Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th Edition, Expanded, Updated And Revised

Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th Edition, Expanded, Updated And Revised

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Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th Edition, Expanded, Updated and Revised; by Emily Anne Croom; 8.5 x 11; 278 PP; Published: 2001, Reprinted: 2010; Paper, ISBN: 9780806318547; Item # GPC1222.

How many of your great-grandparents can you name?

If you begin your family history research with this question, you can start getting answers today with this bestselling book by Emily Croom.

In her acclaimed guide to family history research, Emily Croom provides all the tools you need to begin your family research. From a step-by-step discussion of the records used in genealogical research to the investigation of family legends, this book shines a light on all facets of family history research.

Throughout the book you’ll find:

  • Strategies for success
  • Tips for getting the most from names, dates, and family traditions
  • Suggestions for using vital records of births, marriages, and deaths
  • Keys to census records, and all state and federal records
  • Tools for using county courthouse records, including wills, deeds, and court records
  • Discussions of church, cemetery, and newspaper sources
  • Illustrations, charts, sidebars, and study lists for further reference
  • Blank forms, including a five-generation chart, family group sheets, and census forms covering the years 1790 to 1930

Besides gathering names and dates, family history researchers want to learn how their ancestors lived and how they fit into the world around them. Therefore, focusing on the family as a primary source of information, the book provides suggestions for interviewing relatives and explains how to interpret and understand oral records, keepsakes, and family papers. It also introduces you to research methods and to the entire mass of public records used in identifying your ancestors.

Unpuzzling Your Past. is great for both individual and classroom use. It is intended for beginning genealogists with little or no prior research or family history experience and thus addresses the needs and potential questions of those beginners. For this updated and revised 4th edition, Croom has expanded the information on public records, added useful Internet addresses, and included a chapter-length case study of a search to identify female ancestors.

Expanded Table of Contents


1 In the Beginning

  • Can You Name Your Great-Grandparents?
  • Ancestors and Generations
  • Why the Jigsaw Puzzle?
  • Organize Early and Often
  • Choose a Focus Ancestor
  • Taking Notes
  • Computers?
  • Things to Do Now

2 Charting Your Course

  • Five-Generation Chart
  • Family Group Sheet
  • Chronological Profile
  • Things to Do Now

3 Strategies for Winning in Genealogy

  • 1. Be Systematic
  • 2. Be Resourceful
  • 3. Be Thorough
  • 4. Be a Cluster Genealogist
  • 5. Be Considerate
  • 6. Be a Cautious Detective
  • 7. Be Passionate About Accuracy
  • 8. Be Smart: Document Your Facts
  • Things to Do Now

4 What’s in a Name?

  • Spelling Variations
  • Anglicized, Translated, and Changed Names
  • Clues in Names
  • Nicknames and Abbreviations
  • Fads and Eras
  • Cautions for Genealogists
  • Things to Do Now

5 Begin Solving the Puzzle With Interviews

  • At Any Beginning
  • Interviewing for Vital Information
  • Conducting and Taping an Interview
  • Things to Do Now

6 Hand-Me-Downs: Family Traditions

  • Oral Tradition in Family History
  • Customs As Traditions
  • Things to Do Now

7 Life History: Beginning to End

  • Collecting Family Stories
  • Interview Questions: Childhood
  • Interview Questions: Teen Years
  • Interview Questions: Adulthood
  • What Were They Like
  • Family Medical History
  • Things to Do Now

8 History as the Family Lived It

  • Family Life in Any Generation After 1900
  • 1920s
  • The Great Depression and the 1930s
  • World War II and the 1940s
  • 1950s and 1960s
  • 1970s and After
  • Things to Do Now

9 Family Sources and Beyond

  • Checklist of Family Sources
  • “Spice” From Family Sources
  • Choosing a Research Focus and Making a Plan
  • Things to Do Now

10 Beyond the Family: Federal Census Records

  • Understanding the Census
  • Reading Census Records Effectively
  • Supplemental Schedules
  • Soundex
  • Challenges of Census Reading
  • Census Check Form
  • Things to Do Now

11 Beyond the Family: County and State Sources

  • County Courthouses
  • Marriage Records
  • Wills and Probate Records
  • Deeds and Property Records
  • Other Courthouse Records
  • Checklist of State Sources
  • Things to Do Now

12 Beyond the Family: Local Sources

  • Cemeteries
  • Newspapers
  • Local Schools and Colleges
  • Local Churches and Religious Organizations
  • Local Historians and Elders of the Community
  • Local Libraries
  • Other Local Sources
  • Checklist of Local Sources
  • Research Tips
  • Interlibrary Loan
  • Things to do Now

13 Beyond the Family: Additional Federal Sources

  • The National Archives
  • Military Records
  • Federal Land Records
  • Immigration and Naturalization Records
  • Native American Records
  • African-American Research
  • Other Federal Sources
  • Things to Do Now

14 Where Do I Look for That?

  • Birth, Death, and Age Information
  • Marriage Date and/or Place
  • Names of Family Members
  • Mother's Maiden Name
  • Ancestors on the Move
  • Occupation
  • Political Affiliation
  • Housing or Living Conditions
  • Country of Origin
  • Things to Do Now

15 What's in a Date?

  • Writing Dates
  • Reading Dates
  • Old Style and New Style Dates
  • What Day of the Week?
  • Using Dates
  • Things to Do Now

16 Read It Right: Handwriting of the Past

  • Quirks in Style
  • Deciphering Transcribing
  • The Older Style
  • Numbers
  • Marks
  • In Documents
  • Things to Do Now

17 Fitting the Pieces Together: A Case Study

  • The First Generation: Ella Lee
  • The Second Generation: Cordelia
  • Challenge: Cordelia's Birth Date and Birthplace
  • Endnotes
  • Things to Do Now

18 Sharing Your Family History

  • Writing a Family History
  • Family History Collection
  • Things to Do Now

Appendix A: Glossary and Relationship Chart

Appendix B: National Archive and Regional Branches

Appendix C: Federal Census, 1790–1930

  • Which Census Reports...?
  • First Federal Census Available for Each State

Appendix D: Blank Forms

  • Five-Generation Chart
  • Alphabetical Ancestors
  • Family Group Sheet
  • Census Check Form
  • Map
  • Census Forms 1790–1930


  • Bibliographies in the Text
  • Cited or Selected Works for Further Reference


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