Review: Crash Course in Family History – Fifth Edition

crash course family history

If you wanted to introduce a friend or family member to genealogy and hope that they “catch the bug,” you can’t do better than to hand them a copy of Crash Course in Family History, Fifth Edition by Paul Larsen. Crash Course is over 338 pages of valuable information for genealogists and family historians, whether you’ve just started your research or you’ve been doing genealogy for years.

Crash Course covers every aspect of genealogy from how to get started to what are the latest resources being used today. Crash Course is just as useful to the intermediate genealogist too since I’m sure you’ll find listed many genealogy resources that you’ve heard of before.

Highlights – Why Crash Course Works So Well

There are several reasons why I like the way Crash Course works and why I think it is a great addition to your family history library:

  • 3-Easy-Steps: right out of the gate, Larsen provides an easy-to-use chart which is actually an index to the book. We aren’t all at the same stage in our genealogy journey, so you simply find where you want to start and then go!
  • Updated Information: Larsen is right on top of the latest developments in family history especially those involving the Internet. This includes DNA testing and results interpretation, the use of social media, and technology including tablets, mobile devices and more. Best of all? Larsen “gets” the concept of genealogy blogs, explains how to use RSS feeds and Feedly and highlights the entire genealogy blogging community including GeneaBloggers.
  • Covers the Basic Foundations of Methodology: You’ve got to love a book that stresses the use of a genealogy research log, analyzing your results and citing your sources!
  • Comprehensive List of Resources: One of the best uses of Crash Course for those who’ve already started on their research is to check for research resources. These include online resource covering US and International genealogy as well as archives, library and repositories.


I opted to receive a complimentary copy of Crash Course in Family History as a CD since I was traveling at the time and I didn’t want to pack a large book in my suitcase. Also, having PDF access to a genealogy book is better suited to my research and reading habits – so I was happy that Crash Course was available in this format.

Getting started was easy: I just took the CD from the package, popped it into my computer and opened the Greetings – READ THIS pdf. The greeting thanked me for purchasing Crash Course and also pointed out that there were two formats for the book in PDF – a large format (for larger screens) and a smaller format for mobile devices like my iPad.

I’m always impressed when I see a publisher offer a book in both print/hardcover and in electronic format. This tells me that the publisher understands and honors the different ways in which we as genealogists consume and use information.


As I’ve said in my previous review, I think that Crash Course in Family History is a great way for beginners to get started on their genealogy journey AND it also offers valuable tips and insights to those who’ve been doing genealogy for years. Great resources, easy-to-read format, beautiful illustrations – a complete package!

I feel so strongly about Crash Course, that it should be a required holding for every library including public libraries and genealogy society libraries. Crash Course makes a great gift (and the holidays are not far away) especially for those family members who’ve always said, “I want to do my genealogy someday!”

[Note: We previously reviewed Crash Course in Family History, Third Edition back in April 2010.]

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Crash Course in Family History – Fifth Edition is available in hardcover format via Amazon, Legacy Family Tree and the author’s website,; and as a digital download/CD via Legacy Family Tree and;

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: Mind Maps for Genealogy by Ron Arons

mind maps for genealogy cover - small

Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis by Ron Arons, Oakland, California: Criminal Research Press, 71 pages, published 2014. $26.95 (includes shipping and handling).

As a fan of the concept of mind mapping – creating a visual road map for idea generation and problem solving – and its applications for genealogical research, I was very pleased to locate the new book Mind Maps for Genealogy by Ron Arons. Recently at the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree in Burbank, California, I was able to speak to Ron about the book and mind mapping and I’m happy to be able to review Mind Maps for Genealogy.

Like me, Arons is a genealogy author and educator and we both realize that there are limits to illuminating a weighty topic like mind mapping within the confines of a 50 minute live presentation or webinar. That’s why I’m so happy to see a book like Mind Maps for Genealogy available to genealogists and family historians. Aron’s book does a great job at not just covering the basics, but the author actually takes research concepts familiar to genealogists (like the Genealogical Proof Standard) and shows real examples of how mind maps can help you apply the concept and resolve questions about your own research.

Find Genealogy Research Success via Real Problem Solving

So what will you find in Mind Maps for Genealogy? Besides a basic history and overview of the mind mapping concept, the author takes time to explain mind mapping terminology, why some current methods of displaying genealogy research data don’t work well, and how genealogists can mind map their own research projects.

One things Arons does well is to honor that fact that we all learn and intake information differently; this also means we need different ways to map out research problems. Arons also covers the two major mind mapping software programs – FreeMind and XMind – quite well, with both a beginner’s/get started view and then a more advanced view.

