Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Personal Genealogy Library

Filling the Treasure Chest

In the Professional Genealogy manual Chapter 4 is entitled The Essential Library.  One of the fascinating tables of the chapter is the model used to build a professional genealogy library using Priority Levels: “1 - Basic Shelf,  2 - Essential Materials, and 3 - Useful but Discretionary Items.”  An early class assignment encourages the participants to create the inventory of their personal genealogy library.

Treasures – Tools of the Trade
Many of the resources stashed within my reach are rarely used - falling in priority level 3.  But The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy falls in priority levels 1 and 2.  I found my first copy for $7.00 at the Half-Price Books (that actually is the name of the store).  My hardback book has long lost its paper cover/flap, but has been properly used, marked, and worn. Every genealogist should have one on the shelf. It is a basic tool - like a recipe book for a cook, a scales book for a pianist, a bank account for a shopper. You get the picture.  
In A Rut
The issue is this...we need to fill our Treasure Chest with valuables that get us to our end goal. Recently, I consulted with a family looking for their missing great grandfather. They were exhausted from over 10 years of searching for G-Grandpa not in all the right places. A reference book, like The Source, can double as a check-off list. When stuck...I reference its Table of Contents, and literally check off the records listed. I then reference Ancestry’s Red Book which gives me more specific information per state.  But, my first “to go to book” is the Source.  When I go to a Court House, I take copies of pages of The Source's chapter on Court Records which lists varieties of court records and their purposes. It even goes as far as providing an “at-a-glance” chart in front of each chapter that includes “Clues That You Should Consult These Records.” Believe me, in the throes of frustration, I often need the reminder.
Some of these old court ledgers are tucked away and not easily accessible. A good example is the courthouse in Rutherford County, NC. There's a huge research room with ledgers whimsically stacked, but the basement (the dungeon or vault), off from the frequently used research room holds a wealth of knowledge. That's where the criminal records, asylum records, and miscellaneous books are stored. The dungeon is not for the faint of heart, but uncovering my ancestors whereabouts were within that claustrophobic, rather musty dungeon. The point is, The Source chapter of court records reminded me to ask the clerk of these obscure records whereabouts.   
Constantly on a Treasure Hunt

My last great find at the Half-Priced Bookstore was the Ian Westwell, World War I, book, for $5.00. We need to have a plethora of books in our specialty. This may not be of interest to many of you, but I do a large portion of Military document retrievals, and I must stay abreast of the topics requested. Sure there's the internet, but it doesn't replace my resource books. When a client asked about the malaria toll on British troops during WWI documents, I was guided by Westwell to concentrate my research to the campaign in East Africa. I wonder how many websites I would have had to search before reaching that conclusion. 
The Challenge
I challenge all of us to fill our Treasure Chests with finds for our personal library.  Who doesn’t love a great Treasure Hunt? 
Accurate, Accessible Answers


  1. Thanks so much for the Ancestor Approved Award. I really appreciate it and I enjoy your blog.
    Linda @ Documenting the Details

  2. Another great book that doubles as a check-off list is Elizabeth Mills' Evidence Explained.

  3. T,
    I've been slowly warming up to Evidence Explained, kicking and screaming all the way! It's not first to go to book, but I value the information in it, And it has made it to my "Basic" Shelf. Thanks for the reminder.