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on 25 October 2012
This is a fabulous and welcome addition to the vast sea of books relating to family history. It may look like a small fish but boy, does it pack a punch.

Genealogy - essential research methods by Helen Osborn is indeed essential. I'm wondering which of my many genealogical and non-genealogical friends would benefit from the addition of this book to their personal library. I want to give it to all of them, regardless of their interest in the subject because although the focus is genealogy, the information handling and organisational skills described in the book apply to any subject.
The book is lucidly written and provides a structured approach to all aspects and methods of research, specifically for the genealogist but the advice provides essential guidance for all researchers. The author is honest in her approach, telling the reader she has made the mistakes she describes and detailing how to avoid making the same errors. Some of the highlights of this book include:
* Effective search techniques;
* Document analysis
* Planning your research, which is given a high profile, as is the importance of citing your sources. Let me repeat that again.
* Citing your sources. An action as important as locating the information itself.
* An invaluable chapter relating to organisation and storage of your research.
* The bibliography is excellent, suggesting eight core titles as recommended reading, followed by more extensive and supportive book/website lists. I would add a ninth title to the short core reading list, namely Helen Osborn's own book.

If you are just starting out on the genealogical trail, all on your ownsome, make this book your first purchase. Read it, refer to it but don't lend it to fellow genealogist. You will never see it again. Christmas is approaching and it would be a golden deed to give this to a friend. It could be the most useful genealogical gift or all time!
Highly recommended and likely to become the authoritative text on the subject.
57 people found this helpful
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on 10 January 2013
When I heard about this book, I ordered it immediately. I had already encountered Helen Osborn as a result of taking courses in genealogy with Pharos Tutors, of which she is managing director. With fifteen plus years as a professional researcher under her belt, I was sure that it would be a worthwhile read. My expectations of the book were high and I have not been disappointed.

This book fills a gap in the UK market by tackling research techniques rather than sources. Topics covered that I found especially useful were: effective searching, the need to understand why records are created and retained, analysing documents, planning and problem solving, citing sources, and genealogical proof.

The book is easy to read, with everything being well explained - the result, I'm sure, of Helen's tutoring experience.

Following the techniques given in this book is likely to result in more successful research, conducted to a higher standard. You may find that you save time, money, and heartache in the process.

I would not consider this a book for a complete beginner in genealogy, if that is you then try Simon Fowler's Tracing Your Ancestors. If you have some experience of the basic genealogical sources, however, and want to do more than just dabble in family history, then I recommend acquiring this book without delay. In my opinion even the most experienced genealogist is likely to find this book a thought provoking read.
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on 16 February 2013
Experienced genealogist Helen Osborn goes behind the scenes of the internet research age into basic methodology. For the ordinary Family Historian mistakes in building trees happen despite best intentions to ensure accuracy. In this book the Author writes with the benefit of professional experience - where mistakes are costly both in terms of wasted time and reputation.

Helen encourages the reader to look again at their family history project and explains how to develop essential analytical skills. Appreciate how to examine the evidence from an investigative viewpoint and learn how to weigh up positive as well as negative results to pinpoint a potential ancestor. Practical examples of recording people and sources are included, essential when conflicting evidence surfaces and backtracking is needed.

With the speed with which a family tree may be built through current online resources, this detailed guide of how to interpretate results is very welcome. Helen Osborn includes case studies from her own family, as well as clients, to illustrate how to read between the lines and when it is useful to delve into local historical facts which influence both lives and the location of source material.

Rather than the usual explanation of sources Essential Research Methods focusses on grass-root skills. It fast tracks the reader through years of practical hands-on knowledge and shares the benefit of experience and hindsight.
25 people found this helpful
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on 25 May 2014
Helen Osborn (one of the co-founders of Pharos Tutors) has written the one book I wish I'd bought first BEFORE I started looking into my family tree. I have made many mistakes along the way and by reading this book I would have saved myself many, many hours of wasted time, money and frustration.

