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General References and Guides

This article is part of a series.
Introduction to the General References and Guides
Overview of Databases and Indexes
Database and Index Types
List of Specific Databases and Indexes
Library Catalogs
List of Useful Finding Aid References

This article originally appeared in "General References and Guides" by Kory L. Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

A bibliography is a list of books, articles, or records. Bibliographies are important tools for researchers because they identify sources of information. Usually published as a book or as part of a book, bibliographies usually have a specific topical focus. They may be arranged by subtopic or be strictly alphabetical. Many are annotated, including brief descriptions of the books cited. Bibliographies are usually created by scholarly researchers seeking to identify important works pertaining to a specific topic or field. Booksellers' catalogs are also a kind of bibliography, although they are usually not as comprehensive as other sources. The value and use of bibliographies in genealogical research cannot be overlooked. They are the subject of significant discussion in chapter 5, 'Bibliographies and Catalogs,' in Printed Sources. Some major bibliographies are described below.

Genealogical and Local History Books in Print

The major source in this field is Marian R. Hoffman's Genealogical and Local History Books in Print, covering Family Histories, General Reference and World Resources, and U.S. Sources and Resources (in four volumes).

Major Genealogical Bibliographies

Many librarians, historians, and other bibliographers have created subject bibliographies for genealogical topics over the past three decades. Since library catalogs cannot be expected to identify every book for a specific topic, these bibliographers' efforts produce an important research tool: a well developed bibliography will bring together useful sources from a variety of disciplines, regardless of the age or location. The following important bibliographies should be at most research libraries:

  • Biographical Books, 1876­'1949 and 1950'1980. New York: Bowker, 1983, 1980. A list of over 25,000 books specifically about individuals. Includes many descent genealogies with significant information about the immigrant ancestor.
  • Brigham, Clarence Saunders. History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690'1820. 2 vols. Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1947.
  • Carson, Dina C. Directory of Genealogical and Historical Publications in the U.S. and Canada. Niwot, Colo.: Iron Gate Publishing, 1992. Identifies approximately 5,500 family, historical, ethnic, and genealogical journals, newsletters, and magazines by title. An index of publishers to help locate periodicals published by organizations.
  • Child, Sargent B., and Dorothy P. Holmes. Checklist of Historical Records Survey Publications. 1943. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969.
  • Clegg, Michael Barren. Bibliography of Genealogical and Local History Periodicals with Union List of Major U.S. Collections. Ft. Wayne, Ind.: Allen County Public Library Foundation, 1990. Identifies over 4,000 periodicals and their publishers, with a partial list of libraries housing the titles.
  • Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987. Lists 5,000 histories published through 1984, with reference to reprints and new indexes.
  • , comp. American and British Genealogy and Heraldry: A Selected List of Books. 3rd ed. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1983; and Supplement (1987). An excellent listing of most books published through mid-1985 that deal with genealogy in the English-speaking world. This bibliography and its supplement list more than 12,800 titles of published genealogical sources. The primary emphasis is on United States sources; however, this bibliography usually excludes county and local histories, family histories, and immigration sources.
  • , ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography 1538'1900. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1988. Identifies and describes approximately 2,600 printed sources, including articles, books, and portions of book which name immigrants to North America. These sources are indexed in his Passenger and Immigration Lists Index.
  • Gregory, Winifred. American Newspapers, 1821'1936. 1937. Reprint, New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1967.
  • Horowitz, Lois. A Bibliography of Military Name Lists from Pre-1675 to 1900: A Guide to Genealogical Sources. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1990. Arranges over 6,600 published lists by time period and location.
  • Prucha, Francis Paul. Handbook for Research in American History: A Guide to Bibliographies and Other Reference Works. 2nd ed. Rev. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994. The best guide to the 1,000 most significant tools for historical research.
  • Slocum, Robert B., ed. Biographical Dictionaries and Related Works. 2nd ed. 2 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1986. The most comprehensive listing of collective biographies.

UMI Collections and Heritage Quest Online

Since 1979 the Genealogy and Local History Series, has been providing a growing collection of genealogical materials on microfiche. Published genealogies are a major part of UMI's Genealogy and Local History collection <>. Several hundred titles are collected, copied on microfiche, and cataloged every year as sets or 'parts' of the collection. These parts are then sold (as separate units) to libraries and archives. Each part is described by a guide that includes complete catalog information with subject, title, and surname indexes. By 2006, at least sixty-four separate parts had been produced, totaling over 27,000 titles, with at least 10,000 genealogies. Many are rare titles, usually published before 1920 and in limited numbers. A number of research libraries subscribe to this collection.

It is precisely these titles which are available as images with every-name indexes through the Internet at Heritage Quest Online. However, since it is also possible to purchase these titles as units and individual titles, the list of titles is also online at UMI (another ProQuest company).

UMI also supplies microfilm and photocopies of thousands of out-of-print family histories through their 'Books on Demand' service. Even if their extensive catalog of books currently on microfilm does not include a needed source, if you know the title of a book you want and where a copy is located, UMI will obtain permission to copy it (including copyright clearance, if needed) and supply a microfilm or photocopy.

Publishers and Booksellers Catalogs

Other sources for family histories are the catalogs of various publishers that sell new, old (used or rare), and reprinted books, especially family histories. Their surname catalogs (or websites) are arranged similarly to library catalog.

The following publishers may be helpful in locating specific genealogy methodology and family history titles:

Higginson Book Co. Picton Press Heritage Books


Coming soon...

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