much has been updated with the closure of the PRO at Chancery Lane and the movement of many of these records, along with the indexes from St. Catherine's to the Family Records Center. The PRO has been revising many of it research outlines and these are reclassified, updated and available online. The addition of new record groups to the PRO, new resources and indexes are included.
For example, scattered throughout the text are mention of new resources such as the recent transfer to the PRO of the Board of Trade records BT334 Registers and Indexes of Births, Marriages and Deaths of Passengers and Seamen at Sea and these are available through the Family History Library (p.72). There is also a new index to the soldiers receiving pensions found in WO97 Royal Hospital Chelsea Soldiers' Documents, 1760 to 1913 which will be added to the PRO's web site in the near future (p. 79).
The book concludes with a number of appendices. One, is an updated list of the names, addresses, phone numbers and guides to the county record offices. It is good but not complete for I noticed the absence of the Cumbria Record Office in Whitehaven. For the major archives and libraries in North America and the British Isles it lists the above information but adds the web addresses, even though many of the county record office now have their own web sites. The book concludes with a complete bibliography of all published references mentioned in the text.
This book is a must for anyone doing colonial research that is attempting to cross the Atlantic. If you haven't got a copy get one. If you have the first edition and you refer to it frequently then do get the 2nd edition as it will bring you up to date on new resources and additions.
Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.7 no.4, 2000