Do you ever feel like you’re the only genealogist in your circle of family and friends? If so, a dose of Buzzy Jackson and her book, Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist might be what you need. Reading about her adventures in the genealogy world will have you chuckling and commiserating at the same time.
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As genealogists and family historians, sometimes its fun to look at our world from the perspective of a newbie. Buzzy Jackson wrote this engaging and humorous book as she was beginning her genealogy journey. Just the chapter titles are enough to pique your curiosity. “CSI: Lido Decks: The Genealogy Cruise, Part I” or “Get Back to Where you Once Belonged; or, Hitting the Road to Alabama with Cousin Mooner.”
Buzzy covers the world of genealogy societies, interviewing relatives, connecting with the experts, DNA testing, researching the home place, and a visit to the Family History Library.
I enjoyed each chapter equally and decided to reach out to Buzzy to find out more about her.
Interview with Buzzy Jackson
I’ve always had an interest in history (to the point of getting a PhD in it!) but it was only once I got pregnant that I realized how little attention I’d paid to my own genealogical history. When my doctor started asking me all the usual family health history questions, I realized I wanted to learn more about my ancestors — and not just about their history of high blood pressure! I knew my background in historical research would be a huge help, and it was.
What mentors influenced you to get started in family history and genealogy research?
I got SO much help from my local genealogical society in Boulder, Colorado (http://www.bouldergenealogy.org/), in particular the help of longtime members Birdie Holsclaw (now passed, sadly) and Pat Roberts. My father’s family stories / tall tales about the Jackson Family of Alabama also sparked my interest.
Why do you do genealogy? Why do you think it’s important?
I’m interested in all history, but I do think something special happens when people research their own families. Ironically, looking into “personal history” quickly reveals how interlinked all people are, and reminds us of our shared humanity as a species. I love that and I think any time we can be reminded of how much more we have in common than our differences might suggest, that’s a valuable thing.
What is the most rewarding part of researching your family’s history?
For me it’s feeling connected to the greater history of a place (in my case, the United States, Russia, the world…)
What has been the most difficult part of your genealogical journey?
I was worried about offending family members by writing about them and/or our deceased relatives. Fortunately I think most of my family members appreciated the information and had a healthy, humorous take on family history that I share!
What are your research interests?
Because of my own family’s personal history as owners of enslaved people (since the 17th century in Virginia, then in Georgia, Texas, and Alabama), I am especially interested in the history of slavery in the USA and in the issue of reparations for slavery, which I support. I’ve also tried to get more active in issues of slaveholder/enslaved people reconciliation. I feel that this issue remains largely unresolved in this country and deserves more attention and action.
How do you preserve your family history?
I try to write names and dates on all my own family photos! And of course I try to keep family stories alive in conversations with my own son.
What is your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others?
Honestly, I think Facebook has been the best way to maintain connections with my more distant family members and that’s been wonderful.
If you had all the time in the world to spend on family history, what would you do?
I’d probably go visit all the actual sites of my family’s lives, from Kiev to Texas!
What’s the best discovery you’ve made about your family?
I can’t claim credit, but I was astounded and delighted to discover — after the publication of my book about my Jackson heritage — that in fact, my entire line of Jackson ancestors are descendants not of the famous John Jackson of Williamsburg, VA (ca. 1642) but of Thomas King! And thus we are not really Jacksons at all. Thanks to my cousin, the genealogical superstar Judy Bennett, and DNA, for making this discovery. When I told my father, another Jon Jackson, he said: “Well. I always suspected we were descended from royalty.” We have a good sense of humor about these things.
Who is your most interesting ancestor?
Probably Bullwhip Jackson of Alabama ca. 1845, who went into a haunted house full of bats armed with only a whip, and emerged the next morning unscathed (with a lot of bat carcasses left behind). This story is undoubtedly a tall tale, but I love it.
Thanks, Buzzy, for sharing!
To purchase Shaking the Family Tree at Amazon, go here.