The Family Tree Detective: Cracking the Case of Your Family's Story


48 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-895688-89-2
DDC j929'.1






Illustrations by Stephen MacEachern
Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


Utilizing the image of a detective faced with having to discover the
clues necessary to crack a case, Douglas offers budding genealogists the
investigatory tools that they will need in order to research their
families’ histories. While Douglas eschews using terms like
“primary” and “secondary” sources, she nevertheless provides her
young family history sleuths with the strategies necessary to access
these data sources. Topics include interviewing and questioning, audio
and videotaping, and using as information sources objects such as
clothes, ticket stubs, baby books, and photo albums, as well as written
and printed materials such as letters, postcards, and birth and death
announcements. Having provided assistance in gathering the “family
story,” Douglas also proffers numerous suggestions for sharing that
story with others.

The slim volume’s text portions come in bite-sized pieces that
won’t choke those who aren’t too keen on “doing history,” and in
most cases, each pair of facing pages constitutes a self-contained
whole. Throughout, Douglas provides forms and charts, plus sample
questions, that the book’s users can utilize or build on. She also
offers some “facts” sections on topics such as explaining family
relationships and the terms that describe those relationships (e.g.,
“Your grandparent’s mother and father are your great-grandmother and
great-grandfather”). MacEachern’s numerous cartoonlike illustrations
are multicultural and add to the book’s value as a classroom resource.


Douglas, Ann., “The Family Tree Detective: Cracking the Case of Your Family's Story,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 28, 2024,