The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History

Review by James Pylant

The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History. Edited by David Hey. Published by Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016-4314;. Hardbound (2008), 661 pp., indexed.

This new edition, updated to reflect the availability of sources and information on the Internet, is touted as “the most comprehensive and authoritative reference of its kind.” Indeed, The Oxford Companion offers an impressive A to Z dictionary for the English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh genealogist. Editor David Hey, Emeritus Professor of Local and Family at the University of Sheffield, with other noted contributors (including Anthony Camp of the London Society of Genealogists), produced an outstanding volume for the serious British researcher. While the bulk of the book (from pages 251 to 658) is a dictionary, The Oxford Companion offers a wide array of essays, from beginning genealogy to more advanced research methodology.

In the book’s introduction to beginning genealogy, Editor Hey warns newcomers who are under the impression that everything can be found online. “In fact, family history web sites offer only a small fraction of the records that are available,” says Hey. He also gives an excellent overview of the development of surnames in the British Isles.

Essays included in this new version are “Britain and America: A Common Heritage,” “African-Caribbean Genealogy,” and “South Asian Genealogy.” In the former, contributor George Redmonds points out that “there is a wealth of unpublished primary source material in America that originated in the British Isles.” There are several other noteworthy essays in the volume, and an appendix gives the addresses and telephone numbers of record offices and special collections.

The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History is also available on (affiliate link)

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