Genealogy and the Law: A Guide to Legal Sources for the Family Historian

Genealogy and the Law-Front_Cover

Life in the past, the life your ancestors lived, was different from our own. They still had to meet their basic requirements of work, food, shelter, family, and religion. People were born, they were christened, they married and had families, they worked and they died. They lived their lives. Some ran businesses or worked for others. Some lived in cities and other in the country. These things don’t change. However, the means in which people conducted their daily lives, and the records that document those lives vary from place to place and by cultural and religion. Some vital records are kept by churches, many by governments. No matter where a person lived, one thing is for sure, they lived under the laws that governed their homelands.

As a unique textbook, Genealogy and the Law guides readers through the variety of legal sources that genealogists need in order to explain many of the events that occurred in their ancestors’ lives. Land ownership, estate administration, and taxation are a few of the many aspects of life that cannot be fully understood without knowledge of the law in effect at the time.

The authors, Kay Haviland Freilich and William B. Freilich, an award-winning genealogist and an attorney, both with long service in their professions, bring the perspectives of genealogy and the law together in a book that covers the language of the law, how to find pertinent laws, the kinds of sources available, where they can be found, citation of legal works, and how to apply legal research to genealogical problems.



Chapter 1 — Understanding the Law

  • Creating a Law
  • Government Checks and Balances
  • The Changing Law
  • Law and the Courts
  • The Importance of time and Place
  • Quiz – Chapter 1: Understanding the Law

Chapter 2 — Understanding the Terminology

  • Origin of Terms
  • Dictionaries – Black and Bouvier; Legal Dictionaries, Print and Online; Genealogical Dictionaries
  • Quiz 2 – Chapter 2: Understanding the Terminology

Chapter 3 — Types of Law

  • Jurisprudence
  • Historical Background
  • Origin of Laws – Stautory Law – Case Law
  • Public and Private Laws
  • Laws of Time and Place
  • Subjects and Actions – Civil Actions – Criminal Actions
  • Equity
  • Bankruptcy

Chapter 4 — Finding the Pertinent Law

  • Legislative History
  • Genealogy of a Law – with Examples of a 1783 Division of Real Estate and an 1847 Naturalization Requirements law.
  • Quiz – Chapter 4: Finding the Pertinent Law

Chapter 5 — Sources to Use

  • Codes
  • Session Laws
  • Case Reporters and Digests
  • Law Review Articles
  • Treatises
  • Legal Databases
  • State “Blue Books”
  • Biographical Materials
  • Directories
  • Quiz – Chapter 5: Sources to Use

Chapter 6 — Where to Research

  • Law Libraries
  • Law Library of Congress
  • State Law Libraries
  • County Law Libraries
  • Law Schools Libraries
  • Other Libraries
  • Genealogical Libraries
  • Online Sources
  • Quiz – Chapter 6 – Where to Research

Chapter 7 — Citing Legal Sources

  • Codes
  • Reporters and Digests
  • Unpublished Cases
  • Statutes
  • Law Review Articles
  • Treatises
  • Citation Guides
  • Quiz – Chapter 7: Citing Legal Sources

Chapter 8 — Applying the Law to Ancestral Events

  • Laws and Everyday Life
  • Case Studies
  • Quiz – Chapter 8: Applying the Law to Ancestral Events

Appendix 1 — Vocabulary of the Law

Appendix 2 — Selected Bibliography

Appendix 3 — Answers to Quizzes

Purchase Genealogy and the Law at the FRPC website for less than $20. Click here to order.

Annals of Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States

ne26To speak of witches in history is to speak of the Salem which trials. The infamous events surrounding the small community of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 have been retold for generations, and have become a standard inclusion in American History taught in today’s classrooms. However, what is not taught, and generally goes overlooked, is the practice of magicks, sorcery, and witchcraft by early setters in this Country. Many brought books and practiced a variety of beliefs. These beliefs had little if anything to do with devil worship. However, the practice was feared by many and led to witch trials. These practices and subsequent trials started long before Salem and continued after. Most historians glossed over events regarding witchcraft. Then in 1869 Samuel G Drake choose to examine and expose the history of witchcraft in the colonies from 1632 to 1728. His results were published in book form, in Annals of Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States.

Seventeenth century court records, diaries, and other records contain accusations of witchcraft and demonic possessions. However, many of these records are fragmented and while offering up clues rarely told complete stories. Drake show the witchcraft worry spread far beyond Salem, and for a period long before and after.

Drake was one of the founders of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. This same organization is responsible for having reprinted and making available this book. “Drake’s work is a resource worthy of renewed interest, one giving us a closer view into witchcraft in New England through the presentation of original materials, useful commentary, and the inclusion of several intriguing and lesser-known cases.”

Annals of Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States is available from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $17.59.

Book Reviews – Miscellaneous



A Guide to Mormon Family History Sources

A Guide to Mormon Family History Sources is, simply, a resource guide to “electronic databases, websites, microfilm collections, indexes, and more” pertaining directly to Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and their families. Like most genealogists, most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are well-aware of, if not intimately familiar with, the Church’s Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. There are, however, other libraries and other resources beyond the FHL which hold many useful collections relevant to searching one’s Mormon ancestors.

American Place Names of Long Ago

Times change, people change, cities and towns change. Over time places disappear, become obsolete, or change names. Sometimes these places are so small, they never even appeared on the map. Finding these places, years and decade after they have gone, is not easy task. As for places found only in the past, there is one book to help researchers find locations missing from recent memory. Subtitled, A Republication of the Index to Cram’s Unrivaled Atlas of the World as Based on the Census of 1890, American Place Names of Long Ago contains over 100,000 place names from all across the United States, as they existed at the time of the 1890 census.

