Cover image for The researcher's guide to American genealogy
The researcher's guide to American genealogy
Greenwood, Val D.
Personal Author:
Second edition.
Publication Information:
Baltimore, MD : Genealogical Pub. Co., 1990.
Physical Description:
xiv, 609 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CS47 .G73 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
CS47 .G73 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This new 3rd edition incorporates the latest thinking on genealogy & computers, specifically the relationship between computer technology (the Internet & CD-ROM) & 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, & updated information on the 1920 census.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This is the second edition of what appears to be the textbook for serious students of American genealogy. Although it has been re~vised to include new sources and current technology, i.e., the personal computer and computerized databases, the 17-year-old work still cautions the researcher to rely on "basic pick-and-shovel work in original records." To Greenwood, genealogy is a science that must be conducted with precision. Three chapters have been added with suggestions on selecting computers and software, discussion of the possibilities of genealogist as family historian, and the importance of evidence and proof. Other chapters introduce research tools, discuss the evaluation of findings, and detail the changes in census returns since 1790. Illustrations, charts; index. --Cynthia Ogorek

Library Journal Review

This classic handbook has been completely updated to include all major developments since the original edition ( LJ 6/15/74). Three new chapters cover genealogical evidence, personal computers, and family historians. The bibliographies have been updated as well. Greenwood's pioneering contribution offers a detailed examination of primary records: vital, census, probate, land, court (adoption), church, military, cemetery, and wills. Librarians will appreciate chapters on other types of research, especially library research. Ronald A. Bremer's Compendium of Historical Sources: The How and Where of American Genealogy (Progenitor Soc., 1986. 3d ed.) and Arlene Eakle's The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (Ancestry Pub., 1984) are similar all-in-one genealogy handbooks. With this edition, Greenwood has reaffirmed his book's position as the outstanding text in American genealogy, and it remains the benchmark against which others will be judged. This modestly priced core collection reference tool should be in every genealogical library and in other libraries where there is an interest in genealogy.--Judith P. Reid, Local History & Genealogy Reference Specialist, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Neagles presents LC's genealogical collections first by describing their organization, then the resources (like records of residence--city directories, land records, census records, etc.; records of family activity--church records, newspapers, and periodicals; and records of military service). A third section arranged geographically by region and state identifies their similar records. The aim is to point out not only the holdings of LC's Local History and Genealogy Reading Room but to identify other departments where genealogists can find information. A scanning of various lists suggests a question: will the less experienced question what seems to be incomplete information? For example, several published indexes are cited for specific years only but are actually available for other periods. There are a number of similar cases where more complete and exact information should have been supplied; the material is undoubtedly in LC's collections. (On p. 181, under "Manchester" is "Suborn" really correct? On p. 88, is the Boston newspaper titled the "Evening Transfer?" really the Transcript?)There is much that is helpful about the volume, including the listing of city directories, but the user must be alert. Greenwood carries over much of the material from the earlier edition of The Researcher's Guide. . .(CH, Jan'74) but has dropped the Canadian chapter and added three others: genealogical evidence, personal computers and programs, and the genealogist as family historian. Though the book is described on the jacket as completely revised, some of the material has been but slightly changed and a number of the references have not been updated to reflect the existence of new editions. Still, the descriptive treatment will supply beginning genealogists with the kind of helpful background they need. The best single volume remains, for this writer, A. H. Eakle and J.Cerny, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (1984). Small libraries with limited funds will find Greenwood a good choice and for larger collections both Greenwood and Eakle-Cerny would be useful. Neagle's volume is for the library with needs beyond those guides. -V. L. Close, Dartmouth College

