Review: The Invisible History of the Human Race

The Invisible History of the Human Race

In The Invisible History of the Human Race author Christine Kenneally has written an engaging story of how DNA, history, culture and environment have all come together to make each of us unique. Readers will appreciate the great storytelling that Kenneally offers whether it is related to Australian convict records, to DNA testing methodologies, or to how the Mormons grew to become so involved with genealogy.

What the author has crafted is a narrative of approachable science especially since advances in DNA testing and research have occurred so rapidly over the past 15 years. Kenneally’s chapters discussing Huntington’s Disease, Tay-Sachs Disease and the Melungeons stand out and get the reader to understand the ramifications of DNA testing today and in the future. The author gets at the heart of what we pass down from generation to generation and how DNA testing can now help us better understand not just the genetic code, but other influences such as environment, diet, culture and more.

For those who’ve been in the genealogy community for the past five to ten years, you will recognize many of the names mentioned in the book. Kenneally attended several genealogy conferences around the world, including RootsTech, as part of the research process. While I am familiar with the work and writings of these experts, it is always nice to see their offerings made available to those new to genealogy and DNA, one of the targeted audiences of The Invisible History of the Human Race.

If you have friends and family who don’t understand your obsession with genealogy and now your new obsession with DNA, The Invisible History of the Human Race would make the perfect gift, especially with the upcoming holiday season.

Conclusion

The Invisible History of the Human Race offers a first rate lesson in the history of genealogy, genetics and DNA for the lay reader. If I were to recommend this book to a friend, I’d say “Come for the DNA lesson and stay for the great overview of history and science that has made you that unique person that you are right here and right now.”

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: Goldsborough Families – Descendants of Charles Worthington Goldsborough and Ruth Arilla Redfearn

Goldsborough Families - Descendants of Charles Worthington Goldsborough and Ruth Arilla Redfearn

Recently at the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ 2015 conference in San Antonio, Texas, I had the pleasure to meet author Karen Merrill Martin who has recently published Goldsborough Families – Descendants of Charles Worthington Goldsborough and Ruth Arilla Redfearn. When I was asked to review the book, of course I said “Yes” because I’m always curious to see how other genealogists take years of research to produce a published work.

What Martin has produced is not only an excellent example of self-publishing by a genealogist, but Goldsborough Families is a thoroughly engaging read filled with photos and compelling family stories.

Goldsborough Families – A Solid Read

As someone who teaches self-publishing in the genealogy industry, when I review a book I have a mental checklist of items that should be included and Martin has all bases covered. In fact, she’s added a few things that caused me to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” such as a front section entitled “Conventions, Abbreviations and The Like.” Here the author explains to the non-genealogy reader the Modified Register format for labeling and numbering individuals. Also included are abbreviations that any genealogist would know, but perhaps not a family member reading the book.

Martin details the lives of six generations of Goldsborough family members, offering photos, transcriptions of newspaper articles and obituaries, all with source citations at the end of each generation section. While many family history books follow this format, I can tell that the author took extra care in selecting the best photos with high resolution and also arranged all elements about an ancestor to tell a solid story for each.

The stories are wonderful and enjoyable to read – even if they aren’t my own relations! What Martin has produced in Goldsborough Families is a fine example of what every self-published genealogy book should be.

Conclusion

At 401 pages, Goldsborough Families is a substantial family history book and genealogy societies and libraries will definitely want to get a copy for their patrons. Individuals will also benefit from the book, not only for research linked to these families, but also as an example of what can be done with years of genealogy research.

Please visit Karen Merrill Martin’s website at http://karenskuzins.weebly.com/ for more information about Goldsborough Families – Descendants of Charles Worthington Goldsborough and Ruth Arilla Redfearn and how to purchase your copy.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

First Look: Who Do You Think You Are? Story

wdytya story review by geneabloggers

Recently I received an invite to beta test the new Who Do You Think You Are? storytelling platform at http://www.whodoyouthinkyouarestory.com/. The premise of the website is to get visitors to replicate the family tree often shown on the television show using their own family history data and photos.

Storytelling has taken a big leap into the digital world over the past few years. DC Thomson Family History Limited, owners of Find My Past and other genealogy research sites, provide Who Do You Think You Are? Story as one storytelling option.

How WDYTYA Story Works

The Who Do You Think You Are? Story site is easy to use and the premise is similar to that of other family tree-building sites: create a login, verify login, create a profile, add info about yourself and family members, etc.

The process of uploading photos is quick and what I like is this: if you can’t find a photo with just that one ancestor in it, you can upload a group photo and then select the face image for your ancestor – a nice touch! Another nice feature is the ability to email a family member to get additional information for your story.

Once all the data is input, the story has a “play” button which tells your family story via the photos and text. One aspect of the storytelling about which I’m undecided is the addition of “events.” I understand the need to put a family’s history in historical context but this seems to clutter the story in my opinion.

Finally, at the end you can share your story via Facebook and Twitter or even email. What isn’t clear is that your story is hidden until you share and then you can make the story hidden again. As with the birth date privacy issue below, I think Find My Past needs to be more upfront about where my uploaded data will appear and who will have access. I realize there is a Terms and Conditions for the site, but it is always better to call out privacy control mechanisms than to bury them in a governing document.

Some Tweaks Needed to WDYTYA Story

Understanding that the product is still in beta testing mode, I took the opportunity to send the following feedback about my WDYTYA Story experience:

  • Privacy concerns: I had to enter my birth date and I was unable to hide that date (or at least, I couldn’t figure out a way to do so). I noticed that when I added my parents’ birth dates, I could provide a decade range (“the 1940s”) but not for myself. I consider this a “show stopper” which would prevent me from sharing my story publicly via social media (and why I’ve chosen not to do so).
  • Location issues: I was born in Liberty, New York – a very small town in upstate New York – and all I could select from in the drop down list was Liberty, Missouri and Libertyville, Illinois. I had to settle for New York, United States. I recommend that the programmers somehow leverage the Google Maps API for concise location selection. Also, there could be a benefit in the future if I could then pin events to a Google Maps generated map similar to Pinterest’s map function.
  • Generated family tree: I didn’t see any method of taking all the work I had performed – manually entering family tree information – and then joining Find My Past and importing such information into a tree. This seems like a lost marketing opportunity if you ask me.
  • My profile image. I swear I look like the Sun Baby in Teletubbies when I view my story. I’d love it if I could decide on the cropped area of my photo instead of letting WDYTYA Story decide.

Conclusion

The Who Do You Think You Are? Story site is fun and easy to use. Right now it is a bit UK-centric which is understandable given where the WDYTYA originated and where Find My Past is based. It would be nice if given all the effort it takes to add family members and photos that this could then be converted to a Find My Past family tree if a user were not already a member of Find My Past. Also, there need to be some changes in terms of privacy (see above).

Overall, the Who Do You Think You Are? Story platform is a great way to get a friend or family member interested in genealogy and family history.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.