10 Essential Genealogy Books

By Editors of Family Tree Magazine
Books on a bookshelf.

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. Check out these 10 great books for genealogists.

1. Unofficial Guide to

By Nancy Hendrickson (2018)

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.

2. Organize Your Genealogy

By Drew Smith (2016)

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.

3. The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy

By Blaine T. Bettinger (2019)

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.

4. Evidence Explained: History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace 

By Elizabeth Shown Mills (2017)

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.

5. The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide

By Joy Neighbors (2017)

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.

6. The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe

By Allison Dolan and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine (2013)

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.

7. The Family Tree Historical Maps Book

By Allison Dolan and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine (2014)

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.

8. The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide

By James M. Beidler (2014)

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.

9. Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy

By Sunny Jane Morton (2016)

We genealogists spend so much time researching our ancestors that we forget to record things for our own descendants to study. This workbook allows you to fix that. With prompts that invite you to write about your own life and times, this book will help you create your own genealogy records. What’s the fondest memory you have of your mother? What was high school like for you? These questions might sound mundane to you, but their answers provide the rich detail that future researchers will cherish. This workbook also makes a great gift for a relative like Mom or Grandpa, whose memories you want to record.

10. The Family Tree Memory Keeper

By Allison Dolan and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine (2013)

While the Story of My Life workbook (no. 9) records the history of one person, this workbook asks you to record memories of your whole family. Your family’s history includes more than just birth and death dates. Use this workbook to capture your family’s story, including anecdotes and photos of important places, objects and events.

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

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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