Category Archives: Book Reviews

Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants to the American Colonies, Quebec, or the United States by Gary Boyd Roberts: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants to the American Colonies, Quebec, or the United States, Second Edition is a massive three volume set by Gary Boyd Roberts, the Senior Research Scholar Emeritus of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

From Vita Brevis‘ Profiles:

Gary Boyd Roberts is the Senior Research Scholar Emeritus of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. A native of Houston, he is a graduate of Yale and the University of Chicago; he also studied at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include immigrant origins and royal descents; royal and noble genealogy; the ancestry of notable figures, especially American presidents; and colonial New England, the mid-Atlantic states, and the South. He is the author, co-author, or editor of numerous works, including Ancestors of American Presidents (1989, 1995, and 2009), and The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States (2004); his life’s work is “The Mowbray Connection: An Analysis of the Genealogical Evolution of British, American and Continental Nobilities, Gentries, and Upper Classes Since the End of the Middle Ages” in 23 vols.

Being a long time member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, I am aware of Gary Boyd Robert’s lengthy works treating royal descents, but I have not read this particular series.

I have to admit, facing three volumes seemed a bit overwhelming. However, Volume 3 is a 600+ page index to Volumes 1 and 2 and the format of the book is in clear, easy to follow pedigree charts containing spousal names, or in a number of cases, a note about illegitimacy.

Table of Contents

This Table of Contents is quite detailed:


I know I have a couple of royal descents in my own family tree, including a line through Jane Lawrence (1614-168) who married George Giddings (1609-1676) in 1609 in St. Albans, hertford, England, sailed on the Talbot settled in Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts.

To give an idea of how lengthy these royal descents are, George and Jane are my 9X great grandparents, so there are 11 generations from them to me.

The pedigree chart in The Royal Descents identifies Jane Lawrence as Generation 27 descended from Robert I, King of France, who died in 923!

Sources are cited after each pedigree chart, which is pretty incredible, too, given the difficulty of Middle Ages genealogical research.

Aside from reading about my own royal descents, browsing is a lot of fun as there are many famous people that tie into various lines. That really isn’t too surprising, though, given that I’m 38 generations from Robert I of France. Each patriarch in a pedigree chart will have thousands of descendants living today.

Some of the famous names, in addition to American Presidential lines and signers of the Declaration of Independence, include Celine Dion, Princess Diana, Phil Collins, Angelina Jolie, plus notable authors and other public figures.

Fun facts are that I share this line with Presidents William Howard Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge.

It is very entertaining browsing through these books reading through the pedigree charts. To be honest, though, unless you have a very distinguished family tree with many branches to be found in these charts, you might want to read these volumes in a genealogy library because the 1725-page set costs $190.00.

Thousands of genealogical researchers need to thank Gary Boyd Roberts, who undertook the research and compiled results of the research of others interested in the Middle Ages, to provide us with documented royal lines.

The 3-volume set of The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants to the American Colonies, Quebec, or the United States, Second Edition can be ordered online from Genealogical Publishing Company for $190.00.

The Rusyns of Slovakia by Paul Magocsi: Book Review

I’ve recently added one more book to my now good-sized reference shelf on Carpatho-Rusyn history and culture.

Dr. Paul Magocsi is a recognized authority on Carpathian Ruthenians and is also a prolific author with many books to his credit.

The Rusyns of Slovakia; An Historical Survey, by Dr. Magocsi, has been out of print for several years, but reasonably priced copies (around $30) can be found online.

This book is a translation of the original Rusyn language version and was published by Columbia University Press, New York as part of its East European Monographs series. It is copyrighted by the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Center, which I believe is planning to reprint the book.

Rusyns settled along both side of the Carpathian Mountains, in today’s Romania, Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia.

As my Rusyn family lived in Slovakia, I was very interested in reading this book.


I. The Ethnogeographic Setting
II. Early History
III. The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
IV. The Habsburg Restoration and Reform Era
V. The National Awakening of 1848
VI. Cultural and National Decline, 1868-1914
VII. World War I and the Revolutionary Years, 1918-1919
VIII. The Interwar Years
IX. The Decade of International Crisis, 1938-1948
X. Life Under Communism, 1948-1989
XI. The Revolution of 1989

As you can tell from the Contents, this compact 185-page book covers centuries of Rusyn life in what is now Slovakia. The sad thing is that life remained much the same for the people for hundreds of years.

