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Top 10 Genealogy Books
Ron Wild presents the picks of library managers,
book publishers, and distributors

Family Chronicle asked collection development directors at well known North American libraries with large genealogy departments and senior managers at genealogy book publishing and distribution companies to give us their Top 10 genealogy book selections. Not surprisingly, we received more than 10 selections. In fact, there were 35 different titles on the Top 10 lists we received. We arrived at our selection by listing all of the books selected and seeing which ones were on more than one contributor's list.

It quickly became apparent which genealogy books were considered to be Top 10 picks by our experts. Where there was a tie in terms of ranking we decided to give the higher ranking based on the positions on the contributors' lists. For instance, if two books were picked by an equal number of experts but one was ranked higher on the experts' lists than the other, then this book received the higher ranking. Based on these criteria, here is our Top 10 genealogy books list.

1. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy

Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves, 1997
Ancestry, PO Box 990, Orem, UT 84059, (800) 531-1790

February 16, 2000

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Book Cover - The Source This revised edition of The Source is intended to identify and describe the rich body of original research material that is available and to facilitate the use of these materials so that family history can be preserved and enjoyed. The first chapter, titled "The Foundations of Family History Research," acquaints the novice researcher with the basic skills and knowledge needed for successful research. This extensively revised edition of The Source includes changes in every chapter to reflect the fact that some record collections have moved, record access policies have changed, previously inaccessible records have become available and many more new records have been newly discovered. This volume offers two chapters that emphasize contemporary usage and include information on databases, indexes and other finding aids.

2. The Handybook for Genealogists, 1991

Everton Publishers, PO Box 368 Logan, UT 84323, (800) 443-6325

Book Cover - Handybook At 356 pages, plus 56 pages of maps, the eighth edition includes many important new features not the least of which are the color state maps and handy migration route maps. About 750,000 copies of previous editions of this valuable book are in the hands of genealogists throughout the world. In compiling the eighth edition the publishers requested from every county or parish clerk an update of records in their custody of value to genealogists. These records include vital records, court proceedings, land and property records and a variety of other record types. Approximately 95 percent of parish and county officials have responded. This edition also includes the most recent comprehensive list of archives, genealogical libraries and genealogical societies for each state. Organized alphabetically by state the publisher recommends that the general information on each state be referred to before researchers move to the county listings that follow.

3. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy

3rd Edition, Greenwood, Val D. (2000)
The Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202, (410) 837-8271.

Book Cover - Researcher's Guide The completely revised third edition is an essential text for the present generation of researchers in American genealogy. It identifies the various classes of records employed in research, groups them in convenient tables and charts, gives their location and uses and evaluates them in the context of the research process. Designed to answer practically all of the researchers needs, it is both a textbook and an all-purpose reference book. Genealogical Publishing, the publishers, claim that if you can only afford to buy one book on American genealogy in your lifetime, this has to be it.

4. Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian

Mills, Elizabeth Shown
The Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202, (410) 837-8271.

This new book provides the family history researcher with a reliable standard for both the correct form of source citation and sound analysis of evidence. Successful research that yields correct information depends upon a sound analysis of evidence. Source citation is fundamental, but is not enough. Citing a worthless source is an effort that produces worthless results. By providing needed guidelines and explicit models tailored to genealogy, Evidence offers a road map for beginners and guideposts for the advanced researcher.

5. Periodical Source Index

Allen County Public Library Foundation, Ft. Wayne, IN (219) 421-1225.

PERSI is the largest and most widely used index of genealogical and historical periodicals in the world. Created by the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, PERSI is recognized as one of the staples of high quality genealogy research. It references more than 5,000 US and Canadian periodicals and includes over one million indexed entries of articles for which copies can be obtained from the Allen County Public Library. Available as a multi-volume set of books and on CD-ROM.

6. Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources

Eichholz, Alice, Editor
Ancestry, PO Box 990, Orem, UT 84059, (800) 531-1790.

Book Cover - Red Book This 858-page book is an expansive guide to the most useful resources in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The book is organized alphabetically by state. The format of this book was designed to provide a consistent and detailed guide for each state. Excellent guides for developing research strategies are included in the Background Sources for each state. Every state's chapter begins with a brief historical background discussion. Knowledge about the history, settlement patterns and context in which the records were kept, helps the research process. One of the most popular and productive ways to find an ancestor is through census records. These are extensively covered state by state along with background sources, land and probate records and a host of other research resources such as court, tax, church and military records. A state map with county divisions and principal cities completes each state section.

7. The Genealogist's Address Book

Bentley, Elizabeth P.
The Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202, (410) 837-8271.

Book Cover - Address Book The Genealogist's Address Book, now in its fourth edition , is a national Yellow Pages for the genealogist. Classified by subject, cross-referenced and alphabetized, it puts you in touch with all the key sources of genealogical information. Based on a written survey of thousands of organizations and institutions the new 4th edition has been extensively revised. With thousands of new entries and revisions to 75,000 existing entries, the 4th edition is now even more valuable to researchers. This edition will keep you current and place a world of resources at your fingertips.

8. American Genealogical-Biographical Index

Rider, Fremont
The Godfrey Memorial Library, 134 Newfield Street Middleton, CT 06457 (860) 346-4375.

This treasure house of New England genealogies is not yet complete even though it was started in 1942. Referred to as the AGBI, the collection will eventually comprise about 210 volumes and can be referred to at about 175 libraries in the U.S. and at the Godfrey Memorial Library, publishers, in Middletown, CT. This index is widely referred to by experienced genealogists searching for early New England ancestors. It includes records that are available nowhere else, including over two million records from the genealogy columns of the Boston Transcript. AGBI also includes a consolidation of all of the heads of families who lived in the U.S. in 1790 and 43 volumes of soldiers of the American Colonies who served in the Revolutionary War. The vast amount of information in AGBI, that will include twelve million Americans when it is complete, make it the first reference index that should be searched by genealogists doing Colonial-era research.

9. Genealogical & Local History Books in Print

5th Edition, (1996-97)
The Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202, (410) 837-8271.

The four volumes of Genealogical & Local History Books in Print provide the researcher with a giant catalog of commercially, corporately and privately published books on genealogy and local history that are presently in print. Volume one is the Family History Volume and contains listings of family histories. Volume two lists genealogical books in print of general reference or world resources. Volumes three and four are devoted to U.S. sources and resources. If your research calls for tracking down and purchasing books on genealogy and local history this work is indispensable.

10. Genealogy as Pastime and Profession

2nd Edition, Jacobus, Donald Lines (Revised 1986)
The Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202, (410) 837-8271.

Book Cover - Genealogy as Pastime Written in a clear and graceful style by the dean of American genealogy, this classic work describes the principles of genealogical research, the evaluation of evidence and the relationship of genealogy to chronology, eugenics and the law. It discusses nomenclature, royal ancestry, the use of source material and the methods of compiling a family history. It is, in short, the very foundation of American genealogy a manifesto of methods, aims and principles.

Two books are worthy of honorable mention since they were on our experts' lists but didn't quite make our Top 10 group based on Family Chronicle staff selection criteria. The books are Map Guide to U.S. Federal Census Records by Dollarhide and Thorndale and They Came in Ships by John Phillip Colletta.

About the Author

Cover - Family Chronicle MagazineThis article originally appeared in Family Chronicle, Jan/Feb 1999

The March/April 2000 issue of Family Chronicle features Researching Irish Roots, Organizing Family Records, Choosing the Right Software, 10 Best Local Library Resources, Top Web sites and much more. Visit Family Chronicle to find out how you can receive a sample issue.

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