Genealogy Books: Your Ultimate Gift Guide (Listed by Subject)

By Family Tree Editors

Sign up for the Family Tree Newsletter Plus, you’ll receive our 10 Essential Genealogy Research Forms PDF as a special thank you!

Get Your Free Genealogy Forms

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

In this article:

Genealogy books for beginners

Online genealogy and genealogy website guides

Records and research guides

Immigrant and heritage research books

Preserving and celebrating family history

Related Reads

Online resources continue to grow and make genealogy records and how-to guides more accessible to researchers, but sometimes long-form books are exactly what the genealogist in your family needs to jump-start their research or overcome research problems. New or old, books on genealogy and related topics provide expert insight and advice you can’t always get online.

If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the holidays, books are always a welcome addition to any genealogist’s library. Many of these titles are also available in ebook format, including for Kindle and Nook.

Genealogy books for beginners

(some of these books are also listed in other sections below)

Abbreviations & Acronyms: A Guide for Family Historians by Kip Sperry (Ancestry): The terminology and language associated with genealogy can intimidate beginners. With this handy reference, you can quickly look up abbreviations, acronyms and other puzzling terms.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy, 3rd edition, by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls (DK): Beginning genealogy research can be an overwhelming undertaking. The authors’ simple instructions will help you battle brick walls that beginners face.

Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Genealogists gather a multitude of facts while researching ancestors, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of what data came from which source. Mills provides a reliable standard for both the correct form of source-citation and the sound analysis of evidence.

Family History for the Clueless by George D. Durrant and LaRene Gaunt (Shadow Mountain): In a format similar to the Dummies and Idiot’s series, Family History for the Clueless offers basic, beginner genealogy instruction in language that’s easy to read and comprehend.

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, 2nd edition, by Blaine T. Bettinger (Family Tree Books): Genetic genealogy is a fascinating and complicated part of family research, and it can be difficult (if not impossible) to figure it out on your own. This guide covers all the basics of DNA and genetic testing, including how the four major DNA tests work and what you can expect to learn from their results. You’ll also learn about ethnicity estimates and tools like GEDmatch, and the book has a glossary of DNA terms that simplifies important concepts.

The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy by Kenyatta D. Berry (Skyhorse): The former host of Genealogy Roadshow penned this beginner’s guide that shows genealogists how to dig deeper into their roots. It outlines the basics of US records research, finding European ancestors, DNA testing for genealogy and more.

First Steps in Genealogy: A Beginner’s Guide to Researching Your Family History by Desmond Walls Allen (Betterway Books): From interviewing family members to searching the census, determining the reliability of sources to documenting findings and more, this book is a must-have for the beginner.

Genealogy for Dummies, 8th edition, by Matthew L. and April Leigh Helm (John Wiley and Sons): For beginners to advanced researchers, this guide shows you how to plug in to information on your ancestors.

The Genealogist’s Companion & Sourcebook by Emily Croom (Betterway Books): This best-selling, basic how-to guide offers beginners the information they need to start their family history. Croom shows readers how to get past common roadblocks in genealogical research, and to seek record sources they may not have realized were available for research.

The Genealogist’s Question & Answer Book by Marcia Yannizze Melnyk (Betterway Books): Get the answers to more than 150 common questions beginners ask. Topics covered include vital records, church records, census records, city directories, newspapers and more.

Generation by Generation: A Modern Approach to the Basics of Genealogy by Drew Smith (Genealogical Publishing Co.): This comprehensive guide to genealogy, published in 2023, covers everything from historical records and immigrant origins to genealogy software and DNA testing, perfect for family historians of any experience level.

The Librarian’s Guide to Genealogical Research by James Swan (Highsmith Press): Written for librarians who help patrons with genealogical research, this guide also has plenty of useful information for family history hobbyists. The resources and introduction to genealogy basics make this a great beginner’s guide.

