Beginner’s Bookshelf

Beginner’s Bookshelf

Turn the page in your family history with these 50 essential roots references.

For Starters

  • Abbreviations & Acronyms: A Guide for Family Historians by Kip Sperry (Ancestry). The terminology and language associated with genealogy can intimidate beginners. With this handy reference, you can quickly look up abbreviations, acronyms and other puzzling terms.
  • Cite Your Sources: A Manual for Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records by Richard S. Lackey (University Press of Mississippi). Documenting your genealogical sources is an important part of the research process. With chapters on citations, books, pamphlets, monographs and more, this book will properly instruct you.
  • Family History Made Easy by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Ancestry). This book shows you how to take the guesswork out of getting started in genealogy in an easy-to-follow format. Basic research tools and instructions are outlined.
  1.  First Steps in Genealogy: A Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your Family History by Desmond Walls Allen (Betterway Books). From interviewing family members to searching the census, determining the reliability of sources to documenting findings and more, this book is a must-have for the beginner.
  • Genealogy Starter Kit, 2nd edition, by William Dollarhide (Genealogical Publishing Co.). One of the most concise guidebooks available at just 48 pages, this kit will soon have you on your way to researching your family’s past. The book leads you through seven steps for getting started and includes a collection of forms for recording your ancestors’ information.
  • Organizing Your Family History Search by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Betterway Books). Get rid of those scattered piles of research documents strewn across your desk. Learn to put your research in order with tips on creating a flexible filing system and streamlining your organization process.
  • Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Deciphering handwriting in old records can be a challenge. Sperry leads you through techniques for reading documents, interpreting letter forms, understanding abbreviations and tackling tricky terminology.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls (Macmillan). Beginning genealogy research can be an overwhelming undertaking. The authors’ simple instructions will help you battle brick walls that beginners face.

  • The Genealogist’s Question & Answer Book by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk (Betterway Books). Get the answers to more than 150 common questions beginners ask. Topics covered include vital records, church records, census records, city directories, newspapers and more.
  • The Sleuth Book for Genealogists by Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books). Become a genealogy detective with unique approaches and methods for solving research problems. Case studies and a documentation guide round out this helpful resource.
  • Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th edition, by Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books). This best-selling guide takes you on a step-by-step journey into discovering your family’s past. The strategies for success, tips and charts provide help along the way.

Get Digital

  • Genealogy Basics Online by Cherri Melton Flinn (Muska & Lipman Publishing). This easy-to-follow book is full of how-to instruction. Discover the best Web sites, Web directories and search engines for genealogists.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Genealogy, 2nd edition, by Rhonda McClure (Alpha Books). The tips in this book will guide you carefully through genealogical research online. You’ll get advice on where to find the best information. There’s even a new chapter on digitized records and documents.
  • The Everything Online Genealogy Book by Pat Richley (Adams Media Corp.). Discover how to search state, local, census, church, cemetery, court and military records online with this easy-to-follow reference.
  • The Genealogist’s Computer Companion by Rhonda McClure (Betterway Books). Make the most of your research by combining the use of online resources with actual records. You’ll also find information about preserving documents and photos electronically.
  • Web Publishing for Genealogy, 2nd edition, by Peter Christian (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Find out how to get started publishing your genealogy online. HTML and other Web publishing tools are discussed.

Records and Research

  • Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources by Alice Eichholz (Ancestry). This quick reference guides you to the most useful genealogical resources in all 50 states. It lists where to find societies; libraries and vital, church and land records in towns and counties across America.
  • Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States, 3rd edition, edited by Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka (National Archives Trust Fund Board). You’ll find all you need to know about the National Archives and Records Administration in this handy reference. Sections outline federal records of population, immigration, land, the military and particular groups such as American Indians and government employees.
  • International Vital Records Handbook, 4th edition, by Thomas Jay Kemp (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Divided into two parts, this reference contains forms and information on obtaining vital records for the United States and other countries. For countries without a vital records registration system, you’ll find key addresses and a list of record repositories that can help.
  • Long-Distance Genealogy by Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer (Betterway Books). If traveling to do genealogical research isn’t an option, this book can help. It will show you how to use records, family correspondence, CD-ROMs and the Internet to find what you need to know without leaving home.
  • Map Guide to the US Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide (Genealogical Publishing Co.). County boundaries have changed since your ancestors’ lifetime. On every map in this book, old county lines are superimposed over modern ones to illustrate changes at 10-year intervals, so you can find your ancestors in each census.
  • Preparing in Advance to Visit a Genealogical Library by Nancy Ellen Carlberg (Carlberg Press,). Don’t waste precious research time when visiting a genealogy library. Find out how to prepare and what to do once you arrive to make the most of your trip.
  • The 1930 Census: A Reference and Research Guide by Thomas Jay Kemp (ProQuest Information & Learning). Learn your way around this Depression-era census with research strategies and background information about the enumeration. Included in this guide are the questions asked in the census, the new codes and more than 90 maps.
  • The Family Tree Guide Book by the editors of Family Tree Magazine (Betterway Books). Beginning and experienced genealogists will benefit from this extensive new directory to US and Canadian research. You’ll find Web sites, publications and contact information for archives, libraries and Family History Centers. And you’ll learn how to take your ancestor hunt on the road with guides to research in nearly 40 North American cities.
  • The Genealogist’s Companion & Sourcebook by Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books). Break through the brick walls that often hinder your progress in genealogical research. Find out what local sources are useful, and get a complete overview of the US census.
  • The Handybook for Genealogists, 10th edition, (Everton Publishers). This complete collection of genealogical information will help you develop your family history. It includes mailing and Web addresses for societies, repositories and libraries in all 50 states and many foreign countries, as well as more than 120 migration trail maps.
  • The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd edition, by Val D. Greenwood (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Knowing how to use records properly for research is essential in genealogy. You can identify various classes of records and determine their accuracy, as well as learn about the recently released 1930 US census.
  • The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Ancestry). A classic research reference, The Source shows you how to find and use records.
  • Your Guide to the Family History Library by Paula Stuart Warren and James W. Warren (Betterway Books). Get an inside look at the world’s largest genealogical library, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. You’ll learn all you need to know for successful research at the library and at its branch Family History Centers, plus how to make the most of the online resources on the FamilySearch Web site.
  • Your Guide to the Federal Census by Kathleen W. Hinckley (Betterway Books). Interpreting what you find in the federal census is key when putting together your family history. This guide will help you do just that and will show you how to locate these all-important records.

