Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: Shaking the Family Tree

Jackson, Buzzy. Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Buzzy Jackson, who earned a Ph.D. in history, shares her ventures into the world of family history. She begins with her first local genealogical society meetings, has her own mtDNA and her father's Y-DNA tested, goes on a genealogical cruise, encounters her Alabama relatives, and visits the Family History Library in the course of the book. While I enjoyed the book, I didn't love it. It was written in a slightly more contemporary conversational tone than many books of this nature. It was interesting to see her impressions of some of the most prominent genealogists in the field. Some of these descriptions had me laughing. Although she emphasized the importance of documents, I sometimes had the same feeling that I have watching episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on television, namely that too much was jumped. I realize that her intention was not to provide a detailed account of tracing her line, but I would have preferred an approach that resembles the methodology taught by the leading genealogists. I purchased this book after hearing the author speak at the National Genealogical Society's conference in May 2011. Because I enjoyed her keynote address so much, I expected to like the book more than I did. There are portions that should be read by those new to genealogical research. They will identify with someone who was going through what they are encountering as they begin their family history research. Experienced researchers have little to gain by reading this, except for an occasional laugh or two as they recognize their genealogical colleagues and picture them as the author did. (3 stars)

1 comment:

Jasia said...

You wrote this very well, Lori. I was contacted by the publisher several months ago and offered a copy of the book in exchange for a review on my blog. It took me 5 months to get through the book because I just couldn't get into it. Weeks went by and I'd look at the book and say, "I really should finish that book." but it was hard to make myself pick it up. I did finally finish the book in July and I've been trying to make myself write the review ever since. But I just can't figure out how to say I didn't like the book as nicely as you did. It's not for everyone. It's not for me.