Organize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith (Family Tree Books): Need help handling all your files and data? This book by organization specialist and Genealogy Guy podcaster Drew Smith will help you organize every facet of your genealogy life, from making good, productive habits to planning and managing complex projects. You’ll find practical tips for sorting paper files, naming digital documents, using software programs, and more. You can also put your new skills to use with the helpful forms at the end of many chapters.

Practical Genealogy: 50 Simple Steps to Research Your Diverse Family History by Brian Sheffey (Rockridge Press): This beginner’s guide takes a step-by-step approach, breaking the overwhelming process of starting genealogy research into manageable parts. A companion workbook contains forms you can fill out as you go along.

Recording the Family Tree: A 10 Generation Genealogy Organizer Workbook with Fillable Family Tree, Charts, and Forms to Record the Family History and Organize Ancestry Research by Charles Plum (self-published): If you prefer pen and paper over computers, this notebook might be just the ticket for you to record your family history. It includes a 10-generation family tree chart, family group record sheets, an heirlooms log, and correspondence and research logs.

The Sleuth Book for Genealogists by Emily Anne Croom (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Become a genealogy detective with unique approaches and methods for solving research problems. Case studies and a documentation guide round out this helpful resource.

Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th edition, by Emily Anne Croom (Genealogical Publishing Co.): This best-selling guide takes you on a step-by-step journey into discovering your family’s past. The strategies for success, tips and charts provide help along the way.

Return to top

Online genealogy and genealogy website guides

Genealogy website guides

Unofficial Guide to, 2nd edition, by Nancy Hendrickson (Family Tree Books): This comprehensive guide will show all you can do on From making the first entry on your family tree to completing deep dives into records databases, you’ll learn how to master this huge website and its ecords collections (vital records, military records, immigration records, etc.). You’ll also learn how to manage hints and navigate and interpret your AncestryDNA results.

Unofficial Workbook by Nancy Hendrickson (Family Tree Books): In this workbook, an essential companion to the Unofficial Guide to, you’ll learn how to use to its full advantage, with detailed guides to searching the site’s digitized records.

Unofficial Guide to, 2nd edition, by Dana McCullough (Family Tree Books): This in-depth user guide shows you how to find your family for free in FamilySearch’s databases and millions of digitized historical records spanning the globe.

Online genealogy guides

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program, updated edition, by Karen Clifford (Genealogical Publishing Co.): In this manual on using technology to trace your ancestry, Clifford shows you how to use electronic databases, computer programs and Internet sources in your genealogy.

The Everything Online Genealogy Book by Pat Richley (Adams Media Corp.): Discover how to search state, local, census, church, cemetery, court and military records online with this easy-to-follow reference.

Return to top

Records and research guides


Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States, 3rd edition, edited by Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka (National Archives Trust Fund Board): You’ll find all you need to know about the National Archives and Records Administration in this handy reference. Sections outline federal records of population, immigration, land, the military and particular groups such as American Indians and government employees.

The Handybook for Genealogists, 11th edition, (Everton Publishers): This complete collection of genealogical information will help you develop your family history. It includes mailing and web addresses for societies, repositories and libraries in all 50 states and many foreign countries, as well as more than 120 migration trail maps.

The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Ancestry): A classic research reference, The Source shows you how to find and use records.

Cemetery research

The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide by Joy Neighbors (Family Tree Books): This book (perfect for travel into the field) will help you navigate the burial grounds that hold your deceased ancestors. You’ll learn how to use sites like Find A Grave and BillionGraves to find where your ancestors’ graves are, then how to safely and responsibly visit and archive tombstones. A handy tombstone iconography section will help you interpret the symbols on your ancestors’ graves.

Census records

The American Census Handbook by Thomas Jay Kemp (Scholarly Resources): All genealogists use the census. This state-by-state reference tome is a guide to the published census indexes in print and online, telling which records, indexes and abstracts are available in each medium.

Map Guide to the US Federal Censuses, 1790–1920 by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide (Genealogical Publishing Co.): County boundaries have changed since your ancestors’ lifetime. On every map in this book, old county lines are superimposed over modern ones to illustrate changes at 10-year intervals, so you can find your ancestors in each census.

