It is virtually impossible to summarise the range of books on Hertfordshire that have been published, may be available on loan on in the reference section of a library, or may be available for purchase. However anyone researching their family will need to look at some of the many books published in order to understand the communities in which their ancestors lived. This page attempts to give a quick guide to the kinds of books and booklets available.
There are a number of early Hertfordshire Histories which are good sources of genealogical information, usually organised by parish or town within the hundred, as long as one realises their limitations. They were clearly expensive to produce at a time where most people could not read and only the rich could afford to buy books. To help encourage sales they would include details of the monuments in the church, and sometimes the more impressive churchyard memorials, together with information on past and contemporary landowners, sometimes with family trees, etc., in the hope that people would buy a copy which included a mention of their family. Some were originally issued in parts.
Sir Henry Chauncy'sThe Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire was first published in 1700, a second edition was brought out in 1826, and a two volume facsimile edition published in 1975. There is a good index of the whole county.
N. Salmon'sThe History of Hertfordshire was published in 1728 with a facsimile edition in 1989. There is no index.
Robert Clutterbuck'sThe History and Antiquities of the County of Hertford was first published between 1815 and 1827 and each part (covering a separate hundred) is indexed. (I don't know if a facsimile edition has been published.)
John Edwin Cussans'History of Hertfordshire was published in parts between 1870 and 1881 and was reprinted in three volumes in 1972, It is also indexed.
Another source, which should not be overlooked isThe Victoria History of the Counties of England. This is a serious academic series, with references to sources, and is widely available in major libraries. The four Hertfordshire volumes (plus a separate index volume) were published between 1902 and 1914, and reprinted in 1971. It contains excellent information on the history of the local churches, manors (including owners names and dates). Some sections have been reprinted and, for example, the section The City of St Albans and the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban was reprinted by The Fraternity of the Friends of St Albans Abbey in 1984.
Another useful source isHertfordshire 1731-1800 as recorded in The Gentleman's Magazine, edited by Arthur Jones in 1993. This reproduces all historical items for the main sequence of the magazine, together with the Hertfordshire births, marriages, bankruptcies and deaths.
The problems with all these volumes is that they are extremely selective in the social class of the people who are mentioned, and it is very dangerous to assume that, just because someone has the right name they must be a missing ancestor. In addition the later books often took material from the earlier books without detailed checking - see the answer to the query WINCH, Tewin, circa 1669
General Town Histories
General histories of Hertfordshire towns and villages are very variable. Typically they are written by an amateur who has collected information about the town where they live, and then written it up. In some cases the quality of the research and writing is excellent, but unfortunately others are less satisfactory. In addition some will contain information which is of direct use to genealogists while others say very little about the everyday people who lived in the town. It is clearly not possible to give a comprehensive review so I will briefly mention a few books familiar to me. For books about a particular place see the appropriate Place Page.
For many years the standard history of St Albans has beenThe Story of St Albans by Elsie Tomms, 1962, which is a very readable account. However recently A History of St Albans, by James Corbett, has been published which is not only a comprehensive history, but is also well illustrated. This is published by Phillimore, which has a reputation for publishing well written local histories.
However local publication of local histories can produce a very satisfactory result, and the a Dacorum librarian, Scott Hastie, has produced a series of well presented illustrated histories, the latest being Berkhamsted: An Illustrated History.
The problem with many modern town histories is that, because they are illustrated, they tend to concentrate on more recent history, when there are more surviving artefacts, engravings and more recently photographs to provide the illustrations.
Specialist Topic Histories
In addition to general histories there are often books which concentrate on a limited period of time, or a limited area. The following four books give different views of Hemel Hempstead:
Dacorum within living Memory, by Cathy Shipman & Don Jackson, 1988, includes some general history but basically concentrate on the Second World War, the coming of the New Town, and the creation of the Borough of Dacorum from Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring.
The London Gunners come to Town by Bertha & Chris Reynolds, 1995, is an in-depth study of Hemel Hempstead in the First World War.
