The Precinct Book
Review by PHL
is a wonderful book... a work of both genealogical and historical
Here are some of the author's comments from the introduction:
"This document is a transcription of the accounts of some of the
Overseers of the Poor in the lower Hudson Valley of New York, kept by
hand over a 45-year period in a tall, unlined notebook. The
Overseersí work was to "put out" the poor -- placing many of
them in the care of whatever citizens would charge the least to house
them, by an annual bidding process.
While many poorhouse records have been preserved throughout the United States, few actual records of the Overseers of the Poor (community officials who distributed tax funds to people who needed assistance ... such as money for fuel, food, clothing, medical treatment, etc. ... as "outdoor relief" (relief available to them in their own homes) ... have survived. And it is extremely rare to find such records existing from as far back as pre-Revolutionary times!
Initially one might expect "bookkeeping" records to be dry and uninteresting; but as primary historical data, they can make fascinating reading to anyone with the heart and imagination to "read between the lines." And they can be a genealogical goldmine! Because, if there is one thing that taxpayers are real prickly about, it's paying taxes! And as a consequence, if there is one thing that they are real "nosey" about ... it's how their taxes get spent! Taxpayers have always tried to hold their leaders accountable for every penny spent on the poor. And that is what makes the account books of Overseers of the Poor yield many, many names and facts about all of the people in a community who provided good or services for paupers (or to poorhouses) ... as well as the names of the poor people to whom they were provided.
And Mr. Troy's book provides us with a very comprehensive and usable index, which he describes as follows:
" ... a 29-page index has been compiled, listing about 1,100 individuals with over 500 family names as well as over 300 cross-references to these family names from spelling variations. This index is appended." ... "NAME INDEX. Entries consist of: - Last name, if known, and variations; - First name, if known, and variations; - Occupation, relationships or other identification; - Pages where the name may be found; - Range of years for all the entries."
This book is extremely well organized! It contains many cross-referencing features and clearly explains the transcribing practices utilized. It even explains the monetary system(s) ... yes, that's plural ! ... utilized during those time periods.
To help you figure out whether people you are researching might have been mentioned (based on where they lived) ... we are including Mr. Troy's geography review. (Which I, personally, found very helpful.)
In short, "The Precinct Book" is very well done and represents an extremely useful resource, adding significantly to the body of knowledge we now have about poor relief history, and providing genealogical information for a period of time for which it has previously been very scanty. We are sure you will enjoy it! PHL