This Week’s Readings

I read an awful lot of material every week, most of it pertaining to genealogy and related fields. Here are a few of the things I’ve read this past week.

The Genealogical Reader edited by Noel C. Stevenson (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1958). One good thing about the APG mailing list is that members will occasionally post books they’ve weeded from their own libraries in the hopes that another member will have use for those particular books. A while back, I lucked out and procured through the list a discarded library copy of this book. I had a little time this past week, so I pulled it out one night and spent a few hours devouring it.

Most of the articles in this volume were originally published elsewhere. Many specifically cover colonial and medieval genealogy. Even those are interesting, if not immediately useful. In fact, the whole book is full of little nuggets of wisdom, charmingly written in an intelligent manner, such as this paragraph found on pages 32 and 33 in an article titled, “Is Genealogy An Exact Science?”:

The genealogist has no means of going behind the official records. The pity is, that he does not more consistently pursue the policy of depending on the official records for his conclusions. Every science must admit the possibility of a margin of error. But in most of the sciences, conclusions are reached only after the collection of all facts which might affect the matter, and after experimentation; which, in genealogy, means the setting up of hypotheses, the testing of these hypotheses by known facts, and the successful elimination of all but one hypothesis, which is then accepted as the only one which fits and explains the facts.

The author? Donald Lines Jacobus, a noteworthy member of the modern standards-based research movement. Other contributing authors include Milton Rubincam, G. Andrews Moriarty, George McK. Roberts, Meredith B. Colket, and a few other names I didn’t recognize. (If you’re stumped on why I recognized the other names, read this list.) The Genealogical Reader can rightly be described as an oldy but a goody.

Virginia Genealogical Society, Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, Volume 51, Number 2, May 2013. This is my first year as a member of the Virginia Genealogical Society, so this is only the second time I’ve received an issue of this periodical. Of particular interest was “John Frederick Dorman, An 85th Birthday Celebration” by Eric G. Grundset, which included a bibliography of Mr. Dorman’s publications. Mr. Dorman was the founder and long-time editor of the Virginia Genealogist, a leading journal that is now defunct. Also included in this issue were nearly a dozen transcriptions of Virginia records that I’ll come back to, when needed.

North Carolina Genealogical Society, North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal, Volume 39, Number 1, August 2013. This issue contains three articles by Perrah Yarborough on the War of 1812, which I read with interest: “The War of 1812 and North Carolina,” which was an overview of that state’s role in the war; “Researching State and Federal Records for the War of 1812,” which covered records available at the North Carolina Archives and the National Archives; and “Deserters from North Carolina during the War of 1812,” which were taken from contemporary newspapers.

National Genealogical Society, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volume 101, No. 2, June 2013. Included in this issue were articles by Laurel T. Baty, Harold Henderson (one of my favorite genealogical authors), Ronald A. Hill, and Ann Carter Fleming. I read through each and will likely study them all in greater depth at a later date.

Of particular note, however, was the brief article by Paul K. Graham, “How Old Was Charity Stinchcomb?” Paul is one of genealogy’s rising stars. Much of his published work focuses on Georgia, so I try to keep abreast of what he’s doing. This article discusses the possibility that the subject, Charity Stinchcomb, a former slave, lived to be 100 years old, and provides a fascinating glimpse of possibilities for slave research to boot.

Recent additions to my home library.

Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013). An excellently written workbook approach to this subject.

Kory L. Meyerink, Tristan L. Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen, editors, Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills (Salt Lake City: ICAPGen, 2012). My first read-through left me with very disparate impressions of the collected essays. First, there was an unfortunate tendency to conflate excellent and professional, as if the two were synonymous when, in fact, they are not. Second, the essays were unevenly edited and, therefore, of uneven quality. Some essays missed essential items; others dwelt too heavily on the supposed superiority of the professional genealogist (when excellent genealogist was meant). On the other hand, there were some well-written essays included. I am honestly ambivalent about this book, and hesitate to recommend it to others.

Roseann Reinemuth Hogan, Kentucky Ancestry: A Guide to Genealogical and Historical Research (Ancestry.com, 1992). I haven’t read this one in years, but remember it as a good guide to the covered state’s records. It’s unlikely that I’ll be able to read it again this year.

Patricia Law Hatcher, Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records (Betterway Books, 2003). I bought this in part because I’m considering developing a lecture on using land records, and in part because I’m a fan of Hatcher’s work. Haven’t made it through the entire book yet, and due to my schedule, will likely not be able to pick it up again for a while. We’ll see!

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