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Shaking the Family Tree – Shaken and Stirred!

Shaking the Family Tree

For weeks I had heard from my colleagues in the genealogy field about this “fantastic” book with genealogy as the main subject and by a woman with an “odd name.” Somehow I thought that footnoteMaven had finally written a comprehensive book about 19th century photography studios or about photos of women with glasses. Or perhaps it was a new tome by citation goddess Elizabeth Shown Mills under a nom de plume like I. Cites. Whatever it was, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy, based on the “buzz” the book was creating.

The Buzz

Well Buzzy is a better word – as in Buzzy Jackson, the author of Shaking the Family Tree – Blue Bloods, Black Sheep and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist. Jackson’s view of how a fairly innocent hobby like genealogy can become an obsession is not only accurate but she is also able to convey how many genealogists – both the hobbyist and the professional – feel about searching for family history.

When I told a non-genealogy friend about Shaking the Family Tree, she said, “Well I knew you were possessed by this genealogy thing. Now I just think you are possessed.” Why do I want to climb to the top of a tree and shout about this book? Because what Jackson has written is simply what I would sit down and tell someone who asks, “So what does genealogy involve? And why are genealogists so obsessed with it?”

The Journey

Buzzy Jackson’s journey which begins innocently with attending a local genealogical society meeting could be any genealogist’s journey. Over the course of the book readers not only find out more about Jackson’s own family, but how the process of searching for ancestors has changed thanks to the Internet as well as the availability of DNA testing. In fact, I was very impressed by the logical way in which Jackson described DNA testing and its genealogical uses – it is probably one of the best summaries on the subject that I’ve seen.

With humor as well as poignant details, Jackson has been able to encapsulate all the fascinates genealogists in an engaging book. Jackson covers it all: the brick walls, the genealogy research trips, the interviews with family members and more. With the holiday shopping season upon us, not only would this make a great gift for the genealogist in your life, but also for those who’ve expressed an interest and want to learn more about genealogy.

Got Genealogy?

Buzzy Jackson “gets” genealogy and understands its many aspects, its traditions and what the future holds for the industry. And luckily for us, she has been able to communicate the “pull” that genealogy can have on one’s life and she’s willing to share it in Shaking the Family Tree. Not only will readers be shaken but hopefully they’ll be stirred to start their own hunt for their ancestors. Then they’ll understand the life of the genealogy-obsessed.

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Disclaimer: I contacted Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster about receiving a review copy of the book Shaking Your Family Tree at no cost in consideration of writing a review. This material connection had no effect on the outcome of the review and the review was performed based on the merits of the written work of the author. See Disclosure Statements for more information on the material connections I have with various genealogy and non-genealogy vendors.

©2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

19 thoughts on “Shaking the Family Tree – Shaken and Stirred!

  1. Genealogy to me knowing yourself by knowing your ancestors.

    Every person was effected by their parents (or lack there of). Our parents were effected by their parents and their parents were effected by their parents, etc. Therefore, who we are today is a result of all of those people.

    So how can we understand ourselves and who we are without knowing who our ancestors are?

  2. To me, genealogy is finding out where I came from (or helping others to do the same). It’s amazing what you discover about yourself by learning about the lives of those that preceded you!

  3. Genealogy is learning where you came from and the people that helped you to get to where you are today! Our ancestors have paved the way for how we think, how we live our lives in this World of ours and how we see ourselves as part of our individual families. Researching our genealogy and family histories can give us so much to be proud of and in some cases we not be very proud of our ancestors and what they might have done but they add spice to our own lives!

  4. I keep track of who was born, lived, and died in our family and try to learn as much as possible about each one of them!

  5. Genealogy to me is learning not just the facts and dates about my ancestors, but the little details of everyday life, how they seemed to handle them and how the outcome shaped their lives. It helps me to better see and understand traits that reappear in our families. As the old saying, “You can’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been”.

  6. Before genealogy – I just floated around in life doing this or that – nothing much really mattered.
    After genealogy – I can truly be above water and stand up straight, knowing I have a little bit of all my ancestors in me. After researching them I am so proud to be a product of them! Everything matters now.

  7. One answer equals two new questions!
    The reason I look for the people of my past is because each one of them make up part of me. Each one of them is the reason I am who I am. In other words I need to figure out who to blame! Just kidding about the last part.

  8. I often have to try to explain my passion for genealogy to those who just don’t know. I always use the same lines.

    “I’m looking for the story! The story of my past, my parents and grandparents past. I want to know the details of their lives, where they came from, why they did the things they “choose” to do, and “had” to do. I want to follow my ancestors through their life, track their children, my relatives. The little things, like baptisms, births, deaths, marriages, where they lived, what the did for a living, or simply to survive, say so much about my own foundation, and existence. I want to experience their successes and failures in some small way. I know it sounds like a lot to get from researching your family history or roots, but it is possible. The satisfaction of finding a record buried deep in the archives of some dusty church records, or a virtual record found on an unexpected web site, is hard to explain.”

    I do have to say I get some pretty strange looks some times.

  9. I tell people it started as a hobby and has become my addiction. Genealogy is not just looking at my past family members but also history. It isn’t just names and dates, it’s any little story that may bring that person to life again if only in my mind. It is like working a jigsaw puzzle, trying to find how all the pieces fit together to make one big picture.

  10. Genealogy is the reminder that before you have gone an army of ancestors to nurture you and get you where you are today. It is a reminder that your ancestors have gone through adversity, and even when their families were nearly snuffed out, they have come back and flourished, resulting in a huge, supportive, network of cousins and other kin; and even if you go through hard times, those who come after you will benefit from your hard work whether they know it or not.
    Genealogy is the study of resilience. Genealogy is the study of love. Genealogy is the study of redemption.

  11. Genealogy is the art and science of pulling together strands of data to weave your own tapestry of who you are and where you came from. As art, it requires creativity and a spark that informs passion about history, narrative, and a desire to share. As science, it requires a philosophy of open-minded inquiry tempered with a form of intellectual rigor and application of rules about data collection, analysis, synthesis, and conclusions. And it’s really, really cool to find something nobody ever found out before – which is entirely personal to you and your family.

  12. Why do I do . . . what I do . . . because . . . I feel called . . . to do my part . . . to make sure . . . that those begotten . . . will be not forgotten . . .

  13. I’m giving a voice to those who came before me. This is a history that needs to be told and goes beyond anything that we ever learned in a classroom.

  14. Genealogy, like history, is best summed up by this quote from David McCullough:

    “History is about human nature. It’s about trying to understand people. And cause and effect in life. And that’s why it is so everlastingly interesting.”

    So that is why I love genealogy – I find people so ‘everlastingly interesting’. Genealogy is about people.

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