Tag Archives: Book Reviews

New England Court Records by Diane Rapaport: Book Review

I am most definitely a bibliophile and I love discovering new-t-me gems, especially when they relate to genealogy.

Diane Rapaport’s 470 page book New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians is one that every serious New England researcher should have on their reference bookshelf.

Although New England records are often plentiful back to the days of the Mayflower, official government records were kept here, there and everywhere and often at the town level, unlike many other states that held records at the county level.

A number of different types of courts were established in New England and locating original records today isn’t always the easiest task.

That’s why Rapaport’s book is so handy.

Table of Contents

Part I: Understanding the Basics

Chapter 1 American Legal System
Chapter 2 New England Courts
Chapter 3 Types of Court records
Chapter 4 Where to Look for Court Records

Part II: Getting Specific, State by State

Chapter 5 Finding and Using the Resources in Part II
Chapter 6 Connecticut State Courts
Chapter 7 Maine State Courts
Chapter 8 Massachusetts State Courts
Chapter 9 New Hampshire State Courts
Chapter 10 Rhode Island State Courts
Chapter 11 Vermont State Courts
Chapter 12 Federal Courts in New England

Part III: Sampling the Sources

Chapter 13 Indexes to Court Records: People of Color in Colonial Rhode Island
Chapter 14 Computer Database: Slander in Nineteenth-Century Maine
Chapter 15 Federal Court Records: Bankruptcy in Post-Civil War Vermont
Chapter 16 Justice of the Peace Courts: Local Justice in Cornwall, Connecticut
Chapter 17 Law Library Resources: Will Context in Twentieth-Century New Hampshire
Chapter 18 Old-Fashioned Research: Scandal in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts

Contact Information:
State courts
Federal Courts
Archives and Other Repositories
Law Libraries
Recommended Reading

Although this book was published in 2006, very little of it is outdated. In fact, if CD-ROMS weren’t mentioned as auxiliary resources and outdated websites weren’t in the book, it isn’t likely that most people would be able to guess the publication date.

However, internet resources are but a minimal piece of information in this book as the author keeps a focus on the different types of court records and repositories where records are housed today.

Parts I and III are required reading to “get the lay of the land.” Part II reading will probably be limited to those states in which you have a need to research in historical court records. In my case, I have direct line ancestors in all six New England states, so I’ll be checking out the information in all the chapters in Part II.

The record samples shared in Part III made for interesting reading just as glimpses into the historical past.

The 19-page glossary covered basic legal terms, plus several unfamiliar to me, like mittimus, which is a court order directing the sheriff to jail a person.

The Recommended Reading list is a mixture of heavy-duty law readings and some lighter genealogical reading, separated into categories:

American Courts and Law
Bankruptcy and Insolvency
Colonial Courts and Law

My personal interest isn’t in the how and why of the law, but rather in where to find court records in places of interest.

Because of the detailed information about where to find these records, this book is a valuable resource for me with my deep early colonial New England families.

I’m forever looking up court records in my research; if you aren’t, too, you should be because you’re missing out on lots of great details about the lives of our ancestors. Americans have always been a litigious lot and they took their complaints to the courts.

New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Diane Rapaport was published by Quill Pen Press (founded by Rapaport) in 2006. It can be ordered today online at Amazon, new for $29.95. I have to be honest and say I picked up a used copy, which is like new, also at everyone’s favorite online website for less than half that price.

I highly recommend that you add this book to your home library!


Generation by Generation – A Modern Approach to the Basics of Genealogy by Drew Smith: 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.

Generation by Generation – a Modern Approach to the Basics of Genealogy is a brand new, hot off the press book by Drew Smith which explains the processes of preparing to tackle genealogy research and then how to actually work one’s way back through the records with a focus on U.S. censuses.

The chapters are in an interesting order, too, as research guidance is given in reverse order of time. In other words, it is in the exact order in which a researcher would, in the real world, work backwards through time, assembling records that document ancestors in the family tree.



Part I For All Generations : Preparing to Research

Chapter 1: Names, Places, Dates, and Events
Chapter 2: Relationships
Chapter 3: the Genealogical Research Process
Chapter 4: Tools and Methods to Keep Us Organized
Chapter 5: Looking for Previous Research
Chapter 6: DNA Testing
Chapter 7: Using Online Repositories

Part II Generation by Generation: Doing the Research

Chapter 8: Generations after 1950 in the U.S.
Chapter 9: Generations from 1880 to 1950 in the U.S.
Chapter 10: Generations from 1850 to 1880 in the U.S.
Chapter 11: Generations from 1776 to 1850 in the U.S.
Chapter 12: Generations in British America Before 1776
Chapter 13: Generations Outside the U.S. (in English)
Chapter 14: Generations with Records in Other Languages
Chapter 15: Now What?


