genealogy books, Collegiate records

Must Have Genealogy Books for Your Reference Collection

Editor’s Note: Following is a revised and updated post containing the recommendations and personal opinions of the late Carolyn L. Barkley. Her experience as a librarian gave her unique insight into which genealogy books should be a go-to for both amateur and professional Genealogists as research tools, and we wish to preserve that expertise.

As a retired public librarian, I am a firm believer in the use of public libraries (in fact, all types of libraries). In addition, I realize that more and more how-to resources are available online. However, there are basic tools for research that you need to have at hand in your home library, books that you can reach easily from your computer chair. These are the titles that you refer to over and over again, no matter the time of day, or whether your DSL connection has disappeared yet again (I live in the mountains and for some reason this happens all too frequently!).

I started writing this post with a specific number of books in mind; top 6 then top 10, then top way-too-many. What appears, then, is very selective and definitely personal. I recommend these titles both for your home collection, as well as for your local library’s collections of genealogy books.

Methodology / Best Practices

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, ed. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Do not be scared away by the title! I’ve seen this happen in the GPC booth at conferences. This book is for everyone from family historians to professional researchers. With articles written by experts in the field, it describes best practices, defines quality, and offers each of us the opportunity to advance our skills and enrich our research. Topics include lineage papers, proofreading and indexing, family histories, abstracting, evidence analysis, writing research reports, copyright, execution of contracts, and more. Various sections will apply at different times in our research lives, but the aggregation of this knowledge is essential to have available.

Citing Your Sources / Writing

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.

This book is the definitive guide to the citation and analysis of historical sources. The mark of good research is the richness of the documentation. The mark of a good researcher is the quality of the citations provided as part of a research report, periodical article, newsletter article, compiled genealogy, etc. These skills need to be learned from the inception of our research and this book is the best available, discussing source citations for every known class of records, including microfilm, microfiche, and records created by digital media. I recommend this book as one that needs to be within easy reach of your desk. You may want to consider putting its predecessor (and lighter weight!) Evidence (2007, © 1997) in your briefcase when you travel to do research. Continue reading…

merchant marines cadet corps

Researching Merchant Marine Records

Editor’s Note: The following is a lightly revised and updated post originally written by the late Carolyn L. Barkley on how to research Merchant Marines that may be part of your family’s history. As Ms. Barkley originally mused, her own curiosity led her to research more about the individuals, ships and records available for those in this career.

Merchant marines have played an important role in American history. Without their efforts and sacrifices, the outcome of many of our armed conflicts would have been quite different. If you believe that there was a merchant mariner in your family, a little research effort will reward you with a new understanding of the life experiences of that individual.Merchant Marine

Historical information is often located (thanks to the power of the Google search engine) in unexpected sources, and I found one of the best historical overviews of the history of the merchant marine on a site dedicated to mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. (Further reading dispelled any sense that this combination of topics was coincidental. During the modern military period, exposure to military materiel and construction exposed civilian and military personnel to high concentrations of asbestos, making mesothelioma a significant medical risk.)

In summary, the historical article outlined events that shaped the merchant marine, beginning with the dependence of the American colonies on the shipment of commercial goods back and forth between colonial and European ports. As the colonies gravitated toward war, so did merchant shipping, and these ships were loosely designated as the “merchant marine.” One seminal event was the June 1775 seizure of the HMS Margaretta by citizens in Machias, Maine, thus preventing its shipment of lumber to Boston for British barracks construction. This action, then, anticipated the formation of both the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy. Beginning with the Revolutionary War, merchant ships and their crews would become crucial for all American war efforts, ferrying supplies and troops to depots and ports where they were most needed. Early on, the relationship between merchant mariners and their government was on an “as-needed” basis, with letters of marquee granted to privateers and other citizen ship owners engaging them to sail with cargo as agents of the government. No official formation of a merchant marine service occurred, however, until the 1920s. Continue reading…

Lineage Societies, DAR

Membership in Lineage Societies

Editor’s Note: Nancy Mahone Miller is the author of this post on lineage society membership, which originally appeared in 2011. Ms. Nancy Mahone Miller is the Collection Development Librarian for the Local History/Genealogy collection at Virginia Beach Public Library, Virginia Beach, Virginia. She is a past chapter regent of the Lynnhaven Parish Chapter, DAR (Virginia Beach) and a long-time DAR member who has mentored many prospective applicants through the process. She has established nine Revolutionary Patriots in her ancestry and at the time of this writing, had two more pending approval.

