Book Review: Tracing Your European Roots

Tracing Your European Roots, by W. Daniel Quillen

From time to time I enjoy reading about genealogy [1] and this particular book is part of a series that I was able to find in my library.  In starting this book I was unaware of how large the series was and so I read it out of order, this being the fifth volume in the author’s series modestly titled Quillen’s Essentials of Genealogy.  The audience for this book is a rather small one, I think, but one that is large enough to make a book like this a feasible project, and that is people who are interested in genealogy information that is targeted to particular regions where they know their family is from.  This is the sort of book that is written without a great deal of frills and which includes a fair amount of repetition and is not likely the sort of book that one would read straight through but rather only for those parts that are of interest in uncovering one’s genealogy through research undertaken of family lines in particular nations all over Europe.  For those engaged in this purpose this book is likely to be somewhat useful although its web-based approach is also likely to be out of date fairly quickly.

The contents of this book are organized around the countries of Europe, and give resources that are tailored to the genealogical approach that each nation has had throughout its entire history.  After spending the first four chapters giving an introduction, discussing basics, providing clues and hints, and showing research tools, the author progresses through various European countries providing specific advice and sample letters on how to gain research and even provides vocabulary that is likely to be read in the genealogical information the reader finds.  These countries include Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain.  Each of the chapters provides information on the state of online as well as physical records recorded by church and state in the countries and a few references to history that demonstrate the complicated process of trying to recover information in the past about those nations and a few particularly gloomy historical tragedies.

This is a solid research book, but there are a few aspects of it that make it less timeless than it seeks to be.  The author makes a point about one of his previous books, from which he recycles an anecdote about the Northern Irish use of homely to describe him and his wife, from a book that he says is out-of-print.  He also refuses to state who was responsible for destroying hundreds of years of Irish genealogical research during the Irish Civil War.  His consistent praise of the Mormons is perhaps understandable with regards to their eccentric religious beliefs involving ancestry and the baptism of the dead, but does make this book seem a bit boosterish sometimes.  It is with regards to the online research into family history where this book appears the most in need of frequent revision, as it seems likely that websites will change or go out of date much faster than the more traditional means of family research.  The author’s comments about the availability or lack thereof of online research in various countries is also something subject to change.  For example, the success of Portugal.  The Man.  on the pop charts could inspire the digitization of a large amount of Portuguese family history data that would make such family research easier to undertake.  It may not be likely, but it is at least possible.  It is also possible that information that is currently free could be placed behind ever-increasing paywalls, and therefore not accessible to the thrifty family historian.  And so it goes.  This is a worthwhile book, but more in a practical sense and less in an aesthetic sense.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/07/19/mysteries-of-the-bible-why-does-the-bible-talk-so-much-about-genealogy/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/03/book-review-who-do-you-think-you-are/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/03/audiobook-review-great-courses-discovering-your-roots/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/11/book-review-the-family-tree-historical-maps-book-a-state-by-state-atlas-of-u-s-history-1790-1900/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/11/book-review-the-family-tree-historical-maps-book-europe/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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