Sunday, August 17, 2014

Book Review: Mind Maps for Genealogy

As a freelance writer, one of the questions I’m often asked is “How do you come up with your ideas?”  Sometimes I find it difficult to give a clear-cut answer because it’s not something I can easily explain.  Most of the time what I initially have is a “mish-mash” of ideas, thoughts, and examples.  I then dump them all into something called a “Mind Map – a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.

I have been using mind mapping for a number of years to visually plot out research problems and to generate ideas for articles, books, and presentations.  Plenty of books have been written on the subject, including several by Tony Buzan (who coined the term) .

When it comes to using mind maps for genealogy, I've seen a few presentations at conferences, watched some webinars, and have read articles [I even wrote an article about the topic: see “Mind Maps: Free Your Mind,” Internet Genealogy Magazine, October/November 2012].  

Therefore, I was my interest was piqued when I learned about a new book, 
Mind Maps for Genealogy, Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis by author and educator, Ron Arons, that explains the concept specifically for genealogy and family history.

I was asked to review the book and my review follows below.


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Book Review: Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis 

The following is a review for the book Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis by Ron Arons, Oakland, California: Criminal Research Press, 71 pages, published 2014. $26.95 (includes shipping and handling).

The book is available for purchase from the author at: https://www.ronarons.com


Image courtesy of Ron Arons



Contents

In Mind Maps for Genealogy: Enhanced Research Planning, Correlation and Analysis, Ron Arons covers in detail how genealogists can use mind mapping to create a visual road map for idea generation and genealogical problem solving. Arons starts the book with a basic history and overview of the mind mapping concept, and also explains mind mapping terminology.  The author points out how people learn and think differently from each other and discusses how mind maps allow you to plot, view and analyze facts and relationships in more creative, visual ways than other commonly used methods such as timelines, spreadsheets, maps, and even genealogy software programs. Arons also talks about how genealogists can use mind maps to identify missing data, sort out inconsistent or conflicting data, and solve “brick wall” research problems. 

While Arons certainly does a thorough job covering the basics, he also goes a step further to show real examples of how apply the process of mind mapping to such concepts as The Genealogical Proof Standard , Inferential Genealogy , Cluster Research/FAN Club Principle , and more. 

In an Appendix section, the author provides two sample mind maps based on example research problems from two of the biggest names in genealogy: Elizabeth Shown Mills (Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage – QuickLesson 11)  and Dr. Thomas W. Jones (Mastering Genealogical Proof). This visual illustration of evidence laid out in mind map parent and child nodes shows how you can effectively use mind maps to solve perplexing problems in your own research.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the section on “Entire Life-Focused Genealogy” where Arons uses his own research example to walk the reader through the entire mind mapping process (brainstorming, planning, keeping a research log, correlation, and analysis)  to explore the life of Isaac Spier who served time in Sing Sing Prison for bigamy.

Mind Mapping Tools

The number of mind mapping tools and apps currently available for use is quite extensive. In his book, Arons focuses on just two major mind mapping software programs – FreeMind and Xmind,which for years have been the two most popular FREE programs that run on both PCs and Macs. For each, he explains shows beginner/getting started and advanced views. Arons does mention other programs such as SimpleMind, MindJet, Coggle, and more. 

Appendix I covers “Considerations for Selecting a Mind Map Program or Service.”
On a personal note, I was somewhat disappointed to see that he did not mention my favorite program Scapple (Literature and Latte) . However, to be fair, Scapple is not heavily marketed as a mind mapping program, but I use it extensively for this purpose. 

Other Considerations

My only reservations about this book have to do with the production quality. In my personal opinion, a more substantial cover (perhaps glossy, or a harder card stock)  would greatly improve the book's appeal. Also, many of the screenshot images would appear better if captured at a higher resolution.

Conclusion

If you have been wondering about how mind maps could help you with your genealogy research or writing Mind Maps for Genealogy is just the book to help get you started. The book provides an excellent overview of the mind mapping process, is easy to read, and includes great examples, recommendations, and resources. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new way to display, analyze and correlate research data, or who wants to tap into fresh ideas for family history writing.

[Disclaimer: I was asked by the author to provide a review of this book.  I purchased the book myself and have not received any form of compensation for this review].

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