Pursuing the goal of lineage society membership often provides the impetus for seriously delving into one’s ancestry. To join a lineage society, a researcher must prove descent from a specific ancestor. The qualifications are usually based on a strict variety of credentials. For example, the prospective member must have an ancestor that arrived on a specific passenger ship such as the Mayflower, possess an early ancestor in a specific geographic area (e.g., Minnesota Territorial Pioneers), have a precise ethnic or religious background such as Huguenot, or relationship to a President of the United States (Presidential Families of America). The common thread in all lineage societies is that the members must document ancestry to a person who fits the organization’s criteria. Most societies, moreover, require sponsorship for membership by another member. Almost endless possibilities exist for membership in such a group.

Joining a lineage society affords the member a number of advantages, including the opportunity to connect with other genealogists who share a common interest and access to the organization’s library and/or membership records – or it simply may provide a way to meet some new cousins. Continue reading…

Civilian Conservation Corps at an experimental farm in Beltsville, Maryland

Civilian Conservation Corps Records

Editor’s note: In this informative post, originally published in 2010, Karen E. Livsey discusses the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, how records were kept, and resources for finding and using the Civilian Conservation Corps  Records. Ms. Livsey is the Library/Archivist at the Fenton History Center in Jamestown (Chautauqua Co.), New York, and she serves as the Ellicott (N.Y.) Town Historian. She is a member of the Genealogical Publishing Company booth staff at national genealogical conferences.

Sometimes referred to as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was an early program created during President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Beginning in 1933, the CCC accepted young men between eighteen and twenty-five years of age–although some variations and time limits were instituted during the program—until its termination in 1942. The young men had to be unemployed and recommended by the Department of Labor through a local welfare agency. They earned $30.00 a month, $25.00 of which was sent home to help support the family. The participant’s allotment was usually sent to the mother. After acceptance into the program, they had to report to an army recruiting station for a physical exam and assignment. After two weeks of conditioning, physical exams, inoculations and taking an oath of enrollment, inductees received army surplus clothing, and later blue denim work suits. The young men were assembled into companies and sent to camps around the country and away from their home area. These camps were operated by the United States Army. The work available at each camp involved conserving, constructing and improving parks, forests and other lands. The results of the many projects can still be seen in our parks and forests today. Flood control, fire roads, bridges, reforestation, erosion control, landscaping and a variety of other work was done.

Civilian Conservation Corps Records were kept on each participant, and these personnel files are now available for research, Information about the records’ availability is listed on the Internet; part of the purpose of this article is to eliminate some of the confusion surrounding that information. The National Archives site still states that researchers must submit a death certificate along with a whole list of information in a written request; however the CCC Legacy site says that some requirements changed in June 2009. The custody of the records of the CCC has been transferred from the Office of Personnel Management to the National Archives. This change means that there is now a cost to obtain copies of these records, but that a death certificate is no longer required. A note on the site indicates that if a death certificate is sent, it can help expedite the process and that you may receive more information. Even though the records are public, a screening has to be done for sensitive information. Since screening each record on a microfilm is not feasible, the microfilm cannot be viewed by visitors to the National Archive’s public research room. The contact information and costs for the requests can be found either at the National Archives site or the CCC Legacy site. Continue reading…

The Roosevelts, who found that you could marry a cousin.

Can You Marry Your Cousin?

A favorite blog of ours, Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, published a post asking the question, “Can You Marry Your Cousin?” In this thoughtful article, reprinted below, Mr. Eastman raises an excellent point: based solely on statistical probabilities, we may all in some way be related. Therefore, it’s not unlikely that your spouse may be related to you, even in a distant way.

Does this mean we should be asking more questions on a first date, to determine our shared lineage? Maybe, but I can’t imagine how awkward that conversation would be over getting-to-know-you drinks. Before you complicate your date, it may be helpful to first understand how you could be related to your date in the first place. The publication Kinship: It’s All Relative has been updated to help you untangle family relationships including same-sex marriage. This book helps answer both common and more specific questions. Do you know the degree of blood relationship between yourself and your first cousins? Between third cousins and second cousins once removed? Do you know anything at all about the removes? Do you understand the difference between a great-aunt and a grand-aunt? Or between a cousin-german and a cater cousin? And what about double first cousins? Continue reading…