Shape up your research skills' with these new genealogy guides.
- Digging for Genealogical Treasure in New England Town Records by Ann Smith Lainhart (New England Historic Genealogical Society Press). Can't get over that brick wall in your New England research? Digging for Genealogical Treasure in New England Town Records — back in print five years after its debut — contains descriptions of 18 types of records, tips on how to find them and scores of entertaining quotes from the original documents. Explore unusual sources such as boundary disputes, manumissions, cattle marks, school records and chattel mortgage books. Although the book has two indexes, one for people and one for places, a subject index also would have been beneficial. Still, even if you don't have New England ancestry, this is an interesting and fun read for discovering the quirks of record-keeping.
- A Field Guide for Genealogists by Judy Jacobson (Clearfield Co.). Unlike most guidebooks, which you'd consult before doing research, A Field Guide for Genealogists is meant for on-the-spot reference. Tote this compact volume to the courthouse, library or archives to look up genealogical and legal terms, nicknames, occupations and historical events. The Field Guide contains a slim section on Internet research, but it's not as helpful as the tables and glossaries — its focus on general genealogy-related sites strays from the book's purpose, and it omits some popular online resources.
- The Genealogist's Question & Answer Book by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk (Betterway Books). How do I locate military records? What is a Soundex or Miracode index? Where can I find archived newspapers? Melnyk draws on her experience as a former reference librarian for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and a "Genealogy 101" instructor to answer more than 260 common questions about records and research. The book starts with general queries, then groups questions by record type (census, vital records, land and so on), making it easy to find answers. Beginners will appreciate the friendly FAQ format and Melynk's clear, entertaining writing style.
- Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (Betterway Books). Once you've inherited or discovered diaries, memoirs, letters, papers and other memorabilia relating to your family history, what do you do with them? This book explains how to safely collect, organize, preserve and even publish your family's heirlooms. Sturdevant offers practical guidelines and plenty of examples based on documentary editors' annotation and editing standards.
- Shaking Your Family Tree: A Basic Guide to Tracing Your Family's Genealogy, revised edition, by Ralph J. Crandall (New England Historic Genealogical Society Press). Crandall is the executive director of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and this is the second edition of his popular guidebook. It's been extensively revised and features more illustrations and two new chapters: one on the Internet and another on court records. I've used Crandall's book for years as a text in my beginner-level college family history courses, and students have always found it easy to read and understand.
From the August 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine