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Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  242 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews

As a historian, Buzzy Jackson thought she knew the answers to these simple questions—that is, until she took a look at her scrawny family tree. With a name like Jackson (the twentieth most common American surname), she knew she must have more relatives and more family history out there, somewhere. Her first visit to the Boulder Ge
ebook, 256 pages
Published July 6th 2010 by Touchstone (first published June 18th 2010)
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Scott Whitney
Sep 16, 2010 Scott Whitney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have done genealogy for a number of years and have found this book to match my experience in the pursuit of my ancestors. Definitely one of my favorite books this year. Buzzy Jackson brings wit and humor to the subject.
Jun 13, 2011 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
I don't like to discover that someone else had the idea for what would have been the perfect book for me to write. I could still write it; my version would be very different because of my countless generations of southern heritage on every single line of my family tree, so I hope this book sells a bajillion copies, creating a market for my future book. :) Buzzy Jackson has southern ancestors, but they were rich (read: landowners and slave holders). Most of mine were moonshiners and dirt farmers, ...more
May 15, 2013 Diana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genealogy
Despite my great love of history and tracing my genealogy, I do not normally enjoy reading books in which the author describes how they traced their own family tree. Likewise, I do not normally enjoy reading books that are essentially a how-to book. Jackson's book, however, was a treat to read. Instead of dry charts and lists of names, I felt as though I was joining her on her journey to find her roots. Her writing voice is that of a friend having a personal conversation rather than a writer tal ...more
Nov 04, 2013 Ashley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 05, 2016 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genealogy
Most genealogy books are written by experts, but this one chronicles the steps taken by someone new at the hobby, and someone with a common last name as well. She does an excellent job describing the different avenues that are tackled by genealogists, from joining groups to DNA testing to a pilgrimage to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, I was a little unhappy with her recounting of a trip to the South to see where her ancestors once lived. She brags about working for ...more
Imagine that you have an expensive hobby. Now imagine that you have found a way to make everything connected to your hobby tax deductible! Yes! I said "tax deductible!" And that is why Buzzy Jackson is so very enthusiastic about genealogy! And you can be too!!!

This book is an advertisement for Princess Cruise Lines,, Family Tredd DNA testing, every genealogical organization you can think of (Join them ALL!!) and last, but not least, Buzzy Jackson.

The two stars are for page 28, for
Shasta Matova
Shaking the Family Tree by Buzzy Jackson is an autobiography that talks about her genealogy experiences.

Shaking the Family Tree is about the genealogical adventures of Buzzy Jackson. She went on a genealogy cruise, interviewed some family members, takes a DNA test, interviewed famous genealogists, visited her ancestor's homeland and found their cemetery, went to Salt Lake City to visit the biggest genealogy library. I enjoyed reading the book, but she freely admits that she hasn't done very much
Ann Christensen
I enjoyed knowing that someone the same age as me is as interested in finding stories about their ancestors. I shared some of the highs of finding information about family that has passed from this life. I was a little suprised by the use of the f bomb in one part of the book. That was the main turn off but everything else was interesting. I got a little lost in the explanation of DNA. I am intrested in doing a DNA test and still not sure how it will help me with my genealogy.
Let's get this out of the way first.... What this book is: a narrative memoir. What it is not: an in-depth how-to guide.

That's not to say I didn't pick up some tips for my own genealogical research, or that the reader can't learn a thing or two. But if you pick this book up, think of it as one woman's story about how she found her family history, not an analysis of her methods.

Not sure where some reviewers (here and on retail websites) are getting the idea that this is a "highly political" book
Nov 04, 2010 Debye rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genealogy
I really enjoyed this book. Newbies to genealogoy might see how easy it is to catch the fever, but those who do research won't really find anything new. For me, it renewed my enthusiasm for genealogy and glimpses of what a genealogy cruise might be like. Jackson hits on a lot of aspects of the research that helps you see the aspect through fresh eyes--which in turn just might inspire you to dive in with renewed enthusiasm.
Aug 11, 2014 Kathryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Entertaining but a little shallow; Jackson seems more interested in getting a book out of her research than in gaining any true understanding of her family. And while the stories and information in the book are interesting, they're thrown together in a way that feels both haphazard and repetitive. The chapter on DNA and its connections to perceptions of race in America, though, was definitely worth reading.
Nov 14, 2015 Katherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book for genealogists, especially one who are starting out. Jackson has one of the same problems I have in that her last name is one of the most common in the United States. The book is light hearted, but with a lot of information that is relevant, giving background information about the different ways she tried to solve at least part of the puzzle of her ancestry. Among the steps she took were a genealogy cruise, a trip to the area where her ancestors lived, and a trip to the hu ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Bhan13 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is what a long conversation would be like with a very funny writer friend of mine if she were passionate about genealogy. The style is very casual, very personal and it's a quick, enjoyable read. Her characterisation of the search for ancestors is spot on and there are a lot of resources in the text which are not compiled in a list so it's best to take notes while reading.
Aug 21, 2010 Dina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Buzzy's wit and sense of adventure while searching for her family history. She invites us into search, 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 fin ...more
As a family history buff, this book just jumped off the shelf at me as I was browsing the library. I figured that, if nothing else, I may be able to find some new genealogical resources in the reading of the book.