Beginning Jewish Genealogy

Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy 2011, is a straightforward beginners guide to genealogy research. Some of the books contents are exactly what you would expect to find in any beginning genealogy book, only with a twist for Jewish research. There is also some Jewish specific content. Websites, societies, and conferences are part of the Jewish specific content. Holocaust research and specific research problems add to this books value.

Children’s Book Seeks the Heart of Family History

Evie Finds Her Family Tree. Overhearing “mom and dad” talk about the family tree, Evie sets out to discover just what tree is the family tree. From holly and magnolia to maple and oak, Evie searches for just the right tree.

Creating Junior Genealogists

Genealogists tend to develop a deep connection, a love, for their ancestors. It is only natural that the genealogist would want to share that love with those living members of their family, whom they also love. Of course, the key question is, “Where do I begin?”  Creating Junior Genealogists: Tips and Activities for Family History Fun, by Karen Frisch, helps answer that question, and the many other questions likely to arise in sharing one’s family history with children.

Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing

Several weeks ago, my friend, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, sent me a copy of her new book. It’s titled “Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing.” I finally got the chance to sit down and read it cover to cover. Megan knows how to write, with several successful books behind her. However, in my humble opinion, this time she’s outdone herself. The book is brilliant – and should be required reading for any genealogist that wishes to sharpen their skills. I’ve been reading and editing genealogy books and articles as a profession for 30 years. This is without a doubt the best genealogy book I’ve ever read.

The Humorous Side of Genealogy

Sometimes research takes a turn for the worse. Finding evidence of our ancestors makes finding the proverbial needle in a haystack sound easy. At these time, we most need to maintain a sense of humor. To help, we can turn to books like Collecting Dead Relatives.

Kinship: It’s All Relative

Who is your kin? The answer is not always as clear as it may seem. Culture, laws, and personal opinions all play a part in who people consider to be their kin. From marriage and divorce to childbirth, surrogacy, and adoptions the opinions and legal definitions have varied widely over time and differ from place to place. Differences don’t just exist between different countries and areas of the world, but even state by state laws can vary widely. Jackie Smith Arnold tries to unravel some of the complexity behind family relations in her book Kinship: It’s All Relative, second edition.

Learning About Georgia Land Lottery Research

Between 1805 and 1833 Georgia distributed three fourths of its public land through lotteries. Georgia Land Lottery Research is the genealogist’s guide to understanding and researching these lotteries. This book provides an education to the lottery process, the grid survey system, using land lot numbers, land grants, and other related records. The book is also a guide to researching the land lotteries on site at the Georgia Archives.

Miracles in Genealogy

True Miracles with Genealogy: Volume II is a collection of 58 heart warming and inspirational stories of success and rewards every day people have experienced in working on their family genealogies. The miracles described in these stories will “comfort and fascinate” those who believe. Many of the stories are provided by LDS individuals and some cover Mormon Temple related themes; however, there are also stories from non-LDS people that cover equally inspiring miracles. The stories in this book will warm the  follower of any faith who believe in divine inspiration.

Only a Few Bones

Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath is not a novel. Author John Philip Colletta does, however, tell a story. The story is dates back to March of 1873, in a little populated area of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta, where a murder has taken place. At least according to newspapers, court records, and family stories, handed down through the generations, a man and four others were victims of an assault and fire which took their lives.

Quick Tips for Genealogists

The Ancestry Daily News began publishing the “Ancestry Quick Tip” segment back in 1999. The column was a huge success. Individuals throughout the genealogy community contributed valuable advice on all types of research topics. Many readers suggested these tips would make a great book. The result of these suggestions, and the efforts of many thoughtful contributors, comes Quick Tips for Genealogists, edited by Juliana S. Smith.

Your Family Reunion: How to Plan it, Organize It, and Enjoy It

Your Family Reunion: How to Plan it, Organize It, and Enjoy It will help any interested person prepare and successfully manage a family reunion. The larger the family and the greater the distances family will need to travel may discourage some into not even trying to organize such an event. However, with help from this guide anyone can find the assistance needed to pull off a great event, no matter how large or how small. Working with family needs and desires is all a part of planning a successful reunion.

Book Reviews – U.S. Research & Vital Records

U.S. Research & Vital Records


10,000 Vital Records of Central New York: 1813–1850

10,000 Vital Records of Central New York: 1813–1850, includes 5,124 marriage and 4,897 death (for an actual total of 10,021) records pulled from newspaper columns published before 1850 in Central New York. While births were not covered in these early newspapers, often birth dates and birthplaces and parents names were listed in other notices. Western New York covers 15 counties, with records pulled from publications in nine towns; Baldwinsville, Binghamton, Chittenango, Corning, Elmira, Geneva, Norwich, Oxford, and Utica. Geneva lies on the border between central and western New York. Vital records from the Geneva Gazette, 1809–1829 appear in the Western New York volume. Records for Geneva from 1830 to 1850 appear in this volume.

10,000 Vital Records of Western New York: 1809–1850

10,000 Vital Records of Western New York: 1809–1850, includes 5,275 marriage and 4,781 death (for an actual total of 10,056) records pulled from newspaper columns published before 1850 in Western New York. While births were not covered in these early newspapers, often birth dates and birthplaces and parents names were listed in other notices. Western New York covers 17 counties, with records pulled from publications in five towns; Batavia, Bath, Geneva, Jamestown, and Palmyra. Geneva lies on the border between central and western New York. Vital records from the Geneva Gazette, 1824–1850 appear in the Central New York volume.

