Shaking the Family Tree by Buzzy Jackson is not your typical genealogy memoir. I found it both delightful and annoying, yet I couldn’t put it down. Buzzy begins her family research by purchasing plane tickets and traveling across country to visit some distant relatives. After all, the first steps of genealogy is to interview family members…
Buzzy then orders a DNA test and goes on a genealogy cruise. Who gets a DNA test before looking at a single census record?! I found myself becoming very annoyed with her strategy towards genealogical research. But, to each his own! Once I got past Buzzy’s unusual style, she actually kind of grew on me.
Shaking the Family Tree contains many conversations with various renowned genealogists that really offer a great deal of information. She approaches many parts of the book as a journalist (not a genealogist) and that’s when I most enjoyed the book. Some other highlights included her LDS family library visit, a discussion on the availability of Irish records, the increasing use of DNA testing, and the role of lineage societies. She touched on the very likely possibility of having African American relatives through her slave owning ancestors and wonders how to approach the issue, however no conclusions were made (in the book at least).
In the end it turned out to be a pretty good read. Buzzy begins as a complete novice that goes straight to the high dive. While I don’t imagine many people will go about their own research using her strategy, there is still a lot to learn from her experience.