by Megan Smolenyak
For three short seasons NBC had a TV show called “Who Do You Think You Are?” which I would rush home to watch every Friday evening. It was a show about tracing your roots, finding ancestors and learning what kind of lives they lived, how the times they lived in influenced the course of their lives and how they in turn, influence our lives even from the distant past. Each week one celebrity was highlighted as Ancestry.com and librarians everywhere assisted in the search. I loved it.
The TV show is gone from Friday nights but the book is even better. Yes, it still outlines the searches of celebrities who appeared on the show, but more importantly it takes readers by the hand and offers them the tools to begin starring in their own search for their ancestors. The author, Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian for Ancestry.com, has written this book for beginning to intermediate genealogists. She mixes an easy style with good solid information and spices it with a sense of the mystery-solving excitement.
All the basic information sources for genealogical study are discussed: census records, military records, vital records, immigration records, newspapers and obituaries.
One caution: the rate in which records are being put online is very fast. Some of the records not available online when this book was written in 2009 are now available, so it won’t hurt to try checking online for them. Also, family tree software keeps getting better and better every year so read up-to-date reviews before purchasing.
I recommend reading this book before launching yourself into an experience that is much, much more than just an old fashioned pedigree chart. And don’t forget the Ancestry.com database is on DPL in-house computers free of charge to library patrons.