Review: The Best Genealogical Sources in Print by G. B. Roberts

Gary Boyd Roberts has updated his survey of some of the best genealogical source material published in book and database form. This volume, previously published under the same title in 2004, updates a number of chapters and adds more material to the mix.

The early chapters review progress made in publishing materials since the 1960s. The middle chapters cover introductions to various significant books and series of print and digital materials. The later chapters discuss some of Mr. Roberts’ own work, the Mowbray descendants. The scope of The Best Genealogical Sources in Print is not limited to New England. It covers the entire eastern seaboard, the launching pad, so to speak, of most North American families that have been recorded in significant source materials. Published and unpublished family histories and genealogies are discussed as well as primary source materials such as federal, state, and local resources. Online and Internet-based resources are also considered, as they are the direction most modern genealogical data publishers are taking.

While printed materials are considered secondary, or derivative, sources in modern terms, they are increasingly valuable as more writers and compilers improve their source statement practices. Among the significant materials discussed are those based on the Jacobus school’s practice. Donald Lines Jacobus, a 20th century genealogist, began a rigorous practice that has developed into standards for genealogists of his, and future generations, that improves the accuracy of the materials published. Mr. Roberts reviews many of the more comprehensive materials in this book.

The Best Genealogical Sources in Print is a resource for beginners and experienced genealogists along the lines of New Englanders in the 1600s, by Martin E. Hollick, and The Great Migration series by Robert Charles Anderson. Mr. Roberts covers source materials rather than people, but the concept is the same as we use both people and printed materials as sources.

By studying Mr. Roberts’ discussions, the materials themselves, and examining the level of detail those materials contain, you can judge for yourself whether the source you use is of the higher quality. While not all good or great sources are covered in The Best Genealogical Sources in Print, the sources you use should reflect the standards of quality discussed by Mr. Roberts. I’ve found a few potential resources here that I hadn’t considered over the past fifteen-odd years that might improve my own work.

Roberts, Gary Boyd, ed. The Best Genealogical Sources in Print. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012.


© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research