Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Top 5 Genealogy Research Books

Last week Marian Pierre-Louis of Roots and Rambles listed the top 5 books on her bookshelf. I thought this was a great idea for genealogy bloggers, because even though there will definitely be books that appear on many of our lists, a few could also pop up that might not have occurred to some of us. It has also inspired me to add a page to this blog, “Genealogy Books I Own.”

This weekend I am finally getting down to listing my Top 5, and a couple of interesting things about my list have already become evident. First, the books on my list do not fit as much into the “regional research” mold as Marion’s books do, and second, the books that are regionally focused are actually a set of books.

1. At the top of my list is a set of about 15 books by Dr. A. Bruce Pruitt in two series of books of abstracts of deeds in South Carolina: Pendleton District/Anderson District/County and Greenville County. Since the Moores and Lewises are my first-priority research focus, this area of South Carolina where they lived before my branch went to Texas is my top geographic area of interest along with Texas. Dr. Pruitt’s books have been instrumental in helping me sort out the families; there were other families of the same name (at least one for Lewis and several for Moore) in Greenville and Anderson. They have helped me to identify associated families and to create a list of likely family members (though I still do not know exactly how many of the probable Moore family members are related). I referred to these books and to Greenville Library’s online indices and finding aids to compile a list of documents to look up before my trip to Greenville last year.

I should mention here that there is another set of books that I also use a great deal for South Carolina research but that I do not own: Brent Holcomb’s books of births, deaths, and marriages extracted from South Carolina newspapers. Some of these are online and the others I have used in the library.

2. Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Naming the obvious, of course. I use it for source citations, but not just for that purpose. There are so many different types of sources and information, found in so many forms, in so many places, that it is often difficult know which distinctions to make and how to record how and where I have accessed a particular type of source. I also love the division into categories of sources; this helps me to understand how everything works together and to form a systematic picture of where my research gaps are.

My next three books are all general-purpose guides focusing on American research. At this point my research is at the stage of generation of research plans: where I need to go and what I need to get. These three books are helping me to figure that all out and to make sure that all my bases are covered. Some items I can mail off for and some can be obtained on microfilm from the local FHL, but I also use the results to plan out future research trips (dreaming right now, but I hope a reality later on).

3. Redbook of American State, County and Town Sources, edited by Alice Eichholz. I like the state-by-state organization and the map of each state with divisions into counties, townships, etc. Within each state the records are organized by type or by specialized area of research (“Special Focus Categories” such as particular religious or ethnic groups, immigration, and so forth). This is the first place I go when thinking about research in a particular state. At the end of each state chapter there is a list of current counties (or their equivalents) with the dates they were established and courthouse addresses, as well as a list of previously existing entities (such as the circuit court districts in South Carolina, for example).

4. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The principle for its organization is more or less the opposite of that for #3: by type of records or specialized research subject first, and then when appropriate these are divided into states and localities. This is the book I go to first when thinking in terms of research of a particular subject or specialized area such as immigration or Jewish American research. Genealogical societies and lineage associations are listed in appendices. The notes at the end of each chapter are also extremely useful for finding further information. This book can now be accessed online as part of the Wiki.

5. Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink. The organization of this book is closer to #4, or in other words types of documents and then when appropriate geographical location. As the title indicates, it covers published records rather than the full range of original records, so in theory these are records that could be accessed without traveling to the actual location of origin - through purchase, interlibrary loan, online resources such as Google Books, and so forth, although in reality “some travel may be required.” There are a lot of useful reference lists, bibliographies, and “how-tos” interspersed in this book, so even when there is significant overlap with #3 and #4, this is not a resource that I would want to overlook.

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