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.


Re-visiting Sources – New Research

Sometimes you come across a source, use it for one or a few personas, and forget it. Then you come across another persona who happens to be in the same source. Are you duplicating your research? Yes, no? Maybe.

It seems to me to be a good idea to re-visit sources that you’ve used in the past, like when you find an apparently unrelated persona. Revisiting the folks that you’ve already gotten out of that source enables you to pick up any details you may have missed the first time around.

Revisiting that source for previously discovered and newly discovered people allows you to strengthen their relationships, not only to you, but also between them.

A recent example in my research is about the Booth family of Connecticut as documented by Donald Lines Jacobus in the 1950s.

On the Booth family in Lenox, Massachusetts, I found that Lemuel and Mehetabel had eight children, including Josiah and Philo, six of whom are not referenced in the Jacobus genealogy of the family. While this line of ancestors was not the thrust of the genealogy, it seems odd that Jacobus didn’t know about the six kids.

The omission of such a large number of children shows that even a prominent genealogist can leave things out, or undone. Loose ends like this are the responsibility of later genealogists, to tie up and close some doors to possible incorrect information that might be circulating either in print or on the Internet.

Checking one’s own work (research) in this way improves your future work and provides a good exercise in checking the veracity of others’ work. Had I not followed on the statement in Jacobus about the family being in Lenox, I would not have found six descendants, or relatives, let alone the exact date of birth of Philo.

The evidence the Lenox records provides, though, seems to show that Philo was born in Massachusetts, and not Connecticut as other evidence suggests. The 1850 U. S. Census says that he was born in Connecticut, a probably direct statement, rather than implied as the Lenox record is. Which was it?


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

Follow Friday: The Turning of Generations

In the midst of finalizing and indexing the Mellen genealogy, I try to keep abreast of geneablogging. This week I found a new (to me) blog, called The Turning of Generations. The current theme on this wonderful piece of work is the 21st Century Organized Family Historian (#21COFH).

What’s interesting about 21COFH is that all genealogists can learn from reading about it. I’ve been working on digital organizing since I had an 8086 KayPro, so had to use very restrictive (nowadays, anyway) file names and directory structures. Eeew!

There seems to be a growing number of other folks reading and practicing the exercises for this theme, so I hope to learn something and perhaps contribute something when I’m more free from other concerns.


© 2012 N. P. Maling

Review: The Best Genealogical Sources in Print by G. B. Roberts

Gary Boyd Roberts has updated his survey of some of the best genealogical source material published in book and database form. This volume, previously published under the same title in 2004, updates a number of chapters and adds more material to the mix.

The early chapters review progress made in publishing materials since the 1960s. The middle chapters cover introductions to various significant books and series of print and digital materials. The later chapters discuss some of Mr. Roberts’ own work, the Mowbray descendants. The scope of The Best Genealogical Sources in Print is not limited to New England. It covers the entire eastern seaboard, the launching pad, so to speak, of most North American families that have been recorded in significant source materials. Published and unpublished family histories and genealogies are discussed as well as primary source materials such as federal, state, and local resources. Online and Internet-based resources are also considered, as they are the direction most modern genealogical data publishers are taking.

While printed materials are considered secondary, or derivative, sources in modern terms, they are increasingly valuable as more writers and compilers improve their source statement practices. Among the significant materials discussed are those based on the Jacobus school’s practice. Donald Lines Jacobus, a 20th century genealogist, began a rigorous practice that has developed into standards for genealogists of his, and future generations, that improves the accuracy of the materials published. Mr. Roberts reviews many of the more comprehensive materials in this book.

The Best Genealogical Sources in Print is a resource for beginners and experienced genealogists along the lines of New Englanders in the 1600s, by Martin E. Hollick, and The Great Migration series by Robert Charles Anderson. Mr. Roberts covers source materials rather than people, but the concept is the same as we use both people and printed materials as sources.

By studying Mr. Roberts’ discussions, the materials themselves, and examining the level of detail those materials contain, you can judge for yourself whether the source you use is of the higher quality. While not all good or great sources are covered in The Best Genealogical Sources in Print, the sources you use should reflect the standards of quality discussed by Mr. Roberts. I’ve found a few potential resources here that I hadn’t considered over the past fifteen-odd years that might improve my own work.

Roberts, Gary Boyd, ed. The Best Genealogical Sources in Print. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012.


© 2012 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.