Thursday, June 29, 2006

Book Review: The Source - A Guidebook to American Genealogy

You may not be aware that before Ancestry was a provider of online genealogy databases and family trees, they published genealogy books. In 2006 they updated one of their major reference works (and later put it online as a wiki -- see below). The Source - A Guidebook to American Genealogy (edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking) is now available in a third edition. It has been expanded and revised to include both online and offline resources. The Source is essentially a guidebook through the vast maze of records created about people over time and place. We like to call these genealogy records.

The early chapters cover the basics of genealogy research, using offline records, and the Internet. Then there are separate chapters on the following types of genealogy records: businesses and other organizations, census records, church records, court records, city and other directories, immigration records, land records, military records, newspapers, and vital records. Special guides include: African American research, colonial English, colonial Spanish (for Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas), Hispanic, Jewish American, Native American, and urban research (for finding lost people in large cities).

Descriptions of Two Chapters
Rather than try and cover this entire book - it's over 900 pages long - here's a brief look at two of the book's chapters...

Immigration Records... The chapter on immigration records has useful information about ship passenger lists, border crossings (from Canada), naturalization records, alien registrations and passports. This section was put together by some of the best experts in the field of immigration records, including Kory Meyerink and INS historian Marian Smith. Genealogy speaker and author Megan Smolenyak contributed a helpful four-and-a-half page guide to using the Ellis Island Database. And they even recommend a visit to my own online Guide to Passenger Lists on the Internet.

A section called "American Sources for Documenting Immigrants" suggests helpful places to look for records that document immigrants, some of which might name that all important place (village, town, city) where your immigrant ancestor came from. Knowing this can help you pursue further research in foreign records. A later section covers foreign sources that also might help determine immigrant origins.

Census Records... The chapter on census records discusses the importance of the census to genealogy research, and has tips for searching in census records online and off. Questions asked in each census are given for each census year, along with specific research tips. Two small sections offer "Suggestions for Microfilm Searches" and "Suggestions for Online Searches." There are also two helpful tables for dealing with census indexes - "frequently misread letters" and "phonetic substitutes." Microfilm and soundex are discussed for offline searching.

There is also a section on non-population schedules and special censuses, including mortality schedules, veterans schedules, state and local censuses, African American and Native American censuses, and others. A helpful table at the end of the chapter, "Potential Census Substitutes," offers suggestions for other types of records to look for.

This book is like having several specialized guides combined into one large work. You could build a fine genealogy reference library by starting here.

The Source: Book and Online Versions

Order a copy of the book from Amazon: The Source: A Guidebook Of American Genealogy

A digitized version of The Source can be found online at: The Source - A Guidebook to American Genealogy Wiki

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between Ancestry's Redbook and Everton's Handyman book for Genealogy?