April 24, 2017

The Victorian Bicycles Your Ancestors May Have Ridden

victorian-bicycles-featured-imageVictorian bicycles like the “Ordinary” high-wheel and the woman’s racing tricycle were anything but ordinary! Check out this video footage of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman and her husband Gabriel on their high-wheels–and Gabriel’s demonstrations of how to ride a high-wheel Victorian bicycle.

Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman live like it’s Victorian times. Their dress, home life, household appliances, daily technology use (except for communicating with the rest of the world as needed) and even their daily transportation choices are all driven by what would have been done in the 1880s and 1890s.

Victorian Bicycles About Town

Check out this footage (below) of the couple “about town” on their Victorian bicycles. Gabriel launches himself onto a high-wheel “Ordinary” style bicycle. He rides a modern replica of an 1885 Victor with a 52″ wheel (the bicycle is sized to his leg length, like a man’s trousers) and an 1887 Singer Challenge. Sarah trails along on a modern re-creation inspired by a Coventry Rudge Rotary tricycle from the 1880s. They talk about what they do and why–and the message they hope others will take away from their unusual lifestyle.

Victorian Bicycles vs. Present Day Cycling

Gabriel has over 20-years’ experience working in a bike shop (a modern one), and enjoys comparing past and present cycling models. In an interview at Bicycling.com, he explains: “I’m a long-time cyclist with lower back issues—I can sit on this bike and be perfectly vertical and upright, which is wonderful for comfort, and you get a better view. One of the things I always used road riding for is meditation, and riding a high-wheel bike is an excellent bike for that—it’s just a magical experience gliding along and feeling the rhythm of everything.”

Below, Gabriel demonstrates how to mount his 1887 Singer Challenge high-wheel bicycle:

And here he shows off just a little, riding with one leg (we’re impressed):

Victorian Bicylces for the Ladies

A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Victorian Bicycles: A couple seated on an 1886 Coventry Rotary Quadracycle for two. Wikimedia Commons image in the public domain; click to view.

Sarah’s tricycle was originally made to accommodate ladies’ fashions of the day: long, full skirts that would have gotten caught in the spokes of an Ordinary and pantalet drawers with open crotches that would have revealed more than a lady would prefer if she were seated on a taller Ordinary. A “bicycle built for two” quadracycle version was also made, shown here.

“There were a number of different styles of tricycles in the nineteenth-century,” Sarah explains on the couple’s website. “On many models the rider sat between two large wheels and a third, smaller wheel was seen out front or behind the rider. However finely they were made though, all the metal and solid rubber on those large wheels adds up to a lot of weight, so an asymmetrical model was developed. The Rudge Rotary (which inspired mine) was known for its lightness and speed and gained a reputation as a racing trike. The right-hand grip turns the two smaller wheels in tandem with each other: They steer it. The big wheel drives the machine: It gets turned when the treadles go ’round.”

This Victorian Life at Genealogy Gems

this-victorian-lifeLearn more about Sarah and Gabriel’s unusual lifestyle in Sarah’s memoir, This Victorian Life. She will discuss that book and Victorian life in general in an upcoming Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with host Lisa Louise Cooke. You can catch highlights from that conversation in our free December epiosde of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and the exclusive full length interview on the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast (episode 142). Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more about Premium membership benefits–not least of which is access to unique conversations such as this one!

Bonus Genealogy Gems Book Club recommendations: Sarah has also written other books about Victorian life, including a “Cycling Club Romance” series inspired by their own experience with the Victorian-era cycling craze. Click on the book covers below to learn more about them. (And if you choose to purchase, thanks for doing so using these links, which support more free content like this.)

victorian-secretstrue-ladies-and-proper-gentlement-sarah-chrisman first-wheel-in-town-sarah-chrisman

genealogy book club family history reading

Premium Podcast Episode 139: Chris Cleave, WWII and More

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 139 features best-selling novelist Chris Cleave, WWII newspaper tips, new Evernote vs. One Note comparisons and more!

composite-book-club-author-cover-photoGenealogy Gems Premium members can dive into the days of World War II in the newly-released Premium episode #139. Novelist Chris Cleave talks about the inspiration for his WWII-era best-selling novel,  Everyone Brave is Forgiven and how he researched the history behind the story. You’ll hear personal reflections on how he sees his home city of London today, after writing so vividly about its bombing.

