I get lots of questions about what books I recommend for family history researchers. This is my list in no particular order. A good home library is absolutely necessary for continued success in family research, and this can serve as a core selection for your own.

Feel free to buy used books when possible; I do that all the time.

In addition to some of these, you’ll want to have state-specific, county-specific and ethnicity-or-country specific books. I have included my favorite books for researching African American families.

Remember that the skills and strategies needed for researching all families are the same. What differs is what is unique to certain groups of people, such as slavery for most African-Americans, 20th century immigration for those with Caribbean roots, or the Holocaust for those of Jewish descent. This is why genealogists have specialties.

These books will help you develop the skills you need, regardless of your area of research.

(Full disclosure: these are all Amazon Affiliate links which means I earn a small commission if you purchase from this page! It helps pay for my website.)

Courthouse Research for Family Historians, 2nd edition, by Christine Rose

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th edition, by Val D. Greenwood

The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, 3rd edition, edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs

Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 4th edition, by Christine Rose


Genealogy Standards,
2nd edition, by the Board for Certification of Genealogists


A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African American Ancestors,
 by Emily A. Croom and Franklin Carter Smith (Excellent case studies!)

Finding and Using African American Newspapers, by Timothy G. Pinnick

Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree,
 by Tony Burroughs


Finding A Place Called Home: A Guide to African American Genealogy,
 by Dee Parmer Woodtor

Estate Inventories: How to Use Them, by Kenneth L. Smith


The Family Tree Problem Solver, 3rd edition, by Marsha Hoffman Rising

A To Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists and Historians, 3rd edition, by Barbara Jean Evans


Evidence Explained: Citing Historical Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd edition revised, by Elizabeth Shown Mills


Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records, by Patricia Law Hatcher


Walking With Your Ancestors: A Genealogist’s Guide to Using Maps and Geography, by Melinda Kashuba


The Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, 2nd edition, by Blaine T. Bettinger


The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide, by James E. Beidler


The Sleuth Book for Genealogists: Strategies for More Successful Research, by Emily Croom

And lastly, the book which inspired me the most at the very beginning of my research. This is not a reference book, but an exquisitely written book about a one woman’s journey into her own roots. I read this book in one night and I still read it at least once every year:

Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage, by Dorothy Spruill Redford

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