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eBook Review: Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering your Family History

October 17, 2014

Ewell, Barry J. Family Treasures: 15 Lessons, Tips, and Tricks for Discovering Your Family History. Springville Utah, Cedar Fort, 2012. 437 pages. Formats: Paperback, PDF, Nook/iPad, Kindle/Kindle App on iPad.

Reviewed by Susan Holdaway

eBook Summary

How many of us are making excuses to begin our family history research in earnest? In Family Treasures, author Barry J. Ewell introduces us to experiences that motivated him to become a serious genealogist.  From the introduction to the final chapter, we learn how to begin researching, how to interact with documents and people to gather family information, how to organize and preserve our information, and how to share what we find with our families. He intertwines his expert advice with motivating experiences that show how rewarding and exciting genealogy research can be.  Each chapter is well organized with well marked research steps and tips that allow for easy future reference.

My Thoughts

Family Treasures’ Lesson 1 begins with a logical introduction on how to begin gather information, ask questions, and do more research, which are important skills for any level of genealogist. Some of the research advice Ewell explains might overwhelm beginners on the first read, so take it slowly because he is introducing us to best practices in genealogy research. What I like most about this chapter, is the fresh perspective Ewell’s shares about researching our families.

I’m constantly looking for better ways to organize my family history so Lesson 2 caught my attention immediately. Ewell stresses how critical a good organization system is for genealogy records and research. He explains in details how to set up and maintain Marry Hill’s colored file organization system by explaining the process step by step, which is good if you choose to use that system. A negative of this lesson is that Ewell assumes we will use his referred system. Also, I would have liked to learn more about organizing digital files because so much research now deals with digital documents.

Throughout Family Treasures, Ewell breaks down the definition of analysis into working parts to show us how we should approach each document we find.  Through examples, Ewell effectively stresses how finding sources and documenting them correctly is worth our effort. His quick reference guide in Lesson 7 for common genealogy sources is helpful.

Lesson 14, The Oral Interview, was my favorite chapter in Ewell’s book because it was family stories that first captivated me and led me into genealogy research.  I appreciate Ewell’s comprehensive focus on writing family histories. He shows us why writing family history matters and then discusses various approaches to writing family histories and conducting oral interviews. I really liked the different phrases Ewell suggests to help us successfully write a history as well as the clear summaries of different writing methods available to us. Ewell has motivated me to start my personal history now using his step by step guidance and hints.

In Lesson 15, the companion chapter to oral interviews,  Ewell introduces us to the actual writing process with this wisdom: “A story worth writing begins with an outline” (398). And Ewell means it as he spends time explaining why outlines are essential in our writing and how to create our own story outlines. As an experienced writer, I found this chapter to be a great how-to writing guide. From the outline, through multiple drafts, revisions, and editing, Ewell shows us what we should hope to accomplish in each writing phase and he gives us many hints and much encouragement as we begin to write. Additionally, Ewell explains how to enhance our histories with photos and other images. My favorite was his section on how to organize a family history.

My Conclusion

I would definitely recommend Family Treasures to anyone interested in genealogy, but especially new genealogists. With his easy, clear narrative style, I enjoyed reading Ewell’s book. With his well organized approach to family history research, Ewell walks us step by step through the process that helped him become an avid genealogist. He breaks down his processes and hints into easy to follow steps. And I love how Ewell intermingles personal experiences with practical information. His stories have made me excited to do more to research my family history. Finally, Ewell’s concise tips and charts will definitely help me become more focused and productive in my family history work.

Additional Resources

Family Treasures has a companion website with free helpful resources to help you implement the techniques you learn in this book. Resources include quick helps, PDF forms, videos, and podcasts. HINT: These are great resources even if you don’t read the book.

Purchase on in paperback or Kindle formats. PDF coming soon on the companion website above.

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