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My Genealogy Bookcase

My Genealogy Bookcase

My Genealogy Bookcase – If you are a more experienced genealogist you will know all about the lure of genealogy and history books. If you are a beginner then you have the delights to come of finding just the right book you have been looking for. There are, however, a few books that you will want on your bookcase from the start. Here are my recommendations and the reasons why you should put them on your book shopping list. From now on if anyone asks what you would like for a birthday or Christmas you will be able to give them all the details !

This post contains affiliate links which help keep MadAboutGenelogy online – please see disclosure for more info.

My Genealogy BookcaseAncestral Trails – Mark D Herber

If you buy only one genealogy book then you should buy this one. When first published in 1997 the British genealogy world fell on it like a pack of hungry wolves ! It is now in it’s 2nd edition and has become accepted as the  definitive reference book. Although regarded as a reference book I have read it from beginning to end and it sits on my desk and is used every time I have a query about some aspect of genealogy. The main family history documents are described fully plus why they were created and what you can expect to find in them. The book covers England,  Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The genealogy world is moving at a great pace, but Ancestral Trails stands firm as the genealogy book that should be on your bookcase.

My Genealogy BookcaseThe Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers 

This book has to be the king of the genealogy map world. My copy of The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers is very sad looking, it is battered and worn through being used almost on a daily basis. Of all my genealogy books this would be one of three that I would replace immediately when it finally falls to pieces. I have had it since the mid 1990’s and it tells you something about the quality of the paper and binding that it is still usable.  There is a page for each county of England, a page each for North, South and Central Wales and ten pages for Scotland.

The maps are indexed and there is a grid so you can find your parish easily, this is especially helpful when you working in a county like Norfolk which has a very large number of very small parishes. The date of the start of the parish registers is given as well as where the original records are kept and if any indexes have been made of the records (this is less helpful now that so much has been put online).

My Genealogy BookcaseTracing Your Ancestors in the National Archives: The website and beyond – Amanda Bevin

When a book goes into 7 editions you can be sure that it is a good read. Sadly Ms Bevan’s book is now out of print, but there are plenty to be had second hand at very cheap prices (and new copies at utterly ridiculous prices!). Try Amazon or AbeBooks. This is a real reference book that opens up the National Archives, Kew and reveals what is inside. It gives a good description , reasons for creation and what the reference is for virtually everything you are ever going to want for your family history that is stored at Kew. Births, deaths and marriages, military records and coroners courts, oaths of allegiance and the Court of Star Chamber – all this and much, much more is covered. Some National Archive records can be found online at Ancestry, FindMyPast and also at The National Archive website itself. Their policy is to digitise and place online as many of their records as they can and great inroads have been made in recent years with this project.

My Genealogy BookcaseMy Ancestor was an ……

This is a series of books published by the Society of Genealogists, London. Each book deals with one particular occupation or one group in society. The list is extensive and ranges from My Ancestors were Gypsies to My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer to My Ancestor was a Bastard. Each book gives a detailed background to the subject and suggests the type of record that the ancestor might appear in. I can’t emphasis enough how valuable these books are and all are under £10 plus they are available now in Kindle editions as well.

My Genealogy BookcaseTracing Your …….

Another series of small invaluable genealogy books. Like the My Ancestor series these books are writing by the leading expert in this aspect of family history. The books start with an excellent overview and then delve deeper into the subject and end with the records that should be consulted. All these books are reasonably priced and are a must have as you travel along  your genealogy journey. Titles range from Tracing Your Pauper Ancestors to Tracing Your Seagoing Ancestors to Tracing Your Huguenot Ancestors and many more besides.

The Parish Chest – W E Tate

My Genealogy BookcaseThis is a classic that was out of print for some time, but is now back on sale. I bought my copy many years ago second hand and it is a relief to know that when it finally falls to pieces (and looking at it now that sad day can’t be long away), I will be able to replace it. The genealogist or local historian is taken by the hand and led through all the documents that might be found in the parish chest. Each document is described fully, the reasons for it being created are explained and examples are given. This book would be worth buying for the glossary alone. I think Mr Tate would be surprised to find that his work is still be appreciated more than 70 years after he wrote it. The latest printing is of the 3rd edition, but as far as I can tell nothing has changed – a classic is a classic and needs nothing added to it.

