Top 10 genealogy resources

I have been away a while—I know, I know—but I just couldn’t resist the latest blogging theme bouncing around. Top 10 lists always seem to bring me out of my little hole.

Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL, posted her legal-centric list at “Top 10 genealogy websites” on her award-winning blog The Legal Genealogist. The theme was started by James Tanner’s post “My Top Ten Genealogy Programs for Now” at his blog Genealogy’s Star. Several other bloggers have also followed suit (and Judy names a few, so I will not repeat the list here).

My list will be a little different. I will not focus exclusively on resources or websites, but instead on foundational works.

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010). If you write, which I assume that you do, this guide is absolutely necessary. CMOS covers grammar, punctuation, style, and citations, among numerous other topics related to writing and publishing. This also happens to be the style guide adopted by most humanities publishers, including all of the major genealogical journals. There is also an accompanying website available by subscription that allows full-text searching and offers additional assistance.
  2. Wayne C. Booth, et al., The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). This guide is intended for university students researching for classes. Genealogy is a type of research, first and foremost. Many genealogical errors would be avoided if the researcher had a solid foundation in how to conduct research in general. This guide is one of the industry-standard introductions to basic research methodology.
  3. Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 50th anniversary ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014). Nearly everyone that reads this blog should know that I am a dedicated evangelist for standards-based genealogical research. This book offers the only comprehensive compilation of the standards that have evolved in the field over the past century.
  4. Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013). This workbook offers most thorough exploration of genealogical standards of proof, written by one of the undisputed leaders in the field. The lessons are comprehensive and each chapter offers hands-on exercises utilizing two complex-evidence case studies also written by the author.
  5. ArchiveGrid (https://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/). As the URL reveals, this website is an offshoot of WorldCat. It includes, however, primarily manuscript collections held by over 1000 archival repositories, making the search much more focused. The site is easy to search for a surname, location, or topic, and returns descriptions and links to the finding aids for the relevant collections. In a recent project, for example, I was able to locate more than a half-dozen relevant collections in the same number of separate universities, historical societies, and libraries. Never neglect the oft-ignored possibility that your ancestor’s personal papers have been collected somewhere!
  6. Google. James Tanner included Google, but I am going to offer a slightly more specific view of its tools:
    • Web Search (http://www.google.com). No description likely necessary here, the most important function of Google is its search engine, so prevalent that “googling” something has become a verb unto itself. You can also limit the format of results using Image Search or Video Search, among other options.
    • Alerts (https://www.google.com/alerts). Google Alerts will email you anytime a new link is located for your keywords. This is a great way to monitor surnames of interest.
    • Books (https://books.google.com/). Google Books has digitized millions of books in whole or in part, most of which allow full-text search and many of which can be downloaded as a PDF and other digital formats.
    • Scholar (https://scholar.google.com/). Google Scholar searches scholarly and academic resources such as journals and dissertations, and provides links to content available online. This is a great way to learn about recent research related to the history and culture of your ancestral places, religion, ethnicity, etc.
    • Maps (https://www.google.com/maps) and Earth (https://www.google.com/intl/en/earth/). Because who doesn’t want to know where events happened, how close one location is to another, etc.? Google Earth is especially fun once you learn to overlay historic maps, plats, etc.
    • Translate (https://translate.google.com/). Though there are some real problems with automated direct translation between many languages, this tool will still be helpful in many cases in getting a general sense of the meaning of a document written in a language that you can’t read.
    • And there are many others that I won’t get into, like Gmail and Drive. Great for general productivity alone or with a group of researchers.
  7. Internet Archive (https://archive.org/) and Hathi Trust (https://www.hathitrust.org/). See above under Google Books, these two sites offer millions of digitized historic books. Internet Archive includes hundreds of reels of NARA microfilm publications, digitized in partnership with the Allen County Public Library! Though they are not indexed, they also have not been edited in any way. This provides the opportunity to view census records, etc., in the context of the original microfilm that has been digitized by other sites. Internet Archive also hosts the “Wayback Machine,” the most comprehensive archive of past websites (which is great for finding online information that somehow disappeared).
  8. Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2015). I’m sure that you didn’t think I would forget the book of which I spent two posts discussing the merits a few years ago. Read them here and here. Also take the time to visit the companion website, which offers some very useful forums on documentation and evidence analysis.
  9. Anthony Weston, A Rulebook for Arguments, 4th ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2009). Reaching a defensible conclusion using conflicting direct, indirect, and/or negative evidence, is often a matter of logic. This short, general guide to the art of formulating a logical argument could almost serve as a guide to genealogical proof arguments. It looks at form, substance, and common fallacies, among other subjects.
  10. The Internet. This tenth spot is tough. So many websites offer online digitized record images that it is impossible to list them all. Obviously, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com) and FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org) lead the pack, but other sites include national and international archives, state archives, local public libraries and historical societies, university libraries, etc. Basically, the Internet has completely revolutionized the way that genealogical research is conducted in the twenty-first century. I’m certain that I am not the only researcher who misses the disproportionate “microfilm muscle” (*sarcasm*), but the ability to research with a simple point-and-click deserves a place on every list. Of course, not all material has been digitized, but the Internet also offers access to repository catalogs for access to additional microfilmed and original paper records. Frankly, it’s a bit difficult to imagine how we managed to survive back in the early 1990s, before the Internet was so prevalent. We did it, but I don’t even want to think about those crazy Dark Ages.

What do you think? Do these resources make your list? What shows up on your Top 10?

8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Stacy Hoover on August 20, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Excellent Top 10 list, Michael! Thank you for introducing me to Weston and Booth. I’m putting them on my “list.”
    – Stacy Hoover, CA

    Reply

  2. Posted by Larry Head on August 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Michael, it’s great hearing from you again. As we down here are wont to say, “Thought the boogers done gotcha.” So glad that is not the case.

    Reply

  3. (hands clapping) Thank you for a “10” among lists!

    Reply

  4. Difficult to name only 10, right? ArchiveGrid definitely a favorite of mine. Great list!

    Reply

  5. […] Top 10 Genealogy Resources by Michael Hait on Planting the Seeds […]

    Reply

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