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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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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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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