Since 1947 professional and amateur genealogists have relied upon The Handy Book for Genealogists
(10th ed., Everton, 2002) to tell which local records exist and how to access them. It has been revised and updated through 10 editions. Now a team from Family Tree has produced a new, similar source that it feels is more affordable and easier to use, and it corrects previous discrepancies even within the county and municipal sources' own information about what is available.
The introduction includes very basic information, such as the difference between microfilm and microfiche, a sample letter and guidelines for requesting information by mail, suggestions for preparing to visit an archive, and an admonition to preserve and protect the material that is consulted.
Arranged alphabetically by state, the chapters provide the expected information: maps showing current counties; historical overviews, including critical dates; information about special repositories; bibliographies of published sources; and listings for county, parish and town-hall contacts. Each listing provides the date of establishment, address, phone number, Web site, parent county, and types of records kept and dates begun. Also included for each state are unique aspects of available records (for example, Florida's Spanish Land Grants, Georgia's Civil War salt allotments, and Utah's midwives' records) and tips, such as the existence of independent cities and townships whose records might not be in county-based sources.
Libraries owning The Handy Book for Genealogists will want to keep it. Its bibliographies are more extensive, information is more precise in some areas, color maps and flags (of the 19 foreign countries included) are more attractive, the hard binding is more durable--and it is a classic in its field. But librarians will want to add this new tool to their collections. The information is more current, the research tips are quite pragmatic, the format for the local records sources is easier on the eyes, and the reasonable price makes it easy to justify the overlapping information. Sally Jane
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About the Author
Sharon DeBartolo Carmack is a Certified Genealogist, the executive editor of Family Tree Books, a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine, and the author of more than a dozen books.