Book Review: Delaware Genealogical Research Guide

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Delaware Genealogical Research Guide
Fourth edition. Published by Delaware Genealogical Society. 2020. 171 pages.

This society publication is one of the best-looking and well-crafted state research guides to come across my desk. The glossy cover exudes “old” with the image of an old historic and yellowed 1757 map of Delaware counties with neighboring Maryland and southern New Jersey. “Old” is perfectly suitable for the state acknowledged as the First State by way of Caesar Rodney’s urgent horseback ride through the dark of night to be the first delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence. (That’s him racing across the Delaware state quarter.) Delaware is our second-smallest state, with only three counties that record the lengthy history of Dutch, Swedish, and English governance going all the way back to 1609.

The Delaware Genealogical Society dedicated their guidebook to and remembered their much-admired member Donn Devine, one of the most gracious persons to stroll the halls of genealogy. He resided in Delaware, where he earned eminence as a scholar within the study of genealogy. He led this local group to full growth as a primary resource for Delaware research. He accumulated a varied list of achievements throughout his lifetime: he composed one of the verses for the Delaware state song; served as a Catholic diocesan archivist who collected their records for publication and study; was a municipal planner for the city of Wilmington; and ranked as a Brigadier General in the army.

This state guide offers the usual sections on cemeteries, tax records, vital records, geography, immigration and migration, ethnic groups, censuses, military records, and state and county records. The information is logical and clear, and should serve the researcher well.

The beginning chapter describes the material within the guide, explaining how best to utilize its many resources, both online and in print, and helpful descriptions of all the resources. I found this section to be particularly clarifying, especially for less experienced researchers, written well and understandably, and handy to read as an introduction for all the material explored in the subsequent chapters.

At the end of each chapter is a list of references for further reading that appear to be relevant, current, and varied, such as websites, printed publications, and ebooks.

There are tables that present assembled items for particular topics that are well structured and substantial. For example, the “Index of Churches Statewide by Name” that covers church registers is twenty-one pages long, and these are only for the churches organized before 1900. There are explanations in this Churches and Religious Groups chapter to aid the researchers in finding all the relevant records.

The chapter Record Repositories is thirty pages of repositories both inside and outside the state, as explained by the author about the frequency of Delaware-related records found outside the state from eighty years of boundary disputes between the Penn family of Pennsylvania and the Calvert family of Maryland that created sites for old records outside the now-state of Delaware. Repositories described here are in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Virginia, the nationally important sites, and online.

A final chapter describes the many genealogy societies that meet in these areas. An index completes the guide.

The contributors and writers for this guide spent a lot of time creating their compilations, carefully and judiciously collecting and editing their findings. I particularly liked the plentiful images of old drawings, maps, photos, and the like, of Delaware historical places and people. The pictorials add human interest and appeal to the guidebook.

This reference guide is exceptionally well designed and crafted for easy reading, and the information contained therein is comprehensive, relevant, and wide-ranging. Mr. Devine would approve.

The Delaware Genealogical Research Guide is available from Amazon at https://amzn.to/2BqhXVb.

3 Comments

I was so excited to see your glowing review of the research guide! I can attest that my colleagues at DGS put their hearts and souls and countless hours of labor into it, and are well deserving of the the praise.
A minor fact check though: Delaware is the First State by virtue of being the first state to ratify the new Constitution, more than a decade after Caesar Rodney’s momentous ride to sign the Declaration of Independence.

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FYI – Caesar Rodney was not the first delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence…that honor goes to John Hancock. Mr. Rodney’s famous ride was to cast the decisive Delaware vote for independence at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

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Thank you for clarifying!

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