Essential Genealogy Books Every Genealogist Needs

By Family Tree Editors

Online resources continue to grow and make genealogy records and how-to guides more accessible to researchers, but sometimes long-form books are exactly what the genealogist in your family needs to jump-start their research or overcome research problems.

Genealogy books for beginners

(some of these books are also listed in other sections below)


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.

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.

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 for the Clueless by George D. Durrant and LaRene Gaunt (Bookcraft, $17.95). In a format similar to the Dummies and Idiot’s series, Family History for the Clueless offers basic, beginner genealogy instruction in language that’s easy to read and comprehend.

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.

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger (Family Tree Books): Confused by DNA? You’re not alone. Genetic genealogy is a fascinating and complicated part of family research, and it can be difficult (if not impossible) to figure it out on your own. Enter this book, written by a DNA expert who has his own blog on genetic genealogy. This guide covers all the basics of DNA and genetic testing, including how the four major DNA tests work and what you can expect to learn from their results. You’ll also learn about ethnicity estimates and tools like GEDmatch, which you can use to further study your DNA. The book even has a glossary of DNA terms that simplifies important DNA concepts, plus a chapter that busts common misconceptions about genetic testing. This book is a must-read for budding genetic genealogists and DNA veterans alike.

 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.

The Genealogist’s Companion & Sourcebook by Emily Croom (Betterway Books). This best-selling, basic how-to guide offers beginners the information they need to get started researching their family history. Croom 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 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.

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.

Grow a Family Tree! Seven Simple Steps by William Dollarhide (Heritage Quest). This beginner’s guide to genealogy breaks down the process into seven basic steps. Readers then graduate to more advanced genealogy lessons on topics such as land records, organization and numbering systems. Look for blank forms for copying in the back, next to examples showing how to fill each one out.

The Librarian’s Guide to Genealogical Research by James Swan (Highsmith Press). Written for librarians who help patrons with genealogical research, this guide also has plenty of useful information for family history hobbyists. The resources and introduction to genealogy basics make this a great beginner’s guide.

Locating Lost Family Members & Friends by Kathleen W. Hinckley (Betterway Books). This book is essential for anyone looking to rekindle lost contacts. 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.

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.

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.

This and That Genealogy Tips by Shirley Hornbeck (Clearfield Co.): Whether you’re a beginning genealogist or a seasoned one, This and That Genealogy Tips offers something for everyone. Hornbeck shares tips on 42 topics, from the internet to basics of getting started. It’s filled with glossaries and Internet sites, too.

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.

Online genealogy and genealogy website books

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program by Karen Clifford (Genealogical Publishing Co.). In this manual on using the latest technology to trace your ancestry, Clifford shows you how to use electronic databases, computer programs and Internet sources in your genealogy.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ed., by Barbara Renick and Richard Wilson (Betterway Books). If you’re just starting the climb up your family tree and need a guide to genealogical information on the Internet, this book is for you. This guide 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.

Unofficial Guide to by Nancy Hendrickson (Family Tree Books): This comprehensive guide (newly updated and expanded) will show all you can do on From making the first entry on your family tree to completing deep dives into records databases, you’ll learn how to master this huge website. The book has been updated to include the site’s latest redesign and changes. And with it, you’ll learn how to search for records collections (vital records, military records, immigration records, etc.) on, plus how you can use them. You’ll also learn how to manage hints and how to navigate and interpret your AncestryDNA results.

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 books

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 American Census Handbook by Thomas Jay Kemp (Scholarly Resources). All genealogists use the census, especially now that more schedules are becoming available online. This state-by-state reference tome is a guide to the published census indexes in print and online, telling which records, indexes and abstracts are available in each medium.

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.

Dictionary of American History From 1763 to the Present (Checkmark Books). This comprehensive reference brings together key people, places and events in American history. More than 1,200 A to Z entries include outlines of military battles and explanations of essential terms.

The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide by Joy Neighbors (Family Tree Books): Do you love cemeteries? So do genealogists everywhere. This book (perfect for travel into the field) will help you navigate the burial grounds that hold your deceased ancestors. Inside, you’ll learn how to use sites like Find A Grave and BillionGraves to find where your ancestors’ graves are, then how to safely and responsibly visit and archive tombstones. This book’s handy tombstone iconography section will also help you interpret the symbols on your ancestors’ graves.

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.

