Access to records has changed dramatically in recent years; the records have not. For this reason I do not throw out the best of my methods books because they tell me the inner workings of records and finding aids and provide good strategy ideas. Here are four old ones I will never part with and the reasons why.
- Discovering Your Family History, by Don Steel, published by the BBC to accompany the 1979 television series Family History. Part one of the book is a fascinating story/case study of the ancestry of the presenter, a BBC news reader, with solid accounts of records in part two–all with an emphasis on the full context of family history.
- In Search of Scottish Ancestry, by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards, published by Phillimore in 1972 (still available), is informative, sometimes amusing, and offers excellent explanations about using less well-known records to build a family tree.Â
- Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research, by Margaret Falley was first published in 1960, later by GPC (still available), and is a comprehensive account of Irish records setting them in their historical context.
- Sources for English Local History, by W. B. Stephens, published by Phillimore in 1983, is an example of an excellent book written for local historians that is helpful to genealogists. It explains background and research value of all sorts of records that reveal society at the local level.
Don’t judge a research book by its age or whether or not it is in print. Look at what it tells you about records, their context, and their use. I am convinced that genealogists who have been researching for years, used classic guides, and learned their skills before computers, have an advantage. Experience has shown them the importance of solid research foundations and has given them added insights to take full advantage of computer resources. Ask veteran researchers about their favorite guides and have a little fun; look for old genealogy methods books in shops, at charity sales, and online. Some sites worth looking at for obtaining these types of materials are: