Paths to Your Past: A Guide to Finding Your Ancestors by Pamela Boyer Sayre: Book Review

Paths to Your Past: A Guide to Finding Your Ancestors, Second Edition, Revised 2018 by Pamela Boyer Sayre is an excellent, affordable guide to getting started down the American ancestral trails.


Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Using Libraries and Published Sources
Chapter 3: Finding and Using State and Local Resources
Chapter 4: Finding and Using Federal Sources
Chapter 5: Understanding Sources and Citations
Chapter 6: Keeping Records
Chapter 7: Organizing Your Information
Chapter 8: Expanding the Family Tree

You will find 65 pages packed with genealogy research tips and resources. Each of the chapters has quite a few subheadings, which break down resources and repositories related to the chapter titles.

Here are a few of the points I liked most about this book:

  • The first chapter is a strong introduction to the “how to” genealogy research. Developing good research skills right at the start is emphasized.
  • The list of 10 Great Websites for research contains six free websites so a beginner won’t think that many dollars are flying out the door just to get started.
  • The list of 10 Basic References for Family History is a well thought out and well rounded list. There is a bit of a slant towards National Genealogical Society publications and at least one of the books has a revised edition now available.

There are also a couple of suggestions for improvement:

  • Chapter 7 needs to be expanded to include more tech options such as Word and Excel. More discussion about genealogy software options would also be a plus.
  • Writing Your Family History contains just 4 sentences. Yes, it is a big job if a researcher wants to create a comprehensive volume covering many years. However, writing smaller family sketches, which are definitely not an overwhelming job, isn’t even mentioned. I know this book is a guide, but another paragraph or two could take care of this.
  • Part of Chapter 8 includes Dip into DNA. Even considering that this book was revised in 2018, DNA was certainly a big enough part of today’s genealogy research tools by then.  DNA should have a chapter of its own.

Overall, I love this book and highly recommend it for beginners. The publisher is the National Genealogical Society and is available in the Store link on the right side of the home page.

Personally, I love the feel of a book in my hands. The print version is only $17.00. If a tablet is your preferred method of reading, the PDF is only $12.00 and can be downloaded after payment.



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