Tag Archives: Reference Books

6+1 Books That Should Be on Every Genealogist’s Reference Shelf

It doesn’t matter whether you are a novice family historian or an advanced genealogical researcher. Learning is a recurring theme that extends knowledge and sharpens skills.

I’ve been asked many times through the years what books I would recommend being added to a personal library shelf.

I personally prefer to hold a book in my hand, as opposed to reading digital versions, particularly if the book is lengthy. However, I will include details for both versions because cost and shelf space are considerations when deciding where the genealogy dollars will be spent.

A reference library should contain books that provide an overview of resources, but also teach proper research methods. Frankly, if more of the “everything’s online” people took the time to learn how to do their own research, the quality of personal online information would skyrocket. (That’s my mini-rant.)

My list of recommendations includes some classics and, I think, some future classics.

  1. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition, by Val D. Greenwood, 2017, Genealogical Publishing Company. $49.50. Greenwood’s book is a classic and should serve as a required textbook for all genealogists! I purchased the 2nd edition back around 1980 when I first got started. This book is worth every penny of its $50 cost. (Amazon has used copies for $40.) Unfortunately, this book has no digital version.
  2. The Source, A Guidebook to American Genealogy, 3rd Edition by Loretto Dennis Szucs & Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, 2006. $52. This is also an oldie, but goodie, first published in 1984. It is massive – 965 pages – that covers types of records available to genealogists and is a gold mine of information. (Amazon has used copies for $32.) Update: See Lisa Gorrell’s comment below.
  3. Evidence Explained, 3rd Edition, Revised, Elizabeth Shown Mills, 2017. What I hear most often from intermediate level genealogists is that they wish they had cited their sources properly. Mills’ book is the “bible” for source citations. $59.95. Kindle edition – $32.95. This is another big book with 892 pages. However, the majority of those pages are examples of just about any item or record that you will ever come across in the genealogy world that needs a source citation. (Amazon has used copies for $52.00.)
  4. Genealogical Proof Standard, Building a Solid Case, 4th Edition Revised 2014 by Christine Rose, $9.95. For those who aren’t seeking professional certification, Rose’s book is perfect. It explains what the genealogical proof standard is (e.g. how to be a top notch researcher) and offers examples of how to properly use records in one’s research. (Amazon has copies for under $5.) No digital version is available.
  5. The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger, 2019. $22.99. Whether or not you want to jump into the genetic genealogy world, you need to know what it is all about. This is an excellent introduction. Kindle version $19.99. (Amazon has used copies for under $13.)
  6. Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide by Diana Elder and Nicole Dyer, 2018. Once you’ve gotten an overview of resources and methods you’ve learned in Books 1, 2, and 4, Elder’s and Dyer’s easy-to-follow format will guide you through the research process as you tackle your own genealogical questions. $14.99. Kindle version $4.99. (Amazon has used copies for under $10.)

Bonus Suggestion: Elements of Genealogical Analysis by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG, 2014. $28.95. Anderson’s book is excellent for intermediate or advanced level genealogists, as he provides a “how to” in solving genealogical problems with many, many examples. No digital version is available. (Amazon has used copies for under $22.)

This is not an inexpensive list, but the books can be purchased over time. Or, better yet, when we get to the holiday season, share your wish list with your family members. 🙂