Friday, May 13, 2011

Write Your Family History as a Snapshot, not a Family Portrait - Buzzy Jackson

The second keynote speaker today was Buzzy Jackson, author of Shaking the Family Tree: blue bloods, black sheep, and other obsessions of an accidental genealogist.

I really enjoyed listening to her speak because she was very energetic, entertaining, and engaging.  She got a PhD in History but didn’t really become interested in genealogy or family history until she read a research paper that one of her students wrote entirely from primary records; oh and the birth of her son, who’s physical characteristics intrigued her.

She agreed to write a family history book in 22 months!!! The 22 months however included the time it took to research her family as well as the time it took to actually write the family history out. Buzzy literally started from scratch – which entailed her own personal records. She recalled that she couldn’t even find her own marriage records and joked that she is “probably NOT descended from Type A individuals!”

Today she shared with us photographs and stories of the journey she took and the people she met along the way.  She warned of the pressure of time and reminded us to interview our older relatives because you never know when we might lose them. She told the story of the relative who wouldn’t let her “touch” but only briefly “look” at the pages she allowed to see and who quickly filed the family bible away when asked to view the family tree pages.

I got the impression that Buzzy was trying to say that it is experiences like the latter that may result in gaps in the family history story. In which case, she related the telling of the story in much the same way as the photographs she displayed in her slides: Think of writing your family history as a snapshot and not a formal family portrait.

What a great piece of advice to leave us with. She encouraged us to “write it down” no matter how short or long; and not wait until our genealogy is “completed.”  

Photograph of Buzzy Jackson from her website:


  1. That's a great analogy to use in writing your family history. A snapshot. I like it.

    Thank you for sharing Buzzy's talk. I loved her book!

  2. Hi Meg, thanks for your comment, looks like Blogger deleted them when it was down last night but I did see it via email. Thanks for stopping by.