I have to say that I really like this book. Drew Smith presents the information in clear, clean, concise ways, making it easy for a beginning researcher (the target group for this book) to understand how to begin research with a strong set of skills and knowledge.

There are tons of illustrations, which spotlight the resources, record types and online websites that make researching so much easier.

Part II provides an excellent breakdown of time periods in American history, based on the types of documents and historical items that are commonly found during each era.

I also really like the fact that, although online depositories are an important part of the research process, there is enough emphasis on all the different types of records that might be found in our families, that anyone will quickly understand that not everything is found online.

Chapter 14 mentions resources in other languages, but the emphasis of this book is centered on American research with a small net of information encompassing records located in other English-speaking countries.

This book would be a fabulous textbook in a beginning genealogy class, but it’s also valuable as a guide for intermediate level genealogists.

Generation by Generation – A Modern Approach to the Basics of Genealogy by Drew Smith can be purchased online from Genealogical Publishing Company for $29.95, which would be money well spent.


The Librarian’s Guide to Genealogical Services and Research by James Swan: Book Review

A while ago, another blogger mentioned The Librarian’s Guide to Genealogical Services and Research by James Swan.

I had never heard of this book and it was published in 2004, pretty much the dinosaur age for online genealogical research.

However, the blogger stated that there was still much excellent information to be found in Swan’s book and I happened to find one online for just $14.00. It was so inexpensive that I decided to purchase it.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Part I The Librarians’ Guide to Genealogical Services
Chapter 1 Starting Research
Chapter 2 Building the Genealogical Collection
Chapter 3 Defining the Technological Task
Chapter 4 Identifying and Accessing Major Genealogy Repositories
Chapter 5 Distinguishing Other Genealogical Resource Facilities
Chapter 6 Providing Instruction for Genealogists
Chapter 7 Staying Current Professionally

Part II The Librarian’s Guide to Genealogical Research
Chapter 8 Starting an Organized Search
Chapter 9 Finding Genealogically Significant Sources
Chapter 10 Identifying Databases and Indexes
Chapter 11 Facilitating Research with Computers
Chapter 12 Getting Help from Professional Researchers

Part III Handy Genealogical Resources and Worksheets
Tool Kit 1 The Resource Bibliography
Tool Kit 2 National Archives Regional Collections
Tool Kit 3 Getting Started Handouts
Tool Kit 4 Keeping Your Research Organized
Tool Kit 5 Additional Research Checklists
Tool Kit 6 Federal Census Worksheets
Tool Kit 7 Requesting Information
Tool Kit 8 Web and Computer Resources

[Note that Tool Kits 3-8 have many subsections. ]


Although this book is geared towards genealogy reference librarians, and some of it is a bit outdated, e.g. companies that are no longer around, there is still some great reference material in this book.

Most of the Chapter and Took Kit entries in the table above are self-explanatory.

For anyone just beginning his/her family history research, Part II is an excellent step-by-step guide to getting started.

Many different types of records which are useful in family history research are explained, including unusual ones, like estate auction records and biographical dictionaries.

Part II is packed with information. Even Chapter 11, Facilitating Research with Computers, isn’t totally outdated, as it discusses data entry fields in software programs and has a table of genealogy software programs. Some of those companies are long out of business, but Family Tree Maker, Legacy and RootsMagic are all on the list.

There were many excellent genealogy-related books on the market by 2004 and the Resource Bibliography contains most of them.

There is also a section that covers U.S. state libraries and historical societies with web addresses, organized alphabetically by state.

There is even a handy CD at the back of the book. Mine looks like it’s never been used.

Not surprisingly, some of the links in the chapters still work, while others are broken. The ones that do work are excellent resources, like NARA.

The CD section on Genealogical and Historical Societies contains a lengthy list of links, almost all of which are still current.

The Librarian’s Guide to Genealogical Service and Research is a whopping 360 pages long. The publisher is out of business, but used copies can be found for sale online.

Why would someone want a book like this published back in 2004 when online searches can be done today?

The answer: Because not everyone is familiar with every resource and repository that might help with his/her personal research. Answers can be found by just flipping a few pages.

I’d recommend this book for beginning and early intermediate genealogists, but only if found for under $25.00. Visit your favorite online websites for available copies.