Book Review: Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americas: A Complete Digest of the Records of All the Countries of the Western Hemisphere

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When I first saw the "Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americas" being sold at a conference, I knew I had to have it. I am a big fan of its author, Christina K Schaefer, who has written several other books that should be on every researchers to-read list including the "Hidden Half of the family: A Sourcebook for Women's Genealogy" and "The Great War: A Guide to the Service Records of all the World's Fighting Men and Volunteers."

Encyclopedias can help researchers learn more about a place or an event. Most of us are familiar with general encyclopedias and with the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. As genealogists it is important to be aware of the available resources and their historical context for the specific region we are researching. "The Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americas" is one that every researcher of American families, whether they are from Canada, the United States or South America, should have on their bookshelf. Don't let the words "colonial period" influence whether you acquire this book or not. While these are records that begin in the colonial period, some of the resources include records that are much more recent; in addition, the places to search for these records will have documents spanning generations.

"The Genealogical Encyclopedia," divided into geographic locations, includes maps, timelines and facts useful to researching an area. Divided into seven parts, the Encyclopedia covers Latin America; the Caribbean; the Thirteen Colonies, Maine and Vermont; Other U.S. States with settlements prior to the Revolution; Canada and Resources for Further Research. The "Resource for Further Research" section includes colonial sources found in European counties such as Denmark, France, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and foreign records at the Library of Congress.

As an example of what this book contains, consider the article for North Carolina which includes a short history, early courts and statewide resources, land records, manuscript collections, church records, country records and resources. The county listing includes the name of the county some of the government records available for that county and the Family History Library microfilm numbers for those records. A suggested reading list ends the article. Probably my only wish for this book would be that it would be a great resource to have online either in the form of a wiki or as an eBook so that information could be updated and links could be provided to websites, digital collections and the Family History Library catalog.

The author, Christina K. Schaefer, writes in her Preface that this book "has been written out of my frustration for the lack of an existing single-source reference for Colonial America." She wanted a one-stop source that would help with understanding the history and resources available. There is no doubt that her work does just that.

Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americas: A Complete Digest of the Records of All the Countries of the Western Hemisphere, by Christina K. Schaefer.

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