I try to stock books that a genealogist will find helpful in their research, either containing
information on their ancestor or information on the locality where the ancestor lived. Often
a genealogist will over look a book because they do not know what type of material is included
in the book. The purpose of this section is to highlight some of the books I have had to
describe to my customers over the years. The dates in the following descriptions will be used to
provide a general guideline and are not meant to be inclusive.
View Books also may be called souvenir books. Of the books
I stock, these are my favorite. They were published around 1890-1910 and are usually small
with paper covers. They consist of photos of old houses and important buildings of the town.
They seem to average about 30-50 pages per book with very little text. If you like "old houses"
these photos will show them when they were young. I have seen a few that also have photos of
the leading citizens of the town.
Sample page from Adrian The Home City of all of Michigan, 1907 (gif file = 450 kb)
Promotional Books are still being done by county and city
economic development boards around the country. The purpose of the booklets are to sing
the praises of the community and to attract new business or residents. The ones I have
carried have been small wraps from 50-100 pp and dated from 1870-1900. They listed all
the reasons to move to the community, such as climate, no flies or wonderful water supply.
They also gave a description of all the current businesses in the locality.
Directory of Farmers and Breeders these are like city directories
for the country folk but better. The two main publishers I have encountered are Prairie Farmer
Pub and Farmers Review Pub. Most of them were published around 1920 and cover a single
county with a few covering multiple counties. I have seen them for WI, MI, IN, IL, OH and NY.
They contain ads, list of automobile owners of the county and the type of car they own, list
of breeders and the type of breed they own and the directory of farmers. The directory contains:
farmers name, full name of spouse including her maiden name, name of children, how many acres
he farms, if he owns or rents the land and the year he moved to the county. Often this is the
year the farmer was born.
Sample page (1/2) from Prairie Farmer's Directory of Shelby County Illinois, Prairie Farmer Pub. Company, 1918 (gif file = 146 kb)
Honor Roll Books were published after a war listing the war
effort for a particular county. I have seen them for the Spanish-American War, World War I and World
War II. The most common ones are for World War I. The majority of the book will consist of
photos of the men and women who served in the war. There will be also sections of the county war effort.
The layout is similar to high school yearbooks.
Besides the photo there will be a little biographical information such as date of birth and parents name.
Also there will be a description of the person's war record, where they were stationed and any
action they saw. If the person was unfortunate not to return home alive the photos are a little
larger with more information on his background.
Sample page (1/3) from Shelby County in the World War, 1919 (gif file = 170 kb)
County Plat Books or Atlases are still being published. One
item they all have in common is that they will show maps of the townships of the county with all property parcels
outlined and marked with the owner's name. The books from the 1860's to the 1920's were folio
size with hard covers. The content would vary depending on publisher and year of publication.
The early ones might contain engravings of citizens of the county and some of the homes and farms of the
county. From the 1890's on instead of engravings there might be photos. The books also may
contain a patrons directory which listed some of the residents on the county and how long they
had resided in the county. The latter ones also listed ads of local businesses. I have seen a few that also contained a brief
county history and bios of residents. In addition to maps of the townships most of them contain
a map of the state, county, and towns of the county. In the 1920's new publishers started to
change the format to 8x12" with paper covers. This format is still in use today. They will contain
ads and plat maps showing property owners. In general the ones from the 60's to the present
may be indexed.
Sample page from Ownership Map and Buyer' Guide of Ogle
County Illinois, no date, ca 1920 (gif file = 215 kb)
A Church History or history for a denomination often
contains some genealogical material. The church histories vary in scope from a brief history with current
photos of the church and members to an exhaustive review of the church history with biographical
sketches of all the clergy. The books which report on a single denomination, such as The
Baptists in Southern Illinois often contain genealogical information. In addition to bios of the clergy
there may also be bio of some laypeople and a brief history of each of the church with a list of
its early members.
Yearbook of some patriotic society, for example Sons of the
Revolution, will often contain a list of members and their line of descent from their ancestor
that was used to gain membership. Also there might be a section on the ancestor with a bio and
a service record.
Proceedings of a fraternal organization or church groups
often contain many hidden names. They often will contain minutes of the meetings with names of
people who made and second motions, a membership list by region and expenditures listing who received the
money. Some times this is members who are receiving reimbursement for monies spent.
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