Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, A Companion to the NBC Series

I have to admit that when I first encountered this book I was a bit hesitant about a genealogy book associated with a television program. You can understand my hesitation considering there are very few genealogy programs and even fewer with companion books.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book by well-known genealogist Megan Smolenyak. The book is geared toward the beginning genealogist, particularly those people who may have watched the show and decided it was time to start tracing their roots.

There have been many beginning genealogy books published in the past so what makes this one different? I am happy to say that this book is different.

First off, it is easy to read and approachable. It is written in a playful, conversational style. Anyone who is sticking their big toe in the pool of genealogy will feel welcomed rather than apprehensive or overwhelmed.

Smolenyak also has a way of gently warning the beginners of genealogical pitfalls and myths all the while coaxing them in the right direction. She provides them with the important first steps in genealogy such as beginning with home sources and oral history interviews. She then takes her readers through census, vital and military records as well as “crossing the pond” back to the old country. She has a whole section about online records while at the same time cautioning the beginners that not all information is found online.

Perhaps one of the things I like best about the book is that Smolenyak uses examples from her own personal family history as well as from her professional projects to illustrate her discussions. The result is a more intimate book.

The previously released hard copy version contains a full-color section with profiles of the celebrities from season one. The profiles contain a summary of the individual episodes that were revealed during the first season. While providing an accurate summary of the programs, the profiles understandably lack the emotional element that is present in the television version. For anyone that is particularly interested in learning about the celebrities I would encourage you to seek out the original episodes online or in video format. Please note that the recently released paperback version of the book does not contain the celebrity overviews.

In summary, Megan Smolenyak’s companion book to the series Who Do You Think You Are? is a delightful, welcoming introduction to genealogy for the uninitiated. If you have a friend or relative that seems ready to learn about their family history then encourage them with a copy of this book. It may be just what they need to catch the genealogy bug.

Both versions of book can currently be found online at quite reasonable discounted prices.

Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, A Companion to the NBC Series. By Megan Smolenyak. Published by Viking, the Penguin Group (USA), New York, NY. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-670-02163-5. $24.95 Paperback. ISBN 978-0-143-11891-6. $15.00

1 comment:

  1. I agree. I am surprised by how many genealogists I meet in my classes who did not read a "how to." That was the first thing I did 20 years ago - looked at the 929 section of my library. I took this book out at my local library and ended up buying a copy to keep. I have recommended it to other libraries as well. You just can't tell people too many times to organize and document!