Books are Still Essential for Success in Genealogy Research!

In a world of original digital information, why are printed books still so important?

Some books speak to you by their titles.
Some books speak to you by their covers.
Some books speak to you by their authors.

Some books speak only when you look inside

Such a book is French-Speaking Reformed Community and their Church in Southampton, 1567-c.1620. Written by Andrew Spicer as Volume 39 of the Southampton Records Series. It is a scholarly study of the “exodus of religious dissidents from the Southern Netherlands.” Around 150,000 fled—about 5% of the total population. These emigrants included the wealthiest, the most highly educated, and the really skilled persons in that society.

When I encounter a book like this on the new book shelf at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or in any library I visit for research, I survey the volume to see if it is worth spending precious travel time to check it out. First, does it have informational footnotes and a bibliography of sources consulted? Does the author describe in an introduction why he did the study or is there someone else who does it for him? Is there a conclusion where the author or compiler states what he found and why his discovery is significant? If any of these trappings are present, I take the book to a convenient chair where it can be examined in depth.

[I also check the index to see if, by chance, tough ancestors I am tracing appear anywhere in the study. Imagine my delight—William Terrie, a dead-end ancestor, appears with information about him and his origins! You never know when details like these will appear in someone’s work–not written for the genealogist.]

Spicer’s book includes all of the essential items listed above. He describes the settlers in Southampton, England, as “members of extensive cohesive groups bound together by commercial and familial ties. In most cases these exiles also revealed strong commitment to the Reformed cause.” (p. 3) And they were not all from the same French background: Walloon exiles, French-speaking Channel Islanders, and refugees from France in the wake of the St. Batholomew’s Day Massacre.

Specific origins—towns and districts. Precise dates—when they left and when they arrived. Actual names of leaders and significant persons who were related to each other by blood or by marriage. And the author reminds the reader that these were cohesive groups of related persons moving together from danger to opportunity.

Refugees from Valenciennes were also prominent at Frankfurt and Canterbury. A number of those who settled at Norwich had originated from Ieper; the Maastricht Church moved en masse to Aachen in 1567, clothworkers from Hondschoote migrated to Leiden. Many of those who were recorded in Rye in 1572 had fled from Dieppe, a slightly smaller number from Rouen. A more regional migration can be seen in the exiles from the Pays de Caux who settled in Southampton and those from the Westkwartier at Sandwich. (p. 159)

Spicer also differentiates between what he calls “planted” communities from refugees who fled pell-mell from war and persecution.

What is missing from this study? Maps to compensate for uneducated knowledge of the reader. Places in France, Netherlands, Germany, and England are described in rather precise detail. Maps would have been helpful. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS The historical period between 1567 and 1620 was a time of great movement across Europe and the British Isles. Preparation for movement across the seas to America. Stay tuned!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.