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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: When Do You Know It All?
by Rhonda R. McClure

July 06, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

My children, and my nephews, have all accused me of being a frustrated teacher-in-waiting. To be honest I admire teachers of today. And while I love to teach genealogy, I also love how this hobby allows me to continue learning. One type of book I never pass up is the latest in the "how-to" subject. I love to get the newest releases for both beginners and advanced researchers. Despite having researched my ancestry for a number of years, I find that a different person's viewpoint about a certain resource or approach can be very educational.

Of course, it goes without saying that when new books come out about those areas that I have ancestry in I am usually the first in line to see what they are about. And then as the families I have been tracing have moved, I am always thankful for all the books and record sources that have been written about those localities.

How-to books help you to learn quickly and avoid mistakes.

You Don't Need to Know It All

For as long as I can remember I have been told, "A smart person doesn't know it all, he or she only knows where to find the answers." How true this is, especially in genealogy. Think about it. As genealogists, we need to understand the intricacies of record retrieval, have some understanding of medical conditions, and also have a great deal of understanding about legal operations (land and probate).

Fortunately for us, there are a number of books on most of these subjects that allow us to proceed with our research without having to know it all.

How-To Books

A colleague of mine has often asked how many more how-to books the market can handle. I can only say that I appreciate each new one that comes out. I won't say that I sit down and read each one from cover to cover, but I do like knowing that I have them at my fingertips.

Recent offerings from Genealogical Publishing Company, Betterway Books and Ancestry have run the gamut of general genealogy from the basic how-to, through working with photographs, and on into genealogy on the Internet. And of course some of the big name publishers like Macmillan and IDG are also publishing volumes in the genealogical genre.

Online How-To

As if the many published volumes weren't enough, you can now find a great deal of information online. That is one of the benefits of the Internet for genealogists, the ability to reach out and learn from other genealogists while sitting in the comfort of your own home.

Here is a list of some of those how-to online sites to get you started:

In Conclusion

Genealogy is the never-ending hobby. For each answer we are faced with two new questions (at the very least). And with each of those questions often comes questions about resources, repositories, and record types. We are fortunate that there are many published how-to books and sites that we can turn to when those questions arise.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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