#1 Genealogy Books


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#1 Genealogy Books

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Muokkaaja: helmikuu 25, 2007, 4:56pm

What's your #1 book recommendation for:

~Introducing genealogy to beginners
~Searching your multicultural or "ethnic" roots (African, Native American, Japanese, etc)
~Using technology in research (internet/software/etc)
~Organization (keeping track of records and research)
~Recording Sources
~Becoming a professional-level genealogist
~Fictional work about family history / genealogy

helmikuu 25, 2007, 6:02pm

Introducing genealogy:

This sounds heretical for a book lover, but I think I'd send a beginner to RootsWeb's Guide To Tracing Family Trees (www.Rootsweb.com) or another online guide.

helmikuu 27, 2007, 1:52pm

I'm with you myshelves. I'd send them to Rootsweb and to cyndislist.
I own very few actual genealogy books. Back in 1997 I did buy Cyndi Howell's (Cyndislist) Netting Your Ancestors. I was very new to the internet and it covered everything from how to join a mailing list to how to send an e-mail!

helmikuu 27, 2007, 2:51pm

As much as I like some on-line resources, I still recommend newcomers get a general genealogy intro book.

Advantages to the books:
-- Less likely to be tied to one particular commmercial provider (so they are less limnitng in the long run)
-- Provide answers to question people don't know to look for answers to
-- generally have more depth; they cover the beginnings but also work at getting people to the advanced beginner stage.

Genealogy 101, How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy, Complete Idiot's Guide to Genealogy , and Unpuzzling Your Past are all at least adequate.

I've also recommended the less common First Steps in Genealogy and Genesis of Your Genealogy which are very good introductory books.

helmikuu 27, 2007, 3:05pm

I agree, killearnan. I checked out the RootsWeb Guide to Tracing Family Trees -- their getting started page had 8 links to pages that no longer exist. A solidly written basic genealogy book will provide the timeless information.

I found a great list of the "Top 10" recommended genealogy books...


helmikuu 27, 2007, 8:57pm

For fictional reads with a genealogy theme in mind my all time favorite is Cane River by Lalita Tademy.

If you are looking for Non-fiction books I would recommend Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball and the sequel Sweet Hell Inside.

If adoption is what you are looking for the best book along those lines I have read is The Search for Anna Fisher by Florence Fisher.

If you have read any of these I would like to know how you liked them.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 28, 2007, 12:36am

Since I spend so much time at my better-than-average library when I'm researching, I own just a few basic books (I have access to everything I need on-site.) I would agree about Unpuzzling Your Past being a good starter book to have at home - It's good to have a copy to lend to friends and relatives just starting out.

But really, the book I keep on me at all times? Cite Your Sources by Richard S Lackey. After all these years, I *still* get irritated at how little attention people pay to sourcing and how many times I hear them gripe 10 years into researching about how they wish they had done it from the start. Evidence by Elizabeth Mills is also a good book to own.

The other thing I tend to recommend to people that isn't on every "must have" list in the universe is to keep a few of those Grandma, Tell Me Your Memories sorts of journals around... I find them useless to actually give to grandparents to fill out, but *brilliant* for preparing for visiting time with elders... I tend to read through them before the visit to focus and prepare a list of trigger questions/conversations to have in visiting. Much more useful than a book about how to interview people.

I'm pretty organized but still found Organizing Your Family History Search by Sharon Carmack a useful book to read.

My favorite non-reference reading? The Psychic Roots books by Henry Z Jones. I just never get tired of hearing people's research stories.

helmikuu 28, 2007, 1:18am

I guess those Psychic Roots books will have to go on my wish list. :-) I keep hearing good stuff about them. I once attended a lecture by Hank Jones. I left with the 2 volume set on the 1710 Palatines, and my budget was objecting to my adding any more.

One of my favorite novels involving genealogy is Kingsblood Royal by Sinclair Lewis. The hero starts looking for his family tree, and discovers a Negro ancestor. Under the laws then existing, the smallest drop of "Negro blood" makes him and his children Negro. Should he try to keep it secret, for the sake of his employment, his wife & family, and their position in society? A gripping book about racism.

helmikuu 28, 2007, 12:20pm

SimPenguin: good rec on the memory books. I've used them for scrapbooks -- don't know why I didn't think to use them for family research.