Arons zooms in on the Life-Focused Genealogy approach that many genealogists use when researching. With his own research example of the life of Isaac Spier who served time in Sing Sing Prison for bigamy, Arons walks the reader through the entire mind mapping process including brainstorming and planning, the use of a research log and finally the correlation and analysis process.

My favorite part of Mind Maps for Genealogy? Where Arons took the example research problem data from well-known genealogists including Dr. Thomas W. Jones (Mastering Genealogical Proof) and Elizabeth Shown Mills (Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage – QuickLesson 11) and created mind maps for each. It is amazing to see all the evidence laid out in mind map parent and child nodes; as a reader you can then understand the value of a mind map to solve those brick wall issues in one’s own research!


I think Mind Maps for Genealogy is a worthwhile purchase for those researchers who want to get serious about applying mind mapping methods to research problem solving. There are a few areas that as a publisher I personally would change: add a more substantial cover instead of the current paper cover, increase the size and resolution of some illustrations, and omit the source citations for the Isaac Spier mind maps at the end. However, these issues are from my own personal working perspective and they don’t detract from the overall value of the book as a resource for mind mapping.

If you’ve heard others talk about mind mapping and you’re serious about leveraging its power to help you better understand genealogical problem solving, Mind Maps for Genealogy is a must have handbook to get you started.

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Mind Maps for Genealogy by Ron Arons is available from the author’s website here.

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.

Review: Une Bobine for iPhone 5S

une bobine with laptop
Are you like me when it comes to my iPhone? If it isn’t in my pocket, then I’m always wondering where it is! And, there are certain things I only use my iPhone for and I wish there was a better way to integrate it into my home or traveling office. Well I’ve found what I needed: Une Bobine.


According to the Fuse Chicken website, “Une Bobine is a cable, dock, tripod and stand rolled together into the world’s most flexible iPhone charger. It’s small enough to fit in your travel bag, but strong enough to hold your iPhone in nearly unlimited places in your office, nightstand, kitchen, and car.”

une bobine

Une Bobine for iPhone 5|C|S is a great tool for someone like me who is constantly on the go. Une Bobine charges your iPhone, it syncs and it helps keep your iPhone accessible.

But Une Bobine is more than just a slick looking cable – it is a flexible stand that helps integrate your iPhone into your office desktop. Here’s how I’ve been using Une Bobine over the past week:

  • A client and I used Facetime on my iPhone to discuss a project – I was able to continue working with the iPhone connected to Une Bobine . . . I didn’t have to juggle my iPhone!
  • I was using the CamScanner app to scan some documents and rather than hold the phone in my hand, it was much more stable to have it sit in the Une Bobine. I’ve also used Shoebox from with the Une Bobine connected with the same excellent results.
  • Sometimes it is just easier to look things up on my iPhone . . . now I know where it is all the time when I am working and I don’t need to search the house or, worse yet, call myself to figure out where it is!

And since I travel so much, I like the fact that Une Bobine is flexible, light-weight and goes into my Swiss Gear backpack with my other connectors. Now when I’m working in a hotel room or blogging from a genealogy conference, I know where my iPhone is at all times!


While I like “tech gadgets” I try to avoid buying “toys” that look good yet have limited performance. Une Bobine is a multi-function office tool and definitely not a toy or something that just looks good. Une Bobine is proof that something elegant can also be utilitarian and help improve your office functionality and productivity.

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Une Bobine for iPhone 5|C|S is currently on sale for $34.95. Fuse Chicken also has Une Bobine available in other models and formats including For iPhone 4/4S ($19.95), Micro | USB ($19.95) and the Petite Bobine for Micro | USB (on sale for $7.95).

Technical Specifications

From the Fuse Chicken website:

  • 24 inches / 600 mm
  • iPhone 5/5S/5C Lightning Connector
  • USB connector


  • Une Bobine will fit most cases with the bottom of the iPhone open. The size of Une Bobine where it attaches to iPhone is 40mm x 6mm

Optional Accessories

  • Car Kit includes Car Charger and Dash Stability Clip
  • Protect Kit includes Crystal-Clear Slim Case

What Can Une Bobine Do?

  • Look very cool on your desk or table
  • Charge your phone by connecting to USB or a wall charger
  • Sync with a computer by connecting to USB
  • Adjust based on your mood
  • Place iPhone at eye level for FaceTime or Skype
  • Hold your phone steady for photography and videography
  • Hold your phone in position for GPS while driving (with optional Car Kit)
  • Position your iPhone as the perfect alarm clock
  • Did we mention that it looks very cool?

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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