The Old Booksmith: Genealogy

Bibliography for Research in British & Continental
Royal & Noble Lineages & Heraldry

This bibliography is substantially larger in number of titles covered and considerably wider in breadth of subjects discussed than the four earlier versions it replaces (all of which were published only online, not in paper editions). This is not intended to display erudition, but is meant to provide a true studentís reading list as well as reference guide to the whole study of royal and noble lineages, and to the subject of aristocracy generally. Anyone, even the rankest beginner, who takes the time to read (and enjoy!) most of the titles in the first section, "Background Reading," should be able to make effective use of any other work included in this list. Nor should the reader be hesitant to tackle the sometimes more scholarly "Case Study" works in the second section; they really arenít that difficult and they should put you well on the way to understanding the reasons for becoming involved in this specialty area of genealogy in the first place.

Some of these works are sternly utilitarian, some are a laugh riot (trust me . . .), but one should take the time to become aware of all of them. The annotations are entirely my own observations and opinions, take íem or leave íem. They vary considerably in length because some works are denser or more obscure than others, or are less obvious in their utility, or are less (or more) widely cited than they deserve, or simply because I have stronger feelings about them.

For a variety of practical and methodological reasons, certain types of publications have been systematically excluded: Brief pamphlets, theses and dissertations, most self-published family histories, narrow studies of brief periods in a nationís history (such as Norman Gashís excellent Aristocracy and People: Britain, 1815–1865), and general studies of a single reign.

NOW — Iíve said all that so I can say this: A researcher who spends excessive time and money in an attempt to establish a personal link to the crowned heads of Europe and Great Britain, as an end in itself, has missed the whole point.

The desire to be able to trace oneís ancestry into the distant past is quite natural for people like us — but the motivation should not be solely to ride on the coattails of oneís ancestorsí achievements. The serious genealogist (and historian) ought to be interested in the life and times of any distant ancestor, for the past is a "foreign land." Unfortunately, the great mass of peasant farmers who make up most of our genetic heritage left exceedingly few records or even names. Generally, one must be satisfied to trace those whose names and deeds their contemporaries thought it worth-while to record — who were those atop the social heap. Hence, our interest in royal and noble lineages. For myself, I donít believe I have a single royal chromosome in my body, but that lack has not dimmed my longtime interest in the incredibly complex network of western noble lineages and in the whole socio-anthropological phenomenon of the aristocracy.

Finally, for the reader with a special interest in the French peerage, especially as it manifested itself in Quebec, I am delighted to recommend another resource, Bibliography for Tracing French Noble Families, compiled by Dr. John P. DuLong, and originally available in one of the libraries of the CompuServe ROOTS forum. It was intended as a supplement to the 3rd edition of this bibliography, heís kind enough to say, but his experience in that particular field is considerably greater than my own. I should add that John has been active for many years in the French-Canadian Heritage Society; his main history and genealogy website can be found at Acadian and French-Canadian Genealogy. I have used his comments to ferret out for myself several works I had overlooked in the earlier editions of this list, as well as some I was aware of but had not included. A small number were incorporated in the Third Edition (and now the Fourth Edition), but always with my own annotations; Johnís judgments and mine donít always agree, of course, so the reader has the luxury of more than a single opinion to draw upon — an opportunity not to missed, as any researcher or bookman will attest.

A Note on Coverage: There are two main points. First, I have not, as a general rule, included biographies of individuals. Partly, this is because there are hundreds of published works on the lives of such popular subjects as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and I haven't read the great majority of them. And partly it's because there's only so much that can be said about a given person, no matter how notable, without becoming either redundant or overly academic and technical. I have made exceptions, however, in the case of biographies that go beyond the details of a particular life into the social system that life typifies, such as Anthony Goodman's John of Gaunt: The Exercise of Princely Power in Fourteenth-Century Europe, and Harriet OíBrien's Queen Emma and the Vikings: Power, Love, and Greed in 11th-Century England.

The second point is that not every book I wish to reccommend (or warn against) is included in this bibliography — yet. The list of books in this subject which I maintain for my own use includes, at the moment, around 1,100 titles. I have so far read about half of them, and I have written annotations on a bit more than half of those. So this is very much an ongoing project. As I am able to locate additional titles (it has proven very difficult to find copies of some of them), and read them, and study them, I will write annotations or brief reviews of them, and those will be included in the appropriate section here. In other words: Stay tuned, folks.

Background Reading & Development of the Titled Classes

Historical & Genealogical Case Studies

Dynastic Studies & Theory of Kingship

Lineage Compilations & Prosopography

Burkeís and Debrettís

Armory and Heraldry