For the work at hand, Mr. Reynolds assembled a copiously illustrated collection of 500 essays devoted to distinguished families resident in the southern portion of New York State. Most of the essays begin with an explanation of the geographical origin or derivation of the family’s surname, with many of them going back to the 16th or 17th century. Reynolds then traces the line forward from the oldest known ancestor to the principal subject of the essay. This is followed by a detailed biography of that person, often with his photo, as well as an enumeration of collateral lines related to the principal subject. The index at the back of the volume identifies some 3,500 descendants of the main families listed in the volumes.