Guidelines for a Unit or Course of Instruction in Genealogical Research at Schools of Library and Information Science
Prepared by the Genealogy Committee of the History Section of the Reference and User Services Association 1995, Revised 2004
Approved by the RUSA Board of Directors, January 2007
Schools of library and information science have long recognized that certain subject areas, such as business, law, and medicine, require specialized units or courses of instruction. Likewise, librarians need to know how to serve patrons interested in genealogy. The majority of schools of library and information science offer very little about this subject. These guidelines provide an outline for a unit or course of instruction in genealogical research. They are intended to encourage and assist library schools to add training in genealogical research to their curriculum.
Librarians should be trained to assist patrons in becoming information literate in genealogical research. This means that librarians need to know how to assist patrons in deciding what information is needed by the patrons to meet their genealogical goals, and in locating, evaluating, and using that information. Librarians also have a role in collecting, preserving, and making accessible materials needed by those doing genealogical research.
1.0 Unit or Course Objective
The unit or course prepares librarians to provide quality library services to the growing number of patrons doing genealogical research. Elements of the unit or course should include, but not be limited to, the following:
1.1 Definitions of genealogy and family history, the motivations of patrons in engaging in genealogical research, and the library's role in serving genealogy patrons.
1.2 Basic genealogical research methodology, organization of research findings, corresponding for family information, and genealogy reference strategies.
1.3 Patron orientation to and education in the use of genealogical resources, and effective genealogy reference interviews.
1.4 Major genealogy research resources.
1.5 Interlibrary loan of genealogical research materials.
1.6 Patron referral to additional research centers.
1.7 The relationship between local genealogy societies and the library.
1.8 The use of volunteers in the library.
1.9 Ethical and legal issues relating to genealogical librarianship.
1.10 Consumer issues relating to genealogical products and services.
1.11 Genealogy collection development.
2.0 Definitions, motivations, and the library's role
2.1 Librarians should understand the meanings of the terms "genealogy" and "family history", and should be familiar with the typical motivations of their patrons toward conducting genealogical research.
2.2 All libraries should provide patron orientation to use of resources, basic reference service, a reference collection, circulating books, interlibrary loan, and microform reading/printing equipment equivalent to resources provided for any other patron's subject interest. Librarians should follow the recommendations set forth in the "Guidelines for Developing Beginning Genealogical Collections and Services." ( Footnotes appear in section 13.0)
3.0 Basic genealogical research methodology
Librarians must know basic genealogical research methodology. The fundamental concepts of genealogical research are:
3.1 Begin with the nearest generation about which complete information exists and work back in time from that point; research one name or family at a time; focus on one locality where ancestors lived and identify it in terms of the jurisdictions to which it belongs (county, state, district, province, etc.) 
3.2 Search personal and extended family genealogy resources to identify the names of ancestors, and the dates and places of events in their lives.
3.3 Search bibliographies, library catalogs, and genealogical/biographical indexes to learn if ancestors are included in published or manuscript resources at libraries and genealogical research centers. 
3.4 Organize collected data using standard genealogy pedigree and family group forms, or computer genealogy programs. 
3.5 Use primary sources from the "Major genealogy research resources" listed below in 5.0 to learn names of ancestors and pinpoint events in their lives.
3.6 Document research using accepted rules of evidence and ethical research practices. 
3.7 Share research results through publication or donation of collected data to local libraries or research centers.
4.0 Patron orientation/education and the reference interview
4.1 Librarians should know how to ascertain the skill level of their patrons in regards to genealogical research, and how to provide to the patron both an appropriate orientation to the collection and services provided by the library and instruction in the evaluation of information.
4.2 Librarians should know how to produce instructional materials, such as pathfinders, and how to make educational presentations to groups on issues relating to using the library for genealogical research.
4.3 During the reference interview, the librarian should learn the answers to the following questions from the patron, as appropriate: What are the research goals? What is known about the target ancestor-their name, children, parents, birth, marriage, death dates/places, etc.? Does the patron have pedigree and family group forms that include the target ancestor? Which sources has the patron already consulted?
4.4 As a result of the reference interview, the librarian should analyze the information needed by the patron (names, dates, places, etc.) and determine the types of sources that will provide the required data. 
5.0 Major genealogy research resources
Librarians should be familiar with the use and content of at least the following sources of genealogical information:
5.1 Civil and religious vital records. Vital records include birth, marriage, divorce, and death records. 
5.2 Census schedules. These identify family members, their places of residence, their birth years, birth places, and other facts about their lives. 
5.3 Wills and probate records. These identify family members. 
5.4 Land records. Land records often include the names and relationships of family members who buy and sell land to each other. 
5.5 Immigration and naturalization records. These records usually include the names of immigrants, their dates and places of arrival, and country of origin. 