Rusyns lived in poverty with no chance of an education. Wars and epidemics contributed to the already short life span expectations. My grandmother’s village didn’t even have electricity until the 1960s!

Even if your Rusyn ancestors lived in one of the other countries I’ve mentioned, their lives were equally difficult.

Professor Magocsi has done an excellent job providing a clear picture of both peasant life and the efforts of a few leading men of the time to build a national Rusyn spirit and pride.

For much of the time, those efforts were pushed aside by clerics seeking to retain their places in the Greek Catholic or Orthodox churches.

Rusyn history sadly has been full of strife.

As you might have noticed from my past book reviews, I tend to like non-fiction and scholarly historical works. I learned a LOT about my ancestors’ lives and times. I also realize that although my grandmother never mentioned being Rusyn, she and her family, both in the village and here in America would have been very aware of the political goings on covered in chapters 6-11. That pretty well covers modern Rusyn history as my great grandfather was born in 1868 and my grandmother passed away in 1985.

If you have Rusyn roots in today’s Slovakia, this is a book you’ll surely want to add to your own home library.



Andy Warhol’s Religious & Ethnic Roots: The Carpatho-Rusyn Influence on His Art by Raymond M. Herbenick: Book Review

I just realized that although Genea-Santa granted my Christmas wish last year and left my “most wanted” book under the tree last year, I’ve never shared it with my readers.

Andy Warhol died in 1987 and, while living, never said much about his ethnic and cultural roots. It wasn’t until after his death that researchers looked more closely at his family tree and ancestral origins and realized that he was of Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry..

For those who are interested in Warhol’s art, which went beyond the Campbell Soup label, and factors that influenced his works or for those who want to learn more about America’s most famous Carpatho-Rusyn citizen, Raymond Herbenick’s book will provide an excellent overview.

This isn’t one of those glossy coffee table books with lots of color images. It’s a scholarly work, well referenced, that examines the Rusyn cultural and social factors that made Andy Warhol who he was.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
Essay One – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Roots: Ethnographic Studies
Essay Two – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Art Roots: Biographical Studies
Essay Three – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Roots: Autobiographical Studies
Essay Four – Andy Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Art Roots: Aesthetic Studies

The text of the book is 116 pages; the incredibly detailed index is 26 pages longer than the book at 142 pages!

I found the essay format an easy way to follow the author’s train of thought and compartmentalize all the information in my own mind. the author examined everything from Rusyn religious icons to Warhol’s mother’s New York city church of worship (St. Yary’s Byzantine Catholic Church at 246 E. 15th Street in Manhattan) to the Pittsburgh neighborhood in which Warhol grew up (the Warhol Museum)to many earlier scholarly works done by others that looked closely at his life and art.

Because of its cost, this book isn’t for everyone, but library collections make it accessible to all to read.

It’s an oldie, but goodie, first published in 1997 by the Edwin Mellen Press in New York. It’s still available on their website for a hefty $199.95. Other online copies are listed for double that price! I guess Santa was lucky when he found my book for little more than half that price.

If you are interested in reading the book, my first suggestion would be to check WorldCat for a library close to you that has it. Then, if interested in buying a copy, be patient and check often online for a reasonably priced copy (under $150, which is still steep).

Although Andy Warhol didn’t verbally point to his Rusyn heritage, there is no doubt that it directly affected his artistic works. There were a couple of comments in particular that I think describe Andy Warhol very well.

First, there is Andrew Warhola, the Carpatho-Ruysn American, who is the least known, then there is Andy Warhol, the celebrity artist, who is the most publicly known and, finally, there is Andy Warhol, the artist known by art critics.

The key here is in the statement “most PUBLICLY known,” because Warhol went to great lengths to maintain a very private life. He didn’t really want anyone to know about his deep belief in Greek Catholicism, his ethinicity or about his daily life in general.

Second, his art contains multiple references to Rusyn folk art, as seen in psyanky (decorated Easter eggs) and to religious images found in Greek Catholic churches.

I am very pleased that Genea-Santa found my book when he did and it sits proudly in my ever-growing Rusyn reference book collection.