The Ultimate Family History Bookshelf

The Ultimate Family History Bookshelf

Essential books for discovering, preseving and celebrating your family history.

Online/Computer Software Guides

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Genealogy by Rhonda McClure (Macmillan). Takes you into the world of online sources and databases to streamline your research on the Internet, with advice on genealogy software, chat rooms, bulletin boards and more.

Cyndi’s List: A Comprehensive List of 40,000 Genealogy Sites on the Internet by Cyndi Howells (Genealogical Publishing Co.). In this organized, cross-referenced index, Cyndi Howells shows you how to access genealogical resources from 40,000 Web sites.

Genealogy Basics Online by Cherri Melton Flinn (Muska &. Lipman Publishing). In this easy-to-read guide, Cherri Melton Flinn shows you how to find the best Web sites to discover your family history, how to use Web directories and search engines, and how to meet and exchange information with other researchers online.

Genealogy on CD-ROM by Marthe Arends (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Shows you what genealogical information and resources are available on CD-ROM, from genealogical references to indexes to records and compiled genealogies.

Genealogy Online for Dummies by Matthew L. and April Leigh Helm (International Data Group Co.). For beginners to advanced, this guide shows you how to plug in to information on your ancestors. Comes with a CD-ROM of software and Web site utilities and includes a 40-page Web-site directory.

Genealogy Software Guide by Marthe Arends (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Details the features of genealogical software programs and shows examples of printouts. A must for deciding which software to buy.

The Genealogist’s Virtual Library: Full-Text Books on the World Wide Web by Thomas Jay Kemp (Scholarly Resources). Arranged according to family histories, local histories and general subjects such as ethnic groups, foreign countries and record groups.

Instant Information on the Internet: A Genealogist’s No-Frills Guide to the 50 States & The District of Columbia by Christina K. Schaefer (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Designed to help researchers find the most important genealogy sites on the Internet, organized by state.

Instant Information on the Internet: A Genealogist’s No-Frills Guide to the British Isles by Christina K. Schaefer (Genealogical Publishing Co.). The most important genealogy Web sites on Great Britain and Ireland, which will tell you how and where to locate records, contact other researchers, exchange information and locate indexes you can search from home.

The Internet for Genealogists: A Beginner’s Guide, 4th edition, by Barbara Renick and Richard Wilson (Betterway Books, $16.99). Offers more than 200 addresses to genealogy sites, libraries, catalogs, maps, gazetteers, bookstores, online databases and directories. It will help you understand and navigate the Internet in easy-to-understand terms.

Netting Your Ancestors: Genealogical Research on the Internet by Cyndi Howells (Genealogical Publishing Co., $19-95). The creator and Webmaster of “Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet,” the most popular genealogy Web site index, explains how to take maximum advantage of the Internet in genealogical research.

Web Publishing for Genealogy by Peter Christian (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Practical, plain-English advice on publishing your genealogy on the Web.

On The Record

The Genealogist’s Companion & Sourcebook by Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books). Shows readers how to get past common roadblocks in genealogical research, and to seek record sources they may not have realized were available for research.

The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy by Christina K. Schaefer (Genealogical Publishing Co.). The bulk of this reference work details each state, showing how its laws, records and resources can be used in determining female identity.

Locating Lost Family Members & Friends by Kathleen W. Hinckley (Betterway Books). Hinckley, a specialist in 20th-century research and a private investigator, explains how and where to locate documents, how to deal with modern-day obstacles such as privacy acts and record destruction, and how to use resources such as the Internet to find people.

Long-Distance Genealogy by Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer (Betterway Books). Gives dozens of sample letters and shows you how to get the records you need without leaving home.

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Instructs researchers in the principles of genealogical research and identifies the various classes of records, giving their location, explaining how they are used, and evaluating them for accuracy.

Immigrant/Ethnic Guides

Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity by Dee Parmer Woodtor (Random House). Teaches readers how to begin the process of searching for your roots, including how to sidestep the roadblocks common to black genealogy research.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors by Paul Milner and Linda Jonas (Betterway Books). With step-by-step instruction and actual research examples, learn how to gain access to most of the records you’ll need. 

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Germanic Ancestors by S. Chris Anderson and Ernest Thode (Betterway Books). This hands-on guide shows you how to access records for your Germanic ancestors, including comprehensive listings of Germanic archives, letter-writing examples and instruction on reading Germanic script.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Immigrant & Ethnic Ancestors by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Betterway Books) Includes how to start your research, historical overviews of major ethnic groups in America and leaving a legacy.

Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy by Gary Mokotoff and Warren Blatt (Avotaynu). Techniques and resources available for Jewish genealogical research, such as locating ancestral towns, Holocaust research and how to cope with name changes.

They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Arrival Record, revised edition, by John Phillip Colletta (Ancestry). Takes you step-by-step through ship passenger lists, showing how to use the available indexes and alternative resources to find the ship’s list that bears your ancestor’s name.

Preserving and Celebrating Family History

Crafting Your Own Heritage Album by Bev Kirschner Braun (Betterway Books). How to showcase and preserve the special people, stories, traditions and keepsakes of your ancestry.

The Everything Family Tree Book: Finding, Charting, and Preserving Your Family History by William C. Hartley (Adams Media Corp.). Discusses records and gives thorough advice on conducting oral history interviews, writing autobiographies, writing and publishing your family history, and preserving treasured heirlooms.

The Family Reunion Sourcebook by Edith Wagner (Lowell House). Guidelines for every stage of your get-together, including ideal locations, meal planning and group activities from the editor of Reunions magazine.

How to Create a Video Biography by Ira Heffler and jerry Schneider (Life Story Video, 800-543-3786). Proven methods for capturing your family history on videotape.

Producing a Quality Family History by Patricia Law Hatcher (Ancestry). Shows how to fully document facts and relationships, how to go beyond the basic genealogical records, and how to include illustrations and photographs in your family history publication.

The Story of a Lifetime: A Keepsake of Personal Memories by Pamela and Stephen Pavuk (Tri-Angel Publishers). Questions to help get those stories down with room enough to record the answers.

Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs by Maureen Taylor (Betterway Books). Offers instruction on gathering and interpreting information from old photographs.

Writing Family Histories and Memoirs by Kirk Polking (Better-way Books). Used as a text for the Writer’s Digest School’s course on Writing Your Life Stories (see <>), Polking’s book shows how to turn research into a written legacy.

Research Techniques

The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (Ancestry). Sets the standard by which all genealogists should pattern their work.

Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Provides a reliable standard for both the correct form of source citation and the sound analysis of evidence.

The Sleuth Book for Genealogists by Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books). Methods borrowed from great fictional detectives show how to solve genealogical problems.

The Weekend Genealogist by Marcia Melnyk (Betterway Books). Useful time-management tips and suggestions, whether you have 10 minutes or the whole weekend to spend on your hobby.

Handy References

A to Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists and Historians, 3rd edition by Barbara Jean Evans (Hearthside Press). Defines thousands of old-fashioned words, including references to medical, geographical, foreign, historical, legal, relational, occupational, household, religious, colloquial, monetary and ethnic terms.

Abbreviations & Acronyms by Kip Sperry (Ancestry). Reveals the meanings of abbreviations, symbols, initials and contractions found in genealogy research and everyday conversations.

Dozens of Cousins by Lois Horowitz (Ten Speed Press). Untangle those family tree branches and discover how everyone in your family is related.

The Genealogist’s Address Book, 4th edition, by Elizabeth Petty Bentley (Genealogical Publishing Co.). A comprehensive list of current genealogical and historical resources, including mailing addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, e-mail addresses and Web sites.

Kinship: It’s All Relative, 2nd edition by Jackie Smith Arnold (Genealogical Publishing Co.). If you’ve ever wondered how people are related, this book will explain it in clear, practical terms.

Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry (Genealogical Publishing Co.). How to read and understand the handwriting found in genealogical documents.

What Did They Mean by That? A Dictionary of Historical Terms for Genealogists by Paul Drake (Heritage Books). Includes definitions and descriptions of more than 3,000 words.

Social History

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (Oxford University Press). Covers family, marriage customs, dress, work and leisure activities of Puritans in New England, the English who settled in Virginia, the Quakers of the Delaware and the Scotch-Irish in the back country.

Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (Betterway Books). Discusses artifacts, photographs, oral history interviewing and learning about your ancestors’ everyday lives through social history research.

Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life by Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg (The Free Press). How everyday family life evolved over generations from colonial times to the late 1980s.

Medical History

A Medical Miscellany for Genealogists by Jeanette L. Jerger (Heritage Books). Explains antiquated medical terms and folk names.

Past Imperfect: How Tracing Your Family Medical History Can Save Your Life by Carol Daus (Santa Monica Press). Takes you step by step through tracing your family medical history, including resources for more information on inheritable conditions.

Book Publishers


Box 99 Orem, UT 84059 (800) 262-3787 <> Publishes a wide range of books on how to hunt down ancestors, including the standards manual for the Board of Certification of Genealogists and reference books on interpreting records and sources.