Your Guide to the Federal Census by Kathleen W. Hinckley (Betterway Books): Interpreting what you find in the federal census is key when putting together your family history. This guide will help you do just that and will show you how to locate these all-important records.

Church records

How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Church Records by Sunny Jane Morton (Genealogical Publishing Co.): It is not always an easy task to track down US church records. This book takes researchers step-by-step through the process of identifying, locating, and gaining access to these genealogical gems.

Female ancestors

The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women’s Genealogy by Christina K. Schaefer (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Everyone has problems researching some of the females on their pedigree chart, mostly because by law and custom women of the past had few rights. According to Schaefer, the legal status of women at any point in time is the key to unraveling the identity of a female ancestor. The bulk of this reference work details each state, showing how its laws, records and resources can be used in determining female identity.

Historical research

Dictionary of American History From 1763 to the Present (Checkmark Books): This comprehensive reference brings together key people, places and events in American history. More than 1,200 A-to-Z entries include outlines of military battles and explanations of essential terms.

The Family Tree Historical Maps Book by Allison Dolan and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine (Family Tree Books): If your American history is rusty—or if you just love old maps—this book is for you. This sturdy hardcover has beautiful, full-color historical maps of the United States from the country’s beginning through the early 1900s. See your ancestor’s locale as it was during his time. If you can’t get enough of maps, check out a follow-up book of European maps or an historical atlas of Germany.

Land records

Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records by Patricia Law Hatcher (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Land records are among the most valuable resources for genealogists. This invaluable guide will help you understand the various types of land records and give you the information you need to locate these records.

Library research

The Librarian’s Guide to Genealogical Research by James Swan (Highsmith Press): Written for librarians who help patrons with genealogical research, this guide also has plenty of useful information for family history hobbyists. The resources and introduction to genealogy basics make this a great beginner’s guide.

Your Guide to the Family History Library by Paula Stuart Warren and James W. Warren (Betterway Books): Get an inside look at the world’s largest genealogical library, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. You’ll learn all you need to know for successful research at the library and at its branch Family History Centers, plus how to make the most of the online resources on the FamilySearch website.

Military records

U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present by James C. Neagles (Ancestry): You probably have an ancestor who served in the colonial or US military in some capacity. This book tells you what records exist and how to access them.


Finding Your Ancestors’ Obituaries: The Complete Genealogy Guide to Obituaries by Kenneth R. Marks (self-published): The latest book from the creator of The Ancestor Hunt website shares how to find, use and analyze obituaries. It lists over 10,000 free online obituary databases and 50,000 historical newspaper titles for the United States and Canada. A book purchase includes access to a PDF version that has clickable links to the listed websites.

The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide: How to Find Your Ancestors in Archive Newspapers by James M. Beidler (Family Tree Books): This comprehensive book walks you through all the kinds of articles you can find in newspapers—obituaries, birth announcements, social columns and more—with step-by-step examples and tips for navigating top newspaper websites such as

State records

Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources, 3rd edition, by Alice Eichholz (Ancestry): This quick reference guides you to the most useful genealogical resources in all 50 states. It lists where to find societies; libraries and vital, church and land records in towns and counties across America.

State Census Records by Ann S. Lainhart (Genealogical Publishing Co.): State census records rank with federal censuses as a major genealogical resource, yet they’ve remained under-used by many researchers. This book details, state-by-state, which state censuses exist for you to research and how you can access them.


What’s in a Name? Everything You Wanted to Know, revised edition, by Leonard R.N. Ashley (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Onomastics — the study of names — is the focus of this book, but Ashley’s work isn’t limited to personal and surnames. He also discusses names of places and things, from businesses and pets to rocks and streets.

Vital records

International Vital Records Handbook, 7th edition, by Thomas Jay Kemp (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Divided into two parts, this reference contains forms and information on obtaining vital records for the United States and other countries. For countries without a vital-records registration system, you’ll find key addresses and a list of record repositories that can help.

