I recently read a book about genealogical research that I highly recommend: Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques by George C. Morgan and Drew Smith (New York: McGraw Hill Education, 2014).
I guess it’s no secret that I am fascinated by the process of things – HOW they are done. Many genealogy books focus on why, or where, and I get that, but how-to is what really resonates with me. In addition to plenty of practical suggestions, the book is also sprinkled with interesting examples to illustrate their strategies.
Everything about this book seemed to speak directly to me. It is not a beginner’s book, and yet, could profitably be read by anyone wanting to advance from the level of beginner. If you are doing some things in a more sophisticated way than you used to, and are wondering what other methods you might profitably employ, I think you will find this book helpful.
Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques follows an easy to understand theme of breaking down brick walls by many methods – dismantling them, going around them, etc. As they emphasize in the last chapter, it’s not about tricks to help you hurdle over the hard work of research, it’s about how to approach your problems sensibly with the best possibility of ending up with a proven and correct result.
I think I can best create an impression of the book by giving several examples of how it will influence my research:
- Have I really, really started over from the beginning of the Andrews research, to see if I come to the same result? As I began again, I realized I had never re-started from the beginning (the most recent and well-documented things) but rather, I had been reviewing small sections of my work.
- Am I searching creatively enough, and reading the specifics of each record set before utilizing it?
- Am I sharing problems effectively with others? The blog is only one method for that. I’m not discussing problems with my fellow researchers very much, and I’ve never pursued the idea of explaining a research problem to a non-genealogist, just to get their impressions and thoughts (well let’s be honest here, I’m not sure friends and family would be up for that, but one could try).
- Their explanation of the mtDNA test (which I recently became involved with) is the clearest I’ve read, and I will refer back to it when I get my results.
- I’m pretty good about research to-do lists, but not so good about turning those to-do’s into research logs, so I know the details of what I tried and when. The book has some encouraging tips for that.
- I’m going to review their tools section for any software I might want to add. While I read about new products from time to time, it’s nice to have reviews in one place where I can find them.
- For people new to online crowdsourcing (that is, connecting with strangers who have, or can easily get, information you need), the tips are very clear and helpful. I especially like “The Etiquette of Online Forums” about how to post a question online.
- Because they mention so many types of records, I often found myself racing to, say, the FamilySearch microfilm collection to see if certain kinds of records were captured from certain locations.
I definitely recommend this book for those who are aspiring to approach their problems in a more comprehensive (and successful!) way.
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