Box 99 Bergenfield, NJ 07621 (800) 286-8296 <> Resources for Jewish genealogy.

Betterway Books

1507 Dana Ave. Cincinnati, OH 45207 (800) 289-0963 <> How-to genealogy books from the publishers of Family Tree Magazine, including such best-selling titles as Unpuzzling Your Past by Emily Anne Croom.

Clearfield Co.

200 East Eager St. Baltimore, MD 21202 (410) 837-8271 <> Publishes how-to and reference genealogy books.

Closson Press

1935 Sampson Dr. Apollo, PA 15613 (724) 337-4482 Publishes genealogy and historical books and records, specializing in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and European emigration.

Deseret Book Co.

40 E. South Temple St. Salt Lake City, UT 84111 (800) 453-4532 <> Publishes items related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including genealogy how-to books and scrapbookingaids.

Everton Publishers

Box 368 Logan, UT 84323 (800) 443-6325 <> Covers all the bases and offers how-to help with more specific searches, such as finding female ancestors, locating Native American records and reading old handwriting.

Frontier Press

Box 126 Cooperstown, NY 13326 (800) 772-7559 <> Offers local, social and family history books, with a large catalog online.

Genealogical Publishing Co.

1001 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, MD 21202 (410) 837-8271 <> Large selection covers the nitty-gritty of specific ethnic heritages as well as general how-to.

Heritage Books

1540-E Pointer Ridge Place Bowie, MD 20716 (800) 398-7709 <> Carries a variety of titles and subjects, from adventure and exploration to women.

Heritage Quest

Box 329 Bountiful, UT 84011 (800) 760-2455 <> Browse its collections online or download the catalog for free.

National Archives and Records Administration

National Archives Trust Fund NWCC2 Dept. 2000 Box 100793 Atlanta, GA 30384 (800) 234-8861 <> NARA guards some of the nation’s most important historical documents, and its books reprint some of them and explain social context.

Picton Press

Box 250 Rockport, ME 04856 (207) 236-6565 <> Publishes a variety of research tools: how-to books, genealogies, records and diaries.

Scholarly Resources

104 Greenhill Ave. Wilmington, DE 19805 (888) 772-7817 <> In addition to genealogy titles, Scholarly Resources prints books on other topics that pique family historians’ interest, such as military and American history (including the Civil War), ethnic studies and social history.

Willow Bend Books

65 E. Main St. Westminster, MD 21157 (800) 876-6103 <> Carries reference books and other materials from dozens of publishers.

Microfilm Resources


591 Whispering Lakes Blvd. Tarpon Springs, FL 34689 (727) 937-8331 <> Order microfilmed images from past US censuses, sold by county on CD-ROM.

Archive Publishing

4 Mayfair Circle Oxford, MA 01540 (508) 987-0881 <> Offers original town and vital records on microfiche, specializing in Massachusetts. Try sister company Microform Books (same contact information) for out-of-print books on microfiche.

Census Microfilm Expediters

40 E. South Temple St., Suite 4 Salt Lake City, UT 84111 (888) 436-3256 <> Sells microfilm of federal censuses, soundex, mortality schedules, Dawes Commission enrollment cards and US ward maps, as well as microfilm readers and equipment.

Family History Library

35 N. West Temple St. Salt Lake City, UT 84150 (800) 346-6044 <> The FHL’s collection includes a whopping 2 million rolls of microfilm and 700,000 microfiche covering census, probate, land, passenger, church and vital records from the United States and a range of other countries. Besides researching in person, you can borrow microfilm resources from the FHL via its network of Family History Centers; call or search <> for the branch nearest you.

Heritage Quest

Box 329 Bountiful, UT 84011 (800) 760-2455 <> Heritage Quest carries one of the largest microfilm and microfiche collections commercially available. It contains a huge variety of records, with more than 250,000 titles for rent. The company also publishes microfilm on CD-ROM, mostly census indexes and federal census records, one roll of microfilm per CD.

National Archives

Microfilm Rental Program Box 30 9050 Junction Road Annapolis Junction, MD 20701 Order copies of microfilmed records direct from the National Archives. You can participate in the program individually or through your library; call (301) 604-3699 for locations. Rental prices start at $2.25 per roll. For more about the program, see <>

Bell and Howell Information and Learning

300 North Zeeb Road Ann Arbor, Ml 48106 (800) 521-0600 <> Look for rare and out-of-print books in this collection, plus newspapers and periodicals. (Formerly known as UMI.)
From the Winter 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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