There may have been a genealogy about your family published decades ago. It is foolish to think you are going to find a book that has your complete family tree in it. But you may be lucky to discover one that includes parts of some of your branches and twigs.
Many genealogy how-to books recommend that you consult compiled family histories early in your research. But I find that most of us cannot tie our families to these books because so many were compiled in the late-19th and early 20th centuries.
Unfortunately, if you have concentrated on tracing only your direct line, you may not recognize your own ancestors in these early genealogies. One part may start in the 1640s and go to 1800 while the other begins in 1988 and reaches back to 1850. The 50-year gap can stymie you. If you have researched the first three or four generations of your family, it is silly to continue until you have determined whether there is a published genealogy out there somewhere.
From the Civil War until the 1920s, several thousand monographs of family histories or genealogies appeared. The compilers usually were sincere, but many mistakes, especially concerning Colonial generations, appear in these works.
Post-1930 genealogical scholars have written journal articles correcting the first several generations, or the early sections of many of these genealogies. You should search not only for the originally published work, but for these corrected versions also.
Before you spend a nickel on a published family history, go to a branch LDS (Mormon) Family History Library near you and check the microfiche called "Family Histories" to see what books in Salt Lake City's famous genealogical library are available in microform--film or fiche. For $2.50 or less you can examine these genealogies.
Once you determine there is a family history you wish to buy, obtain catalogues to see if it is available in print or microform. University Microfilms International, 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48106, has one entitled "Family Histories on Microfiche." This catalogue costs $8. Your local library should have a copy of Netti Schreiner-Yantis' "Genealogical & Local History Books in Print," Volume 2. Check its section on family genealogies for books and monographs.
Other publishers of genealogies are: Goodspeed's Book Shop, 7 Beacon St., Boston, Mass. 02108 ($5 for catalogue); Higginson Books, 14 Derby Square, Salem, Mass. 01970; Southern Historical Press, Box 738, Easley, S.C. 29641-0738; and the Reprint Co., Box 5401, Spartanburg, S.C. 29304.