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The Scots of Chicago: Quiet Immigrants and Their New Society by Wayne Rethford and June Skinner Sawyers. Published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 4050 Westmark Drive, Dubuque Iowa 52002. 1997. 185 pp. Illustrations, index, maps, photographs. Softcover. $29.95.

The stated “purpose of this book is to give credit to those Scottish men and women who have influenced the City of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and, indirectly, the country itself. ... Much of the our emphasis here will be on the Scottish influence in Chicago, especially as it relates to the Illinois Saint Andrew Society, the oldest charitable institution in Illinois.”

The book lives up to its stated purpose describing the lives of many of the Scots, famous and not so famous, who formed a significant part of the history of Chicago. The book begins with a brief introduction on why the people left Scotland, when and how they arrived in Chicago, and how the Illinois Saint Andrew Society was formed.

Throughout the book the development, highlights and disasters of Chicago history are described along with the Scots who were active participants. The authors have done an excellent job of providing us with numerous brief biographical sketches of the notable Scots mentioned and often include photographs. Many of these people have been immortalized in the streets and places familiar to many of us in Chicago. The book provides an excellent understanding of the silent, often invisible, role played by the Scots in Chicago history. For any genealogist this historical perspective is important.

As the book progresses there is a growing emphasis on the history of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. The authors portray the role of the society in holding the Scottish community together, especially in more recent times as other Scottish groups have vanished. It also talks about the development of the Scottish home and the way the society provided for and supported the needy in the community.

The book concludes with a valuable overview of the historic Scottish communities in Illinois. These were often small and quickly assimilated communities so this chapter alone makes Illinois Scottish research easier. There is also an excellent bibliography giving you further resources to check for your ancestors or their social context.

Throughout the book many names are mentioned. It is unfortunate that an everyname index was not created, even with the more notable names every occurrence of their name is not always included in the index.

For anyone with Scottish ancestors in Illinois, and especially in Chicago this is a fascinating read.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v. 5 no. 4, 1998