Shaking the Family Tree

Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist

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“WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE DO YOU COME FROM? ”

As a historian, Buzzy Jackson thought she knew the answers to these simple questions—that is, until she took a look at her scrawny family tree. With a name like Jackson (the twentieth most common American surname), she knew she must have more relatives and more family history out there, somewhere. Her first visit to the Boulder Genealogy Society brought her more questions than answers . . . but it also gave her a tantalizing peek into the fascinating (and enormous) community of family-tree huggers and after-hours Alex Haleys.

In Shaking the Family Tree, Jackson dives headfirst into her family gene pool: flying cross-country to locate an ancient family graveyard, embarking on a weeklong genealogy Caribbean cruise, and even submitting her DNA for testing to try to find her Jacksons. And in the process of researching her own family lore (Who was Bullwhip Jackson?) she meets legions of other genealogy buffs who are as interesting as they are driven—from the boy who saved his allowance so he could order his great-grandfather’s death certificate to the woman who spends her free time documenting the cemeteries of Colorado ghost towns.

Through Jackson’s research she connects with distant relatives, traces her roots back more than 250 years and in the process comes to discover—genetically, historically, and emotionally—the true meaning of “family” for herself.
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  • Touchstone | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439149263 | 
  • July 2010
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Buzzy jackson is SHAKING THE FAMILY TREE

Buzzy Jackson presents a glimpse inside the quirky and obsessive world of genealogy enthusiasts, while investigating her own tangled family tree.

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1

Ask Yourself Why You’re Doing This; or, Genealogy for Beginners

Ask yourself why you’re doing this.”

Pat Roberts, a woman with a stylish haircut, some serious jewelry, and the no-nonsense voice of a high school guidance counselor, stared out at the group of strangers who’d shown up for the introduction-to-genealogy seminar that morning at the Boulder Public Library. I suddenly realized what was coming: just like that guidance counselor, this enigmatic gatekeeper was about to tell us whether our expectations were realistic or just plain ridiculous.

“Ask yourself why you’re... see more

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