Hemel Hempstead - The Story of New Town development- 1947-1997, by Scott Hastie
Time's Highway, by Elizabeth Buteux, 1998 is an illustrated history of the High Street, Hemel Hempstead.
One should realise that there is often historical information in books which look at the history of companies - such asThe Endless Web, John Dickinson & Co Ltd 1804-1954 by Joan Evans, which looks at the history of one of the area's major factories. There will also be items in biographies, and there can be county wide specialist books such as Cricket in Hertfordshire, by R G Simons.
It is currently very popular to publish collections of old photographs and postcards - with a short text about each picture. These books give a good idea of what the town or village was about 100 years ago, and may show the road where one's ancestor lived. If you search an online publisher's list using the name of the town or village you are interested in you will probably find several books of this sort.
To give you some idea of the large number of such books the following are those which relate to the small town of Tring:
Tring and District in old picture postcardsby David & Joan Hay, 1983
Tring in old picture postcards volume 2by Mike Bass & Jill Fowler, 1993
Around Tringby Mike Bass & Jill Fowler, 1996 (£9.99)
Tring, A Pictorial Historyby Barry Woodhouse, 1996 (£14.99)
Around Tring The Second Selection, Mike Bass & Jill Fowler, 1998 (£9.99)
Many of the recent books are part of the Archive Photograph Series published by Chalford Press. For larger towns there may be photograph collections of particular districts - for instance the books on Hemel Hempstead include one onLeverstock Green and Bennetts End, by Barbara Chapman.
Now that desktop publishing is easy there is a boom in small booklets, which may be produced in limited runs by local societies, possibly for sale to members at their society meetings. Quite often they have no ISBN number and, despite copyright requirement no copies are deposited with the British Library and there may no even be copies in the local history section of the local library. This can make them very difficult to track down. Most have a specialist interest, and I list a few interesting booklets that I have purchased in the last few years.
Made in St Albans - Ten Town Trails Exploring St Albans' Industrial Pastby Michael Fookes, 1997, 68 pages.
Mrs Pipkin Remembers[Life in Piccotts End and Hemel Hempstead early in the 20th century] by Ellen Pipkin, 1993, 32 pages.
Wiggington - My Village by Adoption, by Tom Moy (undated) 16 pages
Hertfordshire Monumental Inscriptions - Sandridge. 1990, 48 pages [One of a series of booklets produced by the Herts Family & Population History Society.]
Nash Mills School 1847-1997, by A J Ward, 1997, 44 pages
Whigs versus Tories - Hertford's Parliamentary Representation, by Dorothy Abel Smith, 1995?, 54 pages.
Dacorum at War Exhibition Handbook, Dacorum Heritage Trust, 1995. 58 pages
Watford at the turn of the century - 1900-1909, (free with the Watford Observer newspaper), 1999
90 Years Young - A Celebration of Scouting in the Hemel Hempstead District - 1908-1998, by Michael Stanyon, 60 pages
Subject Lists and Guides
It is planned to produce a number of specialist book guides. Those currently available are:
Books about the Armed Forces in Hertfordshire
Books relating to Religion in Hertfordshire
Victorian Pocket Guides to Hertfordshire
See also Looking for Books, Pre-Reformation Books, Hertfordshire Public Libraries, Second Hand Books and A Comparison of Early Printed Sources.
If you live in the UK it is worth checking what books about Hertfordshire are available to you locally. The web address of your nearest main library - and possibly its online public access catalogue (OPAC) is on the UK Public Libraries Page
See also Locating Books
NOTICE: Recent Publications: The vast majority of books reviewed on this web site form part of my personal library of Hertfordshire material. There is already a good coverage of the better known older books. There are no funds (beyond my own pension) to extend the library to include recently published or further second-hand material. As such it is impossible to cover the torrent of new books, booklets, etc., produced by individual historians, local history societies and other organisations unless review copies are supplied.
If you can add to the information given above tell me.
Last updated January 2007