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6 Books Every Genealogist Needs

Updated on July 3, 2018

Why These Books are Important

If a person wants their work to be taken seriously, skills have to be learned and certain standards has to be met. If a person wants to become a professional genealogist or historian, their work has to meet the high standards of their peers. If an amateur family tree genealogist wants accurate results of their own family tree, they too should use the guidelines and standards that professional genealogists do. Nobody wants their work to be inaccurate and shoddy.
Below are a summary of books that student and professional genealogists use to develop those skills and maintain their work and careers.
These books are used in the curriculum of various genealogy certificate programs such as Boston University, Brigham Young University and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies to name a few. Many of these books are used in study groups online and in classes offered by genealogical societies all across North America.

Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace

Author: Elizabeth Shown Mills.

Any item that a genealogist uses to gather information from as “evidence” is a source. Sources can be a document, a book, or an artifact like Aunt Betty’s wedding ring. A person can even be a source. When a researcher uses these sources, the sources need to be documented to show “proof” of where the information came from. This proof is called a citation.

Citations need to be crafted in such a way that the researcher or whoever reads the researcher’s data can easily find the source again.

The book Evidence Explained shows how citations are crafted to genealogical standards. It’s not a book to be read cover to cover, but a book to be used as a reference guide.

Contents of Evidence Explained:

  • Fundamentals of Evidence Analysis
  • Fundamentals of Citation
  • Archives and Artifacts
  • Business and Institutional Records
  • Cemetery Records
  • Census Records
  • Church Records
  • Local and State Records: Courts and Governance
  • Local and State Records: Licenses, Registrations, Roll and Vital Records
  • Local and State Records: Property and Probates
  • National Government Records
  • Publications: Books, CD’s, Maps, Leaflets and Videos
  • Publications: Legal Works and Government Documents
  • Publications: Periodicals, Broadcasts and Web Miscellanea

Mastering Genealogical Documentation

Author: Thomas W. Jones.

Whereas Evidence Explained is a reference book, Mastering Genealogical Documentation is a textbook. Mr. Jones explains step by step how and why a citation should be constructed. Each chapter in the book contains lessons, examples and exercises to study and solve. The back of the book contains answers to the lessons so they can be checked and reviewed. The reader will learn how to accurately and clearly construct citations in their research.

Contents of Mastering Genealogical Documentation:

  • The Purpose and Nature of Genealogical Documentation

  • Non-citation Aspects of Genealogical Documentation

  • Citation Settings, Forms and Shortcuts

  • Assembling Components into Clear Citations

  • Capitalization, Italics, Punctuation and Other Citation Subtleties

  • Determining a Source’s Publication Status

  • Issues in Citing Source Titles, Descriptions or Both

  • Authors, Creators and Informants

  • Citing Absent, Hidden, Obvious and Perplexing Dates for Sources, Information and Events

  • Citing Numbered, Grouped, and Subgrouped Online Sources and Information Items

  • Answering the Wherein and Whereis Citation Questions for Online Sources

  • Identifying Offline Publishers and Repositories

  • Citing Original Online Content

  • Citing Images of Previously Published Material

  • Citing Images of Previously Unpublished Material

  • Multipart Options for Citing Images

  • Documenting on Your Own

Genealogy Standards

Author: Board of Certification for Genealogists. (BCG)

Around since the early 1960’s, the BCG is one of two certifying bodies in the United States for genealogists. (The other is Association of Professional Genealogists.) In 2000, the BCG compiled rules and guidelines for professionals to adhere to called the Genealogical Proof Standard. This book explains the 5 elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard.

  • Reasonably exhaustive research.

  • Accurate citations to the sources.

  • Thorough analysis and correlation of the evidence.

  • Resolution of conflicts of the evidence.

  • A sound and clear conclusion of the evidence.

Mastering Genealogical Proof

Author: Thomas W. Jones.

In this book, Mr. Jones walks us through the Genealogical Proof Standard in the same way he does with citations in Mastering Genealogical Documentation. In clarity he gives lessons in each chapter for the student to pore over and learn with the answers in the back of the book to analyze.

Contents of Mastering Genealogical Proof:

  • Genealogy’s Standard of Proof

  • Concepts Fundamental to the GPS

  • GPS Element 1: Thorough Research

  • GPS Element 2: Source Citations

  • GPS Element 3: Analysis and Correlation

  • GPS Element 4: Resolving Conflicts and Assembling Evidence

  • GPS Element 5: The Written Conclusion

  • Using the GPS

Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (ProGen1)

Editor: Elizabeth Shown Mills.

A genealogist at the top of the field, Elizabeth Shown Mills published ProGen in 2001. Miss Mills collaborated with over 20 colleagues to produce this manual that is still relevant to this day.

ProGen contains 29 chapters, each written by a different person who excels on the topic of the chapter. ProGen covers all aspects of professional genealogy.

