Published Family Histories

Author: Mark W. Swarthout
Published on: August 24, 2001

Always an interesting find, are the family histories that have been put together and printed. Usually this has been done by a family member for sale to other individuals within the family. And deep in all our hearts, this is what all genealogists are aspiring to accomplish, a solid legacy of the family history with our name on it! And we are always eager to find what those before us have collected, both to bolster our collection and to save us (we hope!) hours of research that someone else has already accomplished.

Caution! There are numerous organizations that will contact you about buying a family history, bound and serial numbered. Many of these consist of a standard series of articles on how to do your genealogy, the mention of a couple of famous individuals with the same name, blank genealogy forms for you to fill out, and pages of names and addresses gleaned out of the phonebooks and internet. The majority of them are not worth the cost of shipping and handling, let alone the paper! Please, check carefully with others through the many online family forums or newsgroups prior to buying any of these items. (There's a topic for another day!)

There are a number of pay for use genealogical web sites that have made some of these publications available on the web. This can be a big help! After months of trying to read a microcard (Yes, microcard, a glossy photograph the size of a microfiche that you read in something similar to a microfiche reader. But it is much harder on the eyes due to the large amount of white light that it glares directly into your face!) of the Swartwout Chronicles, I was pretty happy to discover that it was available online for a small subscription price at I now have my own copy on CD-ROM that a cousin put together that includes all of the pictures, maps and engravings. What a wonderful tool and reference!

Another warning is that just because something is in print, doesn't always make it so! Stories, as well as relationships, can be missing, or even worse, totally wrong. Even the Swartwout Chronicles are missing many individuals, much to the chagrin of myself and other related branches! There have even been fraudulently created reports that have been published.

The real question is, how do you find these treasure troves of family history? Since they are often privately published, they are not always found in book lists. But, book sales and auctions are always a place to start! Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have used and out of print sections that can dig up an occassional book. Family members may also be able to tell you about a volume that they are aware of. And check the card catalogs of important libraries. For a start go to the home page of the Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library. You can use their online catalog to search, or send a quick email to them to ask if they have a family history for the appropriate name.

Interlibrary loan may, depending on the item, bring a copy of the desired book to your local public or college library for your use for ten days. In other instances, you may have to contact someone to do the lookup for you.

Good luck! And I hope you find that the pioneers before you recorded their history for us!

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Updated on 10/25/2005