Sounds like you prefer Cite Your Sources over Evidence. I recently bought the later -- why do you prefer the former?

helmikuu 28, 2007, 7:55pm

myshelves: I think it's mainly *me* that's been going on and on about them... We've chatted before. ;-) How I envy you - I would *so* love to have heard Jones speak!

pdxwoman: Well, I think Evidence is the better/more comprehensive book, but I had Cite Your Sources for some time before I got a copy of it and I find it valuable to have both. Evidence is better to read cover to cover and is the clear choice for a professional genealogist. Cite Your Sources I find much more valuable as a practical reference book to carry with me when I'm researching at the library - It's less cluttered in content and smaller to haul around. And if I was recommending one or the other to a new amateur genealogist who was showing resistance to the idea of citing sources, I might start them out with Cite Your Sources - I know a few people who would be completely overwhelmed and confused by the look of Evidence and be scared off the whole thing. Anyone working at an advanced level, or who was not frightened off by the complexity of it, should definitely get Evidence.

I have to admit - I've ignored the advice/rules of *both* authors at times and have made up my own standards in a few instances. My concern is much more that I am able to identify (as specifically as possible) where each fact/document came from so I can retrace my steps, not so much a professional interest in genealogical proof. I've also had to cheat a little bit with database software over the years to keep a handle on the citations due to the software's limitations - all the information is there, but Mills and Lackey would have something to say about how important it is to attach citations properly when using a computer genealogy program. Now they are capable of the task - 15 years ago, you had to use band-aids and duct tape. I really should do some housecleaning.

This is a really good reminder to me that it's time to read *both* books from cover to cover again (it's been many years) and reevaluate my own practices. I'm just as sloppy as the next gal when it comes down to it. :-)

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 28, 2007, 8:40pm

Here is one I'd recommend: My sixteen : a self-help guide to finding your sixteen grea-great grandparents by Robert W. Marlin.
For fiction, there's a mystery series by Rett MacPherson featuring a genealogist called Torie O'Shea.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 1, 2007, 12:00am

Grrrr. I'd like to see anyone find my 2 missing GGGMs! They were born in Ireland, swam over with husbands & children, and are in "checkmark on the census" territory here. No naming patterns to go on --- only male children known. I assume that they were buried, but no records can be found. (Sob)

Does everyone else have all 16 accounted for?

Seajack, Which mystery do you recommend as a start?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 1, 2007, 1:01am

I'd say start with the first book in Macpherson's series: Family Skeletons.
I have all 16 - depending on how one defines "accounted for" that is! I'm definitely going to need some Psychic Roots-type help myself with my mother's mother's father's mother. Her husband was a seaman, she "eloped" to marry him, had their son, and was gone with T.B. shortly thereafter. No marriage record (no clue where one might be!), and no death record (NS wasn't recording them then); headstone gives years of birth and death only. Her son's birth certificate gives "London, England" as her birthplace, no age nor parents listed for her. Conflicting info that she may have been French; surname "Coombs" can go either way there it seems ...

What does "checkmark on the census territory" mean exactly?

Penguin -- thanks for those Jones book references. I wanna look into them, pronto!

maaliskuu 1, 2007, 1:23am

Hi Seajack,

Thanks. I'll look for Family Skeletons.

At least you have a name for your GGGM. My 2 missing ones are just "wife." :-((

The 1850 US census was the first to list anyone other than the head of household. Before that, they had categories --- males in different age groups, females in different age groups --- with a checkmark in the appropriate column for each other member of the household. So my ancestress was just a checkmark in an adult female column. :((( Birth certificates? Death certificates? No such things back then. Parish records? The names are horribly common in Ireland, and they never even bothered to say where in Ireland. The death would have been in NY, but the RC church, to the building of which that GGGF contributed the largest sum, won't let anyone look at records. :((

Same story with the other one, except that I can't even find her husband on a census before 1850, at which time he was a widower. Might have been a boarder before then. He is written up in one of those "local hotshot" biography books, but ghod forbid his wife should have a name.

Guess I'd better get the Psychic books!

maaliskuu 1, 2007, 3:09am

SimPenguin: Great evaluation/explanation. I've read and used MLA and APA for years (and years and years) in school, so another citation format book won't scare me off! ;-) Sounds like I picked the right one. I'll stick with Evidence for now and maybe go to the library later and check out Cite Your Sources. Thanks!

