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Val D Greenwood

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The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy
by Val D Greenwood   

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· How Often Would I Have Gathered You (2nd ed.)
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Category: 

Reference

Publisher:  Genealogical Publishing Co. ISBN-10:  0806316217 Type: 
Pages: 

662

Copyright:  Jan 2000
Non-Fiction

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This is the book if you are interested in researching your American forebears. First published in 1973 by Genealogical Publishing Company, it has been in its 3rd edition since 2000 and has sold more than 100,000 copies.

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Excerpt

"It goes without saying that you can never arrive at your destination if you do not know where you are going. The person who does not know where he is going is like the proverbial ship that leaves port with no particular destination in mind and drifts aimlessly on the open seas. Unless you have goals you can never accomplish anything; and in genealogy an objective analysis of your pedigree is the thing that will help you visualize appropriate genealogical goals and channel your efforts correctly for their attainment. This does not actually make research any easier--the work is still there--but it can make it much more fruitful.

"In order to make a satisfactory analysis, however, you must first do some secondary research to determine exactly what is already known, what research others have already done on your ancestral families, and where the research stands as of right now. This secondary research need not take forever, for it is quite a simple process if properly pursued. In genealogy we call this secondary research the 'preliminary survey.' It includes the following;

"A. Home and family sources, both those in your own possession and those in the possession of other family members and relatives.

"B. Sources available on the Internet. These sources are discussed in more detail in chapter 9. They include, but are not limited to, the LDS Family History Library's databases that are part of the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service.

"C. Compiled sources, as discussed in significant detail in chapter 11."

(Excerpt from chapter 3, "Analyzing the Pedigree and the Place.")



Professional Reviews

American-Canadian Genealogist
In every field of study there is one book that rises above the rest in stature and authority and becomes the standard work in the field. In genealogy that book is Val Greenwood's "Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy." Arguably the best book ever written on American genealogy, it is the text of choice in colleges and universities or wherever courses in American genealogy are taught. Of the dozens of textbooks, manuals, and how-to books that have appeared over the past twenty-five years, it is the one book that is consistently praised for setting a standard of excellence.

In a word, "The researcher's Guide" has become a classic. While it instructs the researcher in the timeless principles of genealogical research, it also identifies the various classes of records employed in that research, groups them in convenient tables and charts, gives their location, explains their uses, and evaluates each of them in the context of the research process. Designed to answer practically all the researcher's needs, it is both a textbook and an all-purpose reference book. And it is this singular combination that makes "The Researcher's Guide" the book of choice in any genealogical investigation. It is also the reason why if you can afford to buy only one book on American genealogy in a lifetime, this has to be it.

This new third edition incorporates the latest thinking on genealogy and computers, specifically the relationship between computer technology (the internet and CD-ROM) and the timeless principles of good genealogical research. It also includes a new chapter on the property rights of women, a revised chapter on the evaluation of genealogical evidence, and updated information on the 1920 census. Little has changed or needs to be changed, because the basics of genealogy remain timeless and immutable. This third editioon of "The Researcher's Guide," then, is a clear, comprehensive, and up-to-date account of the methods and aims of American genealogy--an essential text for the present generation of researchers--and no sound genealogical project is complete without it.


National Genealogical Society Quarterly
For almost thirty years, Greenwood's tome has remained an excellent, comprehensive guide for beginning researchers and quick reference for experienced genealogists. This review of the third edition, whose language continues to be simple and direct, focuses on four new or expanded areas: computer use, fleshed-out ancestors, evidentiary standards, and women's property rights.

The second edition, in 1990, introduced the burgeoning changes that computers were bringing to genealogical research. This third edition devotes almost four times the space to the subject. The chapter opens vividly, with a grueling reminder of the days before word processors; a description of the author's 1972 preparation of the first edition's 535 pages of camera-ready copy, using a then state-of-the-art typewriter.

The current chapter divides the subject by functions: word processing, organizing and storing data, producing information in graphic form, identifying and contacting people with mutual genealogical interests, and learning about resources and collections.

Even though rapid and continual change causes new information on this subject to be obsolete almost the moment it hits the page, Greenwood's material stands up to the best of the new works on the subject--especially his information on searchable databases. Regrettably, he did not alert his readers to the quantity of misinformation also on the Internet, or remind them of the importance of examining the source of each and every piece of information before adding it to one's own family files.

This third edition also builds upon the second in emphasizing the importance of historical context. The modern researcher's goal is not to gather names and dates but to learn as much as possible about each ancestor as an individual in his own time and circumstance. This assignment is challenging, but extremely rewarding. As Greenwood notes, there is little point in digging up ancestors if one does not bring them to life. Modern genealogists, he gently reminds his readers, have a responsibility to write the family history in such a way that future generations will also know those ancestors as individuals, not just as names on the family tree.

Greenwood's latest chapter on evidence discusses the demise of "preponderance of the evidence" as the standard of proof in genealogy. Adapted from the legal profession, the concept never really filled the needs of genealogists, who wanted a higher standard for proving their heritage. In 1997, as Greenwood notes, the Board for Certification of Genealogists officially dropped its use of the term and introduced the Genealogical Proof Standard. Following the Board's lead, Greenwood describes the quality of research and analysis needed to meet this standard.

Acknowledging a cry for help on elusive female ancestors, the third edition offers an entirely new chapter, "Property Rights of Women as a Consideration." Understanding these rights lets researchers interpret legal documents properly and know what additional court records might be available--especially if the women had been widowed or had inherited an estate. The chapter should be required reading for every genealogist.

With this third edition, Greenwood's "Guide" remains the single best genealogical reference on the market.

(Joan Ferris Curran, CG)



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