Research techniques and problem-solving

The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, 2nd revised edition, by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (Ancestry): This guide is the standard by which all genealogists should pattern their work.

Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Genealogists gather a multitude of facts while researching ancestors, and it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of what date came from which source. Mills provides a reliable standard for both the correct form of source citation and the sound analysis of evidence.

Evidence Explained: History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd edition revised, by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Want to take your research to the next level? Make professional-quality source citations with Elizabeth Shown Mills’ tried-and-true manual. Researchers have used this detailed guide for decades. Inside, you’ll learn how to cite every genealogy source you can think of, from census records to family Bibles to CDs.

The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors, 3rd edition, by Marsha Hoffman Rising (Family Tree Books): Marsha Hoffman Rising’s bestselling book has the solutions for your brick walls. Here, you’ll find answers to genealogy’s toughest problems.

History for Genealogists: Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors by Judy Jacobson (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Using a vast array of historical time lines, this is the one history book all genealogists should own when they are searching for fresh clues or hoping to understand what made their ancestors tick.

Organize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith (Family Tree Books): Need help handling all your files and data? This book by organization specialist and Genealogy Guy podcaster Drew Smith will help you organize every facet of your genealogy life, from making good, productive habits to planning and managing complex projects. You’ll find practical tips for sorting paper files, naming digital documents, using software programs, and more. You can also put your new skills to use with the helpful forms at the end of many chapters.

Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills: Another pick from the renowned Elizabeth Shown Mills, this book outlines the standards for professional genealogy and provides benchmarks for advancing genealogy work into the professional realm. Meant for pros and hobbyists alike, this book is “for all those who dream of turning a fascinating hobby into a successful career.”

Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide by Diane Elder with Nicole Dyer (Family Locket Books): Mother-daughter duo Diana and Nicole—both credentialed genealogists—share their tips for treating your genealogy work with the discipline and expertise of a professional. This wide-ranging guide covers selecting sensible genealogy goals, styling source citations, creating research logs and more.

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th edition, by Val D. Greenwood (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Knowing how to use records properly for research is essential in genealogy. You can identify various classes of records and determine their accuracy.

The Sleuth Book for Genealogists by Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books): Become a genealogy detective with unique approaches and methods for solving research problems. Case studies and a documentation guide round out this helpful resource.

Sustainable Genealogy: Separating Fact from Fiction in Family Legends by Richard Hite (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Sustainable Genealogy explains how to avoid the traps many family historians can fall into—whether it’s a proud family legend, a venerable publication, or the claims of an internet family tree.

The Weekend Genealogist by Marcia Melnyk (Betterway Books): Useful time-management tips and suggestions, whether you have 10 minutes or the whole weekend to spend on your hobby.  

Helpful research references

A to Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists and Historians, 3rd edition by Barbara Jean Evans (Hearthside Press): This multidisciplinary tome defines thousands of old-fashioned words, including references to medical, geographical, foreign, historical, legal, relational, occupational, household, religious, colloquial, monetary and ethnic terms.

Abbreviations & Acronyms by Kip Sperry (Ancestry): The terminology and language associated with genealogy can intimidate beginners. With this handy reference, you can quickly look up abbreviations, acronyms and other puzzling terms.

Dozens of Cousins: Blue Genes, Horse Thieves, and Other Relative Surprises in Your Family Tree by Lois Horowitz (Ten Speed Press): Untangle those family tree branches and discover how everyone in your family is related.

The Genealogist’s Address Book, 6th edition, by Elizabeth Petty Bentley (Genealogical Publishing Co.): This comprehensive, 800-page list of genealogical and historical resources includes mailing addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, email addresses and websites.

Kinship: It’s All Relative, 2nd edition by Jackie Smith Arnold (Genealogical Publishing Co.): If you’ve ever wondered how people are related, this book will explain it in clear, practical terms.

