Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: Shaking the Family Tree by Buzzy Jackson

I knew that I was going to like Buzzy Jackson's book when I read the title, Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist. Then I read the back cover, which noted:

"In Shaking the Family Tree, Jackson dives headfirst into her family gene pool: flying cross-country to locate an ancient family graveyard, embarking on a weeklong genealogy Caribbean cruise, and even submitting her DNA for testing to try to find her Jacksons. And in the process of researching her own family lore (Who was Bullwhip Jackson?) she meets legions of other genealogy buffs who are as interesting as they are driven -- from the boy who saved his allowance so he could order his great-grandfather's death certificate to the woman who spends her free time documenting the cemeteries of Colorado ghost towns."

Buzzy has created a short video to describe her adventure into genealogy research - you can see it below (or by clicking here):

This book should be read by beginning genealogists who want some idea of how to go about starting research and finding family and historical records, and by experienced genealogists for the joy of reading about an excellent genealogical adventure.

In her book, Buzzy (real name Sarah) starts her excellent adventure by taking a genealogy class at a Boulder, Colorado library, joins the local genealogical society, gets lots of advice and help with her research, takes several trips to ancestral family localities, finds distant cousins online who help her out with research and records, takes a genealogy cruise to hear the speakers (right on - that's why I went!), visits the Family History Library, takes a DNA test, and much more. It is the classical genealogical education roots experience, and the reader gets to fly, ride, sail, sit and research right along with her. In about one year. To be fair, she researched only her Jackson surname.

Buzzy tells her stories with humor, enthusiasm and irreverence. The best part of the book - for me - was that she captured the spirit of all of the genealogists she met along the way - from the local society folks, the repository staffs, the family members (Cousin Mooner?), and some of the most respected professionals in genealogy. The helpful, kind, fair-minded, excited, and sentimental attitudes that most genealogists exhibit shines through in all of her chapters.

Her description of the Caribbean cruise in October 2008 was especially intriguing to me, since my wife and I were on this cruise and I experienced some of Buzzy's experiences first-hand (well, not drinking the night away with John Grenham... drat!). She attended the lectures and managed to interview Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Cyndi Howells, and David Allen Lambert among others.

The beauty of this book is that it is a real genealogical adventure - it actually happened - the research performed and the family visits are realistic, frustrating and productive. She even found a long-lost cemetery that helped her connect to her 17th century Jackson families and enabled her to fill out a DAR application.

You can order Shaking the Family Tree at Buzzy Jackson's website, at your favorite bookstore, or online at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Jackson, Buzzy.

Shaking the Family Tree : blue bloods, black sheep, and other obsessions of an accidental genealogist.
New York, Simon & Schuster, 2010.
Paperback, 256 pages.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of the book from the publisher in mid-August 2010, and agreed to write an objective review of the book and post it on my blog.

1 comment:

Diana Ritchie said...

I absolutely loved this book - and I DIDN'T receive a free copy :-) I actual read a review while on an air plane - might have been in the American Airlines mag - and then got to my hotel and ordered it up on my Kindle!! Way cool ;-)