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When is a book a genealogical source?

When is a book a genealogical source?

It’s an unassuming book. It looks more like a marketing piece. Wedding Embassy Yearbook by Macy’s California (a department store chain) is a 130-page hardback. It begins with a store directory for everything the bride needs for her wedding and her first home. After that, the book provides helpful wedding advice about the engagement announcement, the wedding party attire, and etiquette surrounding brides who are widows and “older” (yes, older in this context means 30 years of age. The book states, “The woman of thirty or thereabouts is still sufficiently youthful to wear the traditional wedding gown and veil (p. 111). But for those in their later 30s, you’re better off with a “handsome dress.”)

If you found this in your family library during a decluttering exercise, you might be tempted to throw it out. After all, what genealogical use is it? It might be something you read for nostalgia, but not much else. But if you continue paging through to the back, you find this…


And this…


It’s a genealogical source masking as a department store wedding planner. The name of the bride and groom and attendants are here. The list of everyone who gave a gift, several pages, is here. The only thing not here is the wedding date, though judging from the list of when the gifts were received, it was most likely an October wedding. The book lacks a year, and the bride wrote “4” for the year in her list of gifts received and acknowledged. My original guess was that it might be 1964. Further research showed a California marriage index and a newspaper announcement that verified an October 1964 wedding.

This book is a source of many genealogical facts, from the bride and groom to the family members who gave gifts. Combining this with the online newspaper wedding announcement and a state marriage index, one can piece together that moment in time. Other details like the type of gift given provide some social history clues on what young couples received as they started their life together.

Now here’s the sad part of this genealogical record. This isn’t my family. It was given to me by someone who picked it up at a book sale. Why it ended up at the book sale is unknown, but further research uncovered a 1968 divorce for the couple.

The lesson here is that as we declutter our own home or that of a deceased family member’s estate, we need to remember that not all genealogical sources look like genealogical sources. Some look like marketing pieces or plain books, but in reality, they can hold so much more. Be careful as you go through things. It’s a tremendous job, but it can lead to exciting discoveries.


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.

Top 10 genealogy webinars — June 2022


We've tallied the numbers and made a list of the Top 10 classes for June 2022! Are your favorite topics or instructors among the list? Need something new to learn? Use the list to get inspired!

Each month thousands of Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscribers head for the library to learn new skills and techniques to help improve their genealogy research. Among the now-1,798 genealogy classes in the members-only library, these were the most frequently played during the month of June 2022.  They aren't necessarily the newest classes but rather the topics that were sought out by our members.

Have you seen any of these classes? Are these among your favorites too? Some of these classes (and topics) might be new to you! Get inspired to learn more and make your genealogy journey more fun!

The Top 10 for June 2022

1. Using DNA To Solve Interlinked Mysteries by Michelle Leonard

2. Documents + DNA + Method + a little bit of Luck: Combining Tools to Find Biological Family by Elizabeth Williams Gomoll, CG

3. Irish Emigration to North America: Before during and after Famine by Paul Milner

4. Negative Evidence: Making Something Out of Nothing by Denise E. Cross, MSLIS, CG

5. Identifying Common Ancestors with DNA by Shahar Tenenbaum

6. The Voyages of Our German Immigrants by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG

7. Quickly Organize Your DNA Matches with the Leeds Method by Dana Leeds

8. Five Wives & A Feather Bed: Using Indirect and Negative Evidence to Resolve Conflicting Claims by Mark A. Wentling, MLS, CG

9. Indirect Evidence - A Case Study by Pauline C. Merrick

10. A 19th Century Ontario Enigma – A Case Study by Janice Nickerson

The Runner-Ups

11. How I Debunked an Online Tree Hint by Geoff Rasmussen

12. Born to be Filed: Delayed Birth Records in the U.S. by Sunny Morton

13. Proving Parentage Two Centuries Later Using DNA Evidence by David S. Ouimette, CG, CGL

14. Seeking the Best Evidence: Targeted Testing for Genetic Genealogy Proof by Paul Woodbury

15. McMasters' Will: The Scheme That Made Us Virtually Free by Calvin Dark

16. Government Gazettes as a Genealogical Resource by Helen V. Smith

17. 50 Websites To Find Vital Records by Gena Philibert-Ortega

18. Advanced Lightroom Techniques for Photo Editing by Jared Hodges

19. Top 10 Secrets to Using MyHeritage by Daniel Horowitz

20. The Ties That Bond by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

The 2nd Runner-Ups

21. Wringing Every Drop out of Mitochondrial DNA by Roberta Estes

22. The Bones - New Zealand Civil Registration by Fiona Brooker

23. Studying Free People of Color in Apprentice Records by Ari Wilkins

24. Simply using timelines will make a difference in your research! by Dr. Shelley Viola Murphy

25. Proof Arguments - How to Write Them and Why They Matter by Warren Bittner, CG

26. Getting Started with Legacy 4 of 5 - Legacy's Ultimate Guide to Sources by Geoff Rasmussen

27. Using a Research Methodology for Family History by Phil Isherwood

28. Getting Started with Legacy 3 of 5 - Your 12-Step checklist to using Legacy Family Tree software by Geoff Rasmussen

29. Unlocking Stories of Our Female Ancestors through Effective Research Methodology by Denyce Porter Peyton

30. Drawing Insights from Your Family Photos: Using MyHeritage by Daniel Horowitz

Access to classes in the Legacy Family Tree Webinar library are available with an webinar membership. Not a member? Become one! Or watch one of our free classes here.