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Tracing Your Family History with the Whole Family (Paperback)

A Family Research Adventure for All Ages

Family History P&S History > Social History

By Dr Robin McConnell
Imprint: Pen & Sword Family History
Series: Tracing Your Ancestors
Pages: 168
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399013888
Published: 23rd February 2022


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This book is innovative. A plethora of genealogy books primarily assume that family history research is by adults, for adults, marking family history as an ‘adults only’ sphere of life. This book establishes a new dimension in family history research. It is written in the belief that engaging in family history is a venture for all of the present-day family, regardless of age and, sometimes, because of age. To assist those of all ages who venture into this wider domain of family history the book is laden with practical examples.

The author has an outstanding educational background with marked national success at all levels, from sole-teacher of a rural school to professorship achievements. At each level he has been noted nationally. His qualifications reflect this lasting commitment to education with imagination and an abiding belief in the potential of families and their children. He is an acknowledged international expert in teams and team leadership. The subject of his Doctor of Philosophy thesis was in this field and his Master of Philosophy thesis, ‘The Singing Word’, was an experiential development of children’s creative writing. He is a lifelong genealogist.

This book, assuredly, has new material for families, educators and children. It leads from their research of the family’s yesterdays to depictions of the family’s contemporary setting. It then leads children and adults into factual and creative portrayals of their present lives which will be handed on to future generations as informative elements of past and present family history.

5 out of 5

I am particularly interested in this book as a mother and now a grandmother who has up until now been the main recorder of family history in our family. I have also just lost my own mother, who left a vast resource of information by writing her memoirs, taking a family history DNA test and leaving a library of photographs and other memorabilia.

I found the grandparent interview questions particularly useful as I intend to write my own memoirs as my mother did. My grandson is only one, so I need to wait awhile before involving him in the family history research, but my youngest son is beginning to show an interest in his heritage and I will pass this book on to him.

The author is in our case talking to a family already in the process of compiling a family history and a record of heritage, but the lists and questionnaires are nevertheless useful to ensure that all aspects have been covered and I can see it would be invaluable for a family starting on this fascinating journey.

Amazon Customer, Jayne

The book contains immensely practical suggestions featuring on how to involve youngsters of all ages in the tracing of their family history with pleasure and achievement. Parents, both inexperienced and experienced in genealogy are guided through a range of innovative research ventures, a plethora of genealogy books assuming family history research is for adults only – it is not! It is produced in the belief that that engaging in family history is a venture for all the family, regardless of age.

My personal plans to consign my family history collection of notes and trees to book form has been well and truly influenced be reading this excellent book, guided by suggestions and ‘how-to’ methods will give me, and might I add others, the confidence to begin the task. I have no hesitation in recommending the book to my society colleagues and members of this society.

Reviewer: Ian White

Cumbria FHS, June 2022

Mr McConnell approaches the subject in a different and imaginative manner, in that he portrays research as being a collaborative project on which the family's various generations will work as a team.

In looking at the subject from a youngster's perspective, the author keeps things incredibly simply by encouraging the use of oral sources as a starting point. This 'ask granny' approach increases the hobby's accessibility for younger genealogists, although instilling good habits by advocating that they create a meticulous record of such conversations.

A large part of this volume deals with how to creatively record your family history. With the help of practical examples, this addresses how to organise your research and how to prepare a compelling illustrated journal of the family's findings.

This commendable volume comprises of some 168 pages and is presented in a laminated soft cover. Navigation is facilitated by both a detailed Table of Contents and by an index. The author's words are illustrated through 40 monochrome images, which comprise of both photographs and facsimile webpages. Meanwhile, a bibliography of further reading is provided for those who want to learn more, whilst the URLs of relevant websites are interspersed within the text.

Oxfordshire Family History Society

Review by: Helen Matten

Essentially this book, consisting of ten chapters, has many chapters detailing action lists, some stretching for over three pages and one reaching point 89! Each recommendation for ‘engaging the young members of the family’ is accompanied by such a list, including how to gather knowledge before the first family meeting.

Each step, or ‘phase’ is planned in meticulous detail, giving deadlines for younger members to produce their findings and how they can best utilise such information to devise activities for the rest of the family.

The Essex Family Historian, August 2022

This book gives an interesting take on genealogy with tips on how to involve the entire family in putting together a personal history. The author argues that family members of all ages can be involved in research and sets out at length how this can be achieved and how a division of labour can enhance family history projects.

The Norfolk Ancestor Journal of the NFHS, September 2022

Featured in

Family History Federation Bulletin, No 23, July 2022

"The concept of this book is to establish a new dimension in family history research by showing how this can be an adventure for all the present-day family regardless, or possibly because, of age. As we all in the family history world worry about its future and whether there will be younger people to take it forward, along comes this book with some creative ideas for the present-day older generations to perhaps inspire the young. There are lots of ideas here for the mature facilitator to adopt in which can be seen as a practical manual."

Journal of the Bristol & Avon Family History Society - June 2022 - Number 188

This is an innovative book with intensely practical suggestions on how to involve youngsters of all ages in the tracing of their family history, with pleasure and achievement.

