"Beyond the age of information is the age of choices." Charles Eames. Hartman, Carla and Eames Demetrios. 100 Quotes by Charles Eames, p. 40.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: AARP Genealogy Online: Tech to Connect

Helm, April Leigh, and Matthew Helm. AARP Genealogy Online: Tech to Connect. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. For Dummies. 2012. 240 pp. ISBN 978-1-118-24405-0. Paper, $19.95; Kindle, $16.99.

Genealogists typically reach out to friends and family members to share their passion for family history. Savvy publishers recognize that seniors, in particular, may be passionate about sharing genealogy but lack technical expertise with online resources. AARP has partnered with the For Dummies line of publications to create its own Tech to Connect series.  The  announcement at PRWeb  stated, "Specifically targeting the 50+ consumer, these books offer advice and solutions for using technology to stay connected with friends, family and community...while helping to protect their online privacy and security."  

Any genealogy how-to book branded with both the AARP and For Dummies names should be welcomed by beginner genealogists and family historians. The authors aptly identify sound genealogical practices such as beginning research with yourself, organizing your findings, and online search strategies and prudent reminders to use traditional as well as online resources. Source citation was mentioned but not covered in detail.

Writing about how to do anything on the internet is like herding cats or nailing Jell-0 to a tree. Your carefully crafted instructions will likely have a very short lifespan given the pace of change and product upgrades rampant on the internet. Unfortunately, that is all too evident with this book. The first chapter is titled, "Writing Your Autobiography with arcalife." What was once a promising genealogy product, is now, apparently, defunct.

Another pitfall is providing step by step instructions for navigating viable websites like Ancestry.com. Upgrades, content growth, and new technology guarantee that accurate directions written months ago are already dated. Preparing readers for this inevitability would have helped.

Although I find little fault with the genealogy research strategies that are described, the problems described above are serious flaws and I cannot recommend this book. The authors' earlier Genealogy Online for Dummies titles would be a better choice (a new edition is scheduled for early 2014).  And, if you're in the market for an introductory book, you should take a peek at Kimberly Powell's short list at about.com.

If you're not deterred by my review and prefer to make your own opinion, you'll find this book readily available in paper and e-book formats, as well as at many (mostly) public libraries. (For the purposes of this review, I borrowed a copy from my local library, and I have pre-ordered the 7th edition of Genealogy Online for Dummies which I'm eager to review.)

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