A Medical Miscellany for Genealogists by Jeanette L. Jerger (Heritage Books): This quirky book explains antiquated medical terms and folk names.

Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Learn how to read and understand the handwriting found in genealogical documents.

Weights, Money and Other Measures Used by Our Ancestors by Colin R. Chapman (Genealogical Publishing Co.): So just how long is a pole, rod or perch? In genealogical research, we come across unfamiliar units of weights and measurements in wills, land records and other sources. This guide will help you interpret obsolete terms.

What Did They Mean by That? A Dictionary of Historical Terms for Genealogists by Paul Drake (Heritage Books): This dive into historical linguistics includes definitions and descriptions of more than 3,000 words.  

Case studies and memoirs

The Accidental Archivist by Angela Bier (Moonshine Cove): Questions abound when a DNA test indicates a stranger’s birth father is someone in Angie’s family tree—and a priest, no less. Angie is drawn into the mystery, which implicates her great-uncle Ed (a beloved monsignor) and the other seven priests in her family. Letters, photos and DNA testing help solve this gripping true-life detective story.

Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation by Maud Newton (Random House): Since she was a girl, Maud Newton has been fascinated by stories of her ancestors—a grandfather said to have married 13 times, a great-grandfather who killed a man with a hay hook, and an accused witch in Puritan-era Massachusetts. Maud’s quest to find “the truth about her complicated Southern family” will keep you hooked and it may inspire you to dig deeper into your own family history.

Buried Secrets: Looking for Frank and Ida by Anne Hanson (New England Books, LLC): For two decades, Anne Hanson’s research on her paternal grandparents’ secret past turns up no evidence that they ever existed. Finally, however, her careful analysis of letters, pictures, historical records and gravestones reveals her grandparents’ true identities and the secrets they took to their graves. Both a mystery and a genealogical instruction book, this account will inspire you to persevere even when your ancestral quest hits a brick wall.

Delving into My Bitterroots: How I Resurrected My Enslaved Ancestor, Granvill, and So Can You
by Donise Smith Lei (self-published): How do you research an ancestor who left a sparse paper trail? That’s the dilemma facing Donise Smith Lei in her attempt to learn more about her ancestor Granvill Smith, an enslaved African American born in about 1770 on a rice plantation in Georgia. Through a methodical process involving DNA testing and ingenious research tactics, Lei discovers Granvill Smith’s story. Drawing on her experience, she also shares step-by-step instructions to broaden your genealogical research beyond conventional boundaries.

Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings by Chrysta Bilton (Little, Brown and Co.): When Chrysta’s mother spots a handsome guy in a Beverly Hills hair salon, she figures he’d be a fine choice to father her children. Not one for convention, she ožffers to pay him for a sperm donation, and two daughters are born. Years later, shocking DNA test results reveal the girls have dozens of siblings fathered by “Donor 150.”

The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir by Bill Griffeth (New England Historic Genealogical Society): This bestselling memoir chronicles the author’s journey in discovering from a DNA test that he spent years researching the wrong family tree. In this book and its sequel, Griffeth shares what he learns about his newly found birth family.

Return to top

Immigrant and heritage research books


The Family Tree Guidebook to Europe by Allison Dolan and the Editors of Family Tree Magazine (Family Tree Books): This guide is designed to help genealogists trace their immigrant ancestors back to Europe, then give them the tools to uncover records The book is divided into chapters based on countries (Ireland, Poland, Italy, etc.) or regions (the Germanic Region, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, etc.) and contains brief histories of each country/region, plus historical timelines and tips for understanding geographic divisions and changes.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Immigrant & Ethnic Ancestors by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Betterway Books): Discover the migration patterns and traits of your immigrant ancestors. Carmack explains available published sources, computer databases and records, including an extensive chapter on naturalization, immigrant and ethnic records. Part two of the book outlines the history of various ethnic groups in America and provides resources for researching them.

