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Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist Paperback – July 6, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1ST edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439112991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439112991
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her new book, Jackson (A Bad Woman Feeling Good), inspired by her background studying American history and the recent birth of her son, tracks her family genealogy and takes the reader along for the ride. Before she can learn who her ancestors are, Jackson must learn the ins and out of genealogy, which she does by attending seminars, joining a local genealogical society, learning from the field's experts and, yes, going on a genealogy cruise. In conversational and witty prose, she conveys not only how much fun she is having but also what she is learning. But genealogy culture is just half of the story, the other half being Jackson's search for her family tree. While her quest starts innocently enough as she reaches out to her mother and father soon she finds herself embarking on a series of quirky adventures like looking for lost graveyards, hanging out with Mormons, going to her high school reunion, and finding out the Confederate South still exists. Thankfully, Jackson is a skilled writer, and the fun she has trying to find her dead kin is nicely balanced with the touching reconnections she makes with her living relatives.
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From Booklist

This handbook combines a friendly introduction to genealogical research with a memoir about how the author came to be interested in bridging the gap between her ancestors and her progeny. Throughout the book, Jackson exudes appreciation for the institutions that enable her research—genealogical organizations, libraries, historical societies, official repositories, and family members (several of whom she first met in the course of her research). A historian and a writer, Jackson packs an amazing amount of information and advice into small, pithy paragraphs: photograph the documents, she tells the reader; analyze them later. Let relatives interview each other. Consider DNA testing but understand what it actually tells you. Although the scope of Jackson’s research may be impossible for many others—she took a genealogy cruise, traveled extensively to remote sites, and audited a class on DNA testing—her descriptions of the process and the people she met will prove fascinating to everyone with an interest in tracing their family backward. Recommended both for those actively involved in genealogy and for those considering becoming involved. --Sally Jane

More About the Author

Buzzy Jackson is the award-winning author of the nonfiction books, "The Inspirational Atheist: Wise Words on the Wonder and Meaning of Life" (Plume/Penguin, 2014); "A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues and the Women Who Sing Them" (W.W. Norton: 2005), "Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Blood, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist" (Simon & Schuster: 2010), and the novel "Effie Perine."

Buzzy is a Correspondent for the Boston Globe. She has a PhD in History from UC Berkeley and is a Research Affiliate with the University of Colorado's Center of the American West.

Buzzy grew up in Truckee, California and in Montana, but since then she's lived in Los Angeles, Perth, Australia, New York City, San Francisco, Barcelona, Spain, Oakland, Boston, Berkeley, and Colorado. She has worked as a radio DJ, sandwich-maker, tennis hostess, NATO HQ tour guide, literary assistant, museum docent, ESL teacher, caterer, historical researcher, and college professor, all of which led her to Colorado, where she now lives with her family and a dog named Ralph.

Customer Reviews

I recommend it to anyone interested in genealogy.
Peri Muhich
She made me feel like I was right along with her during the course of the book and I had a hard time putting it down.
MonicaP
I finally downloaded the sample, got hooked, and bought and read the rest of the book.
CrochetingGardener

