Friday, February 08, 2013

Book Review of Genealogy: Essential Research Methods

Hello All:

Like most genealogists and family historians I love books.  I have come across one fairly recently within the last couple months that is an absolute must read.  It is Helen Osborn's book, "Genealogy: Essential Research Methods."  Believe it or not, this is Helen's first book about genealogy.  However, Helen has been a professional genealogist and in the field of teaching genealogy for a long time here in the UK.  If any of you have ever done a Pharos course you may have had the pleasure of learning from Helen.

"Genealogy: Essential Research Methods" is a book that is different from those that one mainly sees.  It is more of a book that deals with technique and methodology rather than just sources.  It is not necessarily a book that I would recommend to a complete beginner.  It is much more involved than that.  However, I would definitely say that a beginner would benefit from it once they have a bit more experience in doing their research.  It is a book that takes genealogical research to the next level - way beyond basic sources and lookups.  In my opinion, it is a book that could well be used as a textbook in a genealogy/family history course. 

I found the book to be easy to read and follow. One of the good things about what Helen does in the book is give real life examples of what she is trying to teach the reader.  To me this is important.  It is no good to just read concepts and methods without having some sort of example of what they are about.  It helps the reader to understand and learn better and to be able to take the techniques into their own research.  Some of the topics Helen tackles in this book are:  effective search techniques, analysis of sources, research planning, source citations, organization, understanding the records (not just what they are but why they were created), problem solving, just to name a few.  The book is 272 pages (including the index at the back), but due to the subject matter it could be more than this.  Genealogical methodology and technique can be a very detailed subject with numerous pages; however, Helen does a good job of keeping things to the point and in "plain" terms.  This is a major plus as it doesn't try to go over the head of the reader and be too technical and fancy.

Helen's book is one that has been really needed for British genealogical research for some time now.  I have read books by the American genealogy "guru" Elizabeth Shown Mills, and this book in my opinion is right up there with Mills' books, which is just my opinion. I don't think I am alone in praising Helen's debut publication.  The book, from what I have read online and in the UK family history magazines that have reviewed it, it is a real hit with folks and they are quite impressed with it.

Well, don't want to say too much, but really just to say that this is an excellent book and one that should be in every genealogist's bookshelf - beginner to the professional.  I hope to see more writing from Helen - don't know what can top her first book though.

Until Next Time . . .


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