Book Reviews

Zap The Grandma Gap
Studies show that knowledge about family history strengthens and empowers kids by creating self-esteem, resilience and a greater sense of control over their lives. Learning about the family’s past also strengthens the relationships between family members by creating a shared experience and core identity that no one else can duplicate. Janet Hovorka’s family history activity books provide just that knowledge. Zap The Grandma Gap: Connect To Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History, Zap The Grandma Gap Power Up Workbook, and her new 52-page activity books designed for 6- to 14-year-olds, My British Ancestor, My Civil War Ancestor, My Swedish Ancestor and My German Ancestor, include puzzles, games, recipes, timelines, paper dolls, coloring pages, maps, fairy tales, music, dot to dots and crossword puzzles.

The Family Tree Detective: Cracking the case of your family’s story, by Ann Douglas, illustrated by Stephen MacEachern, 1999, Firefly Books, 230 Fifth Avenue, New York NY, 48 pages, paper, $9.95.
For older kids, The Family Tree Detective encourages a little family sleuthing. And what better way for budding genealogists to catch the family history bug! Among the many highlights, there’s a family tree grid ready to be filled in with appropriate names, sample interview questions the kids can ask family members, even names, addresses and phone numbers of international organizations who can put them in touch with genealogical societies right in their own communities.

Crammed with colorful illustrations and easy to understand “Family Facts,” this is one guide guaranteed to get the kids involved in next year’s family reunion. (If they can pry it away from dad, that is.) JP

Roots of the Rich and Famous, by Robert Davenport. Taylor Publishing Company, 1550 W Mockingbird Lane, Dallas TX 75235; 1998, 138 pages, soft-cover, $10.95.

Obsessed with the history of celebrities? Or just want to know the down and dirty on your favorite show biz personalities? Then Roots of the Rich and Famous, by “Genealogist to the Stars” Robert Davenport is just the ticket. With detailed genealogical charts and fun facts on everyone from Judy Garland to Princess Diana, Goldie Hawn and Tom Selleck, Roots unearths some startling gems: Prince Charles is a descendant of Count Dracula, Elvis Presley was related to Abraham Lincoln, John Wayne shares blood with folk hero Johnny Appleseed and actor Glen Ford claims to be a descendant of Martin Van Buren, America’s eighth president. And that’s just for starters. Illustrated, with over 150 photographs, Roots of the Rich and Famous is a Hollywood hoot.

Dozens of Cousins by Lois Horowitz. Ten Speed Press, PO Box 7123, Berkeley, CA 94707; 1999, 107 pages, paper, $11.95.

The subtitle of Dozens of Cousins says it all: Blue Genes, Horse Thiefs, and Other Relative Surprises in Your Family Tree. That’s right: as much as we sometimes would like our more “colorful” family members to disappear, they just won’t cooperate. For better or worse, we’re stuck with them. So why not enjoy their stories?

Dozens of Cousins not only allows researchers to enjoy past ancestral pranksters, it offers helpful tips for tracing and finding family members you can be downright proud of, too. Loaded with fun family tree trivia, Dozens includes personal anecdotes from people of all backgrounds on the surprises and joys their quests for kin-formation brought them.

Organizing Your Family Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. Betterway Books, 1507 Dana Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45207; 1999, 150 pages, paper, $16.99.

Those well on their way to unearthing family history may find Organizing Your Family Research just the tool needed to get those paper piles and data discs finally stored in proper, easily accessible places. Among other practical tips, author Carmack shows how to create a flexible filing system that can expand with new information; how to take notes according to this filing system; and how to set up an efficient work space.

Family Chronicle’s Introduction to Genealogy. Family Chronicle, PO Box 1201, Lewiston, NY 14092; 1999, 184 pages, paper, $25.

Family Chronicle’s Introduction to Genealogy targets the beginning family historian. Articles such as “First Things First,” “Finding Your Vital Records,” and “Common Mistakes,” Introduction not only gets would-be historians out of the starting blocks, it’s designed to keep them going to the finish line. Whether a serious researcher or just looking for weekend laughs, the literature on family genealogy grows richer every day.

Family History Made Easy by Loretto Dennis Szucs (1998, 223 pages, paperback)

Unlocking The Secrets In Old Photographs by Karen Frisch-Ripley (1991, 190 pages, paperback, $16.95)
Both books above from Ancestory Inc., PO Box 476, Salt Lake City, UT 84110

Researching family history can be a daunting task. The motivation may be strong, but the questions may seem overwhelming. Where to begin? What to look for? How to make meaning of the research? Family History Made Easy offers a steady, easy-to-follow guide through the often confusing task of tracing family branches back to their roots. Author of several books, Szucs instructs on matters from locating source materials at libraries to local and federal government offices. She also provides tips on how to preserve and organize family history.