Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Virginia Genealogical Research

As you will recall from my post about the Georgia Family History Expo, I purchased three books for my genealogy library. Today, I want to talk about Virginia Genealogical Research. The book is written by George K. Schweitzer, PhD, ScD.

Even though there are 223 pages (the last few being information on the author's other books and products), the book is broken up into only four chapters. These are background, types of records, record locations and county listings. If you're looking for something in particular, the best thing to do is go to the table of contents in the front of the book, which lists all the sections in each chapter.

Background covers the history of the state. While each time period in the state's growth and development is covered, it's not a big chapter. There is a section of the chapter that suggests books for further information.

Types of records is, as its name implies, a listing of the various types of records available for Virginia. For each type of record, a handful of sources are given. These include websites, books, magazines and CD-roms. One nice feature about many of the websites listed is that it includes the steps you need to go through to get to the particular record group. Since websites do sometimes move stuff around, breaking links in the process, this could be helpful. Of course, if the steps to get to a particular collection have changed, it renders the instructions in the book useless.

The chapter on record locations gives a breakdown of the main repositories for Virginia genealogy information, including the Library of Virginia, Virginia Historical Society and more. It gives a basic overview of the repository at the time the book was wrote and some tips on researching there. This chapter also has a small list of internet sites that may be helpful in research, which include subscription and other sites.

The final chapter gives a breakdown of available information for each county. While not extensive, it's a good starting point to see what records are available for the county. The book does note record losses due to the Civil War or fires. County listings do include local libraries and societies. If the county listings have you confused, flip back to the beginning of the chapter to see what the abbreviations mean. For instance, CH means that record is available at the courthouse.

The main flaw I see with the book is that it gives short shrift to the parts that were originally in Virginia and are now in other states. Of the entire book, I found only a single sentence that mentioned this and the specific counties were not named. Someone researching a family in census records and not being aware that the county is now in a different state may wonder why the county is not included in the book even though it was in Virginia at one point in time.

For my paternal line, which was from the part of Virginia that is now West Virginia, the last chapter isn't very useful. I do have some maternal ancestors from the eastern portion of Virginia (which is still in the state) so the book will be helpful for them.

As far as the book as a whole, it offers a lot of information for its size. However, I wouldn't consider it my primary reference for Virginia research. In fact, I will probably be seeking out another book or two to supplement the areas it glossed over.

I do want to point out that it appears there is more than one version of this book. There is a version published in 1983 and the updated version that I bought, which was published in 2005 based on the copyright. If you do plan to purchase Virginia Genealogical Research, I would suggest the updated version. From the review I found on the 1983 version, it does not include internet resources while the updated version does.

Note: I have no affiliation with the author or publisher of this book, nor was I asked to review it. I bought it myself and wanted to share my thoughts on it. If you would like to purchase a copy of the book yourself, the 1983 version is available on Amazon and the current version is available from the author or Family Roots Publishing.

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