Book Review: The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy
4th Edition. By Val D. Greenwood. Genealogical Publishing Co. 2017. 778 pages.

It’s nice to see this well-worn genealogical classic refreshed and reprinted. It’s held its worth and value nicely, and this most recent volume has been updated with pertinent information for researching today’s resources. The 3rd edition came out in 2000, so this 2017 edition encompasses significant updates.

The most obvious difference is the abundance of URLs throughout the book. Wherever there’s an opportunity for a researcher to go online and learn more about a topic, Mr. Greenwood includes the link. In rewriting his book, he regrets the opportunities for inaccuracies due to rapid changes of links and website addresses, a testament to his desire to write the most up-to-date volume possible. This from the man, who, in 1972, used an IBM Executive typewriter to type 535 pages, including all the charts, tables, and illustration, twice, to prepare camera-ready copy.

Each chapter and topic is full of detail. More detail than I thought I would have needed. The calendar/date change section, about 4 pages long, is the best explanation I’ve read about that Julian to Gregorian thing. All topics are presented from the viewpoint of “Now think about this, be careful, here are the pros and cons of this particular record, so think hard about what’s it is telling you, or not telling you.”

There are two new chapters about technology and family history, not a surprise.

Mr. Greenwood includes a lot of glossaries; a lot of definitions of words pertaining to the topic in that particular chapter. When glossaries are at the end of the book, I get distracted flipping back and forth. Having these definitions in the same chapter is exactly where I need them.

This is just a super-great reference book. Definitely a must-have for the beginner group, and always useful for the advanced group. Mr. Greenwood does not publish often, but when he does, it’s a landmark edition.

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy is available from the publisher at and from Amazon at

One Comment

Fully agree, Val Greenwood’s 2nd edition was purchased for the Library History room where I worked and now that I’m retired no doubt will be welcome there in the 3rd ed. by the woman in charge now. Can’t wait to see it!


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