Review: J. Horace Round’s Family Origins and other Studies


I’ve been reading Family Origins, by J. Horace Round.[1] It is an interesting book, not only because it discusses an area of genealogy which I’m interested in learning more about. It has an interesting introduction about “historical genealogy,” a subject that has gotten a lot of press recently as “historical biography.”

Mr. Round (1854–1928), an Englishman, was a prolific author of texts on early British genealogies, focusing primarily in Family Origins on those ranging back to Norman times and the conquest of England by William the Conqueror. In this particular introduction, Round describes a “new” school of genealogists who take pride in sourcing their research and citing it. He also discusses the historical bases for genealogical research in England, with passing reference to American genealogy. These discussions pre-date even Donald Lines Jacobus, the premiere American genealogist of the 20th century.

Family Origins dissects, deconstructs, and straightens out various pedigrees going back to Norman and medieval times. Knowledge of archaic Latin and French may be helpful in reading some of the quoted passages, however; but due to Round’s explication of the texts, it may also be unnecessary.

The text goes into some detail on the importance of not only names, but also places. The importance of place in historical genealogy, as Mr. Round practiced it is that one must know the place where the name originated, as it was often taken from the place where the people lived. In the case of the peerages Mr. Round discusses, these places are sometimes in Normandy, part of the France of the time, on which he focuses much of his research.

An example of Mr. Round’s diligence in the study of genealogy is the following quote from page 107:

“It is … of real importance for the critical study of genealogy, to collect and set on record, cases in which evidence has been forged or falsely alleged to exist, for the purpose of affording proof of a wholly fictitious pedigree.”

The statement here quoted pre-dates even E. S. Mills and the Genealogical Proof Standard as goals against which we work. It goes directly to the goals of the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ ethics, which it also pre-dates.

Round seems to take delight in demolishing various pedigrees found in the Burke peerages and their brethren. He also takes on other genealogists’ work and dissects them live, in front of the reader as if he were there discussing them with you. That is the kind of genealogical writing I like at the moment. This book makes good bed-time reading, so the lessons can sink in and be absorbed.

1. Round, J. Horace. Family Origins and other Studies. London, 1930. Reprint Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield Company, 1998.


Picking a Professional Genealogist, Redux

The Association of Professional Genealogists is composed of members who choose to be called professional. Does that, in fact, make them “professionally designated”? No. That makes them self- designated professionals. The APG does not screen for anything other than paid membership and signature on a piece of paper.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists does not “professionally designate” it’s members. The people who go through the certification process choose to be professionals, or not; their own designation, not the Board’s. Many of the members of the BCG have chosen to test their skills against the Board’s requirements so they can demonstrate to others that they are qualified to do other highly specialized work, but, they are not practicing professionally as genealogists. That makes them self-designated non-professionals, doesn’t it?

The International Commission for the Accreditation of Genealogists does not “professionally designate” a member of their group. The members choose to be called professionals on their own. The members who practice professionally, again, are self-designated, like they are with the APG and BCG.

One of my favorite librarians is a member of these organizations. She is not a practicing professional genealogist. She got these postnomials to prove to herself and others that she knows the subject. Is she a non-”professionally designated genealogist”? She is one of the best I have ever met, but she doesn’t take clients. That’s her choice, not the APG’s, the BCG’s, or the ICAPGEN’s.

Taking the following quote and facts from the LDS church’s own standards:

 “Years of education, research experience, and satisfactory service to clients may be just as important as credentials.”


Professional genealogists include those who are experienced researchers having:

  • some unique research specialty
  • credentials that show advanced skills
  • years of education and professional development
  • access to facilities with many records

Where is it necessary to have a specific degree here? Nowhere. Where is it necessary to have a specific postnomial here? Nowhere. Where do “professionally designated” genealogists fit in this picture? It does not matter. Period. If you do the job well, the client is happy, and all parties involved are satisfied, great. That’s the point of doing business, satisfying the customer.

Put simply, the customer’s satisfaction is all that matters in business. Will you chose the appropriate genealogist to work with? A genealogist, self-designated as professional or not, who has years of experience and satisfactory service?