Immigrant and Ethnic Resources

  • A Beginner’s Guide to British Reference Works by Anne Wuehler (Heritage Quest). If you’re searching for ancestors of English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh descent, this book is a great resource. Beginners will learn how to start, what records to search and where to find information on British research.
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors by Franklin Carter Smith and Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books). This new book offers a three-part approach to tracing your African-American family history. It covers records before and after the Civil War, as well as case studies of three African-American families.
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors by Paul Milner and Linda Jonas (Betterway Books). Step-by-step instructions lead you through accessing civil registrations, census returns, parish registers and probate materials for your English ancestors. There’s even a guide for planning a research trip to England.
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Germanic Ancestors by S. Chris Anderson and Ernest Thode (Betterway Books). Locate your German ancestors’ homeland and learn to interpret Germanic records. The appendices have helpful resources such as German word lists, archives, societies and a letter-writing guide.
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Immigrant & Ethnic Ancestors by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Betterway Books). Discover the migration patterns and traits of your immigrant ancestors. Carmack explains available published sources, computer databases and records, including an extensive chapter on naturalization, immigrant and ethnic records. Part two of the book outlines the history of various ethnic groups in America and provides resources for researching them.
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Irish Ancestors by Dwight A. Radford and Kyle J. Betit (Betterway Books). A jam-packed source for those with Irish ancestors, this book explains the types of records to search and how to interpret them. The first few chapters cover research in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the British West Indies.
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Italian Ancestors by Lynn Nelson (Betterway Books). Get started uncovering your Italian family history with this guide. Addresses of Italian archives, research forms and a letter-writing guide take the mystery out of investigating your ancestors’ past.
  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors by Linda Jonas and Paul Milner (Betterway Books). Develop an organized and comprehensive research outline with the guidelines described in this book. Chapters on the Scots Origins database, Scottish land and probate records and Internet research will help you on your journey.

  • Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree by Tony Burroughs (Fireside). This guide to beginning African-American research covers library and cemetery research, oral history, US census records, online research and more. A glossary, acronym list and genealogical societies directory are also helpful references.
  • Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy by Gary Mokotoff and Warren Blatt (Avotaynu). Discover techniques and resources you can use to make researching your Jewish ancestors easier. The book covers locating ancestral towns, Holocaust research and name changes.
  • They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Arrival Record, revised edition, by John Phillip Colletta (Ancestry). Finding your ancestor’s name on a ship’s passenger list can be a thrilling discovery. Use this guide to get the most out of available indexes and alternative resources.
  • Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal by Rachal Mills Lennon (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Do your ancestors have ties to one of the five civilized tribes — Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek or Seminole? If so, this book can provide you with a method for finding these relatives. Learn how American, English, French and Spanish government records can aid in your research.

Preserving the Past

  • Caring for Your Family Treasures by Jane S. Long and Richard W. Long (Abrams Publishers). Keep your treasured family memories safe for generations to come with the suggestions and information in Caring for Your Family Treasures. There’s advice for preserving heirlooms and antiques such as dolls, toys, military mementos, jewelry, ceramics and many other family artifacts.
  • Crafting Your Own Heritage Album by Bev Kirschner Braun (Betterway Books). Follow the instructions for crafting a beautiful heritage album while letting your creativity shine through. Chapters cover subjects such as getting started, album assembly, journaling, genealogy basics and online resources.
  •  Living Legacies: How to Write, Illustrate and Share Your Life Stories by Duane Elgin and Coleen LeDrew (Conari Press). Determining which experiences to include in your life story isn’t always easy. This book shows you how to create your life story by taking a structured approach that allows you to craft a personal work that family members will enjoy for generations.
  •  New Ideas for Crafting Heritage Albums by Bev Kirschner Braun (Betterway Books). In this book, you’ll find inspiration for page layouts and ideas for displaying memorabilia. You’ll also learn to use computers to produce family trees and to restore damaged family photos.
  • Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (Betterway Books). The easy-to-follow guidelines and ideas for preserving your family papers in this new book will help you begin creating a documentary volume.
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs by Maureen A. Taylor (Betterway Books). Organize and display your precious family photographs so that friends and loved ones can enjoy them for years to come.
  • Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs by Maureen A. Taylor (Betterway Books). Unlock the hidden historical clues in your old family photos. Learn how to identify the people in your pictures, date images, locate additional photographs and document the information you’ve discovered.
  • Writing Family Histories and Memoirs by Kirk Polking (Betterway Books). A family history is a valuable treasure you can leave your family. Simplify the writing process with strategies that help you define your approach, get started, choose topics, select a style and develop a schedule.

From the Family Tree Magazine 2003 Yearbook.

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