Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review of "The Essential Latter-day Saint Guide to Finding Your Family"

Reviewed by Jaymie Reynolds
On 10/9/2008

Leatherwood Press, 2007 Paperback:
293 pages
ISBN 10: 1-59992-057-3
ISBN 13: 978-1-59992-057-3 Price: $19.95

The world of family history is growing bigger and more well known every day. Many people are driven to seek out and connect to their own past. Some people though, myself included, are fairly new to this world. I grew up hearing stories of long dead family members and enjoyed feeling a common bond with them. Now that I am ready to begin seeking out these lost loved ones on my own, I am overwhelmed by the process.

In researching family history, there are so many resources and tools available that I have never been sure which are most user-friendly and appropriate. Michael Otterson has recognized this need in many people and has, through his book, The Essential Latter-day Saint Guide to Finding Your Family On The Internet, attempted to simplify this process for overwhelmed and under-motivated beginners.

Mr. Otterson begins his book with a background of why family history is so important and what tools are available on the internet. He shared a quote by Alex Haley, the author of Roots, that accurately sums up the feelings of many who are seeking to locate their ancestors.

"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage--to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, ther is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness." (p.18)

In addition to this background, the author cautions, "family history calls for some common sense, good judgment and reasoning skills, and a little imagination." (p.19)

This book is very thorough and covers the bases of how to choose the right software for you and how to add names, notes, and other sources. Mr. Otterson also includes information on how and where to look on the internet. There is a chapter that explains how to network and use teamwork in your research as well.

The Essential Latter-day Saint Guide to Finding Your Family on the Internet has several chapters that focus on finding ancestors who hailed from the British Isles. It is estimated that about 70% of Americans will find there ancestors in this area. There is, however, sufficient data included to help those who need to search other areas to find their progenitors.

One of the things that I found most exciting about this book is the author's inclusion of how one can find family stories on the internet. The author appropriately titles this chapter, "Meat on the Bones". For me, one of the most exciting parts of doing family history is finding the opportunity to get to know my family members as people rather than just as a name on the page.

Overall, this book appears to be a fabulous resource for those beginners who are ready to find their own roots. It is geared toward those who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but has tips that are useful for anyone who is looking to build their own family tree. Although there is a great deal of information presented in this book, it is presented in a very clear and concise manner. If the reader truly desires to find lost family members, they can easily sit down with this book and take one chapter at a time. If the reader applies each step in the chapter as they finish it, their family tree will be well underway by the time they reach the last page.

The Essential Latter-day Saint Guide to Finding Your Family on the Internet takes an overwhelming and oft-times confusing subject and brings a clarity and simplicity to it that will encourage many people to seek out and document their own family beginnings.

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