Lisa Louise Cooke follows that conversation with her own top tips for discovering the daily realities of life and death during the war using the 1940s newspapers, many of which are not freely accessible online for copyright reasons.

Other episode highlights:

  • How a crowd-sourced effort on Facebook sent a family Bible back home;
  • How to save images in Google Books;
  • Thoughts on Evernote vs. One Note, and free vs. premium access to Evernote with creative solutions for making the free version work for you;
  • Follow-up listener tips on the Atlas for Historical County Boundaries;
  • A new novel from a favorite past Genealogy Gems Book Club author; and
  • An exciting story from Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard about analyzing DNA from ancient ponytails–and what this doesn’t mean for your genealogy research.

Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and WebsiteReady to take the Genealogy Gems Premium membership plunge? You’ll get on-demand access to this Premium podcast episode and the 138 episodes before it–along with more than 30 how-to video tutorials by Lisa Louise Cooke. Click here to learn more.

5 Stunning WWII Photos of the London Blitz: Everyone Brave is Forgiven

WWII_Blitz_FeatureImage

Check out these compelling WWII photos! These remind me of the vivid scenes in the best-selling novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave.

genealogy book club family history readingRecently, I’ve been inspired and riveted by the stories in Everyone Brave is Forgiven, the current Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title. Though author Chris Cleave writes so compellingly you feel like you’re there, I love pictures. So, I curated this mini-exhibit of five stunning WWII photos of London during The Blitz. I have also included a bonus sixth photograph of Malta where part of the book takes place.

[Note: click on images to see original files and full source citation information.]

WWII Photos from London

View_from_St_Paul's_Cathedral_after_the_Blitz WWII photos

View of London after the German Blitz, 29 December 1940.

Blitz_West_End_Air_Shelter WWII photos

London Underground station, in use as an air-raid shelter during World War II.

WWII photos children made homeless

Children of an eastern suburb of London, made homeless by the random bombs of the Nazi night raiders, waiting outside the wreckage of what was their home. September 1940.

WWII photos The_Reconstruction_of_'an_Incident'-_Civil_Defence_Training_in_Fulham,_London,_1942_D7917

During a 1942 training exercise, ambulance crew and civil defense workers place a “casualty” into an ambulance. Women comprised most of the crew of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service during WWII.

WWII photos Blitz_Canteen-_Women_of_the_Women's_Voluntary_Service_Run_a_Mobile_Canteen_in_London,_England,_1941_D2173

Blitz Canteen: Women of the Women’s Voluntary Service run a Mobile Canteen in London, 1941.

BombDamageMalta WWII photos

Service personnel and civilians clear up debris on a heavily bomb-damaged street in Valletta, Malta on 1 May 1942.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven cover imageI hope you get a chance to read Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave and check out our exclusive interview with him in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 139 (find an excerpt in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 195.)

Do you have a friend who is a WWII buff? Why not share this post and book with them, after all, it’s nice to share!

share

Research WWII Ancestors in Action, At Home, Under Fire

Research WWII ancestors with these three tips. The experiences of our ancestors during World War II add a rich texture to their personal history. Whether in the military, on the home-front, or those living in neighborhoods that became battle zones, find their stories with these helpful tips.

Research WWII Ancestors

Everyone Brave is Forgiven cover imageIn Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, our current Genealogy Gems Book Club title, we read about different ways Londoners experienced World War II. A soldier shipped out to Malta, a female War Office recruit, a child evacuee, a civilian running regularly for underground shelters as bombs fell; these are just a few of the book’s poignant stories.

That diversity of experience was part of our ancestors’ lives, too. Some served in the military and some kept the home fires burning. Some even dodged bombs or bullets in their own neighborhoods! Many experienced the horrors of concentration, POW, or other types of interment camps.

As many different experiences as they had, there are just as many ways to research their lives during WWII. Here are several scattered examples of the kinds of records and resources you may find. Do a little of your own exploring to see whether the kinds of materials below exist for your WWII ancestors.

