Bookshelf: Back to Basics

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Premium

1. 500 Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems by the publishers of Family Chronicle magazine (Moorshead Magazine). Eventually, every genealogist hits the proverbial brick wall — the point at which all records seem to reach a dead end. Yet many researchers have successfully busted through those walls to find immigrant origins, a wife’s maiden name or an ancestor’s parents. In 500 Brickwall Solutions, you’ll read how other genealogists overcame their research obstacles. Even though the case studies may not apply directly to your own research, the methods and techniques will prove valuable. This book could have been even more helpful, however, if the cases had been grouped by type of problem. Often, the titles aren’t descriptive enough for you to know at a glance what a case study’s about. Likewise, the index is organized by subject, not problem, so you’ll have to skim through each case to find one that applies to you.

2. Celebrating the Family: The Guide to Understanding Your Family History by the editors of Ancestry Publishing (Friedman/Fairfax). Trying to get your relatives interested in your ancestor search? Celebrating the Family may do the trick. Unlike other beginner genealogy books that focus on how to do research on the Internet or in courthouses and libraries, this book focuses on the homegrown aspects of family history research. The nine chapters cover family traditions, heritage albums, photographs, written family histories, health history, family correspondence and reunions — plus tips on beginning genealogy research and getting children involved. This book is attractive and reader-friendly, and will appeal to anyone with a budding interest in family history research.

3. Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide, 2nd edition, by Donald A. Ritchie (Oxford University Press). Conducting oral history interviews is one of the ongoing aspects of family history research. When we start our searches, we interview relatives for basic facts; then, as we gather records, we go back for the family stories that aren’t in those documents. While Ritchie’s book takes a broader look at oral history — from family interviews to community-history interviews — his sage advice and professional techniques will benefit genealogists. Written in a friendly question-and-answer format, this book gives advice for preparing, setting up, and conducting an interview; using audio and video recorders; publishing and preserving oral histories; teaching interview techniques to students; and presenting oral histories electronically via CD-ROM and the Internet. Ritchie’s step-by-step guide will help you preserve your family’s experiences for generations to come.

4. Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family’s History and Heritage by Barbara Renick (Rutledge Hill Press). This is the first book in a series of six sponsored by the National Genealogical Society. As you’d expect from the title, it’s a basic guide to climbing your family tree. Renick writes in an upbeat, friendly voice that makes genealogy seem fun and easy. She covers getting started both online and off, organizing your materials, preserving your family history and hiring a professional. Though she references additional sources in the book’s sidebars, an overall bibliography would have been more helpful. Once you’ve finished the book, it may take some time to go back and find those references.

From the June 2004 Family Tree Magazine