Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Understanding Documents for Genealogy and Local History

Hello All:

Well, just got another book in the mail this morning.  It is one that I have been waiting to get since Christmas.  It is Dr. Bruce Durie's new book called, "Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History."  It is just newly published, so I have to wait a bit longer for it to come in from Amazon.  I haven't yet really read it cover to cover, but I just wanted to give my first impressions of it since I have had it. 

From the first glances through it, it does read similar to Dr. Durie's book "Scottish Genealogy."  However, it seems to go deeper than that with its focus on old documents (hence the name of the book).  It goes heavy into Latin, old terms found in the older documents, old handwriting (ie: palaeography), etc.  The book is seperated into three parts:  part 1 is entitled "Reading the Documents"; part 2 is called "The Documents"; and part 3 is "Glossaries."  The book is 448 pages including the index. 

It is a book that is mainly focused on Scottish legal documents, such as the Sasines, Kirk Sessions, Tailzies, etc. But, it also has chapters on English documents too.  It is a book that any UK genealogist can use and find helpful.  One of the great things about this book is that it gives examples of the documents and delves into how to read them - the structure of the documents.  In reading many of these old documents they followed a sort of legal formula, which does help when you know how to read them and what to look for - the formula tends to be similar with each document and you can step over the legal jardon and get to the nitty gritty of the who, what, when, and where.  In a way it has the feel of a college or university textbook - it really wouldn't be a book for a beginner to genealogy or family history.  It is definitely a book for someone who has had a bit of experience in researching their family and have gotten to the point of using the older documents (pre-1700s) and this is where this book will be very helpful. 

As I have said in the beginning, I have only really ran through the book at first glances, but from what I have read and seen in this new book by Dr. Durie it is a very good and needed reference book. I would say that it is a book that is important to have as it is such a great reference book for the old documents - it is one that is all one would need really as it is so jam packed full of information. 

Until Next Time . . . .

Friday, February 08, 2013

Book Review of Genealogy: Essential Research Methods

Hello All:

Like most genealogists and family historians I love books.  I have come across one fairly recently within the last couple months that is an absolute must read.  It is Helen Osborn's book, "Genealogy: Essential Research Methods."  Believe it or not, this is Helen's first book about genealogy.  However, Helen has been a professional genealogist and in the field of teaching genealogy for a long time here in the UK.  If any of you have ever done a Pharos course you may have had the pleasure of learning from Helen.

"Genealogy: Essential Research Methods" is a book that is different from those that one mainly sees.  It is more of a book that deals with technique and methodology rather than just sources.  It is not necessarily a book that I would recommend to a complete beginner.  It is much more involved than that.  However, I would definitely say that a beginner would benefit from it once they have a bit more experience in doing their research.  It is a book that takes genealogical research to the next level - way beyond basic sources and lookups.  In my opinion, it is a book that could well be used as a textbook in a genealogy/family history course. 

I found the book to be easy to read and follow. One of the good things about what Helen does in the book is give real life examples of what she is trying to teach the reader.  To me this is important.  It is no good to just read concepts and methods without having some sort of example of what they are about.  It helps the reader to understand and learn better and to be able to take the techniques into their own research.  Some of the topics Helen tackles in this book are:  effective search techniques, analysis of sources, research planning, source citations, organization, understanding the records (not just what they are but why they were created), problem solving, just to name a few.  The book is 272 pages (including the index at the back), but due to the subject matter it could be more than this.  Genealogical methodology and technique can be a very detailed subject with numerous pages; however, Helen does a good job of keeping things to the point and in "plain" terms.  This is a major plus as it doesn't try to go over the head of the reader and be too technical and fancy.

Helen's book is one that has been really needed for British genealogical research for some time now.  I have read books by the American genealogy "guru" Elizabeth Shown Mills, and this book in my opinion is right up there with Mills' books, which is just my opinion. I don't think I am alone in praising Helen's debut publication.  The book, from what I have read online and in the UK family history magazines that have reviewed it, it is a real hit with folks and they are quite impressed with it.

Well, don't want to say too much, but really just to say that this is an excellent book and one that should be in every genealogist's bookshelf - beginner to the professional.  I hope to see more writing from Helen - don't know what can top her first book though.

Until Next Time . . .