I found Buzzy Jackson's search for her family roots to be interesting on the whole. I did learn a few new resources as a result of reading this book and I'm hoping that information will help me in my own search. Overall, the book was a patchy read for me ... parts were fascinating and o
I was in the mood for a non-fiction book when I passed the "Recommended Books" section at my local library and saw this book. I've read other "my search for my ancestors" books and enjoyed them so I picked it up. I enjoyed the author's conversational writing style. I thought what she did say was interesting as far as it went. However, I felt she did not go far enough into her own genealogy search and did not report enough of that search (well, I don't think she really did enough there and spent ...more
Rachel Teen
Aug 03, 2016 Rachel Teen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book - Buzzy makes a potentially dry topic (because prior to this read I thought I would only be interested in my own family tree) such a pleasure to read.
She writes so well, creating a logical flow to a complicated journey. Her intelligent humour and detailed facts, let alone the little side tracks into opinion and world thoughts mis together superbly. And then there are the handy resource hints and helps that Buzzy so generously shares with the reader.
Even though I've been sporadica
Aug 07, 2014 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
Lots and lots of fun, though I wonder if it bugged professional or longer term serious genealogists the way that "librarians save the world" book a few years ago bugged me. It was a good trip through the fun and frustrations of genealogy. Since the author is descended from southerners, I didn't expect any connections, but it turned out one of her ancestors was at the same Civil War battle as one of my ancestors on the other side. Cool? Eerie? Yes.
Mar 08, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun book.... reminiscent of the late, great LaVerne Galeener-Moore books of the 1980s, which I read years ago. Buzzy Jackson takes a different approach to genealogy...and shares her experiences along the way.
Christiane Evaskis-Garrett
Buzzy Jackson's story is really the story of most beginning genealogists, though I never went on (or even knew there were) genealogy cruises! Jackson has some family stories and a few names to go on, and with the help of her local genealogy society, the internet, and newly discovered cousins, she travels from Michigan to Alabama, finding her ancestors and their marks on history all across the country. Any aspiring genealogist should read this book; I found it a fascinating and humorous take on t ...more
Nov 16, 2015 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun read, particularly if you're a genealogy nerd
Bree Flea
Mar 17, 2012 Bree Flea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes genealogy books are a little...dry. Without making my own charts and graphs I can't keep track of who the author is talking about and end up skimming what should be the point of the whole book. This book was not that dry boring genealogy books full of long lists of names and dates. It covered enough ancestors to be a genealogy book but in an interesting and often humorous way. I highly recommend this book even if you aren't researching your family history (and don't be suprised if you ...more
Terri Naughton
This was a very interesting read about the author's introduction to the wild and wacky world of genealogy research. As a beginning genealogist, I picked it up hoping it was more of a "how to" book, but instead it chronicles the adventures of someone who is just about as inexperienced as I am. Still, it was an enjoyable read for the most part, and it illustrates very well just how addictive this sort of research can be.
Jun 30, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engaging, witty writer with her feet and expectations on the ground regarding genealogical research. Appreciated her candor--even down to her Acknowledgments--with special emphasis on her engagement with relatives who challenged her politics during a non-political, social, first-time get-together, and on her stunning and pivotal visit to an out-of-the-way cemetery, courtesy of strangers.
Oct 18, 2013 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The sister has been working on family history lately -- time to get up to speed!

This book is surprisingly entertaining. I expected a dry how-to book. That's not what this is. Buzzy Jackson takes us along with her as she enjoys learning about the process of genealogy and the details of her family history. It's a great introduction to the practice, as she makes it sound so fun!
Nov 01, 2010 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: genealogy
Very good essay by an amateur genealogist about her attempts to learn more about her family. Well writtten, covering both traditional research and DNA research, as applied to her own efforts and her own family (half Russian Jews, half English puritains turned slave owners - interesting combination!) Not a reference book, its just a story about her efforts.
Cari Taplin
Jul 25, 2010 Cari Taplin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was SUCH a good book! Probably I had more of an attachment to it than some, but the subject matter is dear to my heart and many of my friends were mentioned. Buzzy really captured the reason why we do genealogy and convinced me of the value of genealogical DNA studies. Awesome book! Great job!
Nov 17, 2010 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK!! It is such a great read. I loved the light comical observations of the genealogy world. As someone who is still looking for that next branch, I loved the enthusiam that Buzzy threw herself (and her family) into the adventure. A must read for the genie crowd!!
Jul 26, 2010 jen8998 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Buzzy Jackson traces her family roots in this memoir. This proves a considerable task given the number of Jacksons in the world. Still, it's an amusing look at the science of genealogy and those who pursue learning more about their families, regardless of what they may find.
This is a narrative, not a how-to guide. I found the bits on genetic DNA testing, and the parts on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Library interesting. I did not appreciate some of the language that cropped up a few times.

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Buzzy Jackson is an award-winning author, historian, and book critic for the Boston Globe and other publications. Buzzy grew up in the American West, moving between Truckee, California and Montana. She eventually headed for sea level, living in Perth, Australia, Los Angeles, Barcelona, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area, where she earned a Ph.D. in History at UC Berkeley.

Her work experi
More about Buzzy Jackson...

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