Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Recommendations for Your New Year's Family Research

 You might have resolved in 2021 to do more research into your family history. Whether you've just recently begun your genealogy journey or are a seasoned researcher, there's a reference book or two out there for you. 

The internet has lulled us into a false sense that books are no longer needed. Yet, having a book at your fingertips can provide focus, making it easier to locate the specific information you need at the moment. Internet searches, regardless of how effectively you might use qualifiers, can still result in an overwhelming number of results. 

Over the years, I've acquired a number of genealogical resource books that I think are worth the space they take up on a shelf, as well as the price. If you're thinking seriously of upping your genealogy game in 2021, here are some resources I strongly recommend:

  • The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 4th ed. by Val D. Greenwood. This is the most authoritative resource for American genealogists. It's valuable for all levels of research, but it's priceless for beginners and novices in providing not only an introduction to the types of records that exist, but more importantly how to evaluate and organize the information you find. 
  • Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources, 3rd ed. by Alice Eichholz (Ed.) This book was created by Ancestry. Organized by state, this resource provides specific information on the records and holdings for every county in the United States.
  • Land and Property Resources in the United States by E. Wade Hone. This is another Ancestry publication. It provides historical background on the types of land records generated from colonial days to the present, and how to locate these records. It explains how lands were/are measured (just how much is a "rod"?), how Federal lands were apportioned and sold, how land ownership is transferred between individuals. It also includes a section on Native American land records. In short, everything you need to know in order to effectively use U.S. land records is in this book.
  • Hidden Sources: Family History in Unlikely Places by Laura Szucs Pfeiffer. Also an Ancestry publication, this book might be what a more seasoned researcher, who's exhausted conventional sources, will find useful. There are dozens and dozens of resources easily overlooked. Do you have an inventor in the family? How about searching patent books? Do you have some litigious ancestors? How about court records? Speaking of which, if you have ancestors who settled in Muskingum County before 1850 (and were litigious), Muskingum County Chancery Court records are a genealogical goldmine!
  • Ohio Photographers, 1839-1900, 2nd ed. by Diane VanSkiver Gagel. If you're lucky enough to have very old family photos for your Muskingum County (or any Ohio county) family, here's a useful resource, especially if those photos aren't identified by anything except the name of the studio where the photo was taken. Was your photo taken in Mrs. Rich's studio in Zanesville? Then it was taken between 1872 and 1889. If you have a Rich Studio photo of a man you think is your great-great-great grandfather, but you know he died in 1868, think again. The book provides short biographies of Ohio photographers, as well as some basic information about early photographic methods. As long as we're on the subject of photography resources, I can't say enough good things about two slender books helpful in dating old photos: Dating Old Photographs, 1840-1929 and More Dating Old Photographs, 1840-1829 published by Family Chronicle. These two books have helped me immensely to assign an approximate date to dozens of my own family photos, thus allowing me to identify some of the subjects.
  • James L. Murphy's Checklist of 19th-Century Bluebird Potters and Potteries in Muskingum County, Ohio
    by Jeff Carsdadden and Richard Gartley (Eds.) If you have potters in your family (and it's a rare Muskingum County family that doesn't), this massive book has it all: Information about types of bluebird pottery, illustrations, maps, and best of all, biographies (although many are brief) of every person who ever threw a pot in Muskingum County. 
  • Google Your Family Tree: Unlock the Hidden Power of Google by Daniel M. Lynch. Lastly, this is the book for you if you're going to bypass other books and surf the web for family history. In an informal, non-technical way, this book shows you how to search more effectively, so you can narrow down the number of returns you'll get when you try to Google your great-great grandmother, Mary Smith.
All these books can be purchased new, but you'll also find good used copies at lower prices. Just surf the web for used book dealers.

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