Some Family: The Mormons And How Humanity Keeps Track Of Itself
Donald Harman Akenson

McGill-Queen's University Press

The Mormon Genealogical Project (once called the International Genealogical Index, familiarly known as IGI) started in 1894, and has grown to be the world’s largest collection of genealogical data. Most genealogists, it is safe to say, use the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints’ material with unquestioning gratitude. Akenson’s evaluation of the material – how it has been collected, and how it is to be used – should give them pause. One of the central themes of this book is that there are four main genealogical forms; the LDS material uses only one, patrilineal descent.

There are other cautionary tales to be found in the appendices, including the statistical likelihood of false paternity, wrongly attributed maternity, and incest blurring the nice, neat family tree. Akenson’s insistence on the family as narrative is an evocative one, the “kernel” of each tale leading to the kernel of the next.

His scholarly insistence on referring to “Yeshua of Nazareth” and “Miriam” can grate, but he is an equal-opportunity offender: Catholics, Jews, Mormons, genealogists, and historians can all find something to be annoyed about. They can also find much to chuckle about, as Akenson is a witty and charming writer.

Some Family should be required reading not only for all genealogists, but also for all those bureaucrats who mistakenly believe that the microfiche copies the LDS members provided of the original books of record are the real deal. mRb