Monday, 11 February 2019

Review: The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy by Kenyatta D. Berry

The Family Tree Toolkit:  A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy. By Kenyatta D. Berry, Skyhorse Publishing, 2018, 267 p. 

Genealogy Roadshow host, Kenyatta D. Berry has written a new guidebook focussing primarily on American genealogy for the beginner. Berry has divided the guide into the following chapters:

1) Starting Your Family History
2) United States Records Research
3) Other Records
4) Immigration and Naturalization
5) US Military Research
6) Ethnic Ancestry
7) European Research
8) Adoption Research
9) DNA

Each American state is featured on its own page with a chart detailing state birth, marriage, and death registrations, their beginnings and availability, and which online databases currently have those documents in digitized form. The book does a good job describing the contents of state records and how these records might benefit the genealogist.

Some of the topics in this book are examined briefly. The eight-page chapter on European research skims the surface of this area of study, mentioning only select countries and would benefit the researcher who has just discovered they are of English, Irish, German, Italian or Jewish heritage. The chapter on DNA is also short, only six pages long, and presents a general overview of the benefits of DNA testing for genealogists.

The chapters on US military research and Ethnic Ancestry, which covers African American and Native American research, are more detailed and provide timelines of key events, as well as tips for researching in these specialized subject areas.

The text is simply written, and is presented in large font, which may be of benefit to individuals who have difficulty reading small print. The author focusses almost exclusively on online records such as those available through,, and on other online databases, with very little discussion about in-person research at archives and local history repositories. It is likely this guide will require regular updating to keep it current because of its focus on digital records.

The Family Tree Toolkit provides researchers with a quick tool to determine which U.S. records are available online and where. For the genealogist looking for a more comprehensive guide to US records, Alice Eicholz’s classic The Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, or The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking will provide greater detail about in-person research in archives and other repositories.

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