5.6 Military records, including pension applications. 
6.0 Interlibrary loan
Librarians should be familiar with their library's interlibrary loan policies, procedures, and services, especially as they relate to their genealogical holdings, as well as the policies of other institutions from which they commonly borrow genealogical materials.
7.0 Patron referrals
No library can provide in its collections nor through interlibrary loan all of the materials and instruction needed by its genealogy patrons. It may be necessary to refer patrons to some of the following organizations and individuals:
7.1 Web sites where genealogical software and research forms may be downloaded, or businesses where genealogical software and research forms may be purchased.
7.2 Libraries in the area known to have useful genealogical materials: the nearest Family History Center (a branch library of the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah) and other genealogical collections in the United States. 
7.3 Local, state, regional, and national archives. 
7.4 State and national vital statistics offices. 
7.5 City and county records offices. 
7.6 Funeral homes and cemetery offices.
7.7 Local, state, and national genealogical/historical societies. 
7.8 Books and microform rental institutions. 
7.9 Continuing education/lifelong learning. 
7.10 Professional genealogy services. (See 11.3)
8.0 Local genealogical and historical societies
Librarians should be familiar with the genealogical and historical societies local to the service area of their library, and be aware of any formal relationships between the library and each society, including use of meeting space and housing of the society's collection.
Librarians should be familiar with their library's policy on the use of volunteers to supplement the regular library staff, and should be aware of the issues involved in making effective use of volunteers.
10.0 Ethical and legal issues
Librarians should be familiar with the ethical standards of both librarianship and genealogical research, especially as outlined by professional library and genealogy organizations. Librarians should be aware of any local, state, or Federal laws that apply to genealogical research and publishing, especially relating to the issues of records access, privacy, and copyright.
11.0 Consumer issues
Librarians need to be aware that patrons will ask them about genealogy-oriented products and services.  Specific products and services may include:
11.1 Products incorporating a display of a family coat of arms. 
11.2 Online genealogical database subscription services. 
11.3 Professional genealogy services. 
12.0 Genealogical collection development and preservation
This issue is covered in more detail in other guidelines available from the Reference and User Services Association, including "Guidelines for Developing Beginning Genealogical Collections and Services." >
Note: Assistance concerning the preparation of a unit or course of instruction about genealogical research may be obtained by writing the Genealogy Committee c/o RUSA, ALA, 50 East Huron Avenue, Chicago IL 60611. ALA also publishes the following textbook: Raymond S. Wright III, The Genealogist's Handbook: Modern Methods for Researching Family History (Chicago: ALA, 1995).
1. Available online in PDF format at http://www.ala.org/rusa/acrobat/devel_gene_collections.pdf
2. To identify the current U.S. jurisdictions, refer to the Rand McNally and Company Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide (Chicago: annual). To identify historical U.S. jurisdictions, refer to Alice Eichholz, ed., Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992); George B. Everton, ed., The Handybook for Genealogists, 10th ed. (Logan, UT: Everton, 2002); and William Thorndale and William Dollarhide, Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987).
3. The largest catalogs and bibliographies of family histories are the Family History Library Catalog (and its Surname Search) online at the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service Web site ( http://www.familysearch.org); U.S. Library of Congress, Genealogies in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography, 4 vols. (Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1972-77); Marion J. Kaminkow, A Complement to Genealogies in the Library of Congress: A Bibliography (Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1981); U.S. Library of Congress, Genealogies Cataloged by the Library of Congress Since 1986: With a List of Established Forms of Family Names and a List of Genealogies. Converted to Microfilm Since 1983 (Washington, DC: The Library of Congress 1992); and FirstSearch (Dublin, OH: OCLC, 1992- ). Useful United States nationwide indexes for individuals are the American Genealogical-Biographical Index in American Genealogical, Biographical and Local History Materials (Middletown, CT: Godfrey Memorial Library, 1952- ); The Genealogical Index of the Newberry Library, Chicago (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1960); and Periodical Source Index (Fort Wayne, IN: Allen County Public Library Foundation, 1987- ), commonly referred to as PERSI. Genealogy patrons may find the following useful for locating published sources, and librarians will also find them very useful for collection development: P. William Filby, American & British Genealogy and Heraldry (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1983, 1987) and Netti Schreiner-Yantis, Genealogical and Local History Books in Print, 4th ed. (Springfield, VA: 1990).
4. Personal Ancestral File (PAF), a free genealogy software program, is available for download at the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service Web site ( http://www.familysearch.org). Reviews of commercial genealogy software appear on a regular basis in the quarterly publication Genealogical Computing (MyFamily.com Inc.).
5. Noel C. Stevenson, Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigree, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History, rev. ed. (Laguna Hills, CA: Aegean Park Pr., 1989). Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence!: Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1997).
