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Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     When people become interested in tracing their family tree, they naturally want to learn what they need to do to find their ancestors. As they progress in their research, they realize they must also know what they should not do. In other words, they need to be aware of potential pitfalls and avoid them in order to discover their correct pedigree. Richard Hite focuses on numerous common traps in his new book, SUSTAINABLE GENEALOGY: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION IN FAMILY LEGENDS.

     Using examples from case studies of his own lineage, Hite analyzes some of the recurring myths in American genealogy and demonstrates how to seek the truth—if any--behind family legends and oral traditions. A few of them are the origin of a certain line being assigned to the wrong ethnic group, brothers (usually three) immigrating to America at the same time, the “collapsing” of several generations into one, geographic dispersal, individuals being disinherited, origin of unusual surnames, relationship to a famous person (the author proves that he does not descend from Jost Hite, early settler of the Shenandoah Valley) or royalty, the Pennsylvania Dutch, and Native American ancestry (which nearly always claims an Indian “princess” in the background). To help genealogists separate fact from fiction in their research, Hite’s collection of examples also discusses recognizing when identical surnames conceal different nationalities, understanding when and why public documents like death certificates may contain erroneous information, knowing when middle names are not family names, taking genealogical data in nineteenth-century “mug books” with a grain of salt, realizing relationships must be chronologically plausible, and comprehending the limits of DNA testing.

     Scattered throughout the narrative are tidbits of useful information. When researchers are trying to figure out an individual’s ethnicity during the colonial era, for instance, Hite states that the given name Robert was common among the English, Scots, and Scots-Irish but was almost never used by Germans. Duncan as a first name indicated a Scots or Scots-Irish origin. Names like Magdalena, Joachim, Conrad, and Mathias denoted German lineage while Jeremiah, Jonathan, and Nathaniel were common only among the English.

     Throughout his material, Hite emphasizes an important point: researchers should keep in mind that understanding what is not true can often be just as valuable as knowing what is genuine. In that respect, his textbook is unusual. Although the volume may be aimed at beginning researchers, experienced genealogists will also find the work enjoyable and useful. As a result, SUSTAINABLE GENEALOGY: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION IN FAMILY LEGENDS will be a wonderful addition to the reference shelves of individuals as well as public libraries.

     Well-written and easy to read, the 110-page soft-cover book has a foreword by distinguished genealogist, Henry Z. Jones, Jr., an introduction, photographs, and reproductions of documents. To the book's price of $18.95, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order 2752) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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