Research WWII Ancestors: The Soldier

finding your fathers war

Research WWII Ancestors: On the Home Front and in Harm’s Way

Pauline Moore c1941 prob Richmond, CA

Lisa’s grandmother heading off to work at Kaiser’s Richmond Shipyards, c. 1941

Millions of civilians’ lives were directly affected by the war. Many women entered jobs for the first time in their lives or began doing new types of volunteer work. Families faced rationing, price controls, and blackouts. Some unfortunates found themselves in the path of the war.

This article from the U.S. National Archives has an excellent review of the kinds of online and offline resources you can read to learn more about U.S. home front activities. Reading Everyone Brave is Forgiven will introduce you (in a re-imagined way) to the experience of Londoners caught in The Blitz. You can also explore The Blitz in this interactive map of the bombings.

Speaking of maps, one resource your home-front family would have used to follow troop movements and the progress of the war were the Stanley Turner maps. His collection contained a unique series of action-packed maps. These can add a fascinating and colorful layer of understanding to your family’s experience during this time.

Must-reads: The Genealogy Gems Book Club

genealogy book club family history readingThe Genealogy Gems Book Club is an exceptional virtual book club for everyone. Every quarter, we recommend a fiction or nonfiction title that has a compelling slant for family history lovers. Then, we interview the author and share the conversation with you. Right now, we’re talking about Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, who joins us in a couple of weeks on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast (there’s an advance teaser in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 195.) Watch for these episodes and check out other titles we’ve recommended in The Genealogy Gems Book Club!

The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 193: Published!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 193The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 193 is ready for listening! It’s packed with genealogy news you can use; inspiring tips from listeners and experts and the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club pick.

Ready to tune in the newest episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast? Episode 193 offers a true “variety show” of news, listener comments and expert insights. Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard weighs in with a key principle for genetic genealogy: helping you understand the not-quite-so-simple relationship between your genetic family tree and your genealogical family tree.

download backblazeMy favorite segment in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 193 actually comes from Lisa’s listener mailbox, though. This listener responded to The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192 with a tip of his own on the U.S. Public Records Index, some great sleuthing on his part into an adoption mystery in his family and even his own research into the area of Sussex, England, which Lisa highlighted in the show in connection with The Summer Before the War, the previous Genealogy Gems Book Club title.

genealogy book club family history readingSpeaking of the Book Club, this episode also announces a brand new featured book. It’s another novel about love and war by a British author. But it’s a different war, a different kind of love story and a VERY different way of telling the story! Click to the podcast episode for the “big reveal.” I will tell you this: Gems audio editor Vienna Thomas just remixed our upcoming interview with the author and she LOVED it! She said now she can’t wait to read the book.

GGP award finalistThe FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast has been entertaining audiences on the “internet airwaves” for years! Nominated last year for the first-ever Academy of Podcasters awards, the show has had more than 1.75 million downloads worldwide. Host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke is loved for her warm conversational style, inspiring family history stories and the expert genealogy tips she threads into each episode–especially the tech tips we all need to keep up with the fast-paced and exciting world of genealogy.

GGP thanks for sharingThanks for listening! And thanks for recommending The Genealogy Gems Podcast to your genealogy buddies. You’re a Gem!

Genealogy Playlist Ultimate Guide for this Summer’s Road Trips

Summer_Road_Trip_Playlist

Are you going on a road trip this summer? Do you have a genealogy playlist ready? Here are some favorite resources for creating the ultimate genealogy playlist for the open road.

The Apps

Whether you have an Android, Apple, or Windows device, plan your own audio genealogy playlist for your next road trip. Here are some of our top picks:

get the app1.  The Genealogy Gems Podcast App allows you to listen to our regular podcasts with tips and tricks for genealogy and includes extra bonus content you won’t find anywhere else. By downloading the podcast before you hit the road, you won’t have to worry about using your data or hoping you have enough bars! And don’t miss the Bonus content available in many of the episodes. It’s a nice perk of our app.