The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy by Christina K. Schaefer (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Everyone has problems researching some of the females on their pedigree chart, mostly because by law and custom women of the past had few rights. According to Schaefer, the legal status of women at any point in time is the key to unraveling the identity of a female ancestor. The bulk of this reference work details each state, showing how its laws, records and resources can be used in determining female identity.

Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places by Laura Szucs Pfeiffer (Ancestry, $39.95). Where do you go in your research beyond vital records, census records and other common genealogical sources? Hidden Sources gives an overview of more than 100 sources you might not have considered.

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.

One Memory at a Time: Inspiration and Advice for Writing Your Family Story by D.G. Fulford (Doubleday). “When you give your stories, you are giving yourself,” says Fulford. In this succinct guide—also perfect for gift-giving—you’ll find plenty of warm inspiration and solid ideas for getting your family history stories on paper.

Organize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith (Family Tree Books): Need help handling all your files and data? This book by organization specialist and Genealogy Guy podcaster Drew Smith will help you organize every facet of your genealogy life, from making good, productive habits to planning and managing complex projects. Inside, you’ll find practical tips for how to sort paper files, name digital documents, use software programs and apps like Evernote, and more. You can also put your new skills to use with the helpful forms at the end of many chapters.

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 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 Family Tree Historical Maps Book by Allison Dolan and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine (Family Tree Books): If your American history is rusty—or if you just love old maps—this book is for you. This sturdy hardcover has beautiful, full-color historical maps of the United States from the country’s beginning through the early 1900s. See your ancestor’s locale as it was during his time. Or you can grab a magnifying glass and use the maps to figure out which county he lived in (and thus, where records of him might be found). If you can’t get enough of maps, check out a follow-up book of European maps or an historical atlas of American cities.

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.

State Census Records by Ann S. Lainhart (Genealogical Publishing Co.): State census records rank with federal censuses as a major genealogical resource, yet they’ve remained under-used by many researchers. This book details, state-by-state, which state censuses exist for you to research and how you can access them.

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.

U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present by James C. Neagles (Ancestry) You probably have an ancestor who served in the colonial or US military in some capacity. This book tells you what records exist and how to access them.

What’s in a Name? Everything You Wanted to Know, revised edition, by Leonard R.N. Ashley (Genealogical Publishing Co.). Onomastics — the study of names — is the focus of this book, but Ashley’s work isn’t limited to personal and surnames. He also discusses names of places and things, from businesses and pets to rocks and streets.

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.

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.). Genealogists gather a multitude of facts while researching ancestors, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of what date came from which source. Mills provides a reliable standard for both the correct form of source citation and the sound analysis of evidence.

Evidence Explained: History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Want to take your research to the next level? Make professional-quality source citations with Elizabeth Shown Mills’ tried-and-true manual. Researchers have used this detailed guide (now in its third edition) for decades. Inside, you’ll learn how to cite every genealogy source you can think of, from census records to family Bibles to CDs.

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.

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 genealogy research references

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

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, email addresses and websites.

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.

Weights, Money and Other Measures Used by Our Ancestors by Colin R. Chapman (Genealogical Publishing Co.). So just how long is a pole, rod or perch? In genealogical research, we come across unfamiliar units of weights and measurements in wills, land records and other sources. This guide will help you interpret obsolete terms.

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.  

Immigrant and heritage resources

The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe by Allison Dolan and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine (Family Tree Books): This guide, in its second edition, is designed to help genealogists trace their immigrant ancestors back to Europe, then give researchers the tools to uncover records about them. The book is divided into chapters based on countries (Ireland, Poland, Italy, etc.) or regions (the Germanic Region, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, etc.) and contains brief histories of each country/region, plus historical timelines and tips for understanding geographic divisions and changes. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll also learn about what record types are available for each European country or region, plus how to find them.

The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide by James M. Beidler (Family Tree Books): Got Deutsch ancestors? This guide has you covered, with resources for identifying your German immigration ancestor, finding German records, understanding the German language and writing to German archives. And with brief guides to German geography, history, and administrative divisions, this book contains everything you’ll need to get started. A follow-up book by the same author, Trace Your German Roots Online, shares even more techniques for researching German ancestors online, and the same publisher has also produced similar books for Irish, Italian and Polish, Czech and Slovak ancestors.

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.

Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity by Dee Parmer Woodtor (Random House). In this excellent guide to African-American family history research, Woodtor teaches readers how to begin the step-by-step process of searching for your roots, including how to sidestep the roadblocks common to black genealogy research. She also shares case studies of other African-American researchers and how they discovered their heritage.

