Editors of Family Tree Magazine. The Family Tree Guide Book.

Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002. 336p., softcover. Index, illus, maps. $19.99. ISBN 1-55870-647-X.

I have to be suspicious of a book subtitled “Everything You Need to Know to Trace Your Genealogy Across North America,” because that’s patently untrue. The Introduction by Emily Anne Croom, “Getting Started Tracing Your Ancestors,” is well-written and touches all the methodological bases — documenting your sources, “clustering,” continuing education, etc. — but it’s simply not possible to compress a useful discussion of genealogical techniques into seven pages.


David A. Fryxell (with whom I’m not familiar) contributes another brief chapter on “Finding Your Family Tree Across the U.S. and Canada,” which covers much of the same material and adds advice on planning a research trip, whether to a rural courthouse or to Salt Lake City. The great bulk of this volume, though, is a state-by-state outline of where to find the public and academic libraries, state archives, state and local societies, Family History Centers, and other information sources, with a more detailed discussion of resources in selected major cities in each state. Major genealogical periodicals and web sites for each state are included, as are a detailed list of available federal censuses (state censuses, important for filling in the gaps, when they exist, are only summarized, as “1846 to 1925” for Iowa), a list of city directories available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake (though most local libraries with decent genealogy collections have most of the local ones, too), and other assorted information. The too-brief city chapters are more like “civilian” travel guides, highlighting sightseeing attractions, downtown hotels, and ethnic restaurants. (Do vacationing genealogists hot on the trail of a missing probate file actually stay at the Adolphus in Dallas and eat at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans? I doubt it!) Each regional section opens with a rather superficial history essay which suffers from lumping too many states within each region. Comments on the historical roots of “the South” mean quite different things in Delaware and Texas. Like many guides in our field, this one tries to be all things to all genealogists, in a single not-too-expensive volume, but it ends up being inadequate (or merely insufficient) in most areas for most people much of the time. This is especially true with the recent publication of the completely revised and hugely expanded The Source, which generally succeeds in those grand goals. I suggest you buy that (on CD if, like most of us, you carry a laptop on your research trips) and go to AAA for maps and travel guides.

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Published in: on 14 August 2011 at 6:27 am  Comments (2)  

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