They Became Americans: Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Ancestry): Nearly everyone has immigrant ancestors. Here is an accurate, readable and interesting guide to naturalization records and sources that will point to your immigrant ancestor’s origins in the Old Country.

They Came in Ships: A Guide to Finding Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Arrival Record, revised edition, by John Phillip Colletta (Ancestry): Finding your ancestor’s name on a ship’s passenger list can be a thrilling discovery. Use this guide to get the most out of available indexes and alternative resources

African American

Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity by Dee Parmer Woodtor (Random House): In this excellent guide to African American family history research, Woodtor teaches readers how to begin the step-by-step process of searching for your roots, including how to sidestep the roadblocks common to black genealogy research. She also shares case studies of other African American researchers and how they discovered their heritage.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors by Franklin Carter Smith and Emily Anne Croom (Betterway Books): This book offers a three-part approach to tracing your African American family history, covering records from both before and after the Civil War and sharing case studies of three African American families.

American Indian

DNA for Native American Genealogy by Roberta Estes (Genealogical Publishing Co.): The author of the DNAeXplained blog, Roberta Estes, brings a genetic approach to American Indian research. She explores how to use tools at the four major testing companies to identify American Indian ancestors.

Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal by Rachal Mills Lennon (Genealogical Publishing Co.): Do your ancestors have ties to one of the five civilized tribes — Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek or Seminole? If so, this book can provide you with a method for finding these relatives. Learn how American, English, French and Spanish government records can aid in your research.


The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide by James M. Beidler (Family Tree Books): Got Deutsch ancestors? This guide has you covered, with resources for identifying your German immigration ancestor, finding German records, understanding the German language and writing to German archives. And with brief guides to German geography, history, and administrative divisions, this book contains everything you’ll need to get started. A follow-up book by the same author, Trace Your German Roots Online, shares even more techniques for researching German ancestors online. And the same publisher has produced similar books for Irish, Italian and Polish, Czech and Slovak ancestors.

German-English Genealogical Dictionary by Ernest Thode (Genealogical Publishing Co.): This book is for the family researcher who has little or no knowledge of German, but who needs German-language documents translations. The dictionary covers thousands of German terms and defines them in single words or brief phrases.

In Search of Your German Roots: A Complete Guide to Tracing Your Ancestors in the Germanic Areas of Europe by Angus Baxter (Genealogical Publishing Co.): This book is designed to help you trace your German ancestry, not only in Germany but in all the German-speaking areas of Europe, from the Baltic to the Crimea, from the Czech Republic to Belgium.


The Family Tree Irish Genealogy Guide by Claire Santry (Family Tree Books): This in-depth guide will take you step-by-step through the exciting—and challenging—journey of discovering your Irish roots.

A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland, 2nd edition, by Brian Mitchell (Genealogical Publishing Co.): The author has drawn at least three maps for every Irish county: the first for the civil parishes; the second for baronies and dioceses of each county; and the third for poor law unions and the parishes included in the probate districts serving that county.

Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham (Genealogical Publishing Co.): The fifth edition of this definitive Irish genealogy guidebook is arguably the most useful book in Irish genealogy. Get step-by-step instructions on traditional genealogical records, civil records, land records wills, and a list of Roman Catholic parish records and source lists.


The Family Tree Italian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Family Tree in Italy by Melanie D. Holtz (Family Tree Books): This in-depth guide will walk you through the exciting journey of researching your Italian famiglia both here and in Italy.


Getting Started in Jewish Genealogy by Gary Mokotoff and Warren Blatt (Avotaynu): Discover techniques and resources you can use to make researching your Jewish ancestors easier. The book covers locating ancestral towns, Holocaust research and name changes.

Polish, Czech and Slovak

The Family Tree Polish, Czech And Slovak Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Family Tree in Eastern Europe by Lisa A. Alzo (Family Tree Books): Genealogy researchers with Czech or Slovak roots often battle certain brick walls—do surname issues, border changes and language troubles sound all too familiar to you? Lisa A. Alzo, a specialist in Eastern European genealogy, guides you through tools and tricks for tracking down those hard-to-find ancestors from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Czechoslovakia.


