Thursday, November 5, 2009

Book Review of The Family Tree Problem Solver

The Family Tree Problem Solver provides “proven methods for scaling the inevitable brick wall.” Author Marsha Hoffman Rising CG, FASG is a professional genealogist who specializes in problem-solving in the nineteenth century. In this book, she draws on her experience to highlight certain common genealogical problems and provides the steps to solve them.

There are 11 chapters in the book, each focusing on a different type of brick wall faced by genealogists. Topics include problem analysis, finding records before civil registration, census troubles, collateral kin, court records (or lack thereof), land records, common/same names, pre-1850 ancestor location, research mistakes and evidence analysis.

The audience best suited for this book is everyone except absolute beginners. The terminology and level of discussion may get lost on those new to the field that may not understand what a “burned courthouse” is or know the difference between the 1840 and 1850 federal censuses. Each book chapter includes advice on how to approach certain research problems. The author also provides personal case studies as examples and shares how she busted through the brick walls they presented.

The Family Tree Problem Solver has a longer shelf life than many genealogy books because it focuses on research technique rather than ever-changing technology talk. The skills applied and advice offered will never be obsolete in terms of research strategy.

Bottom line: The Family Tree Problem Solver is a good read for intermediate and advanced genealogists who are looking for a light-bulb moment in problem solving. It is not an essential book to own, like Evidence Explained for example, but would fit in the “nice to have” category. If you can’t afford it, simply track it down through your library’s inter-library loan program because it’s definitely worth your time.

The Family Tree Problem Solver by Marsha Hoffman Rising. ISBN 1-55870-685-2, paperback, 240 pages.


  1. A very good review Amy - it helps when a trusted genealogy colleague takes the time to put a book and its usefulness into perspective for me.

    I think I may ask Santa for this one . . . you never know!

  2. Great review! I have this book, and often re-read for the "fun" of it. It helps to remind the reader of strategies they may know, but can't recall. In fact, I find something new in it every time I re-read it.


  3. Thanks for the review. I've come across quite a few brick walls myself. I'll have to pick up a copy of the book.

  4. Nice review. Thank you. I will keep a lookout for that book, as it sounds like a good addition to my library.

  5. I agree - this is an excellent book for its discussion of various problem-solving approaches and is also a fun read.