Genealogist's Essential Reference Books

by Christine Sievers

We are almost ready to delve into the heart of your research- the lives of your ancestors. Before I do that, we should take a look at the essential reference books that will facilitate your work. You will find yourself referring back to these books many times; no matter what time period of American history you are researching, or what level of expertise you have in genealogy. I emphasize this, because they involve a substantial investment of money. But, they will be important tools for the research of your family tree. They are not the kind of books that you will read cover to cover, but you will wear them out by constantly going back to them for help.

There are four books that I can't live without:

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. Published by Ancestry Inc.

This hefty book is filled with all the information you need about primary sources. Pri mary sources are the documents (or copies) of official events in your ancestors' lives- birth, christening, land purchases, military, and death for example. This book reveals what records are available, what is contained in them, how they can be used for genealogical documentation, and where you can find them. It is considered by many researchers to be the most important reference book for genealogists.

Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogy Records. Edited by Kory L. Meyerink. Published by Ancestry Inc.

As genealogy became more popular, the publication of compilations of sources and others' research began to increase. While nothing can take the place of the actual document and your own research, these sources are essential when the actual records are no longer available because of natural disasters and war. Personal family histories are included in the printed sources category. Their reliability varies, and this book does an excellent job of explaining that. Where to find printed sources, what is in them and how to use them is covered in the b ook. Partnered with The Source, they will give you about all the information needed to find documentation in the United States.

The Handy Book for Genealogists. by George B Everton. Published by Everton Publishers, Inc.

Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County, & Town Sources. Edited by Alice Eichholz, William Dollarhide.

I put these two books together, because they provide the same kind of information in a similar format. Many researchers like to have both for double checking. What they are is an incredible tool for zeroing in on your research by locality. They are the books that I refer to constantly. Among the information you will find in them is where vital records are kept within counties and states, when counties where formed, state histories and sources available. Organized by state, they are easy and quick references.

With all of these books, you will not want to skip reading the introduction. Then, skim the topics so when you need a question answered you can zero into it quickly. Browse through them when you run into a brick wall. You may find just what you need to get going again.

You can find all these books at Just type the name of the book in their search engine. While you are there, take a look at the reviews and other features about genealogy books. Most large brick and mortar book stores also carry them. With the holidays coming, it is a good time started hinting about the books you need to start your own genealogical library.

Happy reading.

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