Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Crash Course in Family History

This is one in a series of reviews. Important legal notices concerning my reviews can be found at ancestryinsider.blogspot.com .

At the Salt Lake City Family History Expo many months ago Paul Larsen, author of Crash Course in Family History : An Easy Step-by-Step Illustrated Guidebook and Comprehensive Resource Book : The Easiest Way to Trace Your Own Family Roots and Stories approached me and asked if I would accept a complimentary copy for review. I explained that my column’s editorial focus was Ancestry.com and FamilySearch and since his book was not about either of them, I was not interested. He persisted, pointing out that the book had entire sections about the websites of these two organizations. I could tell from the length of the title of this book that Larsen was not the type to stop quickly, so I accepted a copy for review. I warned Larsen that I had several books that have been waiting for months and not to expect anything soon. Sure enough, it has taken me some time to get to it.

Actually, my pile of things that need to get done sits directly in front of my monitor and has grown so large that I can no longer see the bottom of the screen! I got some time this past weekend and Crash Course was the thickest object in the pile so I decided to bump the book to the top.

Graphically Rich

More than the thickness, this book’s design is fabulously inviting. It was drawing me to it more than any other book waiting for review. The pages are large (8.5" x 11") and full color. The binding is a double loop wire coil (or “Wire-O”) that is bound to a single piece hard cover using a method called semi-concealed or half-Canadian. I found it great for desk-top use, where the book lay completely flat, and awful for reading in bed, because the pages are bound only to the back cover.

The artistic design of Crash Course is terrific, incorporating a half-dozen color photographs, illustrations, or screen shots per page; color sidebars on nearly every page; plenty of white space; and a daring sans-serif font choice for the body text. While sans-serif fonts are generally panned for the body text of a book, I found the book’s large 16-point font (Laudatio BQ Condensed, maybe?) very easy on the eyes. I thought it an enjoyable change from the tired serif fonts we always see in books.

For LDS or not?

The copyright page discloses that this third edition of the book carries a new title. The previous title was Crash Course in Family History for Latter-day Saints : A Step-by-Step LDS Guidebook to Temple and Family History Work Using the New, Easy Way. The title change infers that the book is now suitable for a larger audience, not just members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, some readers may still feel uncomfortable with the number of inspirational quotes by leaders of the Church, despite the inclusion of genealogically-related quotes from non-Church sources.

The Preface includes the author’s story of spiritual direction, prompting him to write this book and even prescribing the title, “A Crash Course in Family History.” Given the number of fraud cases nationwide perpetuated by individuals leveraging their membership in a church, I think it inappropriate to include such an experience in an object offered for sale.

Who Is Fresh Mountain Air Publishing Company?

The copyright page advertizes the publisher of Crash Course as

Fresh Mountain Air Publishing Company
Published by
Fresh Mountain Air Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 1758, St George, UT  84771-1758

A Google search for “Fresh Mountain Air Publishing” finds no mention. A Utah Department of Commerce “Business Name Availability” search indicates there was a Salt Lake City corporation with that name, but that license expired in 1982 and no LLC (Limited Liability Company) by that name is licensed in the State of Utah. A YellowPages.com search returns a listing for the company at a private residence in Orem, Utah. I called and was pleased to find the number is still valid. Even though I didn’t leave a message, Paul Larsen took the time to call me back. You can’t beat service like that. It turns out Paul has moved from the Orem location to St. George.

Step by Step Guidebook or Illustrated Resource Book?

In my opinion this book did not shine as a step-by-step guidebook. I would characterize the lion’s share of the book as an incredibly visually inviting illustrated resource book. Think Cyndi’s list with colored screen captures and I think you’ll capture the essence of this book. While I have no idea how much the author depended on Cyndi’s list for content, I know he freely lifted my stories of genealogical serendipity for use on the inside of the back cover without giving me the slightest amount of credit.

While that pretty much spoiled the book for me, I did ask a friend what he thought about the book, and he liked it.

Crash Course in Family History : An Easy Step-by-Step Illustrated Guidebook and Comprehensive Resource Book : The Easiest Way to Trace Your Own Family Roots and Stories
8.5" x 11" (pp.), 232 pp., hardback. 2009.
ISBN 978-0-9742695-4-2 
Fresh Mountain Air Publishing, LLC 
$34.95 (list)


  1. Wow! I really appreciate your expertise in reviewing a book. I like the way you got down to the nitty-gritty. This is my first time to read one of your reviews since I recently joined your blog. From now on, I will look closer at your archives and see what else you have reviewed and if any of the books are worth buying from your perspective. Thanks!

  2. Dear Ancestry Insider,

    Thanks, You hit the nail on the head! I bought the book a while ago and altho it has some good information and resources. I sensed a great deal of arrogance with this guy. He promotes his website yet it isn't even finished. I'm not likely to recommend it to my non-member or member friends. I will use the information in it that is useful. Good work and have a wonderful Christmas.

    ***** *****


    Dear Maine,

    Thanks for your e-mail. I was going to mention the unfinished website and somehow forgot. Thanks for pointing that out.

    -- The Insider


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