I am not a member of any of the groups mentioned, yet I adhere to the ethics and sound business practices advocated by the APG and BCG. They are worthwhile organizations to recognize and follow because they have strong ethical standards for all genealogists to adhere to.

Thank you for reading.

© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research

Lookup Providers – Valued Genealogy Researchers

[Updated 6 December 2011]

Genealogists search records to trace ancestors and descendants and find missing people. Genealogists consult with others about their findings, instruct others about their pastime and profession, and publicize their findings.

All genealogists are lookup providers one degree or another. Some of us do it as volunteers. Some of us do it as professionals. Likewise, some genealogists go all the way to the top with credentials: Michael Hait is a credentialed genealogist. Jill Morelli [her blog is in process of being renamed] is on track to become one. Me? I’m just a lookup provider who has respect for these two. I’ve never met either Mr. Hait or Ms. Morelli in person, but through their writing, I feel we are all strongly committed to genealogy, as professionals and volunteers. What do we have in common?

I like to think we “raise the bar” on quality genealogy. We do it to help others. My, occasional as they are, “Sunday’s Obituary” posts are one way of sharing what I do. Some of these items come from materials I use personally, and some are “extraneous” to professional findings. Most other of my posts also have materials which might help another genealogist. They are all meant to help others accurately trace their ancestors, descendants, and missing people.

Mr. Hait’s post this morning which discusses Mary Petty reminded me of my own post about her a couple of years ago. In it I pretty much dissected one of her posts about what makes a professional genealogist, and the results aren’t pretty. She is an example of someone in the genealogy pastime or profession that I cannot respect. Her posts were designed to lead other genealogists not to consult with others, but to drive business to her company by being rude to other genealogists, disrespectful of other professions, and using scare tactics. Scare tactics are an unethical business practice in any profession. Rudeness and disrespect are flat-out not nice.

I mentioned several books in that post, which I think exemplify professionalism in genealogy, and am going to do it again. One of them specifically addresses professionals like me, a record searcher. These books are items that Ms. Petty knew about or should have known about as part of her education but ignored.

Board for Certification of Genealogists. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. Provo, Published for the Board by Ancestry. Inc. 2000.

This book is referenced heavily by Ms. Clifford’s book, below.

Karen Clifford, AG. Becoming an Accredited Genealogist. Orem, Utah: Ancestry, Inc. 1998.

This book was written for genealogists who seek to be certified by the LDS church, and focuses its research practices on resources Ms. Petty’s company uses.

Donald Lines Jacobus. Genealogy as a Pastime and Profession. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1978.

Mr. Jacobus was the premiere professional of his day and left a strong legacy for others to live up to.

Is it a Look-up or a Research Request?

Look-up: a procedure involving a specific obituary, book page or chapter, or other document that can be handled in a short time

Research Request: asking that someone analyze, survey, organize, or otherwise work with genealogical materials

The difference is the amount of time and skill involved. An obituary doesn’t need to be analyzed to compare the deceased to his or her great-grandmother. A land record, however, doesn’t necessarily involve family relations, but does need analysis with other documents to establish relationships.

Look-ups can be, and usually are, handled by volunteers or library and archives employees who work with the records as part of the jobs. Research requests, because of the time involved are generally best handled by skilled or professional genealogists who make the time for such work.

Some genealogists like to post look-up requests on boards like Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness or FindaGrave. A few of these requests are asking for more information than what the volunteers are willing to find or capable of providing. Sites where genealogy researchers can find others more willing and able to do the in-depth research are eXpertGenealogy, GenealogyFreelancers, and GenLighten.

The level of skills presented by the researchers who list their services on these sites varies, as does their areas of expertise. Many professional genealogists give satisfactory service and their skills match those of certified genealogy researchers. A middle-ground of professionals who may or may not be certified, but are a group, can be found at the Association of Professional Genealogists’ site. Certified researchers who maintain listings can be found on Board for Certification of Genealogists’ site and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists’ site.

Disclaimer: I maintain professional listings on eXpertGenealogy, GenealogyFreelancers, and GenLighten.