Genealogy Book reviews

The just published June 2018 issue of the prestigious National Genealogical Society Quarterly features reviews of four recent titles: The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. 4th Edition, by Val Greenwood; the International Vital Records Handbook. 7th Edition, by Thomas J. Kemp; Volumes 1-3 in Michael Ports’ Five-Volume series, Georgia Free Persons of Color; and Lazy, loves strong Drink, and is a Glutton,” White Pennsylvania Runaways, 1720-1747, by Joseph Lee Boyle.  We encourage our readers to consider each of the reviews if they are considering purchasing one or more of the above titles. We have reprinted the reviews of Mr. Greenwood and Mr. Kemp’s books in their entirety with this issue of “Genealogy Pointers.”  The Greenwood review is particularly glowing, we must say.

“The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. Fourth Edition. By Val D. Greenwood.  Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.; 3600 Clipper Mill Road; Suite 229; Baltimore, MD 21211-1953;; 2017; ISBN 978-0-8063-2066-3. xvi, 778 pp. Charts, illustrations, index. Paperback. $49.95 plus shipping.

Since 1969, when Val D. Greenwood delivered the first draft of his book, his works have been required reading for serious genealogists. Of the writers who have shaped modern genealogical practice, none has contributed more than Greenwood. This major guide should be a constant reference in the course of every American genealogist’s continuing education.

The table of contents shows similarities and differences from the third edition. Like previous editions, the text is divided into two parts. Part I, “Background in Research,” has eleven chapters, including two new chapters, on computer technology and the Internet. Part 2, “Records and Their Use,” has seventeen chapters. Each chapter has been updated, where needed, to reflect changes in genealogical research. Especially relevant are updates related to technological changes since the third edition’s publication, in 2000. Two pages list illustrations and charts that enhance discussion of the research process and types of records.

Chapter 1, “Understanding Genealogical Research,” offers definitions of genealogy and comparisons of genealogy to other types of research. It includes descriptions of educational opportunities offered by genealogical societies, conferences, seminars, workshops, courses, and webinars, many of them not available when prior editions were published. This chapter also includes information about becoming a Certified Genealogist, Certified Genealogical Lecturer, and Accredited Genealogist, and the importance of ethics codes and ethical conduct in genealogy.

Within the two new chapters, 9 and 10, Greenwood includes computer terminology, principles of use relating to family history research, and websites, free and paid, with databases invaluable to genealogical researchers. He describes major websites, gives their URLs, and often divides them by category, database, and global searches.

The chapters in Part 2 focus on source materials needed for comprehensive research. They include compiled sources, vital records, censuses, probates and legal terminology, land, women’s property rights, religious, military, and cemetery/ burial records. Those chapters describe the type of information contained within each source category, and the types of evidence each might hold. All of it is explained in terms everyone can understand and use.

Greenwood intended the fourth edition, like earlier editions, for genealogical and family history researchers, historians, and others interested in expanding their skills. Using terms readers can understand, it is one of the finest texts, by one of the finest teachers, available.

Sheila Benedict
Solvang, California
sheila (@) benedictprogenealogy (.) com

International Vital Records Handbook. 7th ed. By Thomas Jay Kemp. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.; 3600 Clipper Mill Road; Suite 229; Baltimore, MD  21211-1953; 2017. ISBN 978-0-8063-2061-8. xv, 756 pp. Paperback. $84.95 plus shipping.

Thomas J. Kemp has produced a massive reference for vital records worldwide. A compelling feature of this work is the printed application forms for most records. International coverage includes countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Separate sections treat the Australian states and Canadian provinces. He usually includes instructions, data about restrictions on who may apply, costs for various certificates, web links, addresses for applications, phone numbers for information, and occasionally a list of county offices to contact. While many international entries do not include the application form, all entries include some combination of address, phone number, and web link, besides information for applicants.

At more than 750 pages and costing about $85, this volume is substantial. Much of it is application forms, printed front and back. To use the forms but keep the book intact, readers must copy or scan the forms. One of the book’s best features is the information (especially for American states) about what is available and who may apply. For most states, Kemp includes information about available record types and time spans, costs, eligibility to receive the information, and for some states, extended information and suggestions for other places to find vital records. Kemp gives extended information also for Canadian provinces and the United Kingdom. As might be expected, little information, besides phone numbers and physical addresses are available for some countries (like Zimbabwe). That information, however, could help genealogists who are researching in one of these countries.

This book’s strength lies in its information. Data about record availability in many locations compiled in one place is helpful, and this book is a terrific resource. It could prove invaluable for international researchers faced with research in small countries with underdeveloped and unpublicized vital records systems. The book’s biggest weakness is the application forms. Researchers with no computer equipment must take the book to have the forms copied or scanned and printed. Researchers with computer resources could print links to the application forms rather than printing the forms themselves.

Barbara J Ball, CG
Tucson, Arizona
barb (@) copestoneresources (.) com

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