Readers who have ever consulted any book on genealogy will quickly recognize that the style of this writing is considerably different from that normally encountered. Genealogists generally identify a family ancestor, as far back as possible, and then develop his progeny. There are many ways of portraying these relationships, but the most common is to use sub-paragraphing. The ancient progenitor is identified, then his children are given numbers (e.g., I, II, VI, and so on); children of those children are given a different style of numbers or letters (e.g., A, B, C) under each of the primary numbers. This system can continue to an almost endless diminutive. For example, "III A 1 a (b) (3)" could show the third child of a second child of a first child of a first child of a first child of a third child. This method has its uses, and is often necessary in "reading" a family tree or genealogical chart. Should a reader desire to create a personal family tree, this method might be preferred.
A major failure with such a simple system, however, is that it affords no options for including dates, places, events, and other information. For that reason, this book intentionally deviates from that style. Instead, it emphasizes all the available genealogical and historical facts about each individual - in an encyclopedic format.
When more is known than is shown on the chart, the additional information will be contained in the relevant Ross narrative. The fact that additional information exists will be indicated by a bold arrow pointing backward or forward (meaning backward or forward in time). Question marks on the chart mean that a question exists, either concerning an adjacent fact, a missing name, or the presence or absence of descendants. A vertical line following a name indicates that no children were born to that individual--as distinguished from a question mark which means that no children have been identified.
To trace a family, in this book or elsewhere, it is advantageous (mandatory, if one strives for certainty) to consider the mother's name. One may know that an ancestor's name was Henry William Ross--but "which" Henry William Ross? If only "H. W. Ross" is known, it becomes even more perplexing. If, however, a researcher knew that it was the H. W. Ross who was married to Lucy Jane Thompson, the probability of accuracy is considerably increased. For this reason, full maiden names and maternal ancestry are painstakingly included whenever known. They are crucial to determining lineage. When a wife's maiden name is not know, that fact is depicted by (----), for example: "Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, of John Ross and Mary (----) ROSS, about 1678."
The book itself is arranged much like an encyclopedia and is fully indexed. Maybe a grandfather's name is not known, but it is known that he lived in Pennsylvania. Consult the index under Pennsylvania.
Where known, all particulars about each family is shown completely: place and date of birth, death, marriage; wife's maiden name (and ancestry); full names of children and siblings. This convention can become boring and repetitive, but it prevents the reader from having to "refer to" some other entry (a practice limited to lengthy duplicate details). Sometimes dates are estimated and "probable" locations established. When such information is uncertain but enough information is available to make an educated guess, such an educated guess is provided. Wherever the lack of certainty exists, however, the "guesswork" is clearly stated. When the term "unknown" is used, it doesn't necessarily mean that particular fact is really unknown--but rather that it was not determined in the records searched.
Last names are entered in all capital letters, e.g., ROSS, UTLEY, THOMPSON, to prevent them being confused with middle names.
A reader's own name probably isn't contained in this book, but the odds are great that someone in his or her family history is included. It may be three or five or more generations back, and the lineage may not be direct (a great-grandfather's uncle may be shown, but not the father); but if one searches hard enough he just might find that "missing link" he's been seeking for years.
For anyone interested in "doing" their family history, the author advises to first collect all the Ross information available. It may fit in later, or it may belong to a branch of the family never known to exist. Sometimes a substantial historical stumbling block can be overcome by "bypassing" the dead end through a branch. If, for example, a great-grandfather just cannot be identified, then start by looking at one of his uncles. The uncle just might have been someone of prominence--and he had the same father as the great-great-grandfather.
Most important is to capture the knowledge of your oldest living relatives, since they may no longer be available when you realize you "wish" you had talked with them!