Genealogy: Essential Research Methods by Helen Osborn – Book Review

I decided to start off 2024 with a review of a book that I actually bought several months ago – Genealogy: Essential Research Methods by Helen Osborn.

I’m always on the lookout for good reference books and I learned about this book from fellow blogger Teresa, author of writing my past.



  1. The Challenges of Genealogy
  2. Effective Searching – Technique and Belief
  3. The Records Framework
  4. Find What You Need
  5. Has It Been Done Before?
  6. Analysing and Working with Documents
  7. Planning and Problem-solving
  8. Recording Information and Citing Sources
  9. Organize, Store and Pass On
  10. Prove your Research and Meet Your Challenges

Recommended Short Reading List
Other Sources

Although this book was first published in 2012 (my printing is 2018) and the sections at the end of the book are mostly geared towards U.K. researchers, that doesn’t take away from the quality of the book’s content. Additionally, the fact that all of the research examples within the chapters are all from English records isn’t an issue either because the historical record sets available in the U.K. aren’t all that different that of American or Canadian records.

What I like about this book is that the author presents information in a very straightforward, easy to understand way that promotes efficient and effective research methods. The chapter titles are self explanatory. The book is what I classify as an “easy read.”

The book opens with an overview of common conundrums faced by researchers and methodically progresses from how to search to where to search and then to reviewing and analyzing various types of records that provide useful information.

I especially liked Chapter 9 – Organize, Store and Pass On, which reminds us that,as much as we as individuals enjoy the challenge of the hunt, it’s important to reach out, share and save our work with a plan for it to pass on to others, whether it be via software or family stories that we have written down.

My second favorite chapter was the last one, challenging us to prove our work. In other words, don’t be the copy-and-paste name collector. Do you own research and document the facts!

It’s also to the author’s credit that a 12-year-old book covering a topic like genealogy (and all its many changes due to technology) remains modern today, due to its emphasis on methodology rather than websites that come, go and change. This is a book that belongs on the reference shelves of British, Canadian and American beginning or intermediate genealogy researchers.

Genealogy: Essential Research Methods by Helen Osborn, published in 2012 by Robert Hale Ltd. (which ceased operations in 2015), can be purchased online. Prices vary wildly. Instead of everyone’s favorite mega-giant shopping place (where prices are $44+), check out eBay, where copies of the book can be found for as little as $9.00US.

One thought on “Genealogy: Essential Research Methods by Helen Osborn – Book Review”

  1. So glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did 🙂 And yes, her focus on methodology is what makes it a timely reference resource for genealogists, both new and experienced.

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