Monday, March 7, 2016

An Essential Library

Any hobby can be expensive, especially for a beginner. You need to acquire new skills and tools to work with. Sometimes it can involve things already around your house, but other times you need to go out and buy or otherwise acquire them. For genealogy, there are certain books that can be considered essential to have access to in order to learn how to create a quality genealogy. Many that I would consider the most essential are also rather costly. Fortunately, there are other ways to get access to them. Especially in the beginning, I would suggest you find a friend whose books you can borrow from time to time or better yet, a local library that has them! The following in no particular order are those that I feel are the most essential to have:

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood: This book is very comprehensive and good at explaining the basic principles of genealogical research. This book has long been regarded as a basic textbook for learning how to do genealogy.

Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills: This book is basically a Bible on citations. The first two chapters should be mandatory reading for anybody doing genealogy. They describe the basics of how to do citations and why we need them. All other chapters in the book describe specific types of citations and give examples of how best to create them. These should be read, maybe not as thoroughly, as you need to create each of these citations in your research. Elizabeth Shown Mills also has a companion website  where you can get further information and ask questions that is excellent.

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Loretto Szucs and others: This book covers many different types of record sources that a researcher is likely to encounter. Census records, military records, land records, church records… And the list goes on. A careful reading before you start looking at a new record source or to review one you’ve used before will help you make the best use of the sources that you encounter for each of your ancestors.

Professional Genealogy, Elizabeth Shown Mills editor: A bit more advanced than some of the other books, this one is excellent for both professionals and amateurs alike. Each chapter dives into a particular subject that a researcher may have an interest in. The chapters on writing reports are particularly helpful for all. Even if you never intend to do anything for anybody other than yourself, knowing how to write a report is beneficial in getting your research recorded so that you can remember what you did when you come back to a section later. Chapters on ethics and research skills cannot be overlooked. Others on editing, professional preparation and career management may not be as relevant to casual researchers, but should be looked at, as they have tidbits for all as well.

And two that are not specific titles, but rather categories of books that will be very helpful for you:

Computer software books: A book about the database program that you record you research in. One about Word or other applications you use to write reports and letters and such with. Books about any type of software that you use regularly in your genealogy. All of these books no matter what application they are for will help you learn them more in depth and enable you to work more efficiently. Remember the more efficient you are, especially with everyday tasks, the more research time you will have! 

Locality books: These books vary widely in what and how much is available. Many counties have histories that were written in the late 19th century about their towns. Some places have gazetteers about an area or an entire state. Histories of a particular town abound, both modern and older ones. If a famous person lived in a locale, there is likely much written about him/her that tells about that area as well. Any book of this type can be helpful even if your ancestor’s name is not mentioned in them. Learning the background of a community. What people of about the same time period experienced. Finding out when the courthouse was built or maybe when it burned down! All of this is background material about your ancestors and the world they lived in. It will help you to understand what they experienced, events they witnessed and where a record might be found or why it can’t be found. This category is limited to only what you can imagine and what you can find that will be helpful!

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