If you are a total beginner you will need to buy another book that will guide you to what record sources are out there and what they contain, but ALSO buy this book as it will:

• Tell you how to do an EFFECTIVE search which is very, very important! (I thought I knew how to do this, but I now know differently)
• Point out some of the pitfalls that the commercial online indexes have
• How to record the information you get and more importantly how to CITE YOUR SOURCES from a UK perspective (How I wish I’d done this properly from the beginning – where did I get that info from again?...)
• How to plan and solve the problems we get and how to get around all those brick walls we all hit (this is a big part of the book)
• How to organise and properly store your family tree and MOST importantly how to make sure it can be read by future generations!

“What it IS about is record contexts, methods, documentation and problem-solving.” 1

This book is a must buy for anyone researching their family tree, it will be the best £10 you ever spent. (Basically the cost of one certificate)

1 Helen Osborn, GENEALOGY: Essential Research Methods, (Robert Hale Limited of London, 2012), p. 11/12.
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on 20 January 2013
There are many books nowadays (perhaps too many) on researching family history, but most of them concentrate on the sources: civil registration records, census records, parish registers, wills, etc., but do not say a great deal about how to actually DO research. The key to breaking down 'brick walls' is to adopt a problem-solving approach, but until now there has not been a book on the subject. Also, very little has been written in the UK (there are several books on the topic by American authors) on what constitutes evidence. Amateur genealogists have a tendency to assume a connection between two individuals because it seems to fit rather than based on hard evidence, resulting on family trees appearing on the internet that are incorrect. These are then added to other people's trees without verification, spreading inaccuracies like a virus.

This book, written by an experienced professional genealogist, covers a range of topics that are not covered well in other books, and gives relevant examples. It would be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of the more advanced family history researcher.
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on 13 December 2012
This is a book that fills what was a serious gap in the plethora of books for the family or local historian - the absence of a book that encourages research skills with an approach that fosters critical analysis of materials.

It's a book that is as pertinent for those starting out on researching family history as it is for those who have been researching for years. It's readable, engaging, informative.
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on 5 January 2017
I purchased this book as it was on the reading list for a distance learning course on genealogy that I am doing. This is not a lightweight book - it is for people who take, or intend to take, their family history research seriously. Those people who are happy to blithely copy chunks of other peoples' family trees from Ancestry.com without checking the accuracy of the information given, need not bother with this book. Though perhaps they should, because as the author points out, family trees on Ancestry (or similar websites) can be the most flawed sources of data out there. This book is about the methodology of carrying out family history research: the importance of planning and documenting your searches, and citing the sources for your conclusions. I have been researching my family history for over 10 years, and I wish I had read this book much earlier - I have learned a lot of useful things from it, and it would have saved me time and effort.
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on 4 January 2018
This book provides clear, thoughtful guidelines and standards for anyone undertaking family research. It has provided me with all the information I needed and with inspiration and enthusiasm to start again on my research - and do it properly. I am very grateful for Helen Osborn's work and will refer to it very frequently.
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on 25 February 2013
I am an amateur geneologist. I saw this book reviewed in a recent magazine. It got a good write up but as a hardback book it was too expensive for me. Then I saw it on Amazon for half the price and bought it straight away. Its the sort of book that you can either read from page one or dip into different chapters as and when you need to. I've put a number of page markers in now so that I can quickly refer back to sections.

Although it is published as a text book with a possible scary title, it is written in a style which most readers will find easy to follow and full of lots of useful information to help anyone with a serious interest in geneology.
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on 12 April 2013
What makes this different from many other books on the subject of genealogy is that it is about the process of searching the various types of records rather than explaining what the records are about. It is very easy to read, the case studies are interesting and are about common situations that anyone might encounter. I found the section on sources and how to cite references particularly useful and the chapter about what constitutes proof in genealogical terms was very interesting. I know this is a book I will regularly come back to: I am now resolved to be much more rigorous in my research methods which will enable me to leave all my work in order to be passed on to others when the time comes. Thank you Helen for your clarity and good sense which I shall be attempting to emulate.
5 people found this helpful
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