Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org: How to Find Your Family History on the World’s Largest Free Genealogy Website. By Dana McCullough. (Cincinnati, Ohio, Family Tree Books, 2015. 239 pp. ISBN 978-1-4403-4328-5.)
The Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org has something for everyone, and few works out there today can say that. It is written as a guide or roadmap for the website, www.familysearch.org, just like it says in the title, but even those highly accustomed to the website can find gems inside this book.
According to the author’s biography in the back of the book, author Dana McCullough is a journalist and not a professional genealogist or professional historian. That may be to her credit in writing this book because she writes in a style that is very readable and not overly academic. Her style is basic and simplistic with a sprinkling of instructor tossed into the mix for good measure.
The book highlights the main features of the website and the chapters are organized in a thoughtful manner. At the end of each chapter, the author has thoughtfully provided charts to reinforce the topic of each chapter. In this way, the readers can go to their own family trees and see immediately how to utilize the site by using these charts. For example, at the end of Chapter 5 on the United States Federal Census, the author has placed a wonderful graphic that shows the census questions at a glance for every year from 1790 to 1940 so you can see what information may appear in each progressive year. Additionally, she includes a U.S. Census Records Checklist to use to check the information of every census of the ancestor’s lifetime.
These small additions are valuable to the novice genealogist. They are also valuable to the family historian who needs to get reorganized after a hiatus, or those of us with more experience under our belts to streamline our searches in order to get the most of our time on this site.
The author also includes case studies, timelines, and additional websites that the reader will find equally helpful. Thoughtful attention to detail makes this book difficult to criticize. However, I would have liked to see one additional chapter on citing sources. The author devotes a bit of time to citing, but many genealogy beginners overlook this much-needed step. Therefore, it seems that it should have had its own chapter for emphasis. I think this is especially true since familysearch.org does have wonderful tools for citing built into the website.
Nevertheless, the way the author streamlines this website for her audience and adds tips and details for detailed digging makes it a worthwhile investment for the avid family historian, but if you are a beginner then her book will get you started off just right as well. Since familysearch.org is also free to join and utilize, the guidelines given will offset this small payment for the book immediately as you locate and organize records right away. Well worth a place in your home collection regardless of your genealogical ability level.