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The 15 Best Genealogy Books According to Readers

By Andrew Koch

In this day and age it is so easy to find good genealogy information online, however nothing beats a good, solid genealogy research book for timeless instruction and advice as you explore your family tree. We of course have a list of must-have genealogy books, but what books do readers recommend?

Goodreads is a website where bookworms of all kinds (including genealogists!) can collaborate on lists of books and rank them according to different criteria. The titles below are part of a list called “Most Useful Genealogy Books.” Browse through to find the next addition to your genealogy library!

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1. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills

This entry should come as no surprise to our readers, who have been using Mills’ book (now in its third edition) for decades. This tome (clocking in at more than 800 pages) details how to cite and analyze a variety of sources, from dusty family Bibles to digitized census records.

2. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual by the Board for Certification of Genealogists 

The Board of Certification of Genealogists (BCG) was created in 1964 with the purpose of creating uniform standards of quality and ethics for genealogical research. This official manual from the BCG provides those standards so genealogists might pattern their own research after them, as well as evaluate the work of others.

3. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills

This book explains how to correctly cite sources for genealogical research, as well as how to evaluate and analyze those sources. While Evidence Explained is a great reference for many disciplines, this book is focused on family research specifically.

4. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Another pick from the renowned Elizabeth Shown Mills, this book outlines the standards for professional genealogy and provides benchmarks for advancing genealogy work into the professional realm. Meant for pros and hobbyists alike, this book is “for all those who dream of turning a fascinating hobby into a successful career.”

5. Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History by Megan Smolenyak

Written by the host of the hit TV show, this book provides step-by-step instruction to new genealogists who are beginning the search for their family’s history. While it may be a little out-of-date (the book was published in 2010), Goodreads users appreciated the sound genealogy advice served alongside Smolenyak’s good humor.

6. 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late by Shannon L. Alder

Rare is the genealogist who does not have regrets about waiting too long to interview their older family members about their lives. This book is exactly what it promises: a collection of open questions for parents to answer for their children. Goodreads users appreciated the personal, thoughtful nature of the questions.

7. Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case by Christine Rose

This entry is another useful book for genealogists looking to evaluate the quality of their own work and determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to draw genealogical conclusions.

8. Unpuzzling Your Past: The Best-Selling Basic Guide to Genealogy by Emily Anne Croom

This guide from Emily Anne Croom is now in its fourth edition. A good introduction to family history research for beginner genealogists, this book includes walkthroughs of major record types and essential strategies.

9. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood

Goodreads users note that the information in Greenwood’s guide can be a bit outdated, but praise the foundational knowledge this book provides. This book reviews the basic principles and practices of genealogy research for (as the title implies) American genealogy researchers.

10. German-English Genealogical Dictionary by Ernest Thode

This entry is for German family history researchers who need a quick translations to common genealogy terms. More than just a dictionary, this book covers topics including German script, symbols, names and much more.

11. Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones

Jones’ book, published by the National Genealogical Society, is another instructional guide for how to build family histories based on the Genealogical Proof Standard. In addition to problem-solving, citing sources and other pressing topics, this book also includes practice problems so readers can test their skills.

12. Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry

Interpreting difficult handwriting is a frustrating task that many genealogists face the farther back they go in their family’s history. This book from Kip Sperry provides instruction for how to decipher handwriting in early American documents, as well as letter forms, common abbreviations and more.

13. The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger

This entry was written by Blaine T. Bettinger, author behind the blog The Genetic Genealogist and several articles in Family Tree Magazine. This guide provides a solid introduction to genetic genealogy for anyone who is interested in interested in diving in to their family’s DNA.

14. The Family Tree Problem Solver: Proven Methods for Scaling the Inevitable Brick Wall by Marsha Hoffman Rising

This handy book from Marsha Hoffman Rising is now in it’s third edition. It provides straightforward solutions for common family history problems: lost records, common names, “missing” ancestors on census records and much more.

Ancestry's Red Book cover image

15. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources by Alice Eichholz

Longtime genealogists know that the family history mega-site Ancestry.com began as Ancestry Publishing in 1983. The Red Book has become a staple in reference libraries for genealogists and academics alike. Use this guide to see what records are available in your research area, and check out the accompanying collection on Ancestry.com.

Looking for more? Back in 2017, we asked you to vote for your favorite genealogy books. After three weeks of voting, Family Tree Magazine readers collaborated on this Goodreads list of the best genealogy titles.

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Happy reading!

Last updated, July 2021


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