If you still doubt the utility of general genealogical study, I can give another example. When I was working on a graduate degree in Linguistics, we studied many different languages. Each of these languages was unique, but the idea was not necessarily to learn to speak the language, but to learn how the language worked and thereby advance our knowledge of "language" in general. The same principle applies to genealogy. If you study many different genealogical challenges, you will ultimately figure out how they all help you understand how to do your own genealogical research.
My list of books is certainly open to expansion and could go on endlessly, but there are a few books that I return to constantly that have helped me understand how genealogy works. I am going to start my short list with this classic:
Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1990.
Even though this book was published in 1990, it has been released again in 2013, see
In my opinion, there is no better book for understanding the process and sources for genealogy in the United States. If you look up any of the books I mention in WorldCat.org, you can find a library close by that has a copy of the book. This book is not yet available for public use in ebook format, but if you have contact with a member university, you can see the ebook from the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
Here are a couple of more classics. You might argue that online sources have entirely supplanted the need to look at a mere "paper" book. You may also argue that these books are now woefully out of date. Arguments can be made both ways, but I still find that I am using the paper versions regularly even though I sit all day in front of a computer. Here is the list:
My friend, Arlene Eakle, began this monumental work and it has since be edited and re-published and is now incorporated into the online Ancestry.com Wiki. The latest edition of the book was published in 2006,
The only thing you have to remember about whether or not the material in the book is still useful, is to check to see if the records mentioned have been put online somewhere. The book is gem of information.
In my opinion, the U.K. equivalent to the Greenwood book is the following:
As with all of these classics, this book has been republished multiple times. The latest edition is,
These books are substantial. They are likely intimidating to those whose reading habits are confined to popular novels and iPads. I suggest that they are substantial for a reason. Genealogy is substantial and cannot be explained or properly understood in a few simple online 5-minute videos. Sorry (not really).
Next are two semi-genealogy historical classics.
I say semi-genealogy because both of these books fall into the category of history. Both are masterpieces of clarity and give any genealogist a better understanding of who we are and why we believe the things we do about genealogy and history in general.
Another book I have been reviewing serially lately needs to be added to the list.
Along with the Weil book, this one is very new, genealogically speaking. But it still has all the marks of a classic. I thought it important enough to comment on each chapter individually.
Here are a couple of more very valuable and classic books to add to list and then I will quit rather than get into an endless list of everything in my library and my head.
Yes, Ms. Mills has two books on the list. Good work.