2. AudioBooks from Audible. Audio books are a great idea for any road trip. For the highest quality reading voice, consider downloading a free app like AudioBooks. With 180,000 available titles, you will be sure to find something you like. AudioBooks offers a free 30-day trial and includes one free audio book. After the trial month, you can download a new book each month for $14.95, or purchase any book you want for the listed price.

3. Kindle Audio App is also free and easy to navigate. Once you have downloaded the app to your device, you can sign-in with your Amazon account to purchase the books you want. You can even sample books before you buy! Kindle Audio App allows you to experience “immersion” reading by allowing reading and listening simultaneously. Or, turn your Kindle e-book into an audiobook by having your iPhone read it to you: click here to learn how.

Genealogy Playlist Book Recommendations

Would you like some great summer reading options? These Genealogy Gems Book Club titles are some of our picks for listening on the road, on the beach, or wherever the sun takes you.

The Summer Before the War Helen Simonson coverThe Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson is a fun read about Beatrice Nash who lands in East Sussex, where locals aren’t exactly thrilled to meet her. She spends the summer fighting for her job, meeting a local cast of engaging, eccentric characters (both gentry and gypsy,) and trying not to fall for handsome Hugh. Then, the Great War breaks out. Listen to a free excerpt of an interview with the author in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192.

Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to GrowOrchard House cover by Tara Austin Weaver, author of the internationally-acclaimed blog Tea & Cookies. This memoir is one part food, one part gardening, and two parts family drama, liberally seasoned with humor and introspection. Tara’s mother moves to Seattle to be near her. Together, they purchase a home with a wild garden. The challenge of reinvigorating the garden is nothing compared to the challenge of renewing their troubled relationship. It’s an honest (and mouthwatering) story of planting, cultivating, and harvesting the fruits of family and garden. The Genealogy Gems Premium website members can access the full interview in our premium podcast episode 133 or click here to hear a free excerpt.

Lost_Ancestor The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. This is the most recent book in a “genealogical crime mystery” series by the British author. Forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is hired to find out what happened to his client’s great-aunt Mary, who disappeared without a trace a century ago while working as a maid at a grand English estate. The author joined us on the June podcasts if  you would like to take a listen. Genealogy Gems Premium members can hear the entire interview hereOther titles in the series: Hiding the Past and The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier Novella.

orphan train Christina Baker Kline genealogy book clubOrphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline, spent five weeks at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list and top of The Bestsellers List in Canada. The novel intertwines the stories of Vivian and Molly. Vivian is an Irish girl who lost her family in New York City and was forced to ride the ‘orphan train’ to find a new home. Decades later, the aged Vivian meets a teenager, Molly, who is struggling to find identity and happiness in the modern foster care system. Click here to catch highlights of our interview with Christina Baker Kline on the The Genealogy Gems Podcast. Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to listen to the full-length interview.

Book club winner

 

Find more books we think are perfect for family history lovers at The Genealogy Gems Book Club

Turn a Kindle Ebook into an Audiobook on iPhone

turn a Kindle ebook into an audiobookWish someone could read your Kindle e-book to you? Your iPhone can. Here’s how to turn a Kindle ebook into an audiobook. For free.

I love to read. But when I’m on the road, doing chores or working out, it’s easier to listen to books. Sometimes I purchase an audio format or find one at my local library. But audiobooks are pretty expensive, and they’re not always available for the books I want.

So what if I have an e-book already on my Kindle and I want my iPhone to read it to me? It can.

Here’s how to turn a Kindle ebook into an audiobook on an iPhone 5s:

1. Voiceover turn a Kindle ebook into an audiobookCustomize VoiceOver settings. On your iPhone, go to Settings > General > Accessibility.
2. Set the reading speed. On the VoiceOver screen, go down to the Speaking Rate bar and adjust it to a speed you like: toward the turtle image for slower, and toward the running rabbit for faster.
3. Choose the reading voice. On the same screen, you can select the voice you want to hear. Choose Speech. Under Default Dialect, you can choose among several English-speaking reading voices, categorized under U.S., Australian, U.K., Irish and South African English. Or tap “Add New Language” to enable one of many other languages.
4. Open your Kindle app (or download it here).
5. Choose a book from your Library. Or go to Amazon.com, select Kindle Store under the All Departments dropdown menu on the search bar, and search for titles (or search “Kindle free books” for free Kindle books to read). You should also check with your local library about borrowing Kindle ebooks.)
6. Open the book. Tap the book and swipe left to page forward through the front matter until you want to start reading.
7. Ask Siri to “turn on VoiceOver.” You can also do this manually by going back to Settings > General > Accessibility. Once you turn on VoiceOver, it reads everything to you. I find it annoying and more difficult to navigate in the iPhone with VoiceOver on, so I don’t enable it until I am ready to use it. After Siri confirms that VoiceOver is enabled, press the Home button once to return to your Kindle book.
8. Start the audio reading. A black border will appear around your Kindle book page. A voice will start to give you instructions. Swipe down with two fingers to begin reading continuously (beginning with the current page and continuing through the book until you stop.
9. Double tap the screen to stop reading and bring up the menu options.

If you’re used to audiobooks read by actors and professional readers, you’ll miss their polished performances. But the voice works for me in a pinch, when I just want to listen to an e-book I already have on my Kindle.

The Summer Before the War Helen Simonson coverWhy not try this with the current Genealogy Gems Book Club featured title, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson? Click on the book title to order the Kindle e-book. It’s a perfect summer read: a light-hearted romance with colorful characters and a compelling historical backdrop at the outset of World War I.

genealogy book club family history readingThis post was brought to you by the free, no-commitment online Genealogy Gems Book Club. We choose titles for their appeal to family history lovers, AND we interview their (often best-selling) authors. Click here to learn more about the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

3 Tips for Finding WWI Ancestors and Their Stories

WWI ancestorsHow did World War I affect your family’s lives? Start your search with these 3 tips for finding WWI ancestors. 

Our current Genealogy Gems Book Club title takes place at the outset of WWI. The Summer Before the War: A Novel
by Helen Simonson has endearing characters who experience fairly light-hearted dramas–and then they are plunged into war.

Through their eyes, readers begin to understand that those who lived through ‘the Great War’ experienced something totally unprecedented. There had never been such a massive loss of life and devastation.

1. Ask family what they know. Ask all living relatives what they know about ancestors’ involvement in World War I. Listen for stories about anyone who may have served in the military, dodged military service, took care of things on the homefront, lost their own lives or loved ones or lived in an area affected by the war. Ask about any old documents, photos or letters that may survive.

There are lots of ways to ask your relatives these questions. Poll everyone at your next family gathering or reunion. Use Facebook (click here for some great tips) or other social media. Connect with other tree owners who have documented ancestors of WWI interest (see step 2, below) through communication tools provided at sites such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and FamilySearch.org.

2. Identify ancestors affected by WWI. Look for families and individuals who were alive between 1914 and 1918. Where did they live? Was it an active war zone?  Research local histories and maps to determine how their city–or even neighborhood or property–was affected. Scan death dates on your family tree–did anyone living in a war zone die during that time period?

Were they in a country that sent troops to war? If so, look for soldiers on your tree. The age of those who served in World War I varied. In general, look for men born between 1880 and 1900 who were alive in 1914. Again, look for death dates during the war.

3. Search military records on genealogy websites. Fold3.com’s WWI landing page is the place to start for WWI ancestors in the U.S., since it specializes in military records (you may be able to access it from your home library). Ancestry.com users can go to this landing page to search all WWI records from the U.S. and here to search U.K. records. Findmypast.com users can search WWI records here, including an extensive collection of British military records but also others from around the world. If you’re searching U.S. records, remember that draft registrations are not records of military service.

If you’re looking for a country or region not represented in these online collections, start Googling! Google search phrases such as “Germany WWI genealogy” will bring up results like these. (Click here to watch free video tutorials about Google searching for genealogy records.) You may discover new databases online or records collections you could access through archives or libraries.

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersThese tips are just to get you started. As you discover records, you’ll have a better sense for the stories of your WWI ancestors. Then you can start chasing those stories in newspapers, local histories and other sources. Turn to a book like Lisa Louise Cooke’s How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers to learn sleuthing skills you’ll need for searching out your WWI family stories in the news.

