Book Review: Mastering Census and Military Records, by W. Daniel Quillen

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This third title in Quillen's "Essentials of Genealogy" series provides the reader with information on researching American census and military records. While this book is a short primer on these two diverse topics, it does a good job of providing beginning genealogists with the information they need to understand the records and conduct their search. The author's writing style, is reminiscent of sitting down with a friend who is welcoming and knowledgeable.

One of the aspects that I liked about this book is that Quillen explains some of the historical background to the records, something that is important and often missed by genealogists. Knowing the background and reason for the records can help in your overall understanding of them. Chapter 3, U.S. Census History, begins with a discussion of the origins of the census and then the questions asked in each of the decennial census forms, including the much anticipated 1940 census. The reader will benefit from the discussion of additional census records such as the State Censuses, Mortality Schedules, and schedules like the Slave, Military Veterans, Special Interim (1885) and Defective, Dependent , and Delinquent schedules. I was disappointed not to see mention of other schedules like the Agricultural schedules which can provide an interesting look at your ancestor's life.

The military records section of the book begins with an overview of military records and then delves into the records war by war. Quillen includes a list of wars by years to help the reader ascertain which ancestors may have left behind military records. Quillen's concern for helping the reader with their genealogy is evident in his offer to email the World War I and World War II draft registration templates to those who would like to have them electronically for reference, instead of simply printed in the book. This is just one example of the personal touches that his readers appreciate.

My hope for later titles in this series is to consider adding an appendix of information for quick reference. Quillen provides important reference information such as the questions asked in the U.S. Federal Census, states and years relating to the Mortality Schedule, information that would be great to have in an appendix where readers can easily turn to for future reference. I would have also liked to have seen a similar treatment for the State Census with a list of the states and the years they produced a census. Quillen does include a glossary at the conclusion of the book but I think an appendix with these additional resources would also benefit the reader.

While I am sure that most people would find this a beginner's book, there is no doubt there may be information contained within that would be new to more intermediate researchers. One example is the mention of the Deaf Couples census schedule. I have seen almost no discussion of that census schedule prior to reading this book. Quillen also writes about what state's World War II draft registrations (the old man's draft) were destroyed and will never be available in databases, which is one that every genealogist should be made aware of.

Quillen's Essentials series meets the need for simple, concise information about record sets, where to find them and how to research them. These are books that every beginning genealogist or genealogist new to a specific type of research should take a look at. I look forward to the additional titles in this series.

"Quillen's Essentials of Genealogy: Mastering Census and Military Records," by W. Daniel Quillen. Cold Spring Press. 2011.

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