Sunday, February 28, 2021

How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians


How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians is a very well written, information dense, layman accessible tome aimed at genealogists and family historians presented by Dr. Simon Wills. Due out 28th Feb 2021 from Pen & Sword, it's 240 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

I'm a medical professional and I work in pathology. The study of disease is literally my day job. I also happen to be a huge history nerd and my family hail from the British Isles, so this book was a happy confluence of interests for me. I learned quite a lot here and it's no stretch to imagine that the author is a gifted speaker/teacher. His style throughout the book is information rich but not pedantic and he has a rare gift of highlighting salient points without just drowning the reader in less useful information or getting bogged down in minutiae. 

The introductory chapters give good background information on the often lacking scientific accuracy of medical care and diagnostics in centuries past. In these chapters the author provides good background info on the normal historical methods of recording information and where and how modern seekers can access the information (and what records are likely to be available and from whom). 

The following chapters are arranged by cause of death, roughly alphabetically, and range from Accidents & Disasters to War & Wounds, with pretty much everything else one could imagine in between. The chapters are well supported with attributed quotes (for further reading) and photographs and facsimile documents scattered throughout. The author has also included a short bibliography and cross-referenced index.

This will be a valuable resource for family researchers, readers of history, public & home library acquisition, as well as writers of historical fiction/non-fiction. It's layman accessible and interesting. I read it through cover to cover like a novel. 

Five stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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