Clwyd FHS

McConnell's different approach, with its emphasis on family history as a shared activity, is refreshing. This is a must-read for anyone hoping to engage young people in a quest for their heritage.

Who Do You Think You Are?


East Yorkshire Family History Society

When one surveys any meeting of a family history society these days, one sees mainly White people with grey hair. Here, then, is a book that at least sets out to address the imbalance in ages, whilst at the same time creating for the whole family a multi-dimensional project with meaningful and tangible outcomes of historical relevance. For this reason I recommend it.

Waltham Forest FHS

Who would not like to see their children/grandchildren more actively reading and researching, and their whole family acting as a team?

Robin Mc Connell appears to be the first, however to propose Family History research as the route to this happy ideal and then give practical guidance on how this can be achieved. He is to be warmly applauded for a detailed and very comprehensive book which highlights the strengths each generation can bring to this all-family effort.

Alnwick FHS

"I’d single this out as the best book I’ve read on the subject of broadening the appeal of genealogy. In my view, a must read."

Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group

Having read a number of Pen & Sword Books on Genealogy I have started practising what they preach, they are very good and always seem so well informed, to be honest, I use most of them for the links on the internet because they get you quicker to what you need. I have since found a number of important things from using the books, that I probably wouldn’t have found out.

But to be honest, while every book will help you get on your way, not all the books will help you much in that for example you might not have a relative who has been in prison or a poorhouse. But when this book arrived for review I must admit I thought it was going to be a bit ‘kid like’ but I was completely wrong in that it makes you look at the subject from a different angle or from a younger person’s angle. This is great because looking at things from different angles can bring a new perspective that can often benefit you greatly. Once again I love the links, the writing and the explanations. If your into genealogy, I can fully recommend this book as it brings something different to the table.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

As featured in

Family Tree

Series featured in

Woodbridge Flyer

So often these days, books on genealogy are too in-depth for beginners, or are aimed solely at American audiences. However, this book is not like that - it's a useful resource for beginners or more advanced investigators alike.

The book actively encourages the use of verbal history as a starting point, which makes it more interesting and accessible for younger genealogists who can simply "ask granny" about her past. This can then be explored further later, when the investigator is older and more able to deal with other, more official, resources.

NetGalley, Caryl Blake

Series featured in

Leiston Observer

A great book for genealogist and those who want to get the whole family involved in researching there family tree. It’s great book to have in your collection.

NetGalley, Carissa Miller

I eagerly look forward to any new Pen and Sword publications as I know how beneficial they have been to my family history research. Even as someone who has been compiling their family tree for a while now I seem to find something of use in every new publication .
This book is different from others I’ve read, as it deals more with encouraging other younger, members of the family in researching their family history. Something that I’ve failed in passing on to my grown sons, but hopefully may be of use in the future.
I found this an interesting read and it’s helped me to focus on some information I’ve missed.

NetGalley, Alison Bevington

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’m a current MLIS student focusing in archives, so genealogical research is fascinating to me and I was thrilled to get an advance copy of this book! Lots of great ideas and resources here. I was mostly familiar with much of what the author presents, but I’ve also been doing genealogical research for awhile. Still, I was able to learn some things and gain new perspectives and ways to approach my research. It would definitely be helpful for someone new to tracing their family’s history, but is also helpful for those of us with experience. The practical examples are helpful and the methods McConnell provides would help guide and organize your research.

NetGalley, Emily Roberts

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As we continue our deep dive into family, with a special view toward my father's biological relatives prior to his adoption, it's been interesting to peruse resources that outline a variety of research methods. As this book title implies, it highlights ways the entire family can engage in these discussions in a meaningful way. In my lifetime my own family has often been widely spread out over about 10 states and three continents - and that's just the living set. The new work from home dynamics opened up by Covid will enable many families and individuals to relocate to areas where they truly want to live, not just the area with the shortest commute. This book is a good reminder to young and old alike to document what you can now and use both virtual and physical archives. I would take that even a step further and say that if you've considered doing StoryCorps, Story Terrace, or otherwise writing memoirs for public release or private family circulation, this book will walk you through important questions to consider; it's easy to take your own history for granted, leaving later generations to wonder what factors made a family relocate, when portions of the family lost touch, or how grandparents and other relatives met. This book is also good about encouraging young family members to interview their elders and ask questions that they'll find interesting at their age.

Whether you've begun your research into the immigrants and fusions in your family or you're just beginning, this new book from Robin McConnell will ensure you don't forget any questions or avenues of research along the way.

NetGalley, Natalie Gilbert

As featured in

Woodbridge Flyer

About Dr Robin McConnell

Dr Robin McConnell Dip.Tchg. B.Ed. M.Phil (Education) Ph.D. (Team Leadership) is a highly experienced genealogist, educator, team and leadership consultant and writer. He has lived in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. The internationally acclaimed Janet Frame described his writing as ‘a unique celebration of one man’s joy in living and being alive with family, friends, yesterdays… .’ He has some eighty writings and conference presentations. His six best-selling books have included national and international best-sellers.

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