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REVIEW: Family Tree Factbook: Key Genealogy Tips and Stats for the Busy Researcher

Family Tree Factbook: This convenient, timesaving collection of genealogy hacks gathers the best resources, tips, lists and need-to-know facts from the experts at Family Tree Magazine. Inside, you'll find fast facts about a variety of family history topics, such as important dates in US history, the different kinds of DNA tests, and how to use the best genealogy websites.
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Family Tree Factbook: Your Genealogy Quick Guide to Working Smarter and Faster!

[Editor’s Note: Family Tree Factbook is available in print (click HERE) as well as in e-book format (click HERE). Purchase BEFORE November 18th, 2018, using promo code FACTBOOK20 and save an extra 20% of the sale price! Regularly priced $24.99 USD, sale priced $15.99 USD. now just $12.79 USD with promo code!]

Haddad, Diane and Family Tree Magazine Editors, Family Tree Factbook: Key Genealogy Tips and Stats for the Busy Researcher, Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc., 2018, 224 pages.

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If you could condense basic genealogical research knowledge into a small, but useful guide, you would have the Family Tree Factbook: Key Genealogy Tips and Stats for the Busy Researcher. I want to make it clear that this guide is not a substitute for other “must have” books and online resources such as Evidence Explained or the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Rather, it is a convenient method of getting the information you need – and quickly – to help further your genealogical research.

Why I Think Family Tree Factbook Works

There is quite a bit of valuable information squeezed into the 224 pages of the Family Tree Factbook. Here are some areas of the book that I found most useful:

  • Research Basics: an excellent section covering everything that a genealogist should know to achieve research success.
  • Names: this section covers different types of naming conventions for people including place-based names, occupational as well as traditions for various ethnic groups as to how children are named.
  • Immigration: this section covers migration push/pull factors, passenger list abbreviations, passenger list availability for major US ports of arrival and more.
  • Geography: this section provides key information on how various land transactions were handled in the United States, the major migration routes as the US grew from the Colonial Period to the present day, and different types of land maps.

Two issues I have with Family Tree Factbook include:

  • United States-centric: The Family Tree Factbook does not have much value for anyone performing non-US research. I think this could be made more clear on the cover and perhaps Family Tree Magazine should consider expanding this offering to a series of “factbooks” for German genealogy, Irish genealogy, etc. that are specific to certain countries or ethnicities.
  • Limited Information: For several of the lists of facts, such as Glossary of Archaic Professions and Glossary of Archaic Diseases, several online resources have much more extensive information. For example, understanding terminology for medical issues is vital to evaluating death certificates and the list in Family Tree Factbook would not suffice for many researchers. At the very least, the editors could have included a link to a more extensive online resource at the end of certain lists.

What’s Inside Family Tree Factbook

Family Tree Factbook features[1]:

  • Key genealogy lists and statistics, including common genealogy abbreviations and acronyms, a glossary of genetic genealogy terms and genealogy pitfalls to avoid
  • Strategies for tracking your ancestors in important documents (including census records, passenger lists and military records) and performing important genealogical tasks (including searching Google and Ancestry.com, citing sources and visiting cemeteries)
  • A size perfect for carrying with you wherever your research may lead: to a library, a relative’s house, a graveyard or even your ancestor’s home country

Family Tree Factbook Content:

Here are the resources you’ll find in Family Tree Factbook[2]:

  • Chapter 1: Research Basics: Jump-start your research with these general-reference lists and charts, including a genealogy glossary, a table to help you calculate cousinhood, 20 questions to ask your relatives and a guide to citing your sources.
  • Chapter 2: US State Research: Discover your American ancestors with founding dates for each of the 50 US states, plus a list of state archives and data about historical US cities.
  • Chapter 3: Libraries and Archives: Find records and resources at brick-and-mortar repositories. This chapter’s lists of libraries, archives and National Archives regional locations can help you plan your trip.
  • Chapter 4: Names: Decode family histories hiding in your ancestors’ names with historical data on first names and surnames, plus guides for identifying nicknames and translating foreign-language names.
  • Chapter 5: Genealogy Websites: Master the web’s best genealogy websites with hacks for Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Google and more, along with a listing of the 30-plus most useful family history sites.
  • Chapter 6: Computing: Tap (and swipe) your way to genealogy success. This chapter features guides to genealogy software and mobile apps, commonly used file formats and keyboard shortcuts.
  • Chapter 7: Census: Delve into census records. This chapter contains listings of the questions asked in each census, population data from historical censuses, tips for searching for online census records, commonly used census abbreviations and a roundup of state and territorial censuses.
  • Chapter 8: Immigration: Follow your ancestors back to the old country with this chapter’s timelines, historical maps of Europe and passenger list search tips.
  • Chapter 9: Military: Honor your ancestors’ service. This chapter will help you determine what conflict(s) your ancestor fought in, plus what kinds of records to search for.
  • Chapter 10: Cemeteries: Trek through graveyards with the tombstone symbolism guide and cemetery resources, strategies, do’s and don’ts in this chapter.
  • Chapter 11: Genetic Genealogy: Analyze your genes. This chapter will help you choose a DNA test and testing company (and analyze your results) with comparison guides and lists of resources.
  • Chapter 12: Geography: Understand the land your ancestors lived on with summaries of important US territorial acquisitions and migration routes, plus a wrap-up of the best historical maps and how to use them.
  • Chapter 13: Social History: Study your ancestor’s life and times with historical facts and timelines that cover key inventions, disasters, epidemics and more.
  • Chapter 14: Photography: Learn how to care for your treasured family photos with this chapter’s preservation tips and photo-editing tools. This chapter also features photo ID strategies and information on historical photo formats to help you uncover the secrets in your family photos.
  • Appendix A: Worksheets: Record and organize your family tree using these forms and templates.
  • Appendix B: Notes: Create your own quick-reference guide by writing down the names, dates, places and other genealogy facts you want to remember.

Conclusion

I think that the Family Tree Factbook is a handy guide filled with basic information that every new genealogist needs to know. Some genealogists may not see the value in the Family Tree Factbook and, in fact, might say “I can find all that information on the Web when I need it.” While there is some truth in that statement, how many other items do you purchase for the sake of convenience? Consider how much time it would take you to search for the information found in the Family Tree Factbook? I think this is a convenient go-to reference guide that can help a genealogist work smarter. I now have the e-book version stored with all my other reference ebooks and I can access it on my smartphone or tablet when I am out researching at a library, archive or even a cemetery!

The Family Tree Factbook also makes the perfect gift for a budding family historian or as a thank you gift to a more seasoned genealogist.

[1] Family Tree Factbook: Key Genealogy Tips and Stats for the Busy Researcher, Family Tree Magazine online store (https://genealogybargains.com/ftm-factbook-print, accessed 10 October 2018). Used by permission.

[2] Ibid.

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Disclosure Statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statement.

©2018, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

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