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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Reference Reviews, Volume 23, Issue 4
Many cultures have followed forms of ancestor worship and sometimes it almost seems that Western society is reviving the ancient practice. Fuelled by television programmes featuring celebrities and facilitated by an explosion of internet sites that allow trawling through registers, censuses and the like without having to set foot in dusty record offices, amateur genealogy is booming. Everyone, it seems, is exploring their family tree, trying to trace back their roots and perhaps hoping to turn up something that will provide a little colour or notoriety to enliven a humdrum twenty-first century existence. That the internet has transformed the genealogical landscape is unquestionable, and in recent years these columns have featured a number of sites that enable the non-specialist to hunt directly through a vast range of sources. In this issue we take a slightly different slant and look at two sites that are intended to facilitate and support the genealogical searching process rather than directly offer record information. The Utah based Rootsweb (RR 2009/193) is a partly interactive database that aims “to connect people so that they can help each other and share genealogical research”. From the GenerationsNetwork, which also produces Ancestry.com, it is ranked number two by Protogenealogists.com on 50 Most Popular Genealogy Websites for 2008 (see www.progenealogists.com/top50genealogy2008.htm). Not on this US-focussed list, but useful for those wanting to gain an overview of UK genealogical sources, is the Family Records site (RR 2009/189) provided by a consortium of organisations including the British Library and the National Archives. Reflecting the popularity of genealogical sources, Reference Reviews will aim to cover other internet sites in the field in forthcoming issues, partly basing its selection on the Protgenealogists.com listing.
Given it is now taken for granted that the web is the starting point for genealogical research, it is not surprising that in updating The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History (RR 2009/191), 12 years after original publication, Oxford University Press have found it necessary to offer linked webpages to supplement the printed text. Oxford University Press is of course, with the UK Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the American National Biography, an active purveyor of “genealogical” information on the famous. New from the imprint in 2008 was The African American National Biography (RR, 2009/186), an eight-volume set containing 4,100 biographies, all of which appear in the publisher’s online database Oxford African American Studies Center (see www.oxfordaasc.com/public/about.jsp). Another publisher actively producing reference texts relating to African-Americans is Greenwood Press. In this volume we review a title that takes this coverage in a new direction with The Jim Crow Encyclopedia (RR 2009/159), which gives a complete overview of the system that allowed a defeated white South to suppress African-Americans for a hundred years after the Civil War.
All aspects of American history continue to be the subject of continuing reference output, presumably because the collective purchasing power of US libraries serving undergraduates ensures a steady market. Having dealt with the big global conflicts with sets on the First and Second World Wars, ABC-Clio now focus their encyclopaedic treatment of military conflicts on North America. The Encyclopedia of North American Colonial Conflicts to 1775 (RR 2009/197), published in three volumes and with Spencer Tucker again at the editorial helm, is the first offering in the new series Encyclopedias of American Military History projected for an ambitious 14 separate titles. Also ambitious is The Encyclopedia of Christianity, a title hitherto undeservedly neglected by Reference Reviews. The final alphabetical volume of this set, jointly published by Eerdmans and Brill, is now released (RR 2009/152) and completes the English language translation of the third edition of Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon: Internationale Theologische Enzyklopädie, published between 1986 and 1997. Another multi-volume set featured is Gale’s two-volume Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy (RR 2009/173). Following on from the same publisher’s Encyclopedia of Science, Technology and Ethics (RR 2006/91), this set is indicative of another major theme in current reference publishing, the environment and, more specifically, global warming. Directly addressing this topic is The Complete Guide to Climate Change (RR 2009/171) from Routledge, one of several print references on climate change and global warming to publish in the last few months the most substantial of which is Sage’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change.
Also appearing within a few months are two encyclopaedias devoted to the islands nation of Singapore. In 2006 Scarecrow Press published the Encyclopedia of Singapore (RR 2007/250). Almost simultaneously Editions Didier Millet, in association with Singapore’s National Heritage Board, produced Singapore: The Encyclopedia. This title, which had previously evaded our attention, is now reviewed in these columns (RR 2009/199). Other encyclopedias featured include CABI’s Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts (RR 2009/174), The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (RR 2009/178), which is a condensed version of the ten-volume set published 1998-2000, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (RR 2009/155), which stands alongside the gratis Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (RR 2009/311) and the subscription Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online (RR 2004/304) as key electronic sources for general information on philosophy. Finally, we should note the return after a brief interruption of the annual International Film Guide (RR 2009/181) (now produced by Wallflower Press), the third edition of Bob Duckett et al.’s Know it All, Find it Fast (RR 2009/151), The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory (RR 2009/160) (effectively the third edition of the Blackwell Companion to Social Theory) and the attractive but easily overlooked V&A Publishing’s Dictionary of Children’s Clothes (RR 2009/158).
Tony ChalcraftEditor, Reference Reviews , and University Librarian, York St John University, York, UK