200 Years of U.S. Census Taking

Originally published by the Government Printing Office, and reprinted by Heritage Quest, 200 Years of U.S. Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790–1990 was produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. In 1979 a report was issued under the title, Twenty Censuses: Population and Housing Questions, 1790–1980. The report was designed to provide both statistical data as well as answer questions about how the population and housing inquiries evolved over the years, as well as what instructions were given that led to the entries placed on the basic records.

Abstracts of Obituaries in the Western Christian Advocate

Abstracts of Obituaries contains an colleciton of obituaries taken from the Western Christian Advocate, a Methodist newspaper. The paper began as the Christian Advocate and Journal in 1826 in New York City. Different sections of the country wanted their own paper, with more localized information, so the Methodist Church began printing The Western Christian Advocate on May 2, 1834, in Cincinnati. Shortly following, the publication opened offices in Charlestown, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Abstracts of the Records of The Society of Friends in Indiana, Volume I

Meeting minutes and records were critical to the Society of Friends. Monthly meeting minutes were transcribed twice a year into permanent record books. As noted above, meeting minutes include removals (when families moved from one area to another), disownments (disciplinary act to remove membership), additions or requests for new memberships, and the inclusion of minor children of new members. The society also maintained birth, marriage, and death records. Abstracts of the Records of The Society of Friends in Indiana, Volume I. contains information from both the meetings and the other vital records kept by the Society in Indiana. Records cover 1809 through 1902, from the time the first “meeting” was established in the Indiana Territory.

Abstracts of the Records of The Society of Friends in Indiana, Volume II

Abstracts of the Records of The Society of Friends in Indiana, Volume II reprints the same great introduction by Willard Heiss found in Volume I. The introduction by Heiss provides a telling summary of the origin of the Society of Friends and its growth in America. This volume extends the first by adding the individual Monthly Meeting groups’ records and minutes.

Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, Maryland

There is not much to say about Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, Maryland. The book is exactly what the title says it is, an abstract from the 1790 U.S. Census for the heads of house in the state of Maryland. However, if you have early American ancestors, this book may just contain a name you are looking for.

Land & Property Research in the United States

Land & Property Research in the United States by E. Wade Hone thoroughly examines the topic, helping researchers quickly determine the type of records available for a particular time and location. Readers will also learn technique to make better use of available records. This is not small subject matter. As a matter of fact, according to the author, as directly related to genealogical interest, “land and property records go back further than any other type of record;” plus, land records apply to more people and have had fewer losses than any other records in America.

Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses 1790–1920

Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses 1790–1920 shows county outline maps at ten-year intervals. Effectively, a map of each state’s county lines at the time of each Federal census through 1920. The county has always been used as the basic Federal census unit. Genealogical research in the census, therefore, begins with identifying the correct county jurisdictions. This work (one of the top-five best selling genealogy books) shows all U.S. county boundaries from 1790 to 1920.

Missouri 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or Their Widows

Missouri 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or Their Widows was created from special schedules used to identify Union Civil War veterans as a means of locating persons entitled to pensions or disability benefits. Though intended to serve only Union veterans and their wives, mistakes allowed for some Confederate soldiers or their wives to be listed. This index is for every name listed in the 1890 Census Schedules of Union Civil War veterans or widows for the state of Missouri.

Our Native Americans and their Records of Genealogical Value; Volume II

Our Native Americans and their Records of Genealogical Value; Volume II is a collection of resources available in research one’s Native American ancestry. The author has compiles indexes to listings, films, records, etc. available from multiple resources. The book’s introduction provides suggestions for researching these records, including getting past errors made in records and censuses. One recommendation is to follow a family through multiple censuses to help identify and account for errors. Also, the introduction explains what CDIB is. In short, CDIB is a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood. These can be obtained through the Central Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Typically, at least one quarter degree of Indian Blood is necessary to receive a certificate.

Book Reviews – U.S. & State Histories

U.S. & State Histories


Art & PhotographyMilitary


The First Steamboat on the Ohio

Steamboats on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers changed this young country in dramatic ways, transforming the Ohio-Mississippi River Basin almost overnight. The steamboat brought commerce, quickened immigrations, and began a building frenzy as new town sprung up all along the frontier. Growth was rapid and the economy of the area boomed and it all began with one steamboat, the New Orleans. Full Steam Ahead: Reflections on the Impact of the First Steamboat on the Ohio River, 1811–2011 tells the story of the New Orleans and the new age of prosperity it brought to Ohio-Mississippi River Basin.

History of Jefferson County in the State of New York

The title A History of Jefferson County in the Sate of New York, From the Earliest Period to the Present Time is relative to the dates involved. The “Present Time” for this book is 1854; yet, over 200 years of history are presented in roughly 600 pages. The author, Franklin B. Hough, A.M., M.D., provides a brief background to the peoples who populated the area before the organization of an official county. However, the majority of the book covers a 60 year period, just prior to the formation of Jefferson until the time this book was first published. Copies available today are mostly from a 2005 reprint by The Family Tree.


“Her name was Matoaka, but they called her Pocahontas.” There are many books, some more story and legend than accurate portrayal, on the famous Indian girl who “saved” the life of Captain John Smith. Few books, however, offer as concise or possibly as an accurate accounting of the life of Matoaka as can be found in Pocahontas by Stuart E. Brown, Jr.


