Genealogy is an ancient custom and there are genealogy charts that were created hundreds of years ago. However, until recently, a family genealogy was found almost exclusively in upper class families and its purpose was to show that they were a noble and superior family.
Genealogies of American families from the 19th and early 20th centuries were produced for many families to prove descent from early founding fathers (especially passengers on the Mayflower), ancestors who participated in the Revolutionary War or descent from European nobility. If a black sheep was discovered, his history might be improved upon to make fit reading or his line might be dropped from the book.
|For these reasons, these genealogies may contain many errors. The censuses, indexes, vital and church records simply were not available. However, the information contained in these compilations is a good starting place. Information supplied in 1920 could have come from a woman born in 1850. Her great-grandparents could have been alive during the Revolution and may have told their children of their experiences. One of their children would have been this woman's grandparent who could have repeated these stories when she was a child. Thus an oral history of an event 160 years ago could have been passed on with only two tellings. There is often a kernel of truth in family stories. The truth may be somewhat different, but some part of it is probably true. (Although in one family I researched, the family story was the man became a priest and immigrated to Australia where he became a Bishop. It turned out he stayed in Ireland, married and left descendants!)||Early genealogies may contain may errors, but the information is a good starting place. There is often a kernel of truth in family stories.|
The above-mentioned article contains a list of 109 genealogies in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City that were done by Gustave Anjou. Most have been cataloged under Anjou. Not only should these be approached with caution, but any genealogy on these families should be given extra scrutiny as it could be based on the Anjou manuscript.
According to American Genealogist (July 1976), the following "are so unreliable that nothing they say should be accepted without clear and unmistakable verification": Gustave Anjou, Charles H. Browning, C. A. Hoppin, Orra E. Monnette, Horatio Gates Somerby, Frederick A. Virkus and John S. Wurts.
|When dealing with newer published genealogies, first look for source citations. Then try to find out something about the author. Is he a member of a genealogy or history society? How long has she been working on this project. (If it was whipped up in six weeks for a family reunion and contains a picture of the family crest and ancestral home in England, be a bit wary!) Correspond with other family members who know the author. Is he an open-minded person who will discuss other possible theories or do events have to confirm to a preconceived version of the family history?||When dealing with newer published genealogies, first look for source citations. Then try to find out something about the author.|
Use printed histories as you do FamilySearch and other genealogy databases, county histories, biographies and all research done by others. They should be considered as leads to be checked with an open mind. It is very possible that you will come across information that the author didn't have which would prove an entirely different interpretation of the data.
|The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has a huge collection and, of course, a list of all of these can be found in the library catalog (surnames section) which is available on either microfiche or CD-ROM at every Family History Center. This listing is especially useful because each history will be indexed under several families -- surnames of those who married into the family or descendants who carried other surnames. Many of the books are available on microfilm, but even if the book you want isn't, you will have the title, author and publisher. You can then have your local library try to locate it through interlibrary loan. You will probably get faster service on interlibrary loan if you locate the lending institution yourself.||You will probably get faster service on interlibrary loan if you locate the lending institution yourself.|
The National Genealogical Society and the New England Historical Genealogical Society both have large circulating collections that can be borrowed through the mail. Members can obtain their catalogs for a fee.
The Library of Congress also has a large collection. Although it does not circulate, you again will have a title to look for in other places. It has an on-line catalog where you can search for titles and authors.
Some libraries publish a list of books they hold in their genealogy collection. Although you probably will not see any new books of this type printed because so many libraries are making their catalog available online, you may find some older ones in reference libraries.
Genealogical and Local History Books in Print lists family histories in print. The current volume has over 4,600 listings. This reference book should be available in many libraries.
If your family lived many years in a particular area, especially if they were prominent citizens, a local genealogical or historical society or local library might have books or articles about the family.
There are on-line book services where you can search for books. Blair's Book Service has an online search to locate genealogy books that you can purchase. Many other genealogy booksellers such as American Genealogical Lending Library, Everton Publishers, Frontier Press, Genealogical Publishing Company, Hearthstone and others have an on-line catalog.
With so many sources available on the Internet, it is very helpful to download a list of places where you might want to start. Chris Gaunt has compiled a large list of places on the Internet that are helpful to genealogists. As it is formatted now, it takes 283 pages! You can reduce the size with a smaller font or use your word processor to cut and paste and only print those you need. The list gives addresses for many libraries and bookstores. It is available in many locations, among them:
Many genealogy societies publish journals with articles about local
families. These pedigrees will not be as extensive as books about
one family, but they will often provide corrections to errors that
were published years ago. You may find the answer to a long-disputed question about your early American family. If you find a
bound collection, check the back of each volume as many journals
are indexed on a yearly basis.
The most useful tool for locating articles in journals is PERSI (Periodical Source Index) which indexes names and places in articles in over 2,000 genealogical periodicals. It has been published annually since 1986 by the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They are also working on volumes to cover publications 1847-1985.
|The most useful tool for locating articles in journals is PERSI (Periodical Source Index) which indexes names and places in articles in over 2,000 genealogical periodicals.|
New England Historical Genealogical Society Register is now available for 1847-1994 on CD ROM. The 148 volumes have an every name index and you can print out the pages that interest you. It is a great source for people with New England ancestors.
Locating previously published material is always a challenge since there are so many places where it might be found. It is always worth pursuing since it may contain information that has since been lost.
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