Building Your Personal Genealogy Library


Have you ever considered building your own personal Library? In this day of the Internet most of us spend a great deal of time on the hundreds of sites available for genealogical research. However, there are thousands of books and other resources that can take you further in your journey especially when you are confronted with the inevitable “Brick Wall”. So where do you start on this construction project?

There are some basic books that everyone should have and then those that would be helpful for the research unique to your family history. If you can afford to purchase only one book, you should consider, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Greenwood, Val D. This is one of the most popular how-to genealogy textbooks. Another essential book is The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Loretta D. Szucs, and Sandra H. Luebking. It is a comprehensive guide covering major U.S. record sources, and various categories and special fields of research. For those with roots in the New England area you might want to consider, Shaking Your Family Tree: A Basic Guide to Tracing Your Family’s Genealogy by Ralph Crandall. It is an easy read.

One of the main documents that we all use are Census Records as these can yield incredible amounts of data. The key to using census records is to have a good understanding of what they are telling you and learning to read them thoroughly will enhance this process. The Census Book: A Genealogist’s Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules, and Indexes by William Dollarhide, will give you the guidance that you need. Another book that will help with you in using census records is Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide. This book has maps of the counties in each state and how they changed over the years. It will be a great guide to use when looking in the correct county for records as county and even state lines changed over time.

Citations are an important part of documenting your research as you may wish to take a second or third look at the information that you found. Many people get a bit overwhelmed with the task of properly citing their research so you will want a book that explains this task. The expert on this is Elizabeth Shown Mills and her book titled Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian can be a great source for you. In addition, Quick Sheet and At A Glance have a 4-page laminated quick guide that might be adequate to get you started.

For those of you working on ancestors from other countries, you will have the additional need of a manual for that country as well as bilingual dictionary. I do Swedish research so have the book Your Swedish Roots by Per Clemensson and Kjell Anderson. I also have a modern-day Swedish English Dictionary and a genealogical dictionary for Sweden. The genealogical dictionary contains word no longer in common use but found frequently in documents from the 1700s and 1800s.

All the books mentioned above are available at the Hall House. Please feel free to drop in and peruse them for your research or to determine if you do indeed want to add them to your personal library.

As your skills grow you will find that you may need additional guides for your research. And as your research takes you backward in time, or into specialized areas, or into additional localities where your ancestors once lived, your needs will change. You will also find books that just pique your interest and will want to add them to your library. This is part of the joy and obsession that genealogy is. Indulge yourself and start a Personal Genealogy Library today.

To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to and visit Janet’s own web page.