Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Beginner's Library

So, here I sit. Listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. About to write my first blog post that will be entirely based on a genealogy topic. I've been wanting to write something about this for quite some time. Partly because when I first started my family history, I had a hard time determining which books I should buy. In fact, I still have that problem. The other part is hoping that someone will read this and suggest even more books that will be a good addition to my (or any other young genealogist's) library. However, as I become more experienced, I find it easier and easier to choose the books to add to my personal collection. But any insight or advice from those more experienced than me is greatly appreciated.

My collection of genealogy books is somewhat small. But there are a number that I use rather often and I feel could be beneficial to anyone's collection.

The newest addition to my collection (purchased 3 weeks ago) is Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I know that anyone that has spent more that one day in the genealogy field is familiar with this book or at least they should be. Honestly, I am slightly embarrassed that it has taken me so long to buy this book. As one that studied history in college and is now involved in genealogy now, I fully appreciate the need to cite sources and I find Mrs. Mills approach to this extraordinary. Not only does it tell and teach how to cite sources, details how to best analyze any evidence that may cross a researchers path.

And with products, such as RootsMagic 4, basing their source templates on those found in Evidence Explained, I feel that it is one of, if not the most, essential book for the library of genealogists of any experience level.

The Organized Family Historian by Ann Carter Fleming is a book that I bought when shortly after I realized that I was gathering more research information that I could effectively organized. I wasn't quite sure how to organized all that mess so that, first, it was understandable to me and, second, so that it was understandable to those that I would inevitably share it with.

This book comes with a companion CD containing different forms and worksheets to help organized your research and findings. Most of it is included in most genealogy programs, but this book explains how to use all those forms in a way that any beginner can understand.

I must admit, however, part of the reason for my buying this book was to find a filing system that I was comfortable in using. (The filing cabinet on the cover sucked me in!!) And although Mrs. Fleming's ideas on filing systems is sound and it is probably effective for many people, I found that it was not what I was looking for. I am still searching for that "perfect" filing system, or at least one that I am comfortable with. So, if anyone has any ideas or has a filing system they would like to suggest I try, please, let me know.

Probably, the first serious genealogy book I bought, Everton's Handybook for Genealogists has probably been the most useful. I own the 10th edition, however, I understand that there is an 11th edition that includes a companion CD. I have not seen or used the 11th edition and was not able to find a link for it. I have used my 10th edition very regularly, whether it be to find the address for a local county clerk's office or to determine the existence of particular counties in different time periods. I even used it to search for societies or repositories in Alaska, which is where I will be moving to in about 2 months.

The Handybook for Genealogists has allowed me to find birth and marriage information for my mother's family that I was not able to find elsewhere. And because this book covers every state it will be invaluable to those researching multiple family line (or the same line) in multiple states.

One of the next books that I bought was written by George C. Morgan of the Genealogy Guys. The book, How to Do Everything with Your Genealogy seems to expound on the principles of genealogy that Mrs. Fleming only hinted at in her book. He also goes into more detail on research techniques and where to begin looking for information.

I own the first edition (pictured right). It covers just about any topic that you can think of. However, if you are thinking of more current topics like DNA research then you may want to look at getting Mr. Morgan's second edition (linked to the title above) which has just recently been published. Either edition is sure to expand your genealogy tool set.

The next two books that round out the favorites from my collection are probably not books that EVERY researcher needs in their collection. However, they should have one (or more) similar to them.

Years ago, when I took my first family history class at college, one of my assignments was to find out as much information as I could from immediate family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. While speaking to one of my aunts, she mentioned that she had received a booklet from an individual that had compiled some information on my Sheeley family line. She offered to send me the pages that pertained to my direct ancestral line. When it arrived, I was shocked at the amount of knowledge that was contained in the envelope. And this was just and extract!! Unfortunately, once the assignment was complete, this information was put in a box and forgotten for a number of years. When I finally decided to restart my family history research, I came across these pages. On the last page was the address (then a number of years old) of the compiler. I wrote to him in hopes that he was still at the address. I asked for a full copy of the compilation that had been in the possession of my aunt. Luckily, he was still at the address, but he informed me that he no longer had any copies of that original compilation, BUT if I was patient he would send me the second edition of his work which was nearly complete. I was anxiously patient and a couple of months later received Seven Cow Tails, One Hair. This book contains the descendants of Johann Nicholas Schiele, the first person in the Schiele/Sheely/Sheeley family to come to America (in 1739). This book contains 486 pages of births, marriages, deaths, histories, and pictures of 12 generations of descendants. (Unfortunately, no source citations) So, I guess you could say, an awesome amount of information was placed in my lap.

The second book is similar in nature. Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah by Frank Esshom, is a compilation of photographs, genealogies and biographies of men that traveled to Utah "by wagon, hand cart or afoot, between July 24, 1847, and December 30, 1868, before the railroad" and of men that held prominent positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that traveled to Utah "after the coming of the railroad." This book is the only book (so-far) that I have in electronic format. The book itself came to my knowledge back in that family history class in college. I was doing research on my father's maternal grandparents and found some of that line in this book. Again, that research was put in a box for a number of years and I recently found it.

I had also just recently read Dick Eastman's blog entry "Converting My Personal Library to Digital". One of the comments suggested a website,, for locating out of print books. So, on the slim chance that it was there, I did a search. To my surprise, it was there. I downloaded it and I am still finding links to ancestors in this book.

In both cases, I found (and continue to find) additional information that initially I missed. With these books close at hand, I am able to cross reference other names that may come up in my research to see if the are related or if they link to other nuggets of information that may be contained in the books. I feel that compiled genealogies are essential to any genealogists library.

There they are. I hope this post is useful to anyone that may read it. I encourage those of you that are more experienced to suggest any titles you feel should be in the library of any genealogist. (Also any filing tips would be greatly appreciated as well.)



Deborah Andrew said...


Cool Blog! You have some really good books in your library and I'd like to suggestion one more.

"Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case" by Christine Rose. It's not a thick book but it is extremely helpful in showing how to set up a Genealogical Proof Standard case, previously known as a Preponderance of Evidence.

It can be bought directly from Mrs Rose's website:

Lastly, I have started following your blog even though it is not shown in your followers. Just wanted you to know. :)

I look forward to reading your future posts.

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