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 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.


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.

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.