13 December 2016

Book Review: How the States Got Their Shapes

How the States Got Their Shapes. Mark Stein (New York: Smithsonian Books, 2008), 331 pages.
Location is one of the cornerstones of genealogy. Knowing where your ancestors were at a given time helps in finding documents and record repositories.

I came across How the States Got Their Shapes while browsing the shelves at the local library. A mixture of geography and history, Stein examines how the boundaries of each of the U.S. states changed over time to their current form. Maps accompanying the text to illustrate the boundary changes on a state-by-state basis.

After reading the account for each state, I came to a greater appreciation for the many factors involved in setting state boundaries, as well as understand the reasons for border shapes. Even the regular rectangle borders of Colorado and Wyoming have a story behind them.

Stein's writing is very approachable and often humorous. The book includes a select bibliography of source material, most of which are authored works from the twentieth century. The narrative text does point to more source-based material which would be very interesting to research. If only I had the time.

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