"Beyond the age of information is the age of choices." Charles Eames. Hartman, Carla and Eames Demetrios. 100 Quotes by Charles Eames, p. 40.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: The Underground Railroad on Long Island: Friends in Freedom

Velsor, Kathleen G. The Underground Railroad on Long Island: Friends in Freedom. History Press, 2013. 144 pp. ISBN 978160497705. $19.99 paper, $9.99 Nook & Kindle.

Kathleen G. Velsor's purpose for writing this history book is to describe the existence of an active Underground Railroad on Long Island and how it evolved and was shaped by Quakers. She also continues the research she did for an earlier work, Angels of Deliverance: the Underground Railroad in Queens and Long Island. She begins by providing historical overviews of colonial Long Island, slavery, and growth of the Society of Friends. Chapters follow about Elias Hicks and his anti-slavery ministry among Quakers; the generations of families committed to abolition; and the Underground Railroad passage from North Carolina to Long Island.

Velsor demonstrates extensive Quaker participation in the nation's growing antislavery movements, as well as their leadership in Underground Railroad activity on Long Island by pulling together varied documents, personal narratives, newspaper notices, and letters. Underground Railroad participation, in particular, can be difficult to research since those involved often took great pains to avoid discovery and left few contemporaneous records. Although her narrative is compelling, it is not always clear how she reaches conclusions. More detail about this process would be welcome.

Her work suffers from occasional careless editing and fact-checking. In one chapter, she references the first census of Maryland (taken in 1790) for the death of a man in 1814. She refers to Liberia as an island. In some instances, endnotes don't match the text they reference and bibliographical entries are incomplete.

Although this book is not a genealogical study, family historians will enjoy Velsor's book since it provides social and historical background for 18th and 19th century Long Island. Her descriptions of marriages and relationships among key Quaker families (such as Hicks, Mott, Jackson, and Post) are useful starting points for genealogical research.

Libraries and individuals with strong interests in Long Island history should consider purchasing in order to broaden their existing collections. It's also widely available at libraries throughout the US. The review copy was purchased from an online vendor.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review: Sustainable Genealogy: Separating Fact From Fiction in Family Legends

Hite, Richard. Sustainable Genealogy: Separating Fact From Fiction in Family Legends. Genealogical Publishing Co., 2013. 110 pp. ISBN 978-0-8063-1982-7. Paper, $18.95.

Many family historians and professional genealogists first learn about their own families through the stories told by parents and grandparents. Over time and distance, facts are lost and stories take on lives of their own.  Most of us then face a sort of baptism of fiery disbelief as we struggle to learn the truths behind the stories and eventually separate fact from fiction. The same things happened to Richard Hite.

Using his own experiences, Hite sympathetically discusses common errors in family stories and how they possibly evolved as stories were shared and re-shared. He then demonstrates the best research practices to uncover what really happened.  Individual chapters cover some of the more common things that may need verification, like surnames' ethnic origins, relationships and connections to royalty and famous people, and descent from Native Americans. The myths are familiar ones. Hite adds much value to his book by showing how to apply various research tools (such as DNA tests, timelines, and cluster genealogy) to answer questions.

All new--and many experienced--genealogists will benefit from spending some time with Sustainable Genealogy. It is a well-written, thoughtful discussion of how to avoid common pitfalls when presented with undocumented traditions and legends. The sources and techniques he recommends will point you in the right direction and optimize your research results. In his enthusiastic foreword to the book, Henry Z. Jones, Jr., FASG, heartily agrees.

The book is recommended for purchase by avid genealogists and libraries with genealogy collections. It is available through the publisher's website and at various libraries. At this time, an e-Book edition was not found.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Review: Family Tree Pocket Reference

Haddad, Diane. Family Tree Pocket Reference. F + W Media, Inc. rev. ed., 2013. 205 pp. ISBN 978-1-4403-3484-9. Paper, $14.99.

This is an updated edition of the title by the same name published by the editors at Family Tree Magazine back in 2010. Characterized by minor, yet welcome, updates and format changes from the previous edition, the Pocket Reference remains a handy research guide for genealogists.

The content is compiled from articles appearing in the magazine in recent years so you will find the information accurate, reliable, and very useful. Chapters cover everything from general research skills to what to expect at libraries and archives to tips on using different record types. The chapter on census records does include a new section that conveniently lists each census with the questions asked for that year. Unfortunately, much of the information in other chapters is page-for-page the same as the 2010 edition. It was also slightly irritating that not all mentions of the footnote and newenglandancestors websites were corrected to reflect the new names of fold3 and americanancestors.

The somewhat larger format of the new edition is attractive and easy to read. With a large variety of reliable information and quick facts, it's especially helpful when you're traveling light through areas with sketchy internet access. I keep the newer edition in my research bag. It's recommended for public library collections and most genealogists who do not own the 2010 edition. If you have the 2010 edition, however, you might as well save your money.

For this review, I purchased the 2013 edition and compared it with the 2010 one I already have. Several online vendors sell the paperback with attractive discounts. A digital eBook is also available. Neither edition is widely available at public libraries.