Contents of ProGen1:

Professional Preparation

  • 1. Defining Professionalism, by Donn Devine,J.D., CG, CGI

  • 2. Educational Preparation, by Claire Mire Bettag, CGRS

  • 3. Certification and Accreditation, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG; Paul F. Smart, AG; Jimmy B. Parker, AG; and Claire Mire Bettag, CGRS

  • 4. The Essential Library, by Joy Reisinger, CG

Ethics and Legalities

  • 5. Ethical Standards, by Neil D. Thompson, LL.B., Ph.D., CG, FASG

  • 6. Executing Contracts, by Patricia Gilliam Hastings, J.D.

  • 7. Copyright and Fair Use, by Val D. Greenwood, J.D., AG

Career Management

  • 8. Alternative Careers, by Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CGRS

  • 9. Structuring A Business, by Melinda Shackleford Kashuba, Ph.D.

  • 10. Setting Realistic Fees, by Sandra Hargreaves Luebking

  • 11. Marketing Strategies, by Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CGRS

  • 12. Business Record Keeping, by Helen F. M. Leary, CG, CGL, FASG

  • 13. Time Management, by Patricia Law Hatcher, CG, FASG

Professional Research Skills

  • 14. Problem Analyses and Research Plans, by Helen F. M. Leary, CG, CGL, FASG

  • 15. Research Procedures, by Linda Woodward Geiger, CGRS, CGL

  • 16. Transcripts and Abstracts, by Mary McCampbell Bell, CLS, CGL

  • 17. Evidence Analysis, by Donn Devine, J.D., CG, CGI

Writing and Compiling

  • 18. Research Reports, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

  • 19. Genealogy Columns, by Regina Hines Ellison, CGRS

  • 20. Proof Arguments and Case Studies, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

  • 21. Book and Media Reviews, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

  • 22. Record Compilations, by Bettie Cummings Cook, CG

  • 23. Family Histories, by Christine Rose, CG, CGL, FASG

  • 24. Lineage Papers, by Mary McCampbell Bell, CLS, CGL and Elisabeth Whitman Schmidt, CLS

Editing and Publishing

  • 25. Editing Periodicals, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

  • 26. Proofreading and Indexing, by Birdie Monk Holsclaw

  • 27. Preparing Books for Press, by Joan Ferris Curran, CG

Educational Services

  • 28. Classroom Teaching, by Sandra Hargreaves Luebking

  • 29. Lecturing, by Helen F. M. Leary, CG, CGL, FASG

Professional Genealogy: Preparation, Practice & Standards (ProGen2)

Editor: Elizabeth Shown Mills.

As time goes on, technology changes, industries change, resources multiply. ProGen2 was published in 2018 because the genealogy world has evolved since ProGen1 was published back in 2001. However, ProGen2 does not replace ProGen1. Everything in ProGen1 is still relevant, ProGen2 shows you updated and new techniques that have evolved in genealogy.

Contents of ProGen2:

Professional Preparation

  • 1. Defining Professionalism, by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG
  • 2. Educational Preparation, by Melinde Lutz Byrne, CG, FASG
  • 3. Genealogical Credentials, by Paul K. Graham, AG, CG and Dawne Slater, CG
  • 4. Auxiliary Careers, by Michael G. Hait, CG, CGL

Ethics & Legalities

  • 5. Ethical Considerations, by Michael S. Ramage, J.D., CG
  • 6. Executing Contracts, by Malissa Ruffner, J.D., CG
  • 7. Copywrite & Fair Use, by Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL

Career Management

  • 8. Structuring a Business, by Jean Atkinson Andrews, CG
  • 9. Managing Records & Time, by Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG
  • 10. Setting Fees, by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL
  • 11. Marketing, by Michael G. Hait, CG, CGL

Professional Research Skills

  • 12. Reasoning from Evidence, by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG
  • 13. Problem Analysis & Research Plans, by Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG
  • 14. Research Procedures, by Harold Henderson, CG
  • 15. Forensic Specialization, by Michael S. Ramage, J.D., CG
  • 16. Genetics for Genealogy, by Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D. and Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL
  • 17. Lineage Applications, by Barbara J. Mathews, CG, FASG and Darcie Hind Posz, CG

Writing, Editing & Publishing

  • 18. Research Reports, by Nancy A. Peters, Cg, CGL
  • 19. Genealogy Journalism, by George C. Morgan
  • 20. Proof Arguments & Case Studies, by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG
  • 21. Critiques & Reviews, by Stefani Evans, CG
  • 22. Crafting Family Histories, by Michael J. Leclerc, CG
  • 23. Editing Periodicals, by Melinde Lutz Byrne, CG, FASG
  • 24. Preparing Books for Press, by Craig Roberts Scott, CG

Educational Services

  • 25. Genealogical Lecturing, by Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL
  • 26. Genealogical Teaching, by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL


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    Post Comment
    • scooterport profile imageAUTHOR

      James Roberts 

      7 months ago from Summerville, Georgia

      Thank you Pip Stone. I use these books all the time and they are valuable to my research and education.

    • Pip Stone profile image

      Pip Stone 

      7 months ago from Gunaikurnai Country, Victoria, Australia

      Hi James.

      I have been researching my family history for over thirty years on and off. Thank you for writing this must have booklist. I have a much-travelled copy of Genealogy Standard on my shelf.

      Great article and great advice for genealogists.


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