Times Leader Arts & Entertainment

Books aid genealogists in search

October 18, 1998

It's true that we live in the computer age, but books can still be the genealogist's best friend.

Library and historical society research rooms will offer you a lot of good books. Keep an eye on your favorite bookstore as well.

But as you get deeper into genealogy you will find that you need increasingly specialized research works -- such as listings of the holdings of national and state archives -- that might not be readily available in libraries and stores.

The best way to find out what is being published is to get on the mailing lists for book sellers that deal primarily in works for historians and genealogists. If you write to them (addresses below), they will send you their latest catalogues. When you buy some books from them, they will keep you on their mailing lists. Of course you can order many of them through your bookstore.

Some good companies are Frontier Press, Heritage Books and Hearthstone Bookshop.

Each of these books-by-mail companies offers a book list containing hundreds of volumes, with new books being constantly added.

Prices vary. You could pay more than $125 for a multi-volume reprint of an 1850s set of books listing church members, public officials and property owners in New Plymouth, Mass., in the 17th century.

Then again, you could pay $3.50 for the very useful "Social Security Applications: A Genealogical Resource." This 18-page booklet tells you just about everything you could need to know about tracing an ancestor through Social Security's records. It includes a history of the program, the significance of the first three numbers and an explanation of the forms you must use.

Did your ancestor serve in the U.S. armed forces? If so, "Military Service Records," published by the National Archives, will tell you everything the archives has on microfilm so that you can order it through your local library.

Researching ancestors who lived in another state? There are books that will guide you through the intricacies of every state's historical and genealogical research materials. I've gotten good use out of "New York Genealogical Research," by George K. Schweitzer, which gives a county-by-county listing of nearly everything available.

Looking abroad? Many books are designed to help you get a foothold in foreign research. I like "Tracing Your Irish Ancestors," by John Grenham. It outlines all available types of research materials in Ireland, such as civil, church and land records and includes county maps, showing all the church parishes of the 19th century.

There are books to help you with computerized genealogy ("Netting Your Ancestors," by Cyndi Howells) and even a list of newspaper genealogy columns throughout the United States "Newspaper Genealogical Column Directory," by Anita Cheek Milner).

Here are the addresses:

  • Heritage Books:

    - 1540-E Pointer Ridge Place, Bowie, Md. 20716

    - tel: 1-800-398-7709

    - fax: 1-800-276-1760

    - email: heritagebooks@pipeline.com

    - web: www.heritagebooks.com

  • Hearthstone Bookshop:

    - 5735-A Telegraph Road, Alexandria, Va. 22303

    - tel: 1-888-960-3300

    - fax: 703-960-0087

    - email: info@hearthstonebooks.com

    - web: www.hearthstonebooks.com

    By the way, don't overlook any book source, no matter how humble it seems. Ever notice the "Consumer Information Catalog," that little paper booklet available in libraries and other public places? It lists many useful booklets of all kinds available for no cost or little cost from the U.S. government. Occasionally one of them is a true genealogical find.

    One of my favorites, which I found in the catalogue a few years ago, is "Where to Write for Vital Records," a publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This 30-page book tells where to write for birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates in each of the 50 states and gives the cost of each.

    What's just as important, it describes the peculiarities of each state's vital records. Pennsylvania, for instance, did not mandate and collect many records until January 1906. So if you are researching an event before that date, you know you must rely upon other sources of information, such as county or city records. County office systems are briefly explained, and addresses for the larger cities are fully listed.

    Phone numbers are given so that the researcher can obtain up-to-date information on fees from the various states.

    Please note, however, that not all the available federal booklets -- genealogy or otherwise -- are listed in each catalogue. Keep your eyes open for each new catalogue as it comes out.

    Searching: A Youngstown, Ohio, resident is looking for information on the STEELE and related families of Wyoming Valley.

    Lois Steele Scarazzo is interested in Peters and Jean Bell Steel, who were residents of the Hanover Township area in 1790. She is trying to find out what happened to children Hannah (child of first wife Hannah NORMAND) m. James LASLEY; David; Jacob m. Lydia HARRISON; Andrew m. Susan RABERT; Mary m. Cyrus FELLOWS; and Elizabeth m. Truman TRESCOTT.

    Other children, about whom she has some information but would like more, are Joseph m. Sarah RANSOME; Margaret m. Amos FRANKLIN; John m. Elizabeth FELLOWS; Peter Jr. m. Charity LAMOREAUX.

    Contact Lois Steele Scarazzo at 4935 Hopkins Road, Youngstown, Ohio 44511.

    News Notes:

  • Want to know more about using wills to further your genealogical pursuit? You'll have the chance Tuesday when the Northeastern Pennsylvania Genealogical Society meets. Luzerne County Register of Wills Dottie Stankovic is scheduled to speak.

    Meetings are at 7 p.m. at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Plains Township.

  • I recently spoke at the "Women Together" all-day conference, a project of the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance, in Hazleton. My topic was "Getting Started in Genealogy."

    The organizers of the conference are to be commended for their success in operating such a large-scale event so smoothly. From providing quick information for the scores of people attending the numerous seminars to delegating someone to introduce each speaker, the program was first-class all the way.

  • Have you solved some tough genealogical problems in your research? Do you have some tips you'd like to share with others? Would you like to report a success story? Drop me a line here at the paper. I'll get in touch with you and help you bring the benefits of your experience to others.

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