too many books, 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…

German Genealogy, Double-page from the baptismal record of the catholic St. Johann church in Sigmaringen, 1851 # 23-31

But I can’t speak German! The challenge of German Genealogy

Editor’s note: The following post on the challenge facing an English speaker deciphering his or her own German Genealogy is written by professional genealogist Ernest Thode. Mr. Thode is an author, columnist, librarian and German translator with degrees from Purdue and Stanford.

You, the family genealogist, have a dilemma. You have discovered that your ancestry is German. Those old family letters in your possession are written in some kind of hen scratching that no sane person could possibly interpret, even though you have a vague feeling that those Germans of a century or two ago may have been successfully communicating with one another. To top it off, now you have researched back to your German-speaking immigrant ancestor couple. You can’t even read the pre-printed part of that form you found in the attic that you think might be a passport, let alone the hand-written words that fill in the blanks. Why, for all you know, that passport might not be a passport at all, but a graduation certificate or a marriage license.

What do you, the designated family historian, do now? You don’t know German other than “Gesundheit” and “Auf wiedersehen.” You face a daunting task, probably an impossible task, or so it would appear to any reasonable person. Even though you have traced your English lines back to the 1600s with much satisfaction at your genealogical prowess, you are practically ready to abandon your German immigrants prior to the moment they set foot on American soil at Castle Garden in 1881 because of the language barrier.

Fortunately, there is help. Even though I had the advantage of at least knowing the German language as I did my research, I became frustrated by the many different reference books I had to look through to find explanations of the words I found in genealogical documents. I had surname books, given-name books, gazetteers for place names, German genealogical guides and word lists, Latin word lists, French word lists, lists of weights and measures, lists of diseases, and guides to the old script. With such a plethora of aids, I saw the need for a “one-stop” German-English genealogical dictionary that could be used in conjunction with a basic German-English dictionary.

For nearly a decade, I pored through records that I had translated, genealogical periodicals, passenger lists, village chronicles, and historical documents, gleaning words and definitions, exhausting numerous German genealogical word lists. Finally, I compiled a reference book that I actually still use myself (you should see the notes in my desk copy!). My reference book, the German-English Genealogical Dictionary, includes the genealogy-related words that regular dictionaries either miss or don’t define in a way that applies to genealogy. There are no etymologies, pronunciation guides, parts of speech, etc. – just pure meanings for somebody translating, literally, word by word. It is just what someone needs to make sense out of a German genealogical document.

Image credit: By baptismal record of the catholic church in Sigmaringen 1851 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

fair use copyright

Fair Use Copyright Explained in Carmack’s “Guide”

When you find information in a book, article, or online source and you want to quote or paraphrase it in your genealogy, when must you cite the source? If you quote the information and cite the source, can you use as much of the information as you want? The answers to these questions fall under the copyright principle of “Fair Use.”

According to “The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook,” by Lloyd J. Jassin and Steven C. Schechter, “Fair use is a privilege. It permits authors, scholars, researchers, and educators to borrow small portions of a copyrighted work for socially productive purposes without asking permission or paying a fee.”

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack addresses these and other concerns of fair use in her book, “Carmack’s Guide to Copyright & Contracts: A Primer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers.” With this guide in hand, you will be able to determine:

  • What are your rights to your own genealogical discoveries?
  • What can/should you do if someone has infringed on your copyright?
  • When do you need to ask someone’s permission to reprint their work?
  • What are works in the public domain and how to find them?
  • Can someone tape your lecture without your permission?

While the guidelines of fair use are applied uniformly, as Ms. Carmack demonstrates, “the devil is in the details.” Fortunately, you can learn a lot more about the nuances of fair use and other important aspects of copyright law – especially as they impinge on the genealogist – in “Carmack’s Guide.” For example, while it is generally sufficient to cite the source you use, in some cases you must actually request the permission of the copyright holder. Similarly, even though a work may be in the public domain (e.g. the papers of George Washington), if an institution or an individual owns the originals, you may need to obtain permission and/or to pay a royalty fee before you can refer to the work in your family history.

In scarcely 100 pages, the “Guide” gently informs its readers about all aspects of copyright law. Each chapter lays out a specific principle of copyright or contracts and then addresses the topic with situations specifically applicable to genealogists.

Vetted by copyright attorney Karen Kreider Gaunt, “Carmack’s Guide to Copyright and Contracts” is the first comprehensive guide of its kind written expressly for genealogists. For more information on “Carmack’s Guide” click here.

Image Credit: By Columbia Copyright Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in an archived edition of Genealogy Pointers. You can subscribe to receive this newsletter via the signup box on the sidebar of this blog.

