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The Family Tree Problem Solver: Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors Paperback – April 19, 2011
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About the Author
Marsha Hoffman Rising CG, FASG, was a professional genealogist who specialized in problem-solving issues that arise while researching nineteenth century ancestors. She also served as vice president of the National Genealogy Society and served on the boards of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the Board for Certification of Genealogists, the New England Historic Genealogic Society, and as president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the Genealogical Speaker's Guild. During her thirty year professional career in genealogy, she received the National Genealogical Society Award of Merit (1989), was elected a Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Society (1990), received the FGS George E. Williams Award (1991), the National Genealogical Society Award of Excellence (1992), and the FGS Malcolm H. Stern Humanitarian Award (1999).
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There is a branch of my family that has told a very romantic family story for generations, involving my 3x great grandparents' lives in a volatile area in Southwest Missouri during the Civil War. I love family lore, but I wanted to find the documentation that would either support the stories, or clarify the actual events as they truly occurred because the truth means more to me than stories that can and DO get embellished over the years. I had many challenges to overcome (courthouse burned TWICE, leaving practically zero trace of them), and this book has helped me enormously in looking at the bigger picture of not just names and dates, but the people who lived lives as we do today, as members of a family and a community, which can open floodgates of information to explore where previously there was only a brick wall. As a result of following Ms. Rising's tactics I have found documented facts that I wouldn't have found otherwise and the picture that's forming is far more intriguing than the family lore!
Whether your challenge is, like mine, no county records, or family from the difficult years prior to the 1850 Federal Census, or a family with a dozen men named John, this book can help you navigate the unknowns. There are no magic answers, of course, and I have several ancestors I doubt I'll ever get to the bottom of, but this book has helped me tremendously in knowing I have uncovered every crumb trail my ancestor may have left behind. And in the case of my burned courthouse family, I have found a much deeper story than I think I would've found had those county records been readily available because being new to family research, I probably wouldn't have thought to dig even deeper or wider into their community to find the nuggets I have found, including the documentation to support them! Highly recommended!
The only disappointment I have does not involve the main ideas she put forward, as those were well-done. As she says on the cover, these are "Tried-and-True Tactics for Tracing Elusive Ancestors." Her ideas are not new. I was hoping there would be new, innovative, out-side-the-box ideas to use. For those of us who have been engaged with trying to break through those walls, we have heard these ideas before in one form or another.
I don't want to discourage anyone from purchasing this book, because it is a worthwhile read. However, if you are an advanced genealogist, looking for novel ideas to break through a brick wall, you may be disappointed.
Even so, there are some valuable insights for everyone:
1) Census records have notoriously bad spelling and transposed letters, sometimes in the census record itself, other times introduced in the indexing. Because census searches do not allow for "soundex" or phonetic search, researchers should search by many alternate spellings.
2) Cluster genealogy is an important concept to keep in mind. That is, don't only focus on your direct family members, but consider the wider family unit, friends and neighbors.
There is an excellent table "Common errors found in genealogical evidence" that rates the likely accuracy of various genealogy sources. The least reliable, rated "Poor", are oral family traditions, folklore and stories, and past news features (when the even was long before). There is a brief DNA chapter at the end of the book, which appears to have been included as an afterthought.
This work is an invaluable research tool for anyone investigating family histories, and an historically accurate and provocative look into the facts and realities of the women daily lives, legal and religious rights, and contributions to our personal lives, as well as American history.
As we research the distaff side of our family trees we are often left with tantalizing clues, that lead us down the garden path to brick-walls. Hoffman provides historically accurate, fact based, well researched and tested strategies for scaling those walls, and locating the women in our past. Her methods work!
Hoffman demystifies research techniques,and provides state - by - state historical and legal information that I have never found compiled elsewhere.
Her friendly style makes the book easy to read, and her recommendations easy to follow. Most importantly, she provides an accurate, no nonsense, historically accurate view of womens history.
I wish I had found her work earlier in my own genealogy searches! I would highly recommend this author, and her works for anyone seriously looking for their fore-mothers.
This fine book is a "must have," for every genealogist, whether amateur or pro!