To do any job well, you need the proper tools. The same goes for genealogical research. And even more so when you are sharing your information. Properly writing your genealogy (whether you publish it in print or electronically) is critically important. Not only do you want your readers to have faith in your research, you want them to clearly understand what you are saying so that your research is not misinterpreted.
Below are what I consider to be five essential resources for writing your family history. They are on my most-accessed shelf of books. They are presented in alphabetical order.
The Chicago Manual of Style
University of Chicago Press
Now in its sixteenth edition, CMS is the Bible for writers and editors. It is the ultimate reference work. It will help you with the mechanics of writing: grammar and style. It will also show you what thing to include in a printed work. The print version is available on Amazon.com for $35.97. There is also an online version for $35.00/year.
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace
Elizabeth Shown Mills
The second edition of this seminal work is an encyclopedia of sources. The materials we use for genealogical research often do not fit into standard manuals like CMS. EE picks up where CMS leaves off. The examples in EE are intended as a guideline for your personal research, and can be easily modified to fit our specific needs. Evidence Explained is available from the Genealogical Publishing Company for $59.95.
Genealogical Writing in the 21st Century: A Guide to Register Style and More
Michael J. Leclerc and Henry B. Hoff, editors
I worked on this book while on the publications staff at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The seven chapters cover writing for print as well as electronic vehicles. There is also a section on how to write your family history using Microsoft Word. There are also helpful appendixes with commonly used symbols and abbreviations in the field. It is available from NEHGS for $11.95.
Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin
Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor
Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray, authors
Revised in 2008, this is an excellent explanation of the basic systems for both ascending and descending genealogies. In addition, there is a discussion of complex families, such as step relationships and adoptions. The issues surrounding relatives who did not immigrate are also discussed. It is available from the National Genealogical Society in print for $17 ($14 for NGS members) and as a PDF download for $10 ($7 for NGS members).
Producing a Quality Family History
Patricia Law Hatcher
Hatcher’s credentials for authoring this book are impressive. She is the author or editor of dozens of compiled genealogies. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, and the former editor of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record and the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine. Although much of the technical aspects have changed since the book was first published in 1996, the basics of writing and producing materials are the same. Her sage advice is incredible valuable, even when writing in a digital environment. It is available from Amazon.com for $11.97.