 

CU Heritage image

Evidence Explained: An Interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills

Dipping into the Genealogy Pointers archives, we unearthed a fascinating interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.”

As one of the most respected and influential persons in American genealogy, Published widely in academic and popular presses, she was editor of the “National Genealogical Society Quarterly” (NGSQ) for 16 years.

Mrs. Mills has also taught for 13 years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for 20 years, headed the program in advanced research methodology at Samford University in Alabama.

Mrs. Mills knows records, loves records, and regularly shares her expertise in them with audiences across three continents.

“EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” is Elizabeth Mills’ third major publication pertaining to source citation. Her earlier works include: “EVIDENCE! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian” (1997) and “QUICKSHEET: Citing Online Historical Resources “Evidence!” Style” (2005). The groundbreaking “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” analyses citation principals and includes more than 1,000 citation models for virtually every source type. In the process, it covers all contemporary and electronic history sources–including digital, audio, and video sources–most of which are still not discussed in traditional style manuals.

“Genealogy Pointers” spoke with Mrs. Mills about the making “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” and how researchers can benefit from it. Here are the exchanges from that conversation:

GENEALOGY POINTERS (GP): Why did you write this book?

ELIZABETH SHOWN MILLS (ESM): Researchers need help and want help, but what they need today is not available elsewhere. Those who study history now probe far beyond the materials covered by standard citation guides–combing long-ignored original, grassroots-level records for fresh insight into our world. Thanks to modern technology, billions of these original records are now easily accessible through many different media. However, today’s researchers also know two things: First, all these records are not created equal. Second, the real reason to carefully identify sources for each piece of information is to ensure that we use the best sources possible. Otherwise, we just can’t reach reliable conclusions. Analyzing evidence is no easy task, considering the volume of information available, the diversity of the records, all the quirks within each type of document, and all the media formats.

Since the 1997 publication of the original “briefcase edition” of “EVIDENCE!” (which compactly covers 100 of the most common types of history sources), researchers have deluged me with questions about thousands of other materials. I definitely understand their angst, after three decades of my own research in the archives of most western nations, as well as writing for journals and presses in several academic fields and 16 years of editing a major scholarly journal. The new “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” draws on that experience–but it’s also rooted in four file drawers of inquiries and debates generated by the users of that first edition.

Continue reading…

Evernote for the Genealogist

Evernote for the Genealogist

As a working professional, I was forced to look for an organizational solution to my compulsive note-taking problem. I used to carry around a small notepad and a package of sticky notes. My two companions lived in my backpack as a student, on my desk at work, even in my purse as an adult. My scribbles followed me: from my colorful tabs of commentary peeking from between the pages of my books to important thoughts in meetings to my grocery list, my tiny paper trail kept me organized.

After losing one too many notepads, I started to jot my notes-to-self on my iPhone. This was a vast improvement, but not quite there. When I found my solution in the free app Evernote, I didn’t realize I was using an awesome tool for a genealogist to solve my personal organizational struggle.

Evernote is an app that has thankfully replaced my paper system. I can take notes, keep track of online articles I want to read later, open spreadsheets and other documents on my mobile device, use it as a calendar and planner, and even record passages from my e-reader.

While I use Evernote on my iPad or iPhone, I can sync what I’m working on to my computer as well. I can seamlessly move back and forth between my linked devices – two computers and three digital devices – keeping all of my notes and research in one central location. It’s password protected, giving me peace of mind that my important information is safe.

The best part? I’ll say it again, Evernote is free!

In her blog post Evernote and Genealogy: They’re Made for Each Other, Alona Tester gives a great introduction of how and why to use Evernote for genealogical research.

Think of Evernote as a shelf of blank notebooks that you can jot down all your little notes and add in those newspaper and any other clippings you find that are relevant too (you know, old-school scrapbook-style), while still keeping them in a relevant notebook … that’s what Evernote allows you to to do digitally. Yes, seriously!

Evernote Tips: The 11 Amazing Features That Make Using Evernote So Freaking Awesome

Just think if you had digital notebooks for each family group? Or for your local history study? Or a particular topic that you are researching? Or a to-do notebook? It gives you a place to enter notes that you currently have on scraps of paper everywhere (I know we all have them), as well as filing them into a relevant folder.

Additional information: To learn more about Evernote this video is a great place to start. Ready to try it? Download it for your computer or device. Evernote thinks it’s a great fit for genealogists too! Cyndi’s List has an entire category devoted to Evernote, and an entire Evernote blog to accompany it.

We’d like to thank Alona Tester for allowing us to reprint her work.

Image Credit: Evernote.com