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Her Kind on August 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Part mystery, part history, part adventure, part science, part education, part memoir; this book does it all and does it well. Buzzy Jackson takes us on a search for her family roots that introduces us to the world of genealogy but doesn't shy away from its complexities. The author searches for her past from the perspective of a cruise ship, an abandoned graveyard, a road trip through the south, and even a tour of the New World Vatican -- Salt Lake City. Jackson's book is hard to put down and if you are like me, you will find yourself picking it right back up again when you've finished. Buy it for your family as well--makes a great conversation starter. After all, it's a subject we all share!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on July 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
The author is a Ph.D. in history, tells the story of the beginning of her search for her ancestors. It is written for the general reader, but this genealogist with a fair amount of experience found it entertaining, even funny in places, as well as interesting. Even learned a thing or two. I think a beginning genealogist could learn a lot from it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By SkiCountryClan on September 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love Buzzy's wit and sense of adventure while searching for her family history. She invites us into her journey, takes us for a wild ride, and leaves us hungry to continue the search for our own blue bloods and black sheep. OK, full disclosure, Buzzy is my friend and I was privy to the behind-the-scenes stories while she was writing. Nonetheless, I found myself still reading at 4:15 AM the day the book was delivered to my doorstep. I couldn't put it down. Anyone who has tramped the backwoods to find a family cemetery, or has climbed an ancient ladder into a hot courthouse attic will feel the tug as Buzzy tells her own story. She has words of wisdom for the newbies and helpful insight for even the most dedicated genealogist. And for those of you who haven't discovered the joy of disturbing an entire library with the whoops and hollers of a great genealogical find ... read on. You have no idea what you're missing!
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
I just completed reading Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist by Buzzy Jackson (Touchstone, New York, 2010). I picked it up on the recommendation of others, but the title alone was enough to grab me.

I must say that I don't find it the least bit ironic that written in an era dominated by online social networking, that I thought the book read like a 200+ page post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter. It is in fact sort of two books interwoven. On one hand you have the almost ego-driven story of Buzzy herself as she goes about learning and practicing family research. She tells us her opinion on practically everything -- guns, gays, cruises, cruise ship participants, the south, southerners, the use of the Confederate Flag, religion, the religious, the D.A.R., elites, and on and on. And perhaps most of all -- her undying support for Barack Obama. What does any of this have to do with family history, genealogy, or the search for it? Nothing. Yet that makes up at least half the book.

Contrast that to the other half, that which is relevant to her quest. And I do mean "contrast," for it is engaging and engrossing; Masterfully written. If you are a true genealogist, I dare you to put down the chapter on her trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City! But those genuinely golden nuggets are few and far between, and the reader must put up with yet another liberal rant about this or that to find them.

I am politically and socially conservative, Buzzy is clearly from the other end of the political spectrum. So I found all the political opinion irritating and irrelevant. I suspect that those who agree with her politically will find it lesser so.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Weechella on September 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
Jackson may be an accidental genealogist, but she's an on-purpose good writer. This is a book that anybody can pick up and enjoy. Sure, you can get plenty of solid info on tracing your family's roots--or you can just get into her adventures with and without little three-year-old Jackson, her well-traveled son. You don't have to be one of those "genies" that she describes so eloquently, you can simply be a person who appreciates good research, insightful reporting, and oh-so-witty asides.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Odell on November 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
Genealogy books tend to be about as dry as they come. If humor is incorporated, like with Megan Smolenyak's books, it tends to fall into the cheesy category. In "Shaking the Family Tree," thankfully, Buzzy Jackson finally delivers the genealogical community a book that provides a smartly humorous look at the oddities of the genealogical community.

Motherhood causes Jackson, a historical researcher by trade, to take up an interest in tracing her roots. On her paternal side, her ancestors were from Alabama; on her maternal side, Ukrainian Jews. Focusing primarily on her Jacksons, the author sets out on a cross-country trip to research her lines while also exposing herself to the traditional genealogical experiences -- interviewing elderly relatives, visiting homesteads, attending local society meetings, tracking down old cemeteries, utilizing the famed LDS library in Salt Lake. She also tries out newer approaches, like conducting DNA research and even going on a genealogy cruise.

In all of her adventures, Jackson uses an appropriate mix of wit, warmth, and wisdom. It is clear that even though she is new to the field, Jackson is a natural genealogist. By approaching the field as an outsider, however, she's also able to lovingly poke fun at some of the quirkier practices and people who make genealogy fascinating from a sociological perspective.

Jackson's relative youth compared to other genealogy memoirists means that her writing style, which includes the occasional slang and expletive, might not please some readers. Likewise, her political views (which, contrary to other reviews, come up only rarely) and her critiques of conservative Southern culture may turn off the sorts of readers who fly Confederate flags or have anti-Obama bumper stickers.
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