6. "Records Selection Table," in United States Research Outline (Salt Lake City: Family History Library, 1991), 5 (also available online at http://www.familychronicle.com/records.html); and J. Carlyle Parker, Library Service for Genealogists, Gale Genealogy and Local History Series, vol. 15 (Detroit: Gale, 1981), 21-24, 283-310.
7. Val D. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000), chapters 12, 23, and 27 explain usage. See also U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Where to Write for Vital Records, available online at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm ; Thomas Jay Kemp, International Vital Records Handbook, 4th ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000); the Family History Library Catalog (and its Place Search) online at the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service Web site ( http://www.familysearch.org); and Kay E. Kirkham, Survey of American Church Records, 4th ed., rev. and enl., including v.1 and 2 (Logan, UT: Everton Publishers, 1978).
8. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, chapters 13-14 explain usage. Catalogs of census schedules are available online at http://www.archives.gov/publications/genealogy_microfilm_catalogs.html. Census schedules and their indexes are available through online subscription services; at many public libraries, academic libraries, and state libraries/archives; at some genealogical libraries, including the Family History Library and its Centers; and at the National Archives and its Regional Centers. Census microfilm may be rented from the National Archives and Records Administration Microfilm Rental Program ( http://www.archives.gov/publications/microfilm_catalogs/how_to_rent_microfilm.html).
9. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, chapters 15-17 explain usage. A large number of microfilm copies of wills and probate records can be located using the Place Search in the online Family History Library Catalog.
10. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, chapters 18-19 explain usage. A large number of microfilm copies of land records can be located using the Place Search in the online Family History Library Catalog.
11. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, chapter 24 explains usage. See also P. William Filby, Passenger and Immigration Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900, 2d ed. (Detroit: Gale, 1988); P. William Filby and Mary K. Meyer, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index (Detroit: Gale, 1981-95); and John J. Newman, American Naturalization Processes and Procedures, 1790-1985 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, Family History Section, 1985).
12. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, chapters 25-26 explain usage. See also James C. Neagles, U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal and State Sources, Colonial America to the Present (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1994); and Richard S. Johnson and Debra Johnson Knox, How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military: Armed Forces Locator Guide, 8th ed. (Spartanburg, SC: Military Information Enterprises, 1999).
13. The most current addresses, phone numbers, and hours of Family History Centers can be found at the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service Web site ( http://www.familysearch.org). Addresses of other libraries may be found in P. William Filby, comp., Directory of American Libraries with Genealogy or Local History Collections (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1988).
14. Locations of archives can be found in Elizabeth Petty Bentley, The Genealogist's Address Book, 4th ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1998).
15. U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, Where to Write for Vital Records, available online at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/howto/w2w/w2welcom.htm ; and Thomas Jay Kemp, International Vital Records Handbook, 4th ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000).
16. George B. Everton, ed., The Handybook for Genealogists, 10th ed. (Logan, UT: Everton, 2002); Elizabeth Petty Bentley, ed., County Courthouse Book (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990); and Alice Eichholz, ed., Ancestry's Red Book, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City. Ancestry, 1993).
17. Society Hall Web site ( http://www.familyhistory.com/societyhall/main.asp); "Directory of Genealogical Societies and Libraries," Genealogical Helper (July-Aug.); Mary Keysor Meyer, ed., Meyer's Directory of Genealogical Societies in the U.S.A. and Canada, 11th ed. (Mt. Airy, MD: Libra/Pipe Creek Publications, 1996); and American Association for State and Local History, ed., Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada, 15th ed. (Nashville: AASLH Pr., 2002).
18. The Family History Library Catalog can be found at the FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service Web site ( http://www.familysearch.org). The New England Historic Genealogical Society Library Catalog can be found at the NEHGS Web site ( http://www.newenglandancestors.org). Microforms may be rented from HeritageQuest ( http://www.heritagequest.com) and from the National Archives and Records Administration Microfilm Rental Program ( http://www.archives.gov/publications/microfilm_catalogs/how_to_rent_microfilm.html).
19. Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, The Genealogy Sourcebook (Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1997), chapter 4.
20. National Genealogical Society Consumer Protection Committee ( http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/comconsumer.htm).
21. J. Carlyle Parker, "The Family Coat of Arms," in Library Service for Genealogists, Gale Genealogy and Local History Series, vol. 1S (Detroit: Gale, 1981), 269-71; and Dick Eastman, "Pssst! Want to Buy Your Family's Coat of Arms?", Dick Eastman Online, http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/4133.asp .
22. Dick Eastman, "Genealogy Scams on the Web," Dick Eastman Online, http://www.ancestry.com/library/view/columns/eastman/4251.asp .
23. The Association of Professional Genealogists provides basic information ( http://www.apgen.org/articles/hire.html). The Board for Certification of Genealogists provides a searchable online roster ( http://www.bcgcertification.org/associates/) of certified individuals.