The Sixteen GGGPs: I have 14. I'm clueless on my mom's father's maternal grandparents. It's as though my GGM sprung from the sea or something.

maaliskuu 1, 2007, 8:45pm

I just realized that I don't know if I have my 16 gggps or not. I'm going to have to pull out my records and see. Lately I decided to stop banging my head on my own brick walls. I'm doing some beginnning searches for folks who aren't sure how to start. To be honest, I'm doing the easy part but it's fascinating to discover a new area of the country or a new ethnic or national tradition. I've enjoyed the Fiona Mountain mysteries Pale as the grave and Bloodline. They are set in England so you learn about different sources. I'm interested in the Psychic Roots. Although I'm afraid some of my ancestors may be psychotic.

maaliskuu 1, 2007, 9:04pm

I got Psychic Roots from the library earlier today. The "coincidences" listed are truly stunning; the mysterious hot air balloon leading one woman to a graveyard containing the markers she sought, after fruitlessly having searched other local burial grounds that afternoon, was amazing! One person advises to stop knocking yourself out on "dead ends" and let the information come to you, which worked for her many times.
My library doesn't have the sequel, so it looks like I'll be ordering it via Inter-Library Loan.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 1, 2007, 9:13pm


Those books don't seem to be on LT. The touchstones go to novels by Nabokov & Sidney Sheldon. :-)

Can you tell us more about them? Where in England?

maaliskuu 4, 2007, 2:05pm

I've added these books to LT. Here is a snippet from the PW review of Bloodline: At the start of British author Mountain's superb second mystery to feature Natasha Blake (after 2005's Pale as the Dead), an oddly reticent client, Charles Seagrove, has hired the 29-year-old genealogist to research the family history of his granddaughter's boyfriend, John Hellier. Shortly after receiving a cryptic one-sentence note in the post, Natasha, who's become a complete workaholic since the breakup with her own boyfriend 18 months earlier, finds Seagrove shot dead on his Cotswolds farm. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

maaliskuu 4, 2007, 6:00pm

Fixing touchstones:

Fiona Mountain


maaliskuu 20, 2007, 5:58pm

#12 I have all 16 accounted for, its the next generation where I loose half my tree! All my germans swam over :)

maaliskuu 20, 2007, 7:45pm


Hmmm. I wonder if finding the 16 may be a function of age, and of the length of generations in families. (A generation was more like 40+ years for mine.)

My lost 2 of 16 were born well before 1800, and swam over with husbands & children in the 1820s/1830s.

maaliskuu 20, 2007, 9:08pm

Age and the fact that 1/2 my family was already done by my grandma, see post in introductions.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 21, 2007, 9:23pm

Myshelves: my parents came from the kind of families where they knew 15 of the 16 names as family facts. That last one I was able to yank out of Last Name Unknown territory when I found my father's mother's father's mother's maiden name (Hanrahan) on the 1890 NYC marriage cert of my great-grandfather's brother; my GGF's own NYC marriage cert gives only the woman's married surname. The average year-of-birth of my 16 is roughly 1840. The last two deaths were in 1938 (88) and 1940 (96).

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 22, 2007, 4:01am


Reminds me of a line in a book I read, in which one of my remote cousins or cousins-in-law was complaining about "people who don't have great-grandparents" being given a say in public affairs. :-) But in knowing my great-grands, my family's knowledge was stretching back to the same period as was yours with the great-greats.

The average year of birth for your great-great-grandparents (your 16) was about 1840.
The average year of birth for my great-grandparents (my 8) was exactly 1840. (The spread runs from 1815 to 1861.)

The average for my great-greats appears to be about 1810. Not many certificates to be found for those people! The 2 missing women were both born in the 18th century, somewhere in Ireland, and died before 1850.

maaliskuu 22, 2007, 3:44pm

I have a line which includes a 4th GGrandmother who was 27 years older than her husband. She was 44 when they married, he was 17. She had her 8th child when she was 62.

Another line includes a 4th GGrandfather who was 73 when the last of his 24 was born.

maaliskuu 22, 2007, 4:00pm

She had a child when she was 62?!? That's pretty late menopause! What is the evidence? When I was in school, we were told that the historical record was held by a woman who'd given birth at age 57. (Of course, that was before implantation and all that.)

maaliskuu 22, 2007, 4:20pm

LOL I'll have to check.

maaliskuu 22, 2007, 4:37pm

I'll believe it when I see sworn affidavits from the midwife and from a dozen disinterested witnesses to the birth. :-)

Speaking of elderly mothers, has everyone got at least one case in which parents raised the child of an unmarried daughter and claimed that the child was theirs?