Art & Photography

Another Early Indiana Photographer and Fascinating History

Ben Winan’s best work was done during the period from 1902 to 1916, where he produced over 3,000 glass negatives in various sizes. These pictures were almost lost and destroyed after his death in 1949. Fortunately, Eugene Brock, and Anderson newspaper man, saved the glass negatives. These were later given to this books author. Dunaway, a Brookville resident himself, carefully restored many of these images. This book contains 130 of Winans best works, selected to not only show his skill but also to show Brookville’s place in Indiana history. The Photography of Ben Winans of Brookville, Indiana, 1902–1926, by Donald L. Dunaway, was published by the Indiana Historical Society and includes some of the clearest and cleanest 100 year old photos I have ever seen.

Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840–1900

Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840–1900, by Taylor,  is just another in a great line of useful books for the family historian. According to Taylor, your ancestor’s hair, “whether straight or curled, clean-shaven or fringed, oiled or bewigged,” can tell you a lot about that person. By reading the clues of clothing and hairstyles in photographs, you can learn: when the photo was taken, how old individuals were at the time, how wealthy they were, and even about their personalities.

Otto Ping: A Look into Rural American Life in the Early 20th Century

Otto Ping was an itinerant photographer who began taking pictures at the age of 17 in 1900. Unlike most itinerant photographers of his day, he chose not to travel, but rather conducted all his work in a single county. Brown County is in many ways typical of rural America during this time period. Many were poor with few opportunities. Life was not easy and times were tough. This is the period of the Great Depression, of World War I, and the build up to a second world war. Otto Ping caught life and people as they were. Otto Ping: Photographer of Brown County, Indiana 1900—1940 is a collection of his pictures, which can easily represent life in any rural town across the country.



Civil War — Another State

Civil War in Texas and New Mexico Territory  by Steve Cottrell outlines the conflict of war as it directly affected Texas and the New Mexico Territory, their participation, and the people involved. All the “Civil War in” books in this series share the story style of writing. Cottrell writes this story with skill, captivating the reader from page one. The book opens immediately with Texas voting against it Governor’s wishes and joining the Confederacy. The quickly established army immediately took over all U.S. forts and military installations in the state without a single casualty. There is even a story of how Robert E. Lee was nearly held captive, but was permitted to leave the state because a declaration of war had not yet actually been declared. The book continues with story after story about Texas’ and New Mexico’s part in the war. Between the lines of this well-written story lies the facts and interesting detail of the Civil War in the South West and is well worth the time taken to read its pages.

Civil War and the Indian Wars

Even as U.S. broke in half and fought themselves in the bloodiest war in its entire history, hostilities continued to escalate across the western frontier, ranging as far West as Arizona, Montana, and Utah. Indian nations in these states as well as New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Minnesota, and Missouri fought back against what they saw as an incursion by the white man. Civil War and the Indian Wars, by Roy Bird, tells tale the events, incidents, and confrontations as written by contemporary authors and historians. The stories are ordered chronologically instead of by battle. Stories cover conflicts between Confederate Soldiers as well as Union Army. However, as the Civil War pulled experienced and regular troops from the west, these positions were often replaced by lesser trained volunteers who often as inept as they were intolerant.

The Civil War — One State at a Time

Civil War in Kansas portrays in vivid detail the wars direct affect on Kansas. The events, battles, and major players, that waged war in and around the people and towns in Kansas are told so as to appreciate what people must have felt and seen. Written in story book style, though entirely a non-fiction work based solely on fact, the book paints a picture of all aspects of the war and its affect upon the state. Reading history in this style and format both helps to bring alive the events as they occurred, and also to better understand and appreciate, even draw closer to, one’s own ancestors.

Civil War in Tennessee

Civil War in Tennessee revisits the major battles, along with some minor actions, as they occurred in the “Volunteer State.” Steve makes a great effort to simply tell an historically accurate account of events without expressing any political or partisan opinions. By his own account, “The fact that I have ancestors who fought on both sides in the war helps me to be fairly non-biased in my accounts.” However, he does note that he had a great-great grandfather who served in Tennessee during the war.

Finding Civil War Era Records for Soldiers and Civilians

In Genealogical Resources of the Civil War Era: Online and Published Military or Civilian Name Lists, 1861-1869, and Post-War Veteran Lists, published in 2009, Dollarhide looks past the traditional soldier and regiment records and examines documents relating to the population as a whole. He helps readers identify where to look and how to find resources for anyone living during the decade of 1861–1869. This book is a guide to the various records which list names of both soldiers and civilians. Perhaps more than any other war in American history, did the Civil War touch the lives of every citizen, regardless of race, age, or location. For this reason has Dollarhide written this book to help locate individuals and families and not just the soldiers who fought in the war.

New York in the Revolution as Colony and State

In 1894, James A. Roberts became the comptroller for the State of New York. During his first term he took action to systematically order, “for the purpose of easy reference,” the old records of the comptroller’s department. Records and papers relating to the service of New Yorkers in the Revolutionary War were discovered during this process. The discovery contained muster and pay-rolls of different organizations. The subsequent result of this discovery and its review is a list of New York soldiers with names, ranks, and organizations. This list is presented in New York in the Revolution as Colony and State, second edition. This book is credited to and was published by Roberts, as comptroller, 1898. A second volume, compiled by Frederic G. Mather, was added in 1901.

The Sesquicentennial Edition of Company Aytch

“A Better Book There Never Was” proclaims Robert Hicks, author and historic preservationist, in his introduction to Company Aytch OR a Side Show of the Big Show: A Memoir of the Civil War by Sam R. Watkins. When it comes to books about the Civil War, many people agree wholeheartedly, Company Aytch is the best ever written. For sure, few memoirs have stood the test of time as well as this memoir by Samuel Watkins.

