There are new and exciting titles for family history enthusiasts at the library as well as new trends in the field of genealogy itself. There has never been a time where high quality tools and information were as easily accessible to so many who want to do family research. More information is continually being made available through digital collections (like the Ancestry Plus database available on-site in all our libraries) and on the Web on a daily basis. Also, the capacity to collaborate with other like-minded people from all over the world has greatly expanded the ability to trace back your ancestry much farther in time than ever before. However; genealogy remains just as frustrating as it is exhilarating. It requires patience, good problem-solving skills and a strong research methodology if you hope to find what you’re looking for. So whether you are just starting have experience in the field, here are some resources and books that could help you in your progress.
Every genealogist started off as a beginner, but luckily there are plenty of resources at the library to help you figure out how best to start. A definite recommendation for an introductory book is the How to Do Everything series volume about genealogy. This title comes close to covering every step a new genealogist should take in their research: starting small with finding and organizing family documents, interviewing relatives and asking the right questions. Then it moves to government records and shows how these were compiled, what kind of information you can hope to find in them and how best to gain access. The book is highly versatile because it includes sections dealing with Canadian sources, as well as British and American ones. It also illustrates how to search new online databases for best results as well as more traditional institutions like archives and libraries.
Finding your Roots : easy-to-do genealogy and family history, takes a more intimate approach to genealogy. An important aspect that author Janice Shultz touches on are the motivations that fuels the passion for genealogy: a search for pride, a belonging to something greater than oneself. How an individual’s sense of identity is linked to his or her ancestors, the greater understanding of larger historical events that can be brought through personal family narratives and experiences. While the greater part of the book’s information focuses on U.S. records, there are sections for Canadian and other nationalities as well.
If you are in need of works that deal with a specific type of genealogical records, the Quillen’s Essentials of Genealogy series is a new arrival that will be very useful for anyone needing help in using specific types of records, like Mastering Census & Military Records or Mastering Online Genealogy for example.
Now you may have moved beyond the basics, but almost every genealogist will encounter what are commonly known as “brick walls”: missing or contradictory information that blocks your progress. Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques is aimed at readers who are beyond the basics and need help solving problems and offers innovative strategies to keep you moving forward. Crowdsourcing, asking for assistance from like-minded individuals and organizations through online message boards or forums, is discussed as well as the science of DNA testing, a relatively new but increasingly popular method to trace one’s lineage genetically and estimate relatedness between two or more individuals.
Equally interesting are the stories the experiences and dilemmas genealogists encounter in their search for the truth about their ancestors. Sometimes the information gleaned in your research can reveal unpleasant truths and shatter some family’s myths, after all it is unlikely that all our ancestors lived their lives without leaving a few skeletons. Carolyn Abraham, the author of The Juggler’s Children: a Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us, tells of her quest to explore her mixed ancestry using DNA testing and find out about her Great-Grandfathers, both from very different backgrounds and their pasts shrouded in mystery. Her search led to her through India, China, Europe and Jamaica and she also takes the time to explain the different ways that DNA can be used to trace back different ancestors (different methods for male and female relatives, for example) and take genealogists in directions impossible with traditional records.
Finally, if you are not interested in doing your family history yourself, but have an interest in the topic, I would recommend the comedy series Family Tree (with Chris O’Dowd in the main role), about an average Englishman who sets out to discover his roots and try to gain a sense of who he is after inheriting a box of artefacts from a dead relative. If you have watched the series Curb Your Enthusiasm, this show and its type of humour will be familiar to you (but with an added genealogy story arc tying each episodes).
In addition to books and online resources, the Winnipeg Public Library hosts genealogy workshops on various topics throughout the year, so keep checking the Library newsletter for schedules.