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 22, 2007, 5:39pm

Yes, myshelves - my great-grandfather falls into that category. He comes through as adopted; the father was married at the time. For my post earlier, I used the age of his biological mother and father to get an 1840's average.

toukokuu 29, 2008, 5:31pm

I just finished reading Evidence: Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I thought I did a pretty good job of citing sources but after reading this book, I see that I can make a lot of improvement. This book will be parked on my desk as a great reference guide to citing sources.

toukokuu 30, 2008, 9:41am

Vic33, now you are ready for Evidence Explained. She has updated her earlier work with all sorts of new types of sources, particularly electronic ones. The newer book is a bit bulky for travelling, but it's even more indispensable than the first.

joulukuu 27, 2008, 11:34pm

I just finished reading another interesting genealogy book. Sharon DeBartolo Carmack's Your Guide to Cemetery Research. Carmack covers everything from finding death records to transcribing tombstones to burial customs. I was most interested in the chapter on cemetery transcription project. I am a leader in a Boy Scout Troop and I've been thinking that a cemetery project might make a good Eagle Scout project. Anyone ever hear of Boy Scouts doing this type of project?

toukokuu 17, 2009, 11:37am

I took thornton37814's advice and picked up Evidence Explained. Wow, it is hefty! I've already used several of the citation formats from the book. The internet citation formats are particularly helpful in this day and age of on-line research.

kesäkuu 13, 2009, 11:31pm

You might consider downloading the electronic version instead of carrying the hard-cover Evidence Explained. I downloaded mine from footnote.com. I enjoy the convenience of having it at my fingertips and the ability to search, then cut and paste the sample (to be sure I get it right).

maaliskuu 19, 2011, 9:33pm

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood is a great book for learning how to do research. I recommend it to all my new genealogy students.

maaliskuu 20, 2011, 6:22pm

Vic33, Eagle Scouts are ideal for this kind of project and have done many of them. Once you have your transcription, please donate a copy to your local library. :)

maaliskuu 21, 2011, 12:11am

I like Unpuzzling Your Past for a beginner book. I had already been researching family history for quite a few years when I read it, but the checklist of resources is a good reference for covering all the bases. As I'm in the process of scanning and organizing some old family letters, Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents has also been helpful.

Seajack, thanks for mentioning My Sixteen. I may recommend that one to some friends who are just starting out. Myshelves, I have 14 of my 16 and one of my cousins thinks she has a record of the other 2. Fortunately I had relatives on both sides who were into genealogy. They were hunting up records in courthouses and exchanging information with distant relatives long before I was born. The missing set are the parents of the latecomer GGF who came over from Ireland in the 1840s. (Fortunately he used to write home and after him the correspondence was kept up for a generation or two. So my cousin is hunting for letters.) Everyone else was here a century or two before that so they've been easier to find. Although I do have a brickwall for one set of parents in the generation before that. One GGGM married in Tennessee and came to Texas and I have no idea who her parents were.

Back to books; I bought Professional Genealogy but haven't cracked it yet. I need to get my source citations straight before I go too far down that road! So I will probably buy one of the Evidence books in the meantime.

maaliskuu 28, 2011, 6:42pm

I have 14 of the 16... only my Lynch GGGparents are unknown. They both were born in Ireland, but I haven't any idea where in Ireland, so the search will go on endlessly I'm afraid.

huhtikuu 21, 2011, 10:43pm

My favorite help book which sets on the shelf above my computer is How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy by George G. Morgan. George G. Morgan is highly respected in the Genealogy field. No Genealogy library should be without that book

elokuu 30, 2012, 11:56am

I recently finished reading The Family Tree Problem Solver: Proven methods for scaling the inevitable brick wall by Marsha Hoffman Rising. Although the book was published in 2005, it still had a lot of great information (might be a revised edition). It remains timely because it is NOT a "how to find your ancestors on-line" type of book. The book discusses analyzing data from records such as census records, probate records and deeds. Of course, these records may or may not be on-line. After discussing a particular record, the author used case studies from her own research to illustrate the processes she uses. I would call this a book for the intermediate genealogist.

marraskuu 14, 2014, 12:34am

I'm surprised at the lack of serious reading of genealogically related books. I would suggest that education is a major cornerstone to doing genealogical research. Likewise, I would suggest that attending training sessions is also quite important for any level of researcher from beginner to expert. I have all my books related to genealogy listed on LT. I have included the four that I am reading right now. I also believe in participation in genealogical groups is beneficial. Finally, I look forward to reading more comments to learn more about this group and LT. Silly me. I just saw the date of the last message added to this thread. It's over two years old!

marraskuu 14, 2014, 6:48am

Here in Australia all the old newspapers are being scanned and put on-line. They are a mine of information, especially the Family Notices (Births, marriages and deaths) and the law courts where one finds all the things which were never talked about such as divorce and criminal convictions.
For any Aussies reading this - http://trove.nla.gov.au/