What's in a name?
July 28, 2008 8:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of buying a book like this as a gift. Anyone have any personal experience with this "Our Name in History" series of books? Are they any good?
posted by flapjax at midnite to Writing & Language (12 answers total)
 
Well, I was curious, so I looked up mine. It sent me a link to Amazon, which showed it tagged:

a waste of good dollars (4)
a waste of money (4)
a total waste of money (2)
ancestry (2)

bogus genealogy book (2)
disappointed (2)
do not reccommend for the price (2)
fake book (2)

family (2)
my family (1)
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:18 PM on July 28, 2008


A friend's elderly & somewhat naive father bought something like this from a snail mail spam letter. It was touted as "the history of the X family" but it featured little more than a few snippets of data easily available via public record, along with a whole bunch of bogus filler.

"X's in history have been involved in many different kinds of trades & have occupied differing positions in society etc etc"

No idea if this is the same series, or similar, but it reeked of ripoff / scam.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:25 PM on July 28, 2008


Basically, it scopes out public records and sort of automatically compiles them into a pre-formatted book. It's very hit or miss. No one "wrote" the book, it's computer-generated. If there are 50 or so people with your name, it can gather enough material to create a book. If you're all named something odd from a definable place (say, a specifically Romanian name which isn't very common), you might end up with some interesting info which does relate to your family, although nothing you couldn't have done a search for and found yourself . . . but these names aren't often common enough for the books.

If you name is something like "Lee," you will get a horrific mix of info about "ancestors" who came in great numbers from both China and Britain and anywhere else a "Lee" might originate. Clearly, it won't mean much. Increasingly, all this information is online. I wouldn't bother.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:33 PM on July 28, 2008


They're exactly a scam per se, but this is the vestiges of a pre-internet business. You can probably compile a more interesting story with some smart Googling.
posted by desuetude at 8:45 PM on July 28, 2008


Someone bought one for my family once, and our surname is fairly obscure in the US but not, of course, in it's native Germany. The book didn't list anyone we were related to - including getting my father's parents wrong! I would look for free ancestry search sites, many exist, and have more information than I've found on ancestry.com .
posted by chana meira at 10:06 PM on July 28, 2008


Yup, these are right up there with "Who's Who In INDUSTRYNAME" books. They're automatically-generated and then targeted at people in INDUSTRYNAME who want to see their name in print.

In this case it's "SURNAME history"... etc.
posted by rokusan at 3:44 AM on July 29, 2008


Regardless of the content, it's apparently also not so much a 'book', more a paperback 'leaflet'. Just look up a couple of popular names for this book on Amazon (Smith, Johnson, stuff like that) and have a look at the reviews.
posted by Ms. Next at 4:27 AM on July 29, 2008


J-Walk says. This is like Nigerian Spam 101 (I even get this crap via snail mail a couple of times a year). I can't believe that you're falling for this flapjax at midnite. Are you making a public service announcement? C'mon, come clean. You got burned and you're wondering whether anyone else has been.
posted by tellurian at 7:12 AM on July 29, 2008


Oh I love these! When my parents divorced, my mom created a new last name for herself and us kids. Her mother had remarried so she didn't feel like her maiden name was appropriate any more, and she just picked a new one. I think it's hilarious when I get these emails about "the [new last name]'s family tree goes back hundreds of years, get the details of your family's genealogy here." Yeah, good luck with that.
posted by Who_Am_I at 7:18 AM on July 29, 2008


I can't believe that you're falling for this flapjax at midnite. Are you making a public service announcement? C'mon, come clean. You got burned and you're wondering whether anyone else has been.

Nope, sorry tellurian, I wasn't burned, didn't "fall for" anything (what, you think I was born yeaterday?), just truly wondering if these books might be any good. As I said upthread, I figured they wouldn't be, but, doesn't hurt to ask, right?

Thanks again for the answers, folks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:47 AM on July 29, 2008


My father received one of these as a gift, and as everyone said, it amounts to general internet searchable facts plus some filler about different eras and places. This general information matches whatever comes up for the family info, i.e. "The X family settled in Boston" followed by a couple of pages about Boston in the 1920s.

Yup, these are right up there with "Who's Who In INDUSTRYNAME" books. They're automatically-generated and then targeted at people in INDUSTRYNAME who want to see their name in print.

Do you mean to tell me I wasn't one of the premier High School Students in the US when my mother bought this book?
posted by genefinder at 8:14 AM on July 29, 2008


I was amused to find out that my last name means "something to do with a ford." Thanks, fake genealogy book!
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:55 PM on July 29, 2008


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