The War of 1812 — A Bicentennial Review of the War That Defined a Country

Acknowledging the Bicentennial of the war, a television documentary on The War of 1812 premiered on PBS on October 11, 2011. The documentary details the conflict from events leading up to the declaration of war by Congress and President Madison, through key battles, and the results which defined the country in ways most people don’t appreciate. As a companion to the documentary, a new book was published entitled, The War of 1812: A Guide to Battlefields and Historic Sites.

Book Reviews – Software & Videos

Software & Videos


The Official Unofficial Guide to Using Legacy Family Tree

Legacy Family Tree users will likely be interested in The Official Unofficial Guide to Using Legacy Family Tree: Plus Research Advice, News, Views and Technology Tipsby Geoffrey D. Rasmussen. This guide goes beyond being a simple how-to software manual. Incorporated into program walk through are real-life examples, which helps the reader not just learn the software but to understand how it can be best used to keep one’s family history records, notes, and media files. Inspirational stories will help keep the reader on track and “help lead you to one Genealogy Happy Dance after another.”

A Primer for the Master Genealogist

A Primer for the Master Genealogist was updated this past year in support of The Master Genealogist (TMG) version 8. If you are looking for a guide to using TMG then consider yourself lucky. This book is one of the best written software guides I have ever come across. The writing is concise and well organized. The language is not overly technical; rather, the book was well written for the target audience, the average user. Visual examples are plentiful. Most visuals are labeled to match key bullet points in the text. Each chapter builds on the previous chapter, moving from basic concepts to more advanced features, developing a clear path to a successful user experience.

Put Your Family History on the Map

You can literally put your family history on the map using Family Atlas. Created by the folks at RootsMagic, Family Atlas is a fun way to graphically show your family’s history. By easily importing your genealogy from RootsMagic, Legacy, Family Tree Maker, or by GEDCOM file, you can create an interactive world map of your family history. This software package is a great add on to any genealogy database, allowing you to visually trace your family roots.

RootsMagic Webinars on CD, Volume I & RootsMagic Webinars on CD, Volume II

The folks at RootsMagic, one of the most popular genealogy programs on the market, use webinars to prove training and help for their user base. These webinars are available for free online. However, for those with slow or limited Internet connectivity, or who simply prefer to have a copy on hand, RootsMagic has provided a collection of their webinars on CD. There are currently two volumes in the collection.

Book Reviews – Mexican Research

Mexican Research


Mexican-American Genealogical Research

Mexican-American Genealogical Research: Following the Paper Trail to Mexico, by John Schmal & Donna Morales, was written to help descendents find records of their ancestors from governmental sources and through the Family History Library. According to the authors, “Mexico probably has the most detailed records in the world, stretching back more than 400 years.” This is a great boon for researchers focused on Mexican research. This book focuses on helping genealogists find and access this wealth or records.

Book Reviews – How-To Genealogy Books

How-To Genealogy Books


Becoming an Accredited Genealogist

If you ever though about getting your accreditation or simply wondered about the process then Becoming an Accredited Genealogist: Plus 100 Tips to Ensure Your Success by Karen Clifford is for you. The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists grants genealogical accreditation based on the knowledge, training, and integrity of the researcher. Other organizations and schools provide credentials and degrees, but essentially all have the same requirements. This guide covers what you need to know to succeed.

Genealogy At A Glance: Ellis Island Research

Genealogy At A Glance: Ellis Island Research, written by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, examines the history and the research fundamentals genealogist need to seek their ancestors U.S. entry through this famous island port. Like all the Genealogy At A Glance guide sheets, Ellis Island Research is a four-page, full-color limited guide meant to be easily stored and sized to take with you when conducting related research.

Genealogy At A Glance: Revolutionary War Genealogy Research

There is an entire series of Genealogy At A Glance guide sheets. We have reviewed many here on this blog. Each is a four-page, full-color laminated guide provide a quick reference to specific research topics. In this review we examine the Revolutionary War. Genealogy At A Glance: Revolutionary War Genealogy Research was written by Craig R. Scott, CG. Like each At A Glance, the top of the first page provides contents and quick facts related to the topic.

The Hidden Half of the Family

The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy, by Christina Kassabian Schaefer, demonstrates h0w to recover the identities of one’s female ancestors. The authors solution to finding ancestors in a patriarchal history that often obscured a women’s identity is to find those government, legal and social area where the unequivocal identification of both men and women was custom. Schaefer expounds on her belief that, “the legal status of women at any point in time is the key to unraveling the identity of the female ancestor.” She examines the history and laws, both federal and state, granting freedoms to women like owning real estate in her own name, ability to enter contracts, devise wills, and other freedoms awarded only to men prior to these changes of law.

How to Preserve Your Family Photo Collection

“How can I best preserve this photograph to endure for generations?” Maureen A. Taylor, author of Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs, helps answer this basic, yet critical, question in her book Preserving Your Family Photographs: How to Care for Your Family Photographs from Daguerreotypes to Digital Imaging. Taylor is a recognized expert in historical photography. She is known for her ability to study photographs for the historical clues that tell stories about the people and events portrayed in the images. Maureen has been featured many times in print and has even appeared on The View, Martha Stewart Living, and The Today Show.

Learning by Example to Overcome Your Toughest Genealogy Problems

What happens when records are misread, or graves turn out to be empty, or when people change their name? These are just a few of the problems genealogists face everyday. Genealogists around the globe have made breakthroughs in resolving these types of difficult problems through creative research and a never-give-up attitude to overcoming obstacles. Family Chronicle magazine called these breakthroughs “Brickwall Solutions.” Recognizing the value the stories and the examples behind these solutions can have for the day to day genealogists, Family Chronicle collected hundreds of these stories from contributors around the world. The compiled result is 500 Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems, the perfect lead by example book to solving unique research problems.

