Friday, July 24, 2009

Our Name in History: Redux

Back in November of 2007, upon their release(*), I reviewed's Our Name in History line of books. I summarized:
Someone who has spent significant time researching their family history already isn't likely to learn much, or get too many leads. In their introduction, Ancestry is careful to insert two disclaimers: 1) this information is about the surname in general, and not about the reader's specific ancestors. 2) data shouldn't be confused with fact. [I illustrated both disclaimers in my initial review.]

However, I feel this book would be a good first book for a son or grandson of high school/college age, or an adult friend who has shown some interest in genealogy, but doesn't quite know where to start. There is a section at the back that provides tips on research, and organization, along with some sample forms to get one started. The data that is presented should whet their appetite.
I noted that a quick random survey of surnames available on Amazon indicated that there was some variance in page length (as much as ten pages), likely due to how much data was found for particular surnames in the databases that Ancestry used for the books. I had purchased The Newmark Name in History, and said I wasn't interested in most of my other surnames, since I knew they would be very similar books. However, I was slightly curious about the Vanevery surname, since I knew the family had a different migration history which could yield different stock history pages.

The Van Every surname is also one of my few surnames where I am pretty certain everyone with the surname is related to me. It is believed all Van Everys are descended from two brothers Myndert and Carsten Frederickse (sons of Frederick Van Iveren). Therefore, I knew that the charts and graphs on name and occupation distribution would have a little more meaning for me.

Still, it was almost two years before I bought it.

I'm not going to repeat what I said in my first review. I will focus on the differences, as I find the differences are important to note for anyone considering purchase today.

There are only two pages in the Van Every book that weren't in the Newmark book, and that's because five Van Everys purchased some federal land between 1830 and 1888. None of these were my direct ancestors. However, there is a nice stock entry on the Homestead Act, Manifest Destiny, and Daniel Boone.

There at 10 pages in the Newmark book on the surname's history in England from 1851-1901, and only 2 in the Van Every book. For the obvious reason, there were no Van Everys in England. They did throw in 2 stock pages on the working conditions in England in 1881, even though they had no family statistics to attach that to. I'm not sure why they did this, except perhaps for padding.

Some of my disappointment I should have seen coming, as I could tell from the Amazon descriptions that the Van Every book was 6 pages shorter. With some thought, I should have figured out why.

My Van Every ancestors immigrated to America in the 17th century, but a large number of their descendants left America after the Revolutionary War. Even with just two surname books, I think I can say with relative certainty that all the books start with 1840, and the focus is on America, though they do have a sizable section on England, if applicable. Ancestry's Canadian resources have grown in the past two years, but all they had in 2007 may have been the 1911 census. So I did get a chart showing the 1911 name distribution - There were 98 families in Ontario, and 1-15 families in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec. In comparison, there were only 3 Newmark families each in Quebec and Saskatchewan.

I'm not sure what the 19th century immigration data for the Van Every surname reflects. It could be families who were traveling instead of immigrating. Or perhaps some families returned to Europe for a couple generations instead of Canada. Or there is a third possibility that there are some Van Everys in America who aren't descended from the two brothers...perhaps related more distantly.

In summary, if one is evaluating which surnames to purchase a Name in History volume for, the paucity of information from Canada might play a role for some surnames.

I know that the Amazon pages for the books say they were published in June/July of 2007. I also know the Amazon Press Release announcing them was on November 5th.

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