When I first started doing genealogy “many moons” ago, I was way to busy collecting names, dates, and records to pay any attention to any book or source that didn’t have my ancestor’s name in it. “Why would I “waste my time” looking at guide books when I should be spinning through rolls of censuses on microfilm?” I would ask.
The answer, my now-seasoned self replies, “is that the guide books will save you hours of grief and frustration by pointing out where to go, what things mean, and how to get the answers you need.” Would you set out on a journey without a map or translating tool? OH!
Printed Sources by Kory Meyerink
Printed Sources isn’t a book often touted by experts and scholars – at least that I’m aware – but it should be. It’s high on my list with The Source, The Red Book, and anything written by Marsha Hoffman Rising, as a book every genealogist should know about.
It’s a guide-book, which means you’ll not find any lists of ancestors in it. Like a finding aid or good index, it won’t give you the answers you are looking for, but it will tell you where to look. Or if you’ve found some records that make no sense, it will help explain the content in the records you’ve found.
The book is intended as a reference guide, like a dictionary, and not a book you’d ever read cover to cover – though I’m sure someone has. Designed as a companion book to The Source, it goes way beyond it to introduce the genealogist to all manner of published books. Setting aside the amazing Introduction section for a moment, here is a summary of the Table of Contents to give you an idea of the depth and breath of the contents.
- Background Information
- General Reference
- Instructional Materials
- Geographic Tools – Maps, Gazetteers
- Ethnic Sources
- Finding Aids
- Bibliographies and Catalogs
- Published Indexes
- Printed Original Records
- Vital and Cemetery Records
- Church Sources
- Censuses and Tax Lists
- Published Probate Records
- Printed Land Records
- Court & Legal Records
- Military Sources
- Immigration Sources
- Documentary Sources
- Compiled Records
- Family Histories & Genealogies
- County and Local Histories
- Genealogical Periodicals
- Medieval Genealogy
See what I mean? The scope is tremendous.
So, within each chapter you’ll get an in-depth discussion of the nature and complexity of the record group or subject. The author will explain terms, give you historical context, explain the method and means to access the records, unpack complex concepts, provide a wealth of illustrations, AND get you started with a very robust bibliography.
The Barbour Collection I randomly turned to a page in the book for an example to share with you and came upon The Barbour Collection. If you’re working on Colonial Connecticut you may come across this encyclopedic series and wonder what you’ve stumbled upon. Printed Sources tells us that it is a set of transcripts of town vital records for 137 Connecticut towns kept at the Connecticut State Library. Printed Sources goes on to tell the reader in detail the nature of the collection’s content, how and when it came into being, and cautions the reader should be aware of when examining the data. A well-informed, scholarly review all for your research enjoyment.
Public Domain Land
I’ve frequently mentioned Public Domain Land (distributed by the Federal Government in states not including the Colonies, Texas & Hawaii) in this blog. But let’s say you want to understand the subject better. Printed Sources has 20-30 pages describing the terms, the Rectangular Survey System, Finding Aids (surveys and indexes), how the land was transferred from the Federal Gov’t to the individual, pertinent legislative acts, and, of course, a very impressive bibliography for published Public Domain Land records.
What’s the difference between genealogy, biography & history?
Okay, here’s one last example, in the chapter on Family Histories and Genealogies (published), the author begins with a very helpful Venn Diagram illustration showing where biography stops & genealogy begins and how history overlaps with genealogy. Helpful information if you’re trying to find histories that touch the lives of your ancestors.
As you may have gathered I really like this book. It’s smart, accessible, a wealth of information, and something I will go back to time and time again when traveling the lands of new records and resources. This guide-book will always be in my backpack.
Check it out and…