The Family Tree Scandinavian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark by David Fryxell (Family Tree Books): Trace your Swedish, Norwegian, or Danish ancestors! This convenient guide will help you discover your Northern European family history while optimizing your research time.

United Kingdom (English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland)

Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber (Genealogical Publishing Co.): The second edition of the book that has been called the Bible of British genealogy, Ancestral Trails enables the researcher to form a coherent picture of past generations by describing virtually every class of record in every repository and library in Britain.

A Beginner’s Guide to British Reference Works by Anne Wuehler (Heritage Quest): If you’re searching for ancestors of English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh descent, this book is a great resource. Beginners will learn how to start, what records to search and where to find information on British research.

A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors by Paul Milner and Linda Jonas (Betterway Books): Step-by-step instructions lead you through accessing civil registrations, census returns, parish registers and probate materials for your English ancestors. There’s even a guide for planning a research trip to England.

The Family Tree Scottish Genealogy Guide by Amanda Epperson (Family Tree Books): This book will help you uncover your Scottish heritage, from identifying your immigrant ancestor to tracking down records in the old country. Learn about church records, civil registrations, censuses, and more.

Scottish Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond by David Dobson (Genealogical Publishing Co.): This book is the culmination of over 50 years of historical and genealogical research by the author. It identifies the major sources and repositories for those just getting started on their research.

Welsh Family History: A Guide to Research by John Rowlands (Genealogical Publishing Co.): This handbook on Welsh genealogy deals primarily with those aspects of family history research that are unique to Wales. Originally published by the Association of Family History Societies of Wales, it is considered the best book ever written on Welsh genealogy.

Return top top

Preserving and celebrating family history

Family reunions

The Family Reunion Sourcebook by Edith Wagner (Lowell House): This book from the editor of Reunions magazine has guidelines for every stage of your get-together, including ideal locations, meal planning and group activities.

Fantastic Family Gatherings: Tried and True Ideas for Large and Small Family Reunions by Kathy Smith Anthenat (Heritage Books): Everything you need to know about planning and carrying out your family reunion is in this guide. It’s crammed with ideas for fundraising, decorations, mementos, family projects and recreational activities.


Caring for Your Family Treasures: Heritage Preservation by Jane S. Long and Richard W. Long (Abrams Publishers): Keep your treasured family memories safe for generations to come with the suggestions and information in this book. There’s advice for preserving heirlooms and antiques such as dolls, toys, military mementos, jewelry, ceramics and many other family artifacts.

Help! I’ve Inherited an Attic Full of History, volumes 1 and 2, by Althea Douglas (Ontario Genealogical Society). Wondering what to do with all your family treasures? Douglas provides practical solutions. The first volume covers “dating, evaluating and disposing of the accumulation of a lifetime”; the second deals with “archival conservation in the home environment.”

Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents by Katherine Scott Sturdevant (Betterway Books): The easy-to-follow guidelines and ideas for preserving your family papers in this new book will help you begin creating a documentary volume.


Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries, 3rd edition, by Maureen A. Taylor (Picture Perfect Press): This guide from photo expert (and longtime Family Tree contributor) Maureen A. Taylor shows you how to use clues, such as image type, clothing, accessories and hairstyles, to identify and date family photos. It also tells how to use the photographer’s imprint to determine where and when a photo was taken and how to compare facial features in multiple photos to confirm identities.

Preserving Your Family Photographs by Maureen A. Taylor (Betterway Books): Organize and display your precious family photographs so that friends and loved ones can enjoy them for years to come.

Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs by Maureen A. Taylor (Betterway Books): Unlock the hidden historical clues in your old family photos. Learn how to identify the people in your pictures, date images, locate additional photographs and document the information you’ve discovered.

Windows on the Past: Identifying, Dating, and Preserving Photographs by Diane VanSkiver Gagel (Heritage Books): Besides showing you how to care for your precious family photographs, this book helps you date photographs through the use of illustrative examples and by analyzing your ancestors’ clothing and the photographer’s props.

