Book Review Of “Branching Out: Genealogy For 4th – 8th Grade Students” By Jennifer Holik; Reviewed By The Illinois State Genealogical Society; One Book Covers All Lessons For Each School Group Instead Of Two Books

Hi Everyone!

I was just recently looking through a recent issue of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly (Volume 44, Number 2 Issue, Summer 2012) when I happened to come across a wonderfully written book review.  The book is titled Branching Out: Genealogy for 4th – 8th Grade Students.  The author of the book is Jennifer Holik.

Jennifer is going to be our genealogy program speaker on Tuesday evening, February 12, 2013.  She will be making a presentation that relates to the book and how we can encourage the next generation, our children and grandchildren,  to take an interest in genealogy as we have.

Jennifer’s book serves as a model lesson plan for 4th to 8th graders to learn about how to uncover their own family history that is appropriate for their age group.  Parents and grandparents, do you see how this can be such a wonderful experience to get involved and be the mentor you can be to your own children and grandchildren working together in family history research?

Jennifer Holik

Jennifer initially published the material as two volumes of 15 lesson plans each as you will see mentioned in the book review.  She has since changed that manner of publication so that the entire 30 lesson plan is now included in one complete work instead of two.  The total cost for the entire plan is $30.  The book review that follows indicates a different price for each 15 lesson plan as it was originally published.  So now it is even less expensive to purchase the full package today for $30 instead of what was initially about $30 for each of the lesson plans previously.

Jennifer also has lesson plan books targeted to the 1st to 3rd grader as well as to the high school student which have also been combined into one volume at a cost of $30 for each targeted group of students.

I want to thank the Illinois State Genealogical Society, Sonia Schoenfield, the book reviewer for the Illinois State Genealogical Society, and Jennifer Holik, the author, for allowing me to share this wonderful book review.

The Schaumburg Township District Library has Jennifer’s combined lesson plan book sets in our collection that targets 1st to 3rd grade, 4th to 8th grade and for those in high school.  You can find these on the 2nd floor of our library in our genealogy book section with the call number 929.1 HOLIK, J.  They are available for you to check out and see for yourself how you can make an impact with the “next generation” regarding the love for family history research.

You may want to consider purchasing a set of the books for personal use and interaction with your own children and grandchildren.

What follows after the separator line in Italics is the full-text review as appeared in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly:


Branching Out: Genealogy for 4th – 8th Grade Students by Jennifer Holik. 2 volumes. Generations: Woodridge, Illinois, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-938226-02-1. Volume 1, $26.95; volume 2, $32.95 available from
Many of us, having come to genealogy later in life, tend to think of our chosen hobby and passion as a “grown up” activity. We may enjoy telling stories to the youngsters about our great-grandparents who lived in a sod house on the prairie, but researching in court houses and completing family group charts is best left to the adults.

Not so, says Jennifer Holik, professional genealogist and educator. Children can and should be able to research and understand where their family comes from. To this end Holik has developed a series of genealogy curriculum called Branching Out. The program is divided into three grade levels, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-8, and high school; each set having 30 lessons divided into two books with 15 lessons each. This review will address the books written for 4th – 8th grade students.

The cleverly-titled books have colorful, attractive covers. The lessons and pages are well arranged. Images and illustrations are used sparingly, but to good effect. The images used as examples of completed forms are a little fuzzy and should probably have been scanned at a higher resolution.

Branching Out is written for adults, parents, or teachers to use with students. These books could be used in a variety of settings: genealogy societies wanting to offer programs for younger audiences, homeschoolers, after school clubs, enrichment classes, or summer school.

The lessons are succinct, well-written, easy to understand and therefore easy to present to the student(s). Holik has taken an organized approach to the subject. Early lessons focus on the basics such as what genealogy is, how to fill out pedigree and family group sheets, and how to interview relatives. Later lessons build on these basics and add progressively complex concepts and assignments.

Each lesson contains a goal, vocabulary, a reading assignment, explanation of the lesson, and an assignment. Most readings are taken from published books readily available from a public library, bookstore, or established websites. The vocabulary is reinforced through crossword puzzles and word searches. Worksheets are occasionally provided to enhance the lesson. There are reviews but no quizzes or exams; the aim is to build family history cumulatively, and whatever is learned in one lesson is used in subsequent ones. The final lesson puts everything together with short written biographies of the student and an ancestor of the student’s choice.

Some of the lessons are quite short, others are more in-depth; this variety would prevent students and teachers from becoming either bored or overwhelmed by the lessons. Holik has creative ideas scattered throughout the book. For example, one of the first lessons includes creating a family tree illustrated with photographs; displaying this finished product will no doubt inspire and encourage the student to continue the lessons.

A professional genealogist, Holik’s previous experiences lie in education and IT. She blogs about genealogy research, conducts research services, and gives speaking presentations. Her next two books, coming out soon, are Branching Out for adults and Engaging the Next Generation: A Guide for Genealogical Societies and Libraries to help engage students in the act of genealogy and family history research.

Holik has produced an admirable publication that does a great job of combining her education and genealogy knowledge. I would recommend these books to anyone wanting to present a long-term genealogy class to students of any age. As genealogists, we may have a tendency to focus on our ancestors of long ago at the expense of the youth in our lives. We must cultivate not only a love for genealogy and family history in the next generation, but also knowledge of the research procedures and standards that we value and that make our work worthwhile. Holik’s genealogy series is a valuable tool for passing the genealogy research torch to the next generation.

Reviewed by Sonia Schoenfield
Book Review Editor


I can’t wait until Jennifer makes an appearance at our library in February 2013 as our genealogy guest speaker.  She has certainly created something that the rest of us can latch onto to help our children and grandchildren fall in love with family history as we have.  We just have not known how to pass our interests on to the “next generation”.  Now we have some great tools to access and use and share with our children and grandchildren.

Check out the books from our collection and get started with your children and grandchildren working with them to share your love for family history and for them to learn the skills on how to go about discovering family history.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s