My Genealogy BookcaseVillage Records – John West

This is another classic publication which was first published in 1962 and revised in 1997. You can still buy a new copy on Amazon and there are plenty of second hand copies on both Amazon and on AbeBooks – my favourite second hand book seller. The time period covered runs from Saxon & Early Norman documents to the nineteenth century. You will be using many of the records described in this book so it essential to understand why they were created and what information they hold.

My Genealogy BookcaseTown Records – John West

This is the town version of the above Village Records book. Documents covered range from the Domesday Survey to Census and much more in between. Like it’s sister publication this is, in my opinion essential reading. Interestingly this book doesn’t seem to have been republished after the first edition of 1983, but there are plenty of second hand copies on Amazon and AbeBooks.

My Genealogy BookcasePalaeography for Family and Local Historians – Hilary Marshall

Soon or later you are going to be confronted with a document with handwriting that looks as if a spider has climbed out of an inkwell and crawled over the page! Fear not – with the help of this book you will soon be reading difficult text without thinking too much about it. Every genealogist loves a challenge otherwise they wouldn’t get past filling in their first family chart and reading old handwriting is just another hurdle to overcome. This book has an excellent introduction then lots of examples with transcripts so that you can practice the art of palaeography. Definitely a book to buy once you have got past the beginners stage.

Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames -Reaney & WilsonMy Genealogy Bookcase

Not essential, but nice to have. Having said that it is surprising how often I refer to this book which is the classic publication for surnames. Entries usually give the meaning of the name and the earliest occurrence of the surname this is very helpful when you have “lost” an ancestor.

My Genealogy BookcaseScottish Genealogy – Bruce Durie

If you have ancestors who originated from Scotland then this is the book for you. As well as the usual information on records this book covers DNA, genetic genealogy plus the complexities of clans and tartans.

My Genealogy BookcaseTracing Your Irish Ancestor: Irish Genealogy – John Grenham

It used to be said that Irish family history was almost impossible, but along came the internet and books like this and it all changed! John Grenham’s book is the acknowledged definitive work on Irish genealogy. Essential to help you trace those ancestors from the Emerald Isle.

My Genealogy BookcaseWelsh Family History – John & Shelia Rowlands

I don’t have any Welsh ancestors, but this book sits on my book shelf and I have used it when I have needed to help those who do. My copy dates from 1993, but I see there is a 2nd edition published in 2009. So far it has always contained the answers to the few queries I have had. I notice that the Tracing Your …… series has Tracing Your Welsh Ancestors and I think I would look at that one before I made a purchase. I can’t say it is better or worse than the Rowland’s book as I haven’t seen it myself, but I do like the Tracing Your ……. series.


My Genealogy Bookcase – Summary

I have to confess that these aren’t all the books in my genealogy bookcase ! I have lots of local histories for ancestral parishes, some glossy genealogy books I have been sent to review (usually nice to browse through, but generally not a lot of substance – that’s why they aren’t on this list!), books on house history (I can recommend Nick Barratt’s book Tracing the History of Your House ) plus far too many books on local and community history plus several shelves of history books. As an addiction I think buying books isn’t as bad as some other obsessions I can think of !

I hope you have found this post interesting and helpful. If you have any queries or comments don;t hesitate to contact me through the comments box below.

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2 thoughts on “My Genealogy Bookcase

  1. I love your blog! I have been doing research???? on my husband’s family formerly from Ireland for over twenty years and am very stuck right now. So, I just ordered three of your “must have books”. I am very pleased to say that AbeBooks was very much more reasonable than Amazon although they only had two of the books I wanted.
    Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Bev, I am so pleased you are enjoying MadAboutGenealogy and that you found my post about My Genealogy Bookcase helpful. Genealogy and books go together so well -says she who has just had to buy another bookcase! I have some articles on Irish genealogy in the pipeline so keep dropping in to see what is on offer. Best wishes, Linda

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