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Book review: Tracing your Irish Ancestors through Land Records

Today is the start of a new series on my blog where I review new and old books of relevance for Irish genealogy. No one has asked me to do this nor have I received any payment or free books for this content. If that changes, I will mention it in future reviews.


Chris Paton’s latest book is published by Pen & Sword, the publishing house which produces many titles with family history relevance. He is Northern Irish but has lived in Scotland for many years. He is also the man beyond the Scottish Genes blog, which, despite its name, has a lot of Irish content too!

Tracing your Irish ancestors through land records is a concise 160 pages. I easily read it in an evening, though it’s fair to say that I was familiar with the content already and it might take a novice reader longer. It’s clear that this was a personal book for Chris, with lots of nice references to his own family and use of his ancestors for examples. Including chapters on repositories, Irish history and how land was divided up in different contexts were solid additions which will help both the non-Irish and Irish reader to understand why some records exist and others don’t.

The other chapters are broken down by record type (broadly: censuses, land valuation surveys, land tenancy & ownership) with clear, easily understood detail and are jam-packed with web links. I’ve certainly learned new things from it. Here’s a snip of all the markers I’ve placed in the book to go back to!

15 separate bookmarks to review!

I consider this to be an essential book on your shelf for Irish genealogy research. One tiny criticism is that I’d like to have seen the Irish Genealogical Research Society mentioned with other societies on p14-15 as they have many unique resources available to members, though Chris does reference some of these individually elsewhere such as the 1901 Townland Index.

My only other complaints are really the fault of the publisher: some images would be better in colour. Chris included a huge number of weblinks, which is fantastic, but I doubt many people would type them in to their browser. Short of buying an e-book, which I rarely do for reference books, there has to be a better way for readers to get hold of these links. Could the publisher produce a page of links that is accessed by a code in the book perhaps? I can’t help noting that I had the same issues with their DNA book, which I previously reviewed.

Overall, my recommendation is to buy this book. Just be careful if you buy direct from Pen & Sword because they are charging an outrageous £12.50 to ship to Ireland, which is almost the cost of the book (£14.99). I mentioned this on Twitter and Chris did kindly note that The Ulster Historical Foundation also sells it and charges a more modest £5.75 for Irish delivery. It’s available with the Big Bad second longest river in the world as well.


Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter what you thought?

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