Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Our People – Carpatho-Rusyns & Their Descendants in North America by Paul Robert Magocsi: Book Review

Our People, Second Edition, 2023

I am always on the lookout for books to add to my knowledge of my Rusyn heritage. The earlier editions of this particular book have been out of stock for quite a while, aside from exorbitant secondhand prices online. However, I was aware that the 5th revised edition was due out in 2023 and decided to purchase a copy.

Paul Robert Magocsi is very well-known in the Rusyn world. is an He is American, but is a professor of history, political science, and Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. He is more or less a Rusyn rock star, having published more than 30 books in English with more translated into other Slavic languages.

The cover photo tells the story of the beginnings of almost all Rusyn-Americans, when our ancestors walked out of Ellis Island into a new life.

Contents

Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Introduction
Note on Names

Chapter
1. Origins
2. Migration
3. Settlement Patterns and Economic Life
4. Religious Life
5. Organizational Life
6. Culture
7. Politics
8. Carpatho-Rusyns in Canada
9. Group Maintenance

Appendix: Root Seeker’s Guide to the Homeland
Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgements
Photograph Credits

Chapter 1 begins with the current thinking on the origins of the Carpatho-Rusyn people in Europe and their history up to the latter part of the 19th century.

Chapter 2 immediately places the focus on Rusyn emigration to America, which began in the 1880s and wound down with more restrictive U.S. immigration laws in the early 1920s.

Professor Magocsi describes in detail what the emigrants had to endure just to leave Europe – for most, it meant walking to Hamburg or another departure point. Just as a point of reference, my grandmother made this journey. It’s 675 miles from Udol, Slovakia to Hamburg, Germany!

About 250,000 Rusyns, or Ruthenians as they were also called, arrived in America between 1900 and 1914, the start of World War I. Most men were poor peasants with about 40% farmers, 20% daily laborers and another 20% working as servants. The remainder of these immigrants were women and children, most of whom sought jobs in the factories and mills.

The remaining chapters in the book discuss the assimilation of Rusyns into American life or, for a number of them, the pattern of short term working in the United States, followed by the return to the “old country.”

Regardless of a temporary or permanent move to America, Rusyns lived and worked near other Rusyns. They belonged to Greek Catholic or Orthodox Churches and established social organizations. Cultural traditions crossed the pond with the immigrant population. Professor Magocsi provides a detailed history of areas where most Rusyns settled and how they lived their new lives, eventually venturing into politics, both American and speaking out on behalf of political changes happening in Europe.

It’s sad to note that Rusyns have never had a unified homeland within the borders of a single country to call their own. In spite of the lack of a homeland, Carpatho-Rusyns have a rich history and heritage.

The book closes with what is called “Group Maintenance,” which discusses the factors impacting the Rusyn identity and culture.

The Root Seeker’s guide at the back of the book will help beginning researchers to identify their places of origin in the 21st century. That can be a daunting task, given the name changes placed on villages throughout time. Some name changes are easy to figure out, such as Hajtovka, one of my grandmother’s villages, to an alternate spelling of Haitivka. Others are not so easy. Who would believe that Hajasd an Volosianka were the same place? Or Sirma and Drotyntsi? This guide also gives the name of the former Hungarian county or Galician district where the town is, the present administrative subdivision and the present country where the town is located. All very important pieces of information to know if one doesn’t know much about the family origins.

Fun Fact: There are a handful of Rusyn-Americans whose names most people would recognize, like Andrew Warhola, Alexandra Zuk, Margaret Maria Hyra and Robert Michael Urich. However, they are better known as artist Andy Warhol, actor Robert Urich and actresses Sandra Dee and Meg Ryan!

This is an excellent book on immigrant Rusyn life in America and worth every penny of the $39.00 price.

Our People – Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Descendants in North America by Paul Robert Magocsi is published by the Carpatho-Rusyn Research Centre, P.O. Box 163, Goldens Bridge, New York 10526-0163.

Here’s a tip if you are thinking of buying this book. That mega-company that sells items online has the book listed for $48.00 plus a $4.49 shipping charge.

Instead, write a check and mail it to the Centre at the address above. The price will be $39.00 with no extra shipping charge if mailed inside the United States. That’s a huge savings!

With the book will come a list of the extensive offerings of Rusyn publications available, both in English and other Slavic languages.

Professor Magocsi’s book now has pride of place on my Carpatho-Rusyn book shelf. 🙂

Estate Inventories – How to Use Them: Book Review

Estate Inventories – How to Use Them by Kenneth L. Smith is a definite oldie, but goodie, having been published in 2000 and I have to honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever come across this book before in spite of researching my family tree for over 40 years.

I learned about this book during an online webinar I attended and bought a copy online for less than $15.00. Unlike many research-oriented books, the information in this little gem is as relevant and on-point today as it was when it was first printed almost a quarter of a century ago.

Contents

Chapter 1: What Does It Say?

  • Structure
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Foreign Phonetics
  • Abbreviations
  • Example

Chapter 2: How Much Is That Worth?

  • Currencies
  • Colonial and State Currencies
  • Frames of Reference
  • Examples

Chapter 3: What Does It Mean?

  • Example 1: Subsistence living
  • Example 2: House Layout and Real Estate
  • Example 3: Family Structure and Relationships
  • Example 4: Genealogical Data
  • Example 5: Animals’ Names and Names of Foreign Origin
  • Example 6: Genealogical Data on Slaves
  • Example 7: Indentured Servants

Chapter 4: That’s A Word?