Protect Your Precious Documents

Every genealogist has something special worth preserving. From their own research to family photographs, from ancestral diaries to family heirlooms there are countless treasures to be collected and given the best preservation possible. Protect Your Precious Documents was written to help genealogist in the preservation process.

Reading Non-English Records

Once a genealogist traces his/her ancestral roots to another country, language barriers add to overall complexity in research. Following the Paper Trail: A Multilingual Translation Guide by Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman was written to help researchers with this very problem. Following the Paper Trail not only acknowledges the need for language assistance, but recognizes that many researches will need help in more than one additional language. This book looks at many languages, dividing them into linguistic families. Similarities within a single family make it easier to identify words and commonalities in other associated languages. For example, the Latin or “Romance” language include French, Latin, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish, which together make up one section of the book.

Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History

Recording Your Family History: A Guide to Preserving Oral History helps genealogist record living histories while they are still available. The introduction acquaints the reader with the “Life History Interview.” Effectively, audio or video interviews with family members, usually the older members speaking as though to a younger family member. The interview help capture, and thus maintain, family traditions, values, stories, beliefs, and experiences; passing these on to future generations. This book is a guide to capturing these family elements through the oral interview process.

Slave Ancestral Research: It’s Something Else

For 14 years Mary L. Jackson Fears worked diligently on her family’s history. Slave Ancestral Research: It’s Something Else is a narrative of her experiences in researching her slave ancestors. Instead of a how-to book, Fears has created a guide by example. Her her words, “My purpose is to narrate the details of my roots search in a manner to inspire others.”

A Thorough Vetting of Courthouse Research

Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures by Christine Rose is the step by step handbook every genealogist needs for researching court records. Rose brings her experience in researching at over 500 courthouses to bear in one complete guidebook of instructions. Eventually, every genealogist needs courthouse records. This book will prepare you to visit a courthouse in person as well as accessing court records from a distance.

Unpuzzling Your Past

Unpuzzling Your Past, by Emily Anne Croom, is a best-selling basic guide to genealogy. This book does well because it give consideration to way our ancestors lived and not just names and dates. In addition, the book focuses on using living family members as a primary source of data and information on both living ancestors as well as those who have passed. Story telling and interviews are key to the collecting of family history and this book leaves nothing out.

Book Reviews – European Research & Ancestry British

European Research & Ancestry

BritishEastern EuropeanGermanIrishPolishScottish



Air Force Records: A Guide for Family Historians

Air Force Records: A Guide for Family Historians, Second Edition is part of a series of books covering military records available at the British National Archives. From the Boer War, through two World Wars, Korea, Kenya, Suez, and other interwar actions, this book provides the necessary information for genealogists to trace ancestors who served in any of the many British air forces. The earliest service records predate mechanical flight with the Royal Engineers Balloon Section. Other forces include the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF), Glider Pilot Regiment, Fleet Air Arm, and the Royal Naval Air Services.

Tracing Your Naval Ancestors

We have previously reviewed two military service records books from the British National Archives: Air Force Records: A Guide for Family Historians and First World War Army Service Records: A Guide for Family Historians. Tracing Your Naval Ancestorsadds to the collection. This book explains a diverse range of records and additional sources useful in finding typical genealogical, as well as career or service, information for men and women who have served in the Royal Navy. Records date back as far as 1660 and on through more recent times.

WWI British Army Service Records

First World War Army Service Records: A Guide for Family Historians is a British National Archives publication written by William Spencer. At the time he wrote this book, Spencer was the principal military specialist at the National Archives and was an adviser on family history. This book covers what any researcher needs to know about searching WWI military records held by the Archives. The additional background information provides an added bonus.


Eastern European

Finding Your Slovak Ancestors

There are few enough books on researching Slovak Ancestry. For this reason alone, Finding Your Slovak Ancestors…, by Lisa A. Alzo is valuable to many researchers. Approximately 650,000 Slovaks emigrated to North America between 1875 and 1914. That mean millions of descendents living in Canada and the United States today. Utilizing over 15 years experience, Alzo presents her techniques, along with resources and key methodologies to tracing one’s Slovak roots.

Genealogical Gazetteer of the Kingdom of Hungary

Like so much of Europe, the Hungarian political and geographical boundaries have shifted over the centuries. In 1877 Janos Dvorzsak published an Hungarian locality dictionary, similar to a Gazatteer. The work included the 63 counties of the Kingdom of Hungary with a political and religious classification of the population in each. Genealogical Gazetteer of the Kingdom of Hungary, compiled by Jordan Auslander, was created to outline and compare the 1877 publication with Hungary today.



German Churches in New York Help Descendents Find Links to the Old Country

During the mid-1800s, many cities saw growth amongst their German immigrant populations, and no city grew as quickly as New York. In fact, by the late 1800s,  Berlin and Vienna were the only cities in the world with larger populations of Germans than New York. With its large German population and strong Christian heritage, German churches popped up all over the city. The German Churches of Metropolitan New York: A Research Guide, by Richard Haberstroh, was written to help researchers make the connection between their immigrant ancestors and the cities from wince they came. Where traditional vital records fail to identify the immigrants point of origin, many church records provide the desired information.