Writing and storytelling

Absolutely Family! A Guide to Editing and Publishing a Family Newsletter by Jeanne Rundquist Nelson (Family Times Publishing): A printed family newsletter is still a primary means to share information and family stories. Nelson offers a clear, easily followed guide with lots of ideas for starting and maintaining a family newsletter.

Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide, 3rd edition by Donald A. Ritchie (Oxford University Press): Conducting oral history interviews is one of the ongoing aspects of family history research. While Ritchie’s book takes a broader look at oral history — from family interviews to community-history interviews — his sage advice and professional techniques will benefit genealogists. Written in a friendly question-and-answer format, this book gives advice for preparing, setting up, and conducting an interview; using audio and video recorders; publishing and preserving oral histories; teaching interview techniques to students; and presenting oral histories electronically.

Family Focused: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History by Janice T. Dixon (Mount Olympus Publishing): If you’re looking for incentive to turn a jumble of notes and facts into an interesting family history narrative, look no further. Dixon takes you step by step through the writing process with warm and inviting instruction.

Keeping Family Stories Alive: Discovering and Recording the Stories and Reflections of a Lifetime, 2nd edition, by Vera Rosenbluth (Hartley and Marks): Everyone has family stories, but not everyone takes the time to keep them alive. Rosenbluth shows you how and covers all aspects of life story preservation, from video and audio taping to using oral history in the classroom.

Living Legacies: How to Write, Illustrate and Share Your Life Stories by Duane Elgin and Coleen LeDrew (Conari Press): Determining which experiences to include in your life story isn’t always easy. This book shows you how to create your life story by taking a structured approach that allows you to craft a personal work that family members will enjoy for generations.

One Memory at a Time: Inspiration and Advice for Writing Your Family Story by D.G. Fulford (Doubleday). “When you give your stories, you are giving yourself,” says Fulford. In this succinct guide—also perfect for gift-giving—you’ll find plenty of warm inspiration and solid ideas for getting your family history stories on paper.

Producing a Quality Family History by Patricia Law Hatcher (Ancestry): In print since 1996, this is a classic guide for writing and publishing a family history. This guide will show you how to fully document facts and relationships, how to seek information beyond the basic genealogical records, and how to include illustrations and photographs in your family history publication.

Story of My Life: A Workbook: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy by Sunny Jane Morton (Family Tree Books): Follow the clear prompts in this book—which range from earliest memories to your adulthood—to leave a lasting story for future generations.

Tell Me Your Life Story, Mom (Questions About Me): This journal provides more than 200 thought-provoking prompts, including 126 detailed questions and 75 short ones, to help your mother record her memories, experiences and wisdom. Other editions for your father and grandparents also make nice gifts.

What’s a Photo Without the Story?: How to Create a Family Legacy by Hazel Thornton (self-published): So, you’ve gathered lots of family records and photos, but how do you get your relatives engaged in family history when they don’t share your passion for genealogy? This book provides ideas for identifying mystery photos, investigating family legends and turning your boxes of family pictures and memorabilia into stories your family will appreciate.

Writing Family Histories and Memoirs by Kirk Polking (Betterway Books): A family history is a valuable treasure you can leave your family. Simplify the writing process with strategies that help you define your approach, get started, choose topics, select a style and develop a schedule.

Return to top

Portions of the article were originally published in issues of Family Tree Magazine, with contributions from Rick Crume, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, Crystal Conde and more. Last updated, December 2023. is a participant in the Genealogical Publishing Co. Affiliate and Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for site to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to affiliated websites.

Nothing beats a good, solid genealogy research book! Here are the genealogy books that readers found most helpful in their family history search.
Here are several book apps help you set up a database that lets you organize, sort and search your genealogy book collection.
Genealogy is a great way to get kids excited about history. Here are genealogy and family history books for kids (and some for their grownups, too.)