The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. 4th Edition
By Val D. Greenwood
Publisher: Genealogical Publishing Company
Published: October 2017
Formats Available For Review: Print (limited quantities, only available to qualified reviewers/bloggers in the U.S.)
When it was originally published in 1973, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, by Val Greenwood, revolutionized its field. It was the first true textbook ever published about American genealogy. Combining how-to guidance, case study examples, and an extremely detailed discussion of genealogical records, The Researcher’s Guide was both an instant success and the go-to source for its users during each stage of their research. Following the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots and the TV miniseries that book spawned, sales of Mr. Greenwood’s book soared, assuring its reputation as the best book in American genealogy ever published.
Between 1973 and 2000, two additional editions of The Researcher’s Guide were released, primarily in response to the use of the personal computer for compiling, organizing, and publishing genealogical information. By 2000, the early stages of digitizing genealogy data, mostly on CD-ROM , were also in evidence.
Since the publication of the 3rd Edition of The Researcher’s Guide in 2000, the genealogy landscape has changed dramatically. Almost everyone now uses a computer for research. Thanks to the Internet, with a click of the mouse, genealogists have access to more data they could ever dream of studying; data they would have had to travel far and wide to come by in the past. Much of this information is free, or moderately priced through commercial subion services. To cite one crucial example, the entire U.S. federal census, from 1790 through 1940, is available online and completely indexed, from several providers. DNA has also become an important tool in genealogy in recent years. Whether or not they know where their immigrant ancestors came from, with a mere sputum sample, Americans can discover their ethnic origins in just a matter of weeks. This technology can help fill gaps in the family tree by, among other things, putting one in touch with others possessing a similar genetic make-up.
The 4th Edition of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy both embraces the changes of the last seventeen years and yet transcends them. Mr. Greenwood has re-written every chapter and added two chapters about technology as it relates to family history research–one dealing with significant concepts and definitions and the other with specific resources and applications, including major family history websites and Internet resources. In addition, virtually every chapter provides information on Internet websites pertinent to the subject discussed in that chapter. Greenwood covers all the major changes in the field, including DNA research. The final result is a 4th Edition that is 25% longer than its predecessor. Given the unprecedented amount of information on the Internet, today’s researcher is able to reach beyond the vital statistics to a new world of understanding, both of his ancestors and of himself. Accordingly the author shows the reader how to build a family history about actual people, not just names and dates, from the myriad available sources. Mr. Greenwood also recognizes that not all sources researchers are seeking can be found online today—some never will be—that much information on the web is faulty or unsourced, and that researchers invariably enter dead ends or hit brick walls. Good instructional guidance, consequently, is critical to the success of family history research, and this is where The Researcher’s Guide is unsurpassed. It is both a textbook and an all-purpose reference book, designed to help the present generation of family history researchers better understand the methods and principles of family history research, and learn how to utilize all available resources. In short, this new 4th edition provides a clear, comprehensive, and up-to-date account of American genealogy—no sound genealogical project is complete without it.
“Recommended as the most comprehensive how-to book on American genealogical and local history research.”—Library Journal
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