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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Jumpstart Your Family History in Ten Steps: Step Nine -- Start Reading or Attending Classes or Both

In our electronic based society today, perhaps we forget to read books for information. But even if you are glued to a computer or smartphone or tablet, you can find a lot of information about how to do genealogy. I think it is important enough that I need to start off this segment by reminding everyone about the resources in The Familly History Guide or This free, online reseource is a goldmine of information and instruction.

Most of my early orientation and training about genealogy came from books, that is, real books with paper and covers. Unfortunately, most local, public libraries have only a very few, token books about genealogy. They may have huge sections on woodworking or car repair, but only a dozen or so randomly selected books on genealogy. So, we are forced to go to larger libraries or acquire a few books from online sources. Even with the vast resources online, genealogy books do not tend to get offered in ebook editions. Over the years, I have acquired quite a collection of books about doing genealogical research that I think are helpful and during my early years in learning about genealogy, I read straight through quite a large pile of books. I used to go to the Brigham Young University Book Store (now called just "The Store") and browse through their textbook offerings for their genealogy classes. I would buy anything that looked interesting and read it from cover to cover.

I have posted a few lists of books in the past, but I think it is good idea to repeat a few more at this point to remind us all that these books are there and really do talk about things we all need to know about doing adequate genealogical research. The number one book on my list is still the following:

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

Over the years, because of the vast changes due to computerization and the internet, this book would seem to have gone out of date, but it is still a reliable and valuable source for understanding the basics of how to find resources. You just have to realize while reading the book that many of the records Greenwood mentions are now available online from large and small websites.

Next, I would continue to recommend reading the following book and I am saying "read" the following book. To some this is like reading a directory, there isn't much of a plot, but the only way to begin to understand where records are located and how they are organized is to read this type of compilation. Here it is:

Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2006.

Technically, The Source is available online in digital format, but it is on a rather obscure website from that the company has largely ignored called the Ancestry Wiki, See The book is not set out as such, it is broken down into segments for reference. There are almost no contributors to this Wiki because Ancestry hardly ever mentions it and does not promote it at all, something that seems to be happening with the Research Wiki also.

The next book is available online in ebook format and I must admit that I did read it on my iPad and do refer to it from time to time for clarification of issues that arise about the history of genealogy as a pursuit. By the way, this is the only book I know of that actually tells a more or less complete history of how we got to where we are today in genealogy.

Weil, Fran├žois. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013.

One thing you do have to remember when starting to learn about genealogical research is that most of the books and articles on the subject have been written either before computers became widely available or by people who have little or no background in technology. Even in some online sources, there is a decided emphasis on paper-based techniques and methodology. It will likely take some time for the "old guard" to retire and the new electronically based generation to be heard. I have been trying to bridge the gap between paper and the internet for some years now and I still read currently published articles that talk about using paper forms for genealogy. I simply do not have time to do the work twice. I cannot write it down on paper and then ultimately have to transfer it to a computer program.

For those who are acquainted with and work in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, you might want to read the following book. It is still available from several suppliers online from

Allen, James B., Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr. Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994. Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995.
Of course, I need to mention Family History Centers sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its subsidiary, There are almost 5000 of these around the world. They are staffed by a virtual army of volunteers and vary from a single room in a local church building to elaborate libraries such as the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. I also like to keep reminding everyone that the second largest such library is also located in Utah and is the Brigham Young University Family History Library on campus in Provo, Utah just 45 miles or so south of Salt Lake City.

There are several other large libraries that have substantial genealogical collections. These include some of the following with some repeat listings:
Now what about classes? There are a lot of very local and not-so-well-known or publicized conferences that go on every year. But there are also a few national level conferences that you might be able to attend. Both the U.S. and England have a major conference once a year. In England it is called "Who Do You Think You Are?" and will be held on April 5-8 in Birmingham, England. One of the main benefits that accrues from attending a really large conference is finding out there really are a few people out there who are doing genealogy.

Of course, we have a very large conference in the United States also in the form of RootsTech 2017 in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 8-11, 2017. This is a much newer conference than the one in England. There are hundreds of classes and other events going on and it is an exciting event.

The best and possibly only way to find out about a genealogy conference near you is to go online and search for "genealogy conference" and add your own state or province. When I did this for Utah, I found several events listed some of which are annual events.

Last, but not least, you may want to join a local genealogy society or group. When I was living in Mesa, Arizona, the local Maricopa County Library had a periodic genealogy coference and they had an interest group organized also. In addition, several of the retirement communities in the Salt River Valley had genealogy interest groups, some of which had classes and conferences. In addition, from time to time, some of the wards and stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold Family Discovery Days, although few of these are even locally publicized outside of the Church itself.

So now you are probably ready for the last step in jumpstarting your genealogy.

Here are the posts in this series.

No comments:

Post a Comment