I have, on occasion, heard the name, Marsha Hoffman Rising, in the context of preeminent genealogists. But I knew nothing of her work, writings, or professional vitae until I stumbled on this book. Then, I knew what all of the buzz was about.The Family Tree Problem Solver (Family Tree Books) by Marsha Hoffman Rising is my new genealogy, best friend-type book. We go everywhere together. We talk about all of my genealogy problems. The book, subtitled “tried and true tactics for tracing elusive ancestors,” is an advanced methodology cookbook with techniques and examples for tackling all of the most common “brick walls” we encounter in genealogy.
Before you say “ooh, too complicated” and turn away, hear me out. Let me give you a couple reasons why this is a must check-out and a great Dear Santa List book, then you decide if it merits your time .
- Tone – This is not some high-minded, academic work written to impress fellow scholars. It is an easy-to-read, jump to the chapter of interest reference book. Rising uses everyday language and normal genealogy challenges in her examples. She is conversational, and her experience comes through like a guiding light saying “follow me, I know where to find the ancestor you’re seeking.”
- Pictures! – Every child loves picture books. And weren’t we all a little disappointed when we grew up and the books we read didn’t have pictures? Yeah, me, too. Well, fear not! This book is packed with lots of pictures, okay, illustrations, maps, charts, sample documents, and even regular-old, pictures of dead people and cemeteries. What more could a genealogist want? My point is the points she makes have greater clarity and are easier to follow with clear, concise images to accompany them.
- Content – If you’ve ever hit a brick wall issue, odds are pretty good she gets to the heart of it here. Burned Counties? Pre-1850 research? Common name ancestors? Parsing people with the same name? I’m just scratching the surface here, but you get the point. All of the tough issues we face daily in our research are handled here with grace and ease.
- Organization Tools – One of the biggest challenges all genealogists face is organizing not just our files and papers, but arranging the data we find in a manner that makes conclusions not only possible but clear as broad daylight. (You already know how much I love timelines!) This book is filled with dozens of handy tables and charts – not that you should necessarily copy them, but you could – that point the researcher in the direction of how to think about the information. These answer the question, “I have a three inch stack of records, now what?” The charts gently walk you in to the magical land of family tree analysis….without you even realizing it. (sneaky, huh?)
Even though the book is only 255 pages there is much more to be had than I have highlighted here. Hopefully, I’ve gotten your attention and the next time you’re at the library or browsing www.amazon.com, you’ll give the book a once-over.
I have used her ideas in my research. Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn’t, and she’ll be the first to say (as she does in the book) that no one method is bulletproof. What the book has done is broadened my thinking, helped me look at a problem from another angle, introduced me to types of records I had not considered relevant, and overall enhanced my research experience and success rate.
And isn’t that what all genealogists want? A positive, successful genealogy experience.
Check out the book, and happy researching.