Books about Hertfordshire
Looking for Books
This page suggests how you might go about identifying books on a particular subject. If you know the title of the book you want see Locating Books.
People often want books on specific places within Hertfordshire and don't know where to look of what is likely to have been published. There are a number of places that you can look at on the Web that can point you the likely availability of books on a particular place. There is also a lot of information available for reference or loan in Herts Public Libraries. I will use examples (run in 2004) of King's Walden and then Tring to illustrate this.
The first place to look is the Hertfordshire Public Library catalogue. This has, unfortunately, a not very good index structure or search engine - but at least identifies books which may be able to be borrowed. As an example a search for "Walden" produced the following relevant item):
A search of the British Library index produced a long list of "Walden" including people called Walden which I did not examine when all the first page was irrelevant - as searches for "King's Walden" and "Kings Walden" were negative.
A search of the secondhand book pages for "Kings Walden" only came up with Kingswalden Notes (described as a. 64pp facsimile of Terry's journal recalling the design and building of Kings Walden a new country house in Hertfordshire designed by Raymond Erith)
A search of www.amazon.co.uk was also negative.
By comparison a search for "Tring" was far more successful. The Hertfordshire Public Library came up with 50 titles - most of which were relevant, while the Amazon site came up with the following recent books:
Around Tring: the Second Selection by Mike Bass, Jill Fowler *
Around Tring: by Mike Bass, Jill Fowler *
Tring and District in Old Picture Postcards by David Hay *
Tring Born and Bred by Fred Woodhouse
Tring in 1947 by C F Reynolds
Tring in Old Picture Postcards by Michael Bass, Jill Fowler *
Tring Personalities by Wendy Marjorie Austin
Tring A Pictorial History by Barry Woodhouse *
A search online for secondhand books produced the following additional items with Tring connections:
I'm a Country Bumpkin, by John N Langston
Between the Lines, Further Reminiscences, by Dorian Williams
That Tring Air, by Arthur MacDonald
Dear Lord Rothschild, by Miriam Rothschild
The result of the search for King's Walden was disappointing - but it is only a small village - and the smaller the place the less likely it is to have a book solely about itself. However an active local history society can help boost the number of titles. The most important things to realise is:
(1) Most recently published local "histories" are collections of old photographs, where a specialist publisher - with a regular series of titles - finds a local person with a lot of local postcards. Captions are added - not always of the highest quality. The Tring books marked with an asterisk are all part of such series.
(2) Writing a local history (apart from picture collections) is very hard work - and it is very difficult to find a publisher - because potentially low volume one-off publications are almost impossible to market. This limits what is available and how it is published. Print runs can be low - and with modern desktop publishing techniques booklets can be printed off to order, maybe a few dozen at a time.
(3) As a result of (2) most of the local histories that are significantly more than collections of pictures are published outside the regular book trade. Some may be issued as booklets by the local history societies, etc., and such books/booklets can slip the net and can be difficult to trace. Three of the Tring books listed above are of this category. Wendy Austin's Tring Personalities is a series of biographies of prominent townsfolk which is being sold to raise money for the local history society. Tring in 1947 was edited by me to accompany a local history exhibition. It was done as a low cost booklet and was also aimed at the "send one to distant friends instead of a Christmas card" market in local newsagents.. Tring Born and Bred is a privately published autobiography. The list does not include the booklet on The Tring Triangle by Jill Fowler, which is currently sold by the local history society.
(4) Have you written a history of the town/village where you live? If not, why do you expect someone else to have written one about where your ancestors lived? Whether there is book depend on whether there is/has been someone living there who was interested enough to research, write and publish a book and this means years of hard work if the book is to be any good. Significant books on villages are rare - the recent books "A New History of Flamstead" by Eric Edwards and Historic Sandridge Revisited by Janet R Rose are exceptions. Shorter books trying to cover 2000 years of history of larger towns can be disappointing to the genealogist because they don't have the space (or depth of research) to mention anyone but the very great and good.
(5) There are many books which publish a page of two about many towns and villages. A Pilgrimage in Hertfordshire by H M Alderman, first published in 1931 and recently reprinted is one I like and contains some attractive drawings. Some people may prefer Arthur Mee's Hertfordshire in the King's England series, first published before the war.