More WWI Genealogy Gems for You

WWI photos, World War I photographs, WWI ancestors

British volunteers for “Kitchener’s Army” waiting for their pay in the churchyard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. August 1914. Wikimedia Commons Image

Europeana World War I Digital Archive

5 Ways to Discover Your Family History in WWI

More Great Books to Read, Including Orange Lilies, a WWI-era Novella in the Forensic Genealogist series by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

New Genealogy Book Club Pick: WWI-Era Novel by NYT Bestseller

Summer Before the War Genealogy Book Club logo genealogy gemsThe new featured title of our genealogy book club has been announced. We’re guessing this NYT-bestselling British novelist will win your heart, if she didn’t already with her breakout first novel.

A smart young woman who’s traveled the world finds herself suddenly in a much more provincial setting: East Sussex, England. She spends the summer distracted by petty local politics, financial frustrations and the beginnings of a possible romance. Then the Great War begins–not so far from her new home.

That’s the premise of British author Helen Simonson’s new novel, The Summer Before the War, and our newest Genealogy Gems Book Club title. Those who have been waiting for Helen’s follow-up to her stunning debut, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, won’t be disappointed. Her first book became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 21 languages. The Summer Before the War is another great read: light and charming, with a dash of romance and humor, a lovable heroine and a compelling historical setting. It’s so easy to read and love this book!

It’s the early 1900s, and main character Beatrice Nash has recently lost her father. The estate settlement lost her control over her own funds and freedom. She comes to a small English town as a Latin teacher and must mind her manners and local politics to keep her job. Beatrice meets a man and the appeal appears mutual, but he’s already engaged.

This isn’t just Beatrice’s story, though. You’ll meet an entire village full of charming and irascible and expatriate and unconventional and way-too-conventional and mysterious characters, including the local gentry and the local gypsies. They all have their own stories, which unfold as they begin to experience the first great shock of the 20th century close-up: World War I. First it’s the stunned refugees who take refuge in their village. Then locals begin enlisting. Eventually you’ll see the battlefront through their eyes, but not all of them may make it back to the town that to Beatrice is becoming home.

Genealogy Book Club Podcast Interview with Helen Simonson

genealogy book club Helen Simonson Summer before the war Major PettigrewDespite the awful realities her characters face, Helen Simonson somehow writes a novel that is easy and enjoyable to read. I ask her how she did that–and lots of other questions–in an exclusive interview coming this June on the Genealogy Gems podcasts. You’ll hear more about the idyllic setting she chose and her personal connection to it; how she researched the historical setting; and what it’s like to be an emigrant who longed to leave home and now misses it dearly.

Get Your Copy & Support the Free Podcast Featuring Author Interviews

So snatch up a copy from our links here (which support the free podcast–thank you!) or your local library. And let us know what you love about it!

Get the Kindle ebook – The Summer Before the War: A Novel

Get the print book – The Summer Before the War: A Novel

10 Family History Memoirs We Love: Genealogy Gems Book Club

family history memoirs we loveFamily history memoirs are a beautiful and personal way to write your family history. Here are 10 family history memoirs we love.

Memoirs these days aren’t the stodgy, only-written-by-the-famous tomes of the past. Anyone who has a story to tell can write a memoir. Well, genealogists often have fantastic stories to tell. Some stories call on their own memories. Some stories come from research discoveries and the ways these discoveries have changed them. Many genealogists have a combination of both kinds of stories to tell. These are the kinds of stories you find written up as family history memoirs.

