Thursday, March 16, 2023

Book Review: Essential Guide to Researching Your Kentucky Family History

If you're researching ancestors in the Bluegrass State, you'll find lots of practical information in the brand-new book Essential Guide to Researching Your Kentucky Family History. 

Published by the Kentucky Genealogical Society, available on Amazon here, this 144-page book is filled with expert research advice, useful historical maps, insider's tips, and much more. Disclaimer: I'm a member of the KGS and received a free copy to review, but the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Organization of chapters

Not for beginners only, the Essential Guide is divided into six sections, leading readers through the background of the state, genealogical methodology, and specific resources and techniques for genealogy research in Kentucky:
  • Understanding Kentucky History (forming counties, pioneer family paths, Jackson Purchase, common causes of death in 19th century)
  • Basics of Family Research (getting started, pedigree charts, tips for research, remotely researching in Kentucky, strategies for working with clues)
  • Finding Genealogical Sources (Census, tax lists, land grants, obits, military records)
  • Genealogy Techniques and Tricks (maps, vital records, female ancestors, marriages for formerly enslaved persons, timelines, courthouse disaster plan, published ancestor research)
  • Sharing Your Research (catch relatives' attention, tips and suggestions for family storytellers)
  • Reference (county formation dates/county seats, cousin formula)
Insider's knowledge

The book spotlights resources and approaches not necessarily familiar to researchers outside of the state--but known to the insiders at the Kentucky Genealogy Society. 

For instance, the chapter titled "Is Your Kentucky Ancestor in the Log Cabin?" explains how to access and search, for free, issues of a weekly newspaper published in the Harrison County area from 1896 to 1960. Often ancestors' activities were mentioned in the paper--a terrific place to check if your family's roots extended to that region of Kentucky.

I'm partial to maps, so I particularly like the chapter about the use and source of topographical maps, historical county maps, and cadastral maps (which indicate land ownership). 

Another super-valuable chapter digs into techniques for researching Kentucky land grants, following the four-step patent process and specifics of where to locate land documentation.

In short, anyone who has Kentucky ancestors will want to read and refer to this detailed yet succinct guide again and again. 


  1. Thanks for the review. I too have ancestors from Kentucky, so this was helpful.

  2. That is an excellent looking book, and well reviewed here. I only wish I had Kentucky ancestors so I could use it!