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The Source-A Guidebook of American Genealogy

Updated on June 30, 2011

Original 1st edition published 1984

There are at least three books that are a must for all serious and non-serious genealogical researchers. The Source, The Library, and The Handy Book. These three books are not books full of family information, but rather full to running over of “where to find” that family information... even if you don’t know what you need or how to find it! If you are “into” genealogy the way I am, you will immediately recognize the names of these three books. And no, I know those are not the full names of the book. But check my other hubs as I will be telling you about each of them and why you need to have them in your research collection.

The Source, A Guidebook of American Genealogy edited by... depends on which edition you have. My 1984 copy is edition #1 and is edited by Arlene Eakle and Johni Cerny. Edition #3 was edited by Loretta Dennis Szues and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking in 2006. All of these professionals are well-known throughout the genealogical community.

My 27 year old copy cost $39.95 and still has its dust jacket. The blurb inside states “Compiled by sixteen of the nations’ leading genealogist, it represents a vast collection of the most significant record sources from Colonial Times to the present. Unlike sourcebooks that merely skim the subject, or limit themselves to certain types of records, THE SOURCE provides an intelligent and through exposure to genealogical sources of all kinds.”

The blurb notes that The Source will even note when a record has been lost or destroyed, thus saving you time and money looking for a record that does not exist!

Excerpts from my 1st edition:

Contents Page
Introduction to Genealogical Records and Techniques

A few chapter titles...
Vital Records and Cemetery Research
Church Records in theUnited States
Military Records
Business and Employment Records
Tracking Immigrant Origins
Records Relating to Native American Research: The Five Civilized Tribes
Genealogical and Historical Sources in the Spanish and Mexican Southwest
Black Ancestral Research
Asian American: Sources for Ancestral Research
Jewish-American Research
Hereditary and Lineage Society Records

I am sure an updated 3rd edition will be even better than the 1st edition I have, but check to see what your library has in stock. If it is not on the shelf, ask the reference librarian for a copy. Any copy is better than no copy. Take a quick look and you will agree!

What I like about The Source (1st ed) is that the information – well except for the 1984 chapter about Computers and Genealogists – is that there are many graphs, facsimiles, and just plain old photos of what you should be seeing.

Census records are what most people are familiar with, but many researchers only know about the Federal Population Census. The Source teaches you about the many census records that are available, and includes all the little tips needed to understand what you need to know and how to search the census. Some census that you could have been reading are: state census, state-wide indexes, 1880 Soundex, Accelerated Indexing system, 1885 Federal Schedules, Mortality Schedules, Veterans’ Schedules, Slave Schedules, Agriculture Schedules, Manufacturing schedules, Pensioners Census, Social Statistics, Indian Census, Dawes Commission Index, Indian School Census, Black Census Schedules, and more. The book goes into details about each of these censuses, complete with some maps and/or photographs of actual census.

Part II of the book is Published Genealogical Sources. Like the rest of the book, this entire chapter is a teaching tool, “Could you use this chapter? If you have an ancestor in an urban area, directories can be invaluable in giving you an exact address, cutting hours off the time it will take to find the family in the census between 1860 and 1910...”

Just because you don’t have the latest edition is not a reason to not use the edition you have. There is much valuable information in each edition. Now is the time to go to your nearest genealogical library and sit down for a few minutes or a few hours and pour over this new-to-you source. The information included in each edition is mind-boggling! Now I want the 3rd edition as well as the 992 page 1st edition I already have. Maybe I just like to collect books. And maybe, just maybe you will find something you need in the edition you are reading to help you find those elusive ancestors.


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