Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Using the obvious and not so obvious genealogical resources

I was sitting at a table in the Mesa FamilySearch Library working away on a project and looked over to see one of the missionary/volunteers making notes from a large reference book. Here is the citation for the book he was using:

Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997.

It warmed my heart to see someone actually using a basic reference book. There is still hope for the future. But at the same time, it reminded me of the need to consult basic genealogical resources. Using the reference book, The Source, is one of the most obvious ways we can gain insight into the mechanics of genealogy. For research in the United States, I would recommend a core of books that can be obtained either in paper or ebook format. By the way, The Source is also the basis for's Wiki and the entire book is reproduced in the wiki format, as is another basic book, The Redbook. Here is that citation:

Eichholz, Alice. Redbook: American State, County & Town Sources. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004.

Even though both these books are easily available online, I still find myself referring to the paper copies of the books. Having preached the value of computers and online sources for so long, I would suppose that some would accuse be of having gone retro. Never fear, just because you like to refer to a good old paper book once in while, that fact does not contaminate your online abilities. 

I would also be remiss if I left out my favorite reference:

Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1990.

This book does not seem to be online completely anywhere in digital format, but it is certainly still available to purchase or use in a library. There is an ebook copy on the but it is limited to search only. I saw used copies online for sale for as little as $4.00.

Of course, I often refer to my copy of the following:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2007.

Whatever your feelings about citations, I still find this book helpful to give me a clear idea of what I am trying to accomplish with my own citations. 

Where would the list go from here? I have a lot of books but there are two more that I think add to the general background of a U.S. genealogical researcher and can be considered basic books:

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

I would credit Albion's Seed with opening up my understanding of the effect of waves of migrations to America. This is truly one of the books that changed my way of thinking in a dramatic way. 

You might notice that none of these books are particularly new. I think that reflects the fact that the core issues and values of genealogy do not change nearly as much as the superficial technology does. I will add one more book which turn out to be more recent, but no less important to an overall understanding the genealogy and genealogical processes:

Weil, François. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. 2013.

This is a book I did purchase and read as an ebook, but it is the source of a basic understanding of what has happened in the past in genealogy and what is likely to happen in the future. I have noticed, since reading the book, that we go through cycles in genealogy just like everything else in the world.

1 comment:

  1. Great suggestions for must-haves for my library! If I may suggest one more, I would add "Mastering Genealogical Proof," by Thomas W. Jones.