  • Glossary of Uncommon Words
  • Abbreviations and Symbols

Bibliography

Estate Inventories – How to Use Them is a compact 137-page paperback book which contains four chapters filled with educational tips and strategies to help the reader understand all that can be gleaned from an estate inventory.

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the difficulties that might be encountered just trying to decipher the cursive handwriting, which might range from obsolete letter style to modern illegible handwriting.

Chapter 2 discusses strategies and resources available to determine the dollar value of estate items, both in the original time period and more modern times and touches on the existence of colonial and state currencies.

Chapter 3 explains how inventories can provide a glimpse, or if lucky, a full view of the life of the deceased.

The first three chapters are filled with examples that illustrate the main points of each chapter and fill half of the book.

Chapter 4, which is my favorite, fills the entire second half of the book and is invaluable in understanding words and descriptions frequently found in American colonial estate packets.

So, your ancestor owned a dray, a smoke-jack, two Brown Swiss and a laver. What are these items? The Chapter 4 glossary (72 pages long) will provide definitions for all of them. Not only will the definitions provide an understanding of the inventory list, but having access to the glossary will also help the reader decipher difficult words, many of which are obsolete today.

Even the bibliography isn’t outdated because most of the books in the list cover topics like colonial kitchens, early American houses, life in colonial times, and other non-modern topics.

I highly recommend seeking out a copy of Estate Inventories – How to Use Them by Kenneth L. Smith to add to your genealogy reference bookshelf. Copies seem to be plentiful and can be found online for under $10.00.

Evidence Explained, 4th ed. by Elizabeth Shown Mills: 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.

It’s not often that a classic reference book is given a massive update, but Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, has done just that with Evidence Explained: City History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 4th Edition.

Not to worry – All of us using her templates from earlier editions don’t have to start over!

What has always been true remains so: Evidence Explained is built on one core principle: We cannot judge the reliability of any information unless we know exactly where the information came from and the strengths and weaknesses of that source.

What has changed? Well, for one thing, the 4th edition is about 100 pages shorter than the 3rd edition, Revised. Some of the source citation examples have been moved to different chapters and a few examples like Family History Library microfilm and DAR application are now more generally included under the terms ‘microfilm’ and ‘lineage society applications.’

While those are minor updates and changes that I noticed while moving all my color-coded tabs from the 3rd Edition, Revised to the 4th edition, they are indicative of the massive increase of digital resources available online today. Mills has accordingly expanded the examples of online records that need to be cited in our research.

The 4th Edition opens with a QuickStart Guide, introducing the basics of citing our sources.

The Table of Contents provides an overview of the types of records that researchers will seek out and need to cite in their work:

Contents

QuickStart Guide
Foreword
Acknowledgements
Chapters
1 Fundamentals of Research & Analysis
2 Fundamentals of Citations & Style
3 Building a Citation/Templates 1-14
4 Archives & Artifacts
5 Business & Institutional Records
6 Cemetery Records
7 Census Records
8 Church Records
9 Governance & Property: Local Records
10 Governance & Property: State Records
11 Licenses, Registrations, Rolls & Vital Records: Local & State
12 national Government Records
13 Publications: Books, CDs, Maps, Leaflets & videos
14 Publications: Legal Works & Government Documents
14 Publications: Periodicals, Broadcasts & Web Miscellanea

Appendixes
1 Glossary
Bibliography

Index

Although the Table of Contents provides an overview, each chapter has an opening page of its own called Guidelines, which allows the reader to easily locate the type of citation in the chapter. Here is the Guidelines page for Chapter 2:

Chapter 3 – Building a Citation – is a completely new chapter. The Basic Seven Building Blocks for a citation are explained as are the methods for crating layered citations.

Also found in Chapter 3 are the newly simplified 14 templates that can be used to cite any and every type of item of which a genealogical researcher might need. Therefore, the crux of this new edition is Chapter 3.

The remaining chapters discuss the various types of records and items to be found under each of the chapter headings with citation examples provided for them. The excellent addition to each of the examples is the inclusion of WHICH of the 14 templates is to be used to create the citation.

Elizabeth Shown Mills spent almost a year working on Evidence Explained, Fourth Edition.; she has done a fabulous job!

I really like this “slimmed down” version of the best guide out there that teaches us how to correctly record all the necessary details to build accurate citations for our genealogical research.

I have to admit that the earlier editions of this book felt a bit overwhelming, especially for a beginning genealogist. There was so much to take in, I approached the book with somewhat of a tunnel vision point of view – my goal was to find what I needed as quickly as possible and then to close the book.

The Fourth Edition, with Chapter 3 leading the way, makes the process of creating source citations seem much more manageable. I understand why Chapter 3 was placed after Fundamentals of Research & Analysis and Fundamentals of Citation & Style, but Chapter 3 will become the initial “go to” chapter for most of us as we seek to master citing our sources.

Evidence Explained, Fourth Edition should be in every researcher’s reference library! Experienced researchers will want to integrate these new templates into their work and beginners should definitely start down the research path building excellent research habits, which include accurately citing their sources.

Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained, Fourth Edition can be ordered online from Genealogical Publishing Company. The $65.00 cost is worth every penny!