Here are some of our favorite family history memoirs from the Genealogy Gems Book Club, our no-commitment online book club with exclusive interviews with the authors:

genealogy book clubAnnie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg. One of Lisa Louise Cooke’s all-time favorite interviews was a chat with the author about this book. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading Annie’s Ghosts,” says Lisa. “This book inspired me, gave me concrete ideas for pursuing my own family history research, AND kept me on the edge of my chair. What could be better? Steve is such a riveting writer and speaker, and it’s fascinating to hear how someone who is not a genealogist–but rather a journalist–approached his family history search in an effort to find the answers to mysteries in his families.” Listen to the interviews in Genealogy Gems podcast episodes 120 and 121. This book and interview planted the seed for the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

family by ian frazierFamily by Ian Frazier. In this tale of a genealogical journey, the best-selling author explores his small-town, middle-class roots in the U.S. He explains a purpose that arose from loss: “I wanted my parents’ lives to have meant something. I hunted all over for meanings of any kind….I believed bigger meanings hid behind little ones, that maybe I could follow them to a source back tens or hundreds of years ago. I didn’t care if the meanings were far-flung or vague or even trivial. I wanted to pursue them. I hoped maybe I would find a meaning that would defeat death.”

five finger discountFive-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History by Helene Stapinski. An unforgettable personal narrative! The author tells her family history within the criminal and blighted culture of Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. She interweaves the stories of more infamous personalities from her hometown with those of her grandfather and other relatives. She seamlessly weaves her own memories with her research and shares how she has come to terms (or not) with her “crooked family history.”

genealogy book clubThe Journey Takers by Leslie Albrecht Huber. Here’s another book Lisa profiled on the podcast awhile back. Leslie is a professional genealogist who spent thousands of hours researching the stories she tells about ancestors who left homes in Germany, England and Sweden for new lives in the United States. She writes about their experiences but also her feelings about it, in a book about both a family’s history and the effect it has on the present. Check out Lisa’s interview with Leslie in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode Episode 98.

Orchard House Genealogy Gems Book ClubOrchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austin Weaver. This memoir of re-building a garden in Seattle with the author’s mother is also about the planting, pruning, patience and hope that’s part of rebuilding family relationships. This is our most recent featured title in the Genealogy Gems Book Club. Listen to a free excerpt of our interview with Tara on the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #189.

out of the shoebox by yaron reshefOut of the Shoebox: An Autobiographical Mystery by Yaron Reshef. In this memoir, Yaron gets a phone call about property his father purchased in Israel years ago. He and his sister can inherit it, but only if they can prove that man was their father. He goes on an international paper chase into the era of World War II, the Holocaust and the making of Israel. A forgotten bank account surfaces and more surprises happen during Yaron’s two-year quest to understand the tragedies of his family’s past and recover some of its treasures.

genealogy book club Running Away to Home: Our Family’s Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters  by Jennifer Wilson. In this book, Jennifer takes us on a once-in-a-lifetime genealogical journey. She walked in her ancestors’ shoes and lived among their descendants.” Lisa Louise Cooke profiled this book in Episode 129 of the Genealogy Gems podcast and was so inspired by the story that she created this YouTube video on the book.

 

genealogy book clubShe Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me by Emma Brockes. An award-winning journalist tells the story of her discovery of her mother’s tragic childhood in South Africa. This is a genealogical journey, complete with trips to archives, poring over old court cases and dramatic reveals. But it’s so much more than that! It’s also about learning the past from living relatives. This is the ultimate how-to book for exploring and sharing sensitive family stories because she shows you how it’s done. Listen a meaty excerpt of our interview with Emma Brockes on the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 174 and the full-length interview in Premium episode 118.

three slovak women by lisa alzoThree Slovak Women, Second Edition by Lisa Alzo. You may know Lisa as a popular speaker on Eastern European genealogy at national conferences. This is her nonfiction account of three generations of Slovak women in the steel-producing town of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, and the love and sense of family binding them together. It will inspire your own family history writing projects! Click here to hear Lisa in the free Family History Made Easy podcast talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned along the way, including in her travels in Eastern Europe.

worst country in the worldThe Worst Country in the World by Patsy Trench. This is a first-person narrative about her Australian ancestors, who were among the first European settlers in that fascinating country. Patsy actually quit her job and traveled from London to Australia several times to research the story of her fourth great-grandmother and other relatives. She describes the book she wrote as “a hybrid: part family history, part memoir, part novel.”

Free PodcastLearn more about family history storytelling styles and hear passages from three of the above books in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #179. Or click here to read more about the Genealogy Gems Book Club.