Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Top 8 Genealogy Books on my Bookshelf

This is "Nutfield Genealogy Central", looking quite busy today!
Most of my most used books are right there next to the keyboard...

This post is inspired by Marian Pierre Louis and her post this morning at her blog “Marian’s Roots and Rambles” http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com/2011/06/top-5-books-on-my-bookshelf.html   We both do research in New England, but she has a different list of books.  I wasn't able to limit myself to just five, as Marian did, but listed my top 8 most used books. 

I didn’t have to look far for my favorite, most used books. They are all piled up next to my computer! I should have named this post "The Books piled up on my Desk".   This was a good exercise, because it showed me that several of my books are quite out of date, and I should start purchasing newer editions.

1. History of Londonderry, by Reverend Edward L. Parker, by the Town of Londonderry, New Hampshire, 1974 (originally published by Perkins and Whipple, Boston, 1851)

This is the first book I grab when I receive inquiries about Londonderry families and history for the Londonderry Historical Society, or for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. It is out of print, but a friend found me a copy in a yard sale, and it’s my most used book on the book shelf. There is also a four volume set of small paperback updates to this book, published by the Londonderry Historical Society in the 1970s, which reside next to my Parker on my desk.

2. Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, by Marcia D. Melnyk, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999

This book is on Marian’s list, and I’m badly in need of a later issue. I’ve penciled in changes to phone numbers, hours and addresses in all the margins, because these things are changing all the time. My copy is dog-eared and full of post-it note flags and bookmarkers! It is very handy for research anywhere in New England, and I usually phone or email ahead of visiting any repository anyways since I have been unpleasantly surprised several times!

3. Index to Genealogies in New Hampshire Town Histories, by William Copley, New Hampshire Historical Society, 2000

This book indexes New Hampshire families by surname, and gives the town histories where there are genealogical write ups for each family. I wish there was a similar book for Massachusetts and Maine! This book also needs a good update, but I still refer to it almost daily.

4. New Englanders in the 1600s, by Martin E. Hollick, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2006

This is a guide to research published between 1980 and 2005. I’m hoping there will be an update, soon. It is a good compliment to other books, since it gives lots of articles and books on early New England families.

5. Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1997

This is the book I use for correctly citing sources. I don’t write articles or professional reports but its good practice to always cite correctly according to Mills’s good examples! Marian cites Elizabeth Shown Mills’s latest book Evidence Explained, which is an updated version of this book. I really need to go through my bookshelf and update some of these books. When I need to cite newer types of sources, such as websites, blogs, etc., I can usually find that information online at someone else’s blog, like “Dear Myrtle”.

6. A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Four volumes, by James Savage, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1969

This is an invaluable resource for New England genealogy. It is old, and you will need to read up on Martin Hollick’s New Englanders in the 1600s to see if your particular ancestors have had any new research published lately, but start with this book and you’ll be on the right path!

7. New England Marriages Prior to 1700, by Clarence Almon Torrey, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1985 (reprint, the original was written in 1962). There have been several supplements to Torry, including one I own from 2003 by Melinde Lutz Sanborn.

This is another classic resource like the Genealogical Dictionary above, but always double check to see the latest research that has been published on your particular ancestors, since it is rather old now. The supplement gives most of the marriages up to 1700, and includes information on descendants. The entire collection, including a 2006 supplement is available on Ancestry.com

8. New England Court Records, by Diane Rapaport, Quill Pen Press, 2006

This is another book on Marian’s list. I use it mostly for the list of repositories, and the stories Diane uses to explain why court records can be so useful for New England genealogical research. I have an autographed copy!
My Mayflower Silver Books,
Munroe, Batchelder, Felton genealogies, etc.
Books on Salem and Plymouth, etc.
Hampton, NH VRs, Perley's History of Salem
mixed in with cookbooks and other stuff
more history and reference books
and one of my Dad's autographed McCullough's

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. That Encyclopedia of New England looks very interesting. Our bookshelves are very different in focus! I have a shelf for New England gravestone books, one for New England African Americans books, one for architecture and house history books. Then some random ones for genealogy and local history. My local history books tend to focus around where I have done big projects.

  2. I use that "Encylopedia" a lot, it was written by a UNH professor. These are just the books within two steps of my desk. The basement is full of floor to ceiling bookshelves of history books, and I've started a book case on Hawaiiana (with loads of genealogies and histories, we had to mail most of them from Hawaii since they overloaded our weight limit on our suitcases). I think this collection is getting out of control- I even found five good books whilst at Jamboree (where I didn't think I'd find anything related to New England)!

  3. Wow, It sure is amazing as to the difference of books people use, yet some stay the same. My curiosity is what do you use to refer to beginners in Genealogy? I understand do to region, and yes I have used some of these books and own two. I have read all of them but two also. My book collection when I left Hawaii was like a library and government would have charged through roof so library there got them. Since then I cull through my books ever so often and donate about 20 a year to this library.

  4. Susi, I had to think back to when I was a beginner in genealogy to answer your question! I was just a teenager, but I had a book on genealogical citations. I no longer have this book, but anything by Elizabeth Shown Mills would be the equivilant. The Red Book mentioned by Marian in her blog post is good for beginners, and covers the entire USA.

  5. I'm very honored. My shelf is much like yours, but my N.H. collection is a tad bigger (but I've been collecting so much longer).

  6. This is a great idea - both for general research books and area-specific books. I'll have to think about the ones I use the most....

  7. Great post Heather. I, too. have the 1997 Evidence! book and am now starting to collect her great laminated guides.