06 June 2014

Book Review: GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH IN NEBRASKA (2014, Rev. Ed.) by Ruby Coleman

So if you are like me when you pay $32.95 for a book, you are typically disappointed when it arrives and its lack of size offers little promise.  Imagine my joy when I opened up the box from Mrs. Coleman and took out this 527 page behemoth!  I had no idea!  I grinned with the sense that I was going to be able to pick the mind of this professional genealogist with over forty-years of Nebraska experience and expertise.  I was holding her brain in my very hands!  Well, not really, but you get the point.

Here is the description taken from the insert:
The book contains 537 pages on history, genealogy, records and resources of Nebraska.  There are over a thousand URL links to web pages.  Each county is detailed with courthouse information, libraries with collections, information on genealogical and historical societies, research centers and museums.  The chapters are: 
Nebraska Settlement and Statehood
Trails, Roads and Forts
Ethnic Groups and Settlements
Native Americans
Courts and Records
Land Laws and Records
Nebraska's Large Repositories
Census Records
Religious Records
Steamboats and Railroads
Orphan Trains
Wars and Military Records
Farming, Ranching and Records
Federal Records of Nebraska
Nebraska Counties
Nebraska Publications and Histories
Family History Centers
Maps, Atlases, Directories and Gazetteers
Physically it is about two inches thick, 8.5 x 11 pages, with spiral binding.  The printing is flawless, a deep, dark black on high quality, heavy stock paper.  I need to repeat that -- flawless deep and dark print on high quality, seemingly bright white heavy stock paper.  To be clear, this is not a homemade job, this is professional printing on every level. The only thing I would change is to give it just a little bit heavier stock of paper for the cover.  Other than that, this book screams quality.

This is not a "how-to" book.  On the contrary, it is the most comprehensive reference book on genealogical research in Nebraska, that a researcher could ever hope for.  For this reason the title could be a bit misleading.  This is not so much a book on how to do genealogical research in Nebraska, although there are going to be elements of that too by the very nature of the work.  But rather, this is principally a book on where to find anything and everything available in Nebraska that a genealogist might want to obtain.  Mrs. Coleman tells the researcher what, where, when and why.  For the most part she leaves it up to the researcher to decide "how."

This reference work is meticulously organized.  There is no index at the back, there is none necessary.  She begins the book with a historical introduction of Nebraska as a genealogist would inquire about it.  Then as stated above, the book is broken down into chapters each covering an individual subject.  As every researcher knows, each state has its own personality as to what, when, where and why when it comes to historical information.  So naturally Mrs. Coleman introduces the researcher to Nebraska's own particulars with an objective introduction to the subject at the beginning of each chapter.

Mrs. Coleman's next step is to begin informing the researcher what is available for that subject breaking down where to retrieve it according to county.  But often the subject of the chapter needs further breaking down into subcategories of types, and perhaps even kinds of types, before she can begin introducing us to where to find the desired data and information.  But the goal remains the same, to get the researcher to the answers on where to find what is available in Nebraska, usually according to county.  And Mrs. Coleman succeeds nicely.

One last note, to myself. Like the author states in the insert, the book has over a thousand URLs.  This is where for the first time in my life I saw where I would have prefered an e-book so I could just click on a hyperlink instead of typing in the long often often incomprehensible web address.  Note to self for the future -- when there are a thousand URLs, consider an e-book instead.

My paternal line is rooted in Nebraska for several generations, so this book was a no-brainer purchase for me.  It would be the same for any researcher in the same or similar boat, otherwise I would not recommend it for personal purchase.  However, this is an extremely exhaustive, comprehensive and complete reference work on genealogy sources in Nebraska.  It is an obvious purchase for all historical societies, genealogical societies and family history centers in and near Nebraska, as well as any full-service genealogical library across the country.

About the author, Ruby Coleman resides in North Platte, NE.  She has been a genealogist for fifty-years and a professional genealogist for over thirty-five years.  She has lectured at both NGS and FGS conferences, as well as many Family History Expos, and is a member of the APG.  As of just last month she is the newly elected incoming President for the Nebraska State Genealogical Society.

(I have no personal or professional connection to Mrs. Coleman, and she had no idea I would be writing this review.)

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

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