Review of the book Tracing Your Dakota Roots
Book review by Mary Lynn Axtman, Fargo, North Dakota
Winistorfer, Jo Ann B. and Cathy A. Langemo. Tracing your Dakota Roots: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the Dakotas. Mandan, North Dakota: North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, 1999.
Genealogy research how-to guide books are numerous and pretty
routine publications from many publishers and sources. They can
also be rather cut and dry reading material for even the most dedicated
family researchers. However, Jo Ann Winistorfer and Cathy Langemo
have teamed together to use their many years of professional writing,
editing, research, publishing, art and graphics experience to produce
a real gem for those whose roots are in the Dakotas.
From cover to cover, researchers or just browsers of all ages
will find eye-catching tidbits, paragraphs, or in-depth pages of
useful Dakota history, maps, time-lines, ethnic group history and
settlement areas, along with regional, national, and international
records and research sites with both postal and Internet addresses
throughout the book. The reader's interest is immediately drawn
to the layout of each page. The pages, even the usually dreary glossary,
bibliography and index sections, are sprinkled with numerous antique
graphic illustrations, photos, and data inserts accompanied by cleverly
written headings and captions. Even young children would enjoy paging
through this book and that could spark their interest to ask their
grandparents some of the questions about their lives found in Chapter
The other chapters include: Introduction, History, Where to Begin,
Just for the Record, Research Sites, Ethnic Roots, High-Tech, Networking,
Research Tips, Management, Celebrating Family, and the Appendix
with blank census forms, records request form letters and fee schedules
for both Dakotas besides other goodies too numerous to mention.
The authors compare genealogy to a personal voyage of discovery
not unlike the Voyage of Discovery undertaken nearly 200 years ago
by the Lewis and Clark Expedition into what is now known as North
Dakota and South Dakota. As we approach the millennium, Winistorfer
and Langemo would like to help the readers preserve their own past
history for the future generations. The readers benefit from both
authors being avid genealogists along with a previous 13-month series
of "Tracing Your Roots" columns written by Jo Ann Winistorfer in
1988-1989 as part of the North Dakota centennial celebration which
were published in the "North Dakota REC/RTC Magazine." After many
requests for back issues, the book, "Tracing Your Roots in North
Dakota" was published. This new book, "Tracing Your Dakota Roots"
is an update and expansion of the previous book to include South
Dakota research along with the new Internet and web research technology
It is hard to find any topic that is not well researched and documented.
An extensive American Indian history section with a whole page of
research tips and sources is part of the Ethnic Roots chapter. Each
of the other major and minor ethnic groups in the Dakotas are included,
from the first British Isle people to the more recent professionals
from India, Pakistan, Japan and Vietnam, along with mention of North
Dakota's most famous black citizen. The Germans from Russia section
also provides a history with research tips and sources which includes
the Volga, Black Sea, Dobrudja, Volhynian, Galacian, and Mariupol
Germans and their Dakota settlement areas. In separate sections,
other Germanic and Ukrainian peoples are included.
From adoption records to genealogy myths and scams, from paper
and digital records management to writing your family history or
planning a family reunion, from discovering Dakota history to what
to do if hopelessly stumped, from Dakota Territory to nations around
the world, "Tracing Your Dakota Roots" is a treasure of information.
Mary Lynn Axtman is a native of Rugby, ND. She is editor
and proofreader for the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection,
NDSU Libraries, Fargo. Mary Lynn has compiled and self-published
three family histories in 1998 and 1999, for the Bohl, Bickler and
Axtman families. She prepared the GRHC website pages at the section
"Family Reunions" at http://library.ndsu.edu/gerrus/outreach.html.