German Map Guide Volume 1 – Hessen

The series began back in 2004 with Map Guide to German Parish Registers (Volume I): Grandduchy of Hessen. Like all books in the series, Hessen was put together and written by Kevan M. Hansen. The volume was created to help genealogist find the churches their ancestors attended and ultimately the vital records left behind in these parishes. Every effort was made to include even the smallest places — some with as little population as one person! Places are from about 1870 back. If the place existed prior to that date, it will most likely be listed. If the place was named after that date, the chances drop. The volume covers 1,582 places (usually towns).

German Name-Change Gazetteer

Reviewing the German Name-Change Gazetteer is not without difficulty, as the book is written in German. Despite two years of German in high school, which needless to say was some years ago, I don’t profess to speaking German. Despite my inability to read the full details of the book, I can say its value, even to non-German readers, is potentially very high for those with German ancestors. Beyond the forward, the book is mostly a list of names anyway. Written by Otto Kredel and Franz Thierfelder, the actual title is Deutsch-fremdsprachiges (fremdsprachiges-deutsch) Ortsnamenverzeichnis, and comes as a two volume set.

Index to German Marriages and Death in New York

Since 1834, the New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung has serviced the German community in New York City. Index to Marriage and Death Notices in the New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung 1836-1870; by Frank A. Biebel, is a name index to marriage, birth, and death notices in the Staats-Zeitung as well as three other papers. Birth entries come entirely from the other papers, the Allgemeine Zeitund, Deutsche Schnellpost, and New-Yorker Deutsche Zeitung. The three papers contributed all the birth entries in this book, which only total about 50. The papers also contributed about 200 marriages.

The Making of Germany, Maps and History

The Lands of the German Empire and Before examines the history and maps of the ever changing lands which comprise, for the most part, today’s Germany. Author Wendy K. Uncapher has take the map of the German Empire and broken it down by individual states. She then examines each state in detail, providing maps and key historical facts for each. Uncapher also takes a detailed look at Prussia, describing exactly what and where it was in its own chapter. Chapter 3 of the books takes a quick look at the overall map of the German area through major historical periods.

Map Guide to German Parish Registers: Rhineland III and Palatinate (Pfalz)

Map Guide to German Parish Registers: Kingdom of Prussia, Province of  Rhineland III and Kingdom of Bavaria, Palatinate (Pfalz) is the third volume covering Rhineland. This map guide provides an historical background to the region, including a complete list of rulers and political leaders for the Rhineland from 1143 until 1945 and for Palatinate from 1799 to 1918. There are also listings of genealogical resources covering civil registration, emigration, lineage books, periodicals and genealogical collections, plus archives and repositories. Archive include both state, church, and district or city archives.

Map Guide to German Parish Registers: Thuringia — Taking Another Look

Map guides help make finding German Parishes easier. Map Guide to German Parish Registers: Thuringia maps and lists parishes in the area of Thuringia in the mid to late 1800s. These maps serve as a “snapshot” to the parish districts as they existed at that time. Parishes were defined by the town to which they were assigned, and vice versa.

The Grand Duchy of Baden

Baden: Atlantic Bridge to Germany by Linda M. Herrick and Wendy K. Uncapher provides an excellent look into the history and the maps of this key Duchy of the German Empire. Baden is Germany’s tie to the Atlantic Ocean. Its people, religion, language, and even its borders have shifted over the centuries, but it has always played a vital role in Germany’s growth, development, and position in Europe. The overall shape and size of Baden was last changed in 1952. Before that, Baden had maintained it primary borders from 1810 to 1945.



Truth Teller Ads Used to Find Irish Immigrants

The introduction of Voices of the Irish Immigrant: Information Wanted Ads In Truth Teller New York City 1825-1844 provides an excellent synopsis of Irish immigration to the United States. The earlier immigrants tended to be middle and upper class families, looking to maintain their standard of living. Later immigrants, especially after 1820, tended to come more from the working class. Often these immigrants could not afford to travel as a family. Instead, individuals often came alone to seek work and help raise the monies necessary for the remaining family members to immigrate.



Guide to Polish Sources for Jewish People

The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) holds the collected resources from the archives of hundreds of Jewish communities, as well as of local, national and international Jewish organizations, and the private collections of many Jewish personalities. The Archives has an extensive collection of documents, registers, and other records of Jewish history from the Middle Ages to the present day. Polish Sources at the Central Archives for the History of Jewish People is, as the name suggests, a guide to Polish specific resources held at the Central Archives.

Sto Lat: A Modern Guide to Polish Research

Author Cecile Wendt Jensen introduces her book, Sto Lat: A Modern Guide to Polish Research, with a quote from a Polish celebration song: “Sto Lat! Sto Lat! Niech zyje, zyje nam” (May you live a hundred years). Jensen offers the hope that through her 30+ years of expertise, genealogist of Polish descent may find at least 100 years worth of family history using the techniques taught in this book.



17th Century Scots in the West Indies

“The Scottish connection with the Caribbean started in 1611 with the voyage to the West Indies of the Janet of Leith. It was not until after 1626, however, that Scots actually settled in the Caribbean. In 1627 King Charles I appointed James Hay, Earl of Carlisle, a Scot, as Governor of the Caribbees, and this led to a steady trickle of Scots to Barbados and other islands…During the 1660s the Glasgow-based organization called the Company Trading to Virginia, the Caribbee Islands, Barbados, New England, St. Kitts, Montserrat, and Other Colonies in America established economic links with the West Indies. By the latter part of the seventeenth century, Scots merchants, planters, seafarers, and transportees were to be found throughout the English and Dutch colonies of the Caribbean.” The Original Scots Colonists of Early America: Caribbean Supplement 1611-1707, by David Dobson, lists hundreds of colonists who settled in the West Indies. The book is an extract of names and information regarding migrations, such as ship names, dates, and any other relevant information the author was able to pull from existing information.

