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.


Haven Genealogy Available on

Here is the link to the Haven genealogy on

I’m removing the link in the below article as the for-sale and only available version is corrected and the free version wasn’t.



Note: Diana James’ Shared Walls

Diana James just published Shared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings, 1900-1939, a history of apartment dwelling in Seattle during the years listed in the title.

This is (an as yet unseen) welcome addition to the house history field as it expands on the regular house history field of research.

Two articles in the Seattle Times give you more of a preview than I can. Here they are:

A book review of Shared Walls

A “Now and Then” installment which mentions Shared Walls.

Only 2,000 copies have been printed, according to one of the pieces, and I’m sure they’ll go fast. Shared Walls is available at


Review: Supplement to How to Write a Family History

Charles Darwin. 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in....

A Supplement to How to Write the History of a Family: A Guide for the Genealogist. By W.P.W. Phillimore. London: the Author. 1896.

This is a continuation, pagination, included, of two previous editions of the volume. The author had decided to revise the earlier editions, but due to some inspiration, made a supplement to the second edition, instead. The chapters in the earlier volumes are referenced in this supplement, but due to the lack of the earlier edition online or in a library nearby, I can’t say how well linked they are.

Mr. Phillimore is perhaps better known as the publisher of many compilations of parish records, marriage, death, and birth, for various parts of England. These compilations, many of which are also available online now, are valuable resources. The presence online of the previous editions of this book would be more greatly appreciated, since the chapters and sections lack continuity in many cases.

There are numerous additions to the lists of records to be consulted by a genealogist. Some of these records perhaps don’t exist anymore due to age and the vagaries of time and war, but are valuable references to things that people used in their own studies. Some of the more interesting bits from other studies, such as biological science and law might also be helpful to serious researchers in other fields.

The notes on anthropometry are interesting as they formed the basis in later years for the study of eugenics, a practice used for racial and ethnic discrimination. The biological aspect of the study is Darwinian or Malthusian and reminds me of the study of peas in grade school. 🙂 The previous editions must have included much more of the same or more along these lines as Charles Darwin’s theories were published about the same time as they were.

They typography for the volume is interesting. It includes several “swashes” and ligatures to characters which add a dimension to what might seem to be an ordinarily boring old book. The typeface seems to be a form of Bembo, a classic typeface for scholarly work. It is an easily read face which adds character.

Due to the age of the writing and the content, with all of its period biases and knowledge gained to date by the author, the book has a sort of quaint feel to it. The additions to the pages seem like marginalia, but are meant to be addenda, much the same as notes made by a student continuing their study by writing in the book itself. (Personally an unwelcome practice, as it will reduce the book’s resale value.)

The lessons learned and the knowledge one will gain from having this unique perspective is invaluable, however. Knowing what records existed at the time and how they were used will give you a keener insight into the published genealogies from years past.

This book is freely available on Google Books.

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

On Indexing

I am currently preparing an index for a family history. The index will include places as well as people. A town, county, and state name index is important to family histories. The reason for including place names in the index is to allow the reader to follow a larger family group on its migrations to various places.

In another family history, covering colonial and federal period Massachusetts, the family consistently expanded outwards to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York, making the project that much larger. By including these items in the index, the reader can follow a particular branch of the family in its outward peregrinations.

Sometimes, if the family history is large enough, or complex enough, separate indexes might work better to allow for quick finding in the text. You might want to consider having the primary family in its own index, everyone else related to the primary family in a general index, and place names in a third, or subject index.

A subject index in a family history would include topics such as farming, occupations, the names of prominent universities the family members have graduated from, and other such matters. One of my current indexing projects includes references to about a dozen universities and several dozen more graduates of those universities. As is a major feature of the family history, it is imperative that they be indexed; perhaps names of graduates under the university heading, or perhaps just the universities referenced where they occur in the text. It is a judgment call whether to index the graduates and universities together.

The level of detail in a surname index can be important, especially with larger family histories. People oftentimes name their sons and daughters after other members of the family. For instance, a son would be named after one of his grandfathers. This pattern can continue for generations. In the index, one would ideally include the birth and death years, as well as at least the middle initial, if not the full middle name, of each member of the family with the same given name.


© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

This post originally appeared on the defunct Seattle Book Scouts’ Blog in 2009.