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Book Review

Discussion in 'Search tips - discussion' started by Annabelleb, Mar 23, 2018.

  1. Annabelleb

    Annabelleb New Member

    I sent Peter a review I wrote some time ago about this great book, and he suggested I post it here. First time poster, so hope it works. I tried to put it under 'Reviews' but could not find a way to add a post there. And as I said to him - I have no connection with the author in any way, shape or form - I just think this is a 'must-have' on every serious genealogist's book-case.

    HELP! Why can’t I find my ancestor’s surname? by Carol Baxter. Published by History Detective Enterprises 2015. ISBN: 978-0-9807046-3-1

    If I had not been given a copy of this book as a gift, I would have had to go out and buy it! Generally my eyes glaze over at the thought of reading another book about surnames, but this one is completely different. Carol dissects a surname letter by letter and sound by sound – and if you follow her suggestion of keeping paper and pen by your side, and with two or three of your ‘brick-wall’ surnames in mind as you read, you will finish with a list of different spellings to try in your favourite search engines and web-sites. I now can’t wait to try her methods with each of my problem names.

    Britain is a hotbed of regional and class differences in pronunciation, as I am sure are many other countries. The spelling of names comes down to how they sound to the ear of the person writing it. Anyone who has helped newcomers to this hobby has heard the (in)famous words “My family have always spelt our name this way.” Yeah, right!

    I doubt if there is any surname in current use which has not changed over the centuries. Even SMITH and BROWN are not immune. The name may be written correctly, but if the handwriting is poor, old-fashioned, or faded transcribers and indexers will get it wrong. How often have we been told we need to think outside the box when hunting for our names? Why do websites give us options in how we search with wild-cards, soundex, etc.

    Part one of this excellent book covers the eight stages of the speaking and writing processes that are of relevance – ‘pronunciation, articulation, hearing, spelling, writing, transcribing, indexing and coding’ according to the author. She delves into beginnings, middles and ends of surnames, vowels and consonants, in a detailed but interesting way. This is the most important part of the book to study.

    Part two is a list of the letters of the alphabet, plus some sounds made up of more than one letter. Each is given an in-depth look at how they could be said, written, interpreted etc when in different parts of a word, and when combined with other letters, and new spellings that could arise from each situation. Use this section as a reference to break down each surname and study it.

    Added and omitted first letters of any name cause possibly the greatest headaches in our searches, as – other than vowel beginnings – we do not always think that the first letter could be wrong or missing, or that this often impacts on the rest of the first syllable.

    If you buy a copy (which I highly recommend!) you also receive a quick reference sheet to keep in your ‘essential tools’ kit, which looks extremely useful. This sheet is also available to purchase separately.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 2

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