Book Reviews – Charts, Quicksheets, & At-A-Glance Guides

Charts, Quicksheets, & At-A-Glance Guides


Kinship Connections

“He’s my semi half brother. He shares three of the same mothers as me.” [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie] Have you ever felt like identifying your family connections was as confusing as this quote? Was that my second cousin, or first cousin once removed? What is the great-grandchild of my third great-grandmother on my father’s side to me? Fortunately, G. H. Amber came up with an easy way for us to reference our family connections over seven generations. Amber’s two-sided wall chart Kinship Connections features 222 family relationships and blood lines. Amber refers to the chart as “A universal ‘family bush’ which illustrates every type of relationship, by consanguinity (blood) and affinity (marriage), for seven generations”

Flip Books Help Researchers Decipher Gothic Records

Deciphering Gothic Records is a great little flip book designed to help those with German ancestry read and understand older German documents and handwriting. The books contents include information and words common to traditional vital records; including; birth, christenings, marriages, deaths, and burials.

Genealogy At-A-Glance: Immigration Research

Adding to the growing collection of Genealogy At-A-Glance: Immigration Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. In just four laminated pages, Carmack shares a wealth of knowledge for researching you immigrant ancestors. In her own words, “unless you have 100 percent American Indian ancestry, you have immigrant ancestors in your family tree. Our origins are from other places, with some ancestors arriving during the Colonial Period and others arriving only a few decades ago.”  With key information, listed sources, additional references and great tips, this quicksheet is useful to every research not already and expert in immigration. And, even the experts can benefit from a quicksheet which is easy to carry anywhere.

Genealogy at a Glance: French Genealogy Research

If you are looking for French-Canadian research, there are plenty of resources available to help you out; including, a Genealogy at a Glance: French-Canadian Research. However, there are precious few book on researching one’s French ancestors, as in, from France. This makes Genealogy at a Glance: French Genealogy Research, that much more important as a tool to researchers.

Genealogy at a Glance: Italian Genealogy Research

Italy did not become a nation, as we know it today, until 1860. The first “Italians” to migrate to the America’s came during colonial times, coming predominately from the northern region of modern Italy. These first immigrants would have identified themselves with towns or regions, rather than a country. There were, in all, very few early immigrants. However, towards the end of the 19th century, and moving into the 20th century, Italian immigration expanded dramatically. Genealogy at a Glance: Italian Genealogy Research covers key resources and research skills useful in tracing these early Italian immigrants, as well as those who arrived more recently.

Genealogy at a Glance: Scottish Genealogy Research

Scots have a long history of emigration. In the mid-17th century most migrated to European destinations such as Poland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France, and Ireland. Later America became a popular destination. By the early 19th century Australia and South Africa also became key destinations. There are now approximately six time the number of people claiming Scottish descent living around the world as there are Scots actually living in Scotland today. Genealogy at a Glance: Scottish Genealogy Research can help those 30 million find their Scottish roots. This guide reveals information about important resource to Scottish records.

Genealogy at a Glance: Virginia Genealogy Research

Does your family line lead to Virginia? In 1810, the tenth state had the largest population in the your country. As the country grew in both population and size, people migrated away from the state. Some coming out west, other to nearby states. Families continued to grow and spread out. How many millions of Americans can trace their roots to this state? Should your research lead to Virginia, then Genealogy at a Glance: Virginia Genealogy Research may help you find the answers you are looking for.

Quicksheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle)

Elizabeth Shown Mills, is an expert researcher and family historian. Her works include top selling books on proving and citing sources: Evidence!: Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian and Evidence Explained, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Mills has also written a number of Quicksheets covering research methodologies designed to improve the accuracy and success of the overall research process. One such guide, written by Mills, is Quicksheet: The Historical Biographer’s Gide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle).

Quicksheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process

In her book Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, Elizabeth Shown Mills discusses successful research through a series of models. These models are outlined in Quicksheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process. According to Mills, “reliable research is not achieved by trolling the Internet for a name, using indexes and databases as though they were actual records, or accepting uncritically whatever conclusions others tout.

Book Reviews – Internet Resources

Internet Resources


Creating A Family Web Site Can Be Fun & Easy

Ever wanted to create a family website but you weren’t sure where to get started? Creating a Family Web Site Can Be Fun & Easy, by Marian Press, can help. This primer was designed to help any genealogist create their first website. This book starts with the most basic skills of the Internet. Beginning with key terms and tools necessary to build a website, then moving on to the basics of HMTL. Followed by a chapter on additional features and options for websites, the reader will be well prepared to get their first website up and going.

Improved Google Research Results Are Within Your Reach

Ten years ago, when I wrote Mastering Search Engines, Google was in its infancy. Back then, Google was known for the volume of Internet pages it had indexed, about 3 billion at that time. However, search results were not as well ordered and accurate as they later became. Advanced searching was anything but. Google did not take long to improve their system and in short time became the top search engine for nearly a decade now. Over the years, family historians have come to use Google as a key tool in their research. Google Your Family Tree: Unlock the Hidden Power of Google has been a tremendous success among genealogist. We have had great response to the book as many have used it to improve their research and find new ways to use Google.

Mastering Online Genealogy: Volume I of Quillen’s Essentials of Genealogy

Computers and technology have always been readily accepted and used by the genealogical community. The Internet has become a vital tool for research. W. Daniel Quillen wrote Mastering Online Genealogy: Volume I of Quillen’s Essentials of Genealogy  to help researchers use the Internet as an effective research tool.