Friday, August 26, 2011

New on the Shelf : Crash Course in Genealogy

A new arrival to the field of genealogical "how to" publications is Crash Course in Genealogy, by David R. Dowell.

This book is good news to the countless librarians, archivists, and volunteers who assist visiting family historians, but don't necessarily have a background or experience in genealogy themselves.  

As the title suggests and the introduction reads, "This book is intended to be a basic training course for library workers who need to absorb an overview of genealogy very quickly in order to help family history researchers who visit the libraries where they are employed.  It will also be useful to individuals interested in researching their own families."

Most librarians are well-trained in assisting the public, but few are prepared for the wide range of questions unique to the study of family trees.  There have been some doozies in the Local History department, such as:

  • Please tell me where the house in which my great-great-grandfather lived in around 1860 is so that I may visit it this evening on my way back to [insert place here].  
  • I want to obtain the birth certificate for my ancestor who was born between 1840 & 1860.
  • I've come to collect the records of my family who were descended from some Indian tribe around here.
  • We've recently moved here and would like the history of our house.
  • Tell me where I can find all of the records in your collection online.
  • Here are my family names [presenting a single-page hand-written notebook sheet].  I would like my family history.
My favorite is from a cartoon that I saw years ago that showed a man coming up to the reference desk at the National Archives and saying, "Here is a list of my family names.  I will be back in a couple of hours to pick up my family history."

Obviously, the questions posed here are not easy answers.  Librarians find themselves not just able to point the patron in the direction of a book or microfilm, but having to briefly explain research practices to give the patron a basic understanding of where to continue their search online and off.  It also takes skill and patience to clarify their facility's limitations in terms of holdings & staff time, and that not all questions have immediate or even eventual answers.  And, we must continually familiarize ourselves with online resources, new publications, and research repositories for purposes of referral.

Crash Course is a quick read, 220 pages, and covers some useful topics such as DNA, Colonial Research, African & Native American research, research outside the U.S., and includes an appendix with a glossary of common genealogical terms and charts.  All-in-all a good read for those who assist and for those who research.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unnamed couple, standing in front of home in Breedsville
postcard postmarked 1909

Can you identify the couple in this photo?  Do you recognize the house and know its location?  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the five character catalog number with your e-mail.