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 Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Ancestry). Nearly everyone has immigrant ancestors. Here is an accurate, readable and interesting guide to naturalization records and sources that will point to your immigrant ancestor’s origins in the Old Country.

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.

Tracking Your African-American Family History by David T. Thackery (Ancestry). The search for African-American ancestors is among the most challenging, but Thackery shows you that the difficulties are not insurmountable. This book takes you through the transition from slavery to freedom and how to search for your ancestors in the records.

Preserving and celebrating family history

Absolutely Family! A Guide to Editing and Publishing a Family Newsletter by Jeanne Rundquist Nelson (Family Times Publishing). A print family newsletter is still a primary means to share information and family stories. Nelson offers a clear, easily followed guide with lots of ideas for starting and maintaining a family newsletter.

Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins: How Our Family Stories Shape Us by Elizabeth Stone (Penguin Books). Whether they’re about a relative who’s famous, infamous or just colorful, we all have family stories that have been told and retold. Weaving her own family lore with that of other families, Stone shows the importance and personal impact of these treasured tales.

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.

Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide, 3rd 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. Ritchie’s step-by-step guide will help you preserve your family’s experiences for generations to come.

The Everything Family Tree Book: Finding Charting and Preserving lour Family History by William G. Hartley (Adams Media Corp.). In this beginner’s guide, Hartley not only addresses records available for research, but gives thorough advice on conducting oral history interviews, writing autobiographies, writing and publishing your family history, and ideas for preserving treasured heirlooms. There are also sections on research for those who are adopted and for those of African-American or Native American heritage.

Family Focused: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History by Janice T. Dixon (Mount Olympus Publishing, $19.95). If you’re looking for incentive to turn a jumble of notes and facts into an interesting family history narrative, look no further. Dixon takes you step by step through the writing process with warm and inviting instruction.

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.

Fantastic Family Gatherings: Tried and True Ideas for Large and Small Family Reunions by Kathy Smith Anthenat (Heritage Books, $32.50). Everything you need to know about planning and carrying out your family reunion is in this guide. It’s crammed with ideas for fundraising, decorations, mementos, family projects and recreational activities.

Help! I’ve Inherited an Attic Full of History, volumes 1 and 2, by Althea Douglas (Ontario Genealogical Society, $12.80 each). Wondering what to do with all your family treasures? Douglas provides practical solutions. The first volume covers “dating, evaluating and disposing of the accumulation of a lifetime”; the second deals with “archival conservation in the home environment.”

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.

Keeping Family Stories Alive, 2nd edition, by Vera Rosenbluth (Hartley and Marks, $19.95). Everyone has family stories, but not everyone takes the time to keep them alive. Rosenbluth shows you how and covers all aspects of life story preservation, from video and audio taping to using oral history in the classroom.

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.

One Memory at a Time: Inspiration and Advice for Writing Your Family Story by D.G. Fulford (Doubleday). “When you give your stories, you are giving yourself,” says Fulford. In this succinct guide — also perfect for gift-giving — you’ll find plenty of warm inspiration and solid ideas for getting your family history stories on paper.

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.

Producing a Quality Family History by Patricia Law Hatcher (Ancestry). In print since 1996, this is a classic guide for writing and publishing a family history. This guide will show you how to fully document facts and relationships, how to seek information beyond the basic genealogical records, and how to include illustrations and photographs in your family history publication.

Remember Me? A Guide to Organizing the Experiences of Your Life and Writing an Autobiography That Will Be Cherished for Generations (book and kit) by Robert Max (Remember Me?, $89.95). This boxed kit will help motivate you to record your life story. It includes a three-ring portfolio, acetate sleeves, index cards, personal philosophy stationery, “Stages of Life” stationery and an easy-to-follow guide to writing your autobiography. It’s a great gift idea for getting Grandpa and Grandma to put their lives on paper.

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 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.

Windows on the Past: Identifying, Dating, and Preserving Photographs by Diane VanSkiver Gagel (Heritage Books). Besides showing you how to care for your precious family photographs, Windows on the Past helps you date photographs through the use of illustrative examples and by analyzing your ancestors’ clothing and the photographer’s props.

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.

Family medical history

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.  

Many of these titles are also available in ebook format, including for Kindle and Nook.


Crystal Conde

Last updated: April 2020 is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for site to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to affiliated websites.

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