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11 June 2013

Review: Georgia Courthouse Disasters by Paul Graham

It's an indispensable book. It really is.

I first caught wind of Paul K. Graham's Georgia Courthouse Disasters via an article at the Legal Genealogist blog. She was quite persuasive, so I bought it. Turns out she was pretty accurate in her assessment, too. ;-)

Georgia Courthouse Disasters provides a listing of the more than 100 "events" that resulted in some sort of damage to courthouses and had an impact on the 159 counties in Georgia. There is an alphabetical list as well as a chronological list. From the Introduction:
Previously, cursory lists only gave a hint of destructive events and potential loss of records. None were complete, and many included dates of planned demolitions or "fires" that never happened. Through careful research, each event has now been documented using contemporary evidence. If a courthouse disaster does not appear in this book, no evidence was found during the research process.
Then each county with a disaster has a separate mention with a description of the disastrous event and source citations.

Not every courthouse had a disaster, mind you. But, as you well know, county boundaries changed over time. Parts of some counties were used to create other counties. Some counties were consolidated. Not to mention, Georgia has the second most number of counties behind only Texas. [per Wikipedia] So Mr. Graham does something that I think ranks this resource above any other attempted past listing -- he provides maps! A modern county map is used with a shaded boundary showing the maximum impact of loss, as well as another bold outline of limited impact. For example, let's take the county of Washington. The map shows the maximum impact being said county, as expected, but take a look at the number of (modern day) counties with limited impact: Oglethorpe, Greene, Taliaferro, Hancock, Baldwin, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurens, Treutlen, Emanuel, Jenkins, Montgomery, Toombs, Candler, and Tattnall. Fifteen! I have ancestors in some of those counties, and never looked at Washington's issue quite that way.

I told you it was indispensable.

At only $5.39 per paperback (at Amazon), the value totally surpasses (IMHO) the modest price.

But it gets better (also, IMHO).

I have been going through a self-imposed season of downsizing and minimizing. And though I usually purchase my reference books in their "old-fashioned" bound form, I thought this one might be an easy one to try on my Kindle. And I'm thrilled with the result. It takes up no space on my physical bookshelf, and is available to me anywhere (online and off). With all of the Kindle reading apps, the book is literally at my fingertips -- on my desktop PC, on my laptop, on my netbook, on both of my Kindles, and on my iTouch. Furthermore, with a linked table of contents and just a couple of clicks or taps, I can be at the county of interest in mere seconds. The price of this wealth of knowledge and convenience? $2.99 -- I say get 'em while their hot!

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