Whether you are just starting to research your family history or are a seasoned professional working in the field of genealogy, one of the most important things you can do to aid yourself in your research is to build your own genealogy reference library. This is vital because not everything you need to know can be found online. The following list of books should not be considered complete or all-inclusive in any way, but should be used solely as a guide to help you start building your own collection.
The basic necessities for any genealogy library are:
Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide
This book is extremely useful, as it tracks the formation of counties over time. Perhaps the reason you can't find records of your ancestor in one particular county is because it was actually part of another county at one point.
History for Genealogists: Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors by Judy Jacobson
Placing your ancestor at a specific time and place using these numerous time lines can help you better understand what their world was like, or, in some cases, even help to determine their possible cause of death. The included time lines not only cover the history of each individual U.S. state, but also include a detailed list of the epidemics in America and worldwide, military battles, migration patterns and the evolution of industrialization and transportation.
Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills
This is a must-have reference book for every genealogist, and you don't have to be a professional to own the book. Including proper source citations in your genealogical research is imperative and is an absolute must for any credible genealogist. This not only provides a reference that you can refer to at a later point, if necessary, but it also adds validity and credibility to your research. The book illustrates the many ways to properly cite sources, from books and online census records to tombstones and birth certificates.
Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources by Alice Eichholz, Editor
Think of this book as a genealogy phone book on steroids. This large hard-bound book is divided into a separate chapter for each U.S. state. Within each chapter, there are various categories and lists of sources to aid you in your research. These sources include - but are not limited to - state libraries, state historical societies, state and county-specific periodicals and newspapers, and more. Each entry contains full contact information (address, phone number and web address, if applicable). It's a great way to know where to look or who to call when you're seeking that one important piece of documentation.
A To Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists and Historians by Barbara Jean Evans
Have you ever read through an old legal document as were perplexed by some of the unusual words? This dictionary is genealogy-specific, so if you need a detailed definition of a dower right, osthouse or surety, this is your go-to book.
As you continue to expand your personal genealogy reference library, consider adding the following books, as well:
Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry
This book gives a visual breakdown of old handwritten alphabets and is particularly useful when trying to transcribe a document from the 1600 or 1700s.
Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records by Kory L. Meyerink, Editor
This monster of a book is a great reference tool if you need to know what information is out there just waiting to be discovered.
Black's Law Dictionary by Bryan A. Garner, Editor
Another useful tool to keep on-hand when examining old legal documents.
There are many, many more fabulous genealogy books out there, and - again - in no way should this list be viewed as complete or all-inclusive. More lists may follow in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, look for the above books on Amazon, ebay or Half.com to start building your genealogy library today!