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Grade 9 Up-This scholarly dictionary contains more than 70,000 entries-covering 85 to 90 percent of the U.S. population-and is the most comprehensive collection of American surnames ever produced. Hanks and contributors used the 1997 ProCD phone directory to create a truly multicultural work, with a vast array of names from European, Asian, and Middle Eastern backgrounds. Entries include each name's frequency of occurrence in the database; language(s), origin(s), and definition(s); associated given names; and, for some, the earliest known bearer in North America (or other historical notes). The lengthy introductory material covers the history of surnames, types of names, and-in 23 separate essays-surnames from particular countries/ethnic groups (including bibliographies). This set will be useful for genealogists, historians, and others curious about their family roots. However, it is not written for the layperson, and most students will need assistance in interpreting entries. Unfortunately, there are no glossaries that define genealogical, grammatical, and linguistic terms, and teens are likely to puzzle over such words as metonymic, agent derivative, byname, cognate, etc. Another drawback is that while there are cross-references to main entries (e.g., Roecker, "variant of ROCKER"), there are none going in the other direction; and some names mentioned as variations don't receive their own listing (for instance, Van der Werken, which appears to be absent, is actually discussed under Vanderwalker). Still, Family Names is a valuable contribution and will likely become the definitive source in this area.
Ann W. Moore, Schenectady County Public Library, NY
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This hefty set purports to outline the etymology of 70,000 American family surnames. The introduction claims that more than 85 percent of Americans will be able to locate their family name in these volumes. The population sample for compiling this resource was 88.7 million, roughly one-third of all U.S. inhabitants. Names are ordered alphabetically across the three volumes, with each entry containing the frequency of the name's occurrence, etymology, languages, spelling variants, typology (identifying when the name denotes a place, occupation, status, or forebear), regions in which the name appears, and cross-references. The entries are clear and lucid, without reliance on confusing abbreviations or symbols.
As the helpful general introduction indicates, the Dictionary is intended only to be a starting point for etymological or genealogical research. This introduction also has brief but informative sections about names in specific regions or time periods (ancient Rome, for example), and hereditary, patronymic, habitational, topographic, and seasonal names. A second introductory section, "Surnames, Forenames, and Correlations: Some Facts and Figures," explains the survey population as well as the normalization and presentation of the data. A third opening segment, "Introductions to Surnames of Particular Languages and Cultures," is particularly helpful in its specificity, providing information on surname history in regions ranging from the British Isles to East Asia, in addition to chronicling immigration patterns. Anyone can benefit from this information, whether they find their actual family name here or not. Each one of these introductory chapters contains its own bibliography, though it should be noted that many of the sources listed in the regional sections are not in English.
The introductory chapters provide more than 100 pages of helpful advice for researchers both using these volumes as well as going beyond them for further investigation. Additionally, clear structure and layout make this work a great source for lightning-quick reference into the origins of one's family name. The Dictionary of American Family Names is a useful tool for both the beginning and advanced researcher and is recommended for academic and large public libraries. RBB
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