Selecting Textbooks for Classroom Use
|This article originally appeared in Printed Sources: A Guide to Published Genealogical Records, edited by Kory L. Meyerink.|
The selection of textbooks in many ways relies upon the guidelines already discussed. The book must be pleasing to read, substantive, and current.
A textbook should also present a logically arranged balance of methodology and sources. The total research process should be a central theme throughout the book, with no single factor (note-keeping, location of records, etc.) dominating the text.
The book’s availability and cost, along with the skill level of the intended users, should also be considered. Availability of a proposed text is often a crucial factor. If class is conducted in an area with limited access to certain texts, choices are obviously limited.
Price must be weighed, particularly if students are on fixed or limited incomes. Instructors should also consider the commitment of the students in general. For a five-week course, an inexpensive text may be more practical than a high-priced one; a semester’s course might justify students’ investing in a more expensive publication.
The skill level of students is a critical factor. Beginning genealogy classes may not benefit from textbooks used in advanced classes. Indeed, a comprehensive compendium such as The Source may overwhelm beginning students. One means of selecting appropriate textbooks may be to evaluate the texts selected by faculty at national institutes or other recognized programs of study.
The Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, has been held annually for three decades. The institute, co-sponsored by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, offers five course levels and areas of coursework in U.S. genealogy. The following works were selected as texts in the 1994 sessions on U.S. research: Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy for course I, Fundamentals of Genealogy and Historical Research; The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy for course II, Intermediate Studies in Genealogy and Historical Research; and the American Society of Genealogists’ Genealogical Research: Methods and Sources, vol. 1 for course III, Southern Colonies and States: Pennsylvania through Florida. (Course IV, Advanced Genealogy: Methodology and Research Techniques, and course V, Professional Genealogy, did not use textbooks in 1994.)
Students who subscribe to the home-study course of the National Genealogical Society, American Genealogy: A Basic Course, are assigned readings from The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. Other popular texts include Emily Croom’s Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy, Wright’s Preserving Your American Heritage, Wilbur Helmbold’s Tracing Your Ancestry: A Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Your Family History, and both The Source and Johni Cerny and Arlene Eakle’s Ancestry’s Guide to Research: Case Studies in American Genealogy.