Table of Contents

Illustrations and Chartsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Part 1 Background to Research
1. Understanding Genealogical Researchp. 3
The nature of research
Genealogy and science Completing the genealogical picture
Genealogy and historical background
The importance of places
Nothing but the facts
What is expected?
The professional genealogist Conclusion
2. Familiar Record Practices: Problems and Terminologyp. 21
Evolution of the language
Naming practices
Some symbols
The calendar
3. Analyzing the Pedigree and the Placep. 47
Preliminary survey
Pedigree analysis
Get them all
Locality analysis
Tradition, common sense, and helpful clues
4. Evaluation of Evidencep. 65
Basic definitions
Types of evidence
Sources vs. evidence
Conflicting evidence
Standard of proof
More information on evidence
5. An Introduction to Research Tools: The Libraryp. 79
The purpose of library research
The catalog
The National Archives and its branches
6. An Introduction to Research Tools: Reference Materialsp. 91
Guides to locality data
Guides to non-original sources
Guides to original sources
7. Organizing and Evaluating Research Findingsp. 109
Purpose of record keeping
Research calendars and notes
Evaluating your notes
One more step
Reminder notes
Abstracts and forms
Card files
Computer indexes
8. Successful Correspondencep. 125
The correspondence calendar
Review of research note requirements
Let's write a letter
How does the letter look?
To whom do I write?
Conclusion and checklist
9. Computers in Genealogyp. 139
Word processing
Creating charts and tables
Organizing and storing genealogical information
Locating and contacting relatives
Learning about resources and collections
Accessing reference works
Searching databases
10. Family History: Going Beyond Genealogyp. 165
Why family history?
Historical considerations
Writing family history
Objectivity in family history
Part 2 Records and Their Use
11. Compiled Sources and Newspapersp. 183
The nature of compiled sources
Limitations of compiled sources
Final observation
12. Vital Recordsp. 203
Beginning and background
The use of vital records
Securing the records
Town meeting records
Record problems
13. Census Returnsp. 233
What is the census?
Where are the census records?
Special indexes
1910 street index
Military service information in the census
Special enumerations, state censuses, and other census schedules
Mortality schedules
Glossary of census terms
14. Using Census Returnsp. 291
Benefits and uses
Limitations of the census as a genealogical source
When should the census be searched?
Examples of census use
15. Understanding Probate Records and Basic Legal Terminologyp. 309
Definition and background of probate records
Content and genealogical value
The limitations of probate records
Legal terminology
The probate process
16. What About Wills?p. 331
Kinds of wills
Proving the will
The contested will
The value of wills
Record problems
Finding and using wills
The impossible dream
17. The Intestate--Miscellaneous Probate Records--Guardianshipsp. 353
The intestate and the probate process
Miscellaneous probate records
18. Government Land: Colonial and Americanp. 375
Land from the colonial government
After the Revolution
History of land entries in the public domain
Land entry records from the public domain
Land patents from the BLM--Texas
The American State Papers
Other state-land states
19. Local Land Recordsp. 399
Land titles
Types of land records
Using land records
Using tax records
Land-ownership maps
Availability of land records
20. Abstracting Wills and Deedsp. 433
Abstract vs. extract
The nature of the abstract
Abstracts of deeds
Abstracts of wills
21. Court Recordsp. 451
Background and definition
A misconception
The American court system
Records and access
Legislative records
Adoption records
Special note on Virginia
Case reports, reporters, and digests
22. Property Rights of Women as a Considerationp. 477
Real estate conveyances
Laws and customs relating to inheritance
23. Church Recordsp. 489
Types of records
The nature of the records
Locating church records
24. American Aids to Finding the Home of the Immigrant Ancestorp. 531
Immigration records: their nature and value
Locating and using immigration records
Passport applications Conclusion
25. Military Records: Colonial Wars and the American Revolutionp. 551
Background and history
The records
Colonial wars
The Revolutionary War
Using Revolutionary records
Loyalists and the Revolutionary War
26. Military Records: After the Revolutionp. 585
Between the Revolution and Fort Sumter
The Civil War, 1861-65
After Appomattox
The regular army or regular establishment
World War I
Military records in the states
Printed military sources
When to use military records
27. Cemetery and Burial Recordsp. 611
Tombstone inscriptions
Sextons' records
Helps in finding the records
Records of funeral directors
Indexp. 623