Genealogy By the Book
9/1/2004
Cut out hours of research and instantly add branches to your family tree — here's how to find a shortcut to your roots in the pages of published family histories.
In the 13 years that I've been teaching family history classes, it never fails: On the first day, one of my students always announces something like, “My family history is done on my mother's side. My Aunt Martha wrote it.” Although I'm still amazed by this declaration — since no one's family history is ever “done” — it's nice to know that a relative took the time to write a piece of the family history.

Maybe someone has written a family history about your ancestors, too. A “genealogy cousin,” related to you by a common ancestor umpteen generations back, might have compiled and published a book about your family. Though such a book may not include every descendant down to your parents or grandparents, it could help you connect to another generation. If a published genealogy exists, it can save you countless hours of research. (It also could create countless hours of research if you discover the genealogy has flaws and wasn't well-researched.)

How can you find out whether your family history has been published — and how do you get your hands on a copy? How should you analyze such research? Let's take these questions one step at a time.