These three must-read titles from our Genealogy Book Club would be great stocking stuffers for yourself or someone you love. See my newest book recommendations for family history lovers by best-selling authors Christina Baker Kline (Orphan Train) and A.J. Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically)–and another author I recently discovered and couldn’t stop reading.
“You can never escape the bonds of family history, no matter how far you travel. And the skeleton of a house can carry in its bones the marrow of all that came before.” So says the Prologue to a new novel by best-selling novelist Christina Baker Kline, whose novel Orphan Train has been loved by millions around the world (and a lot of Genealogy Gems Book Club fans–we featured it in 2014).
A Piece of the World is a unique and irresistible story about a woman whose physical disabilities and family’s demands keep her adventure-loving spirit firmly homebound. Granted, her home is a fascinating place: a 1700s-era home on the coast of Maine that has been passed down for several generations. But the noble legacy of the home instills a sense of obligation in those who live there now: do they stay on the family land at all costs, even the cost of their happiness and health? What happens when a family’s heritage becomes a burden, not a blessing?
Those who love American art will love that the main character, Christina, was inspired by the subject of the Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina’s World. (You can see an image of the painting here.) Christina was a real person who lived in this home. Andrew visited her and her brother and painted them many times. So the characters and setting are real, and the house is actually a National Historic Landmark now. Christina Baker Kline’s “fictional memoir” gives this historical Christina a powerful, honest, and insightful voice: the voice of a person who sees and tells it like it is–except the parts she just can’t see for herself.
You could say A.J. Jacobs is famous for asking questions that seem both important and inane, and then pursuing the answers and writing about it. That’s what he did with his best-selling book The Year of Living Biblically, a chronicle of the time he tried to obey every rule in the Bible. Now he’s done it again in his new book, It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree.
The questions A.J. set out to answer here were, “Who is really my family? And what would happen if I tried to host the world’s biggest family reunion?” He’s been working on this topic for a while. Remember the Global Family Reunion in 2015? That was his brainchild. He also spoke at RootsTech in 2016.
A.J.’s voice is witty with lots of digressions, pop culture references, and a definite urban beat (NYC, specifically). He meditates on what genealogical connections mean to him and the larger story the world’s family tree tells us. Like, we’re all related, and therefore shouldn’t we get along better? But with the quick disclaimer that he’s not inviting us all over for New Year’s brunch. He did that already at the Global Family Reunion–which he reports on in detail. (Did it succeed? Did it fail? I’ve been wondering myself since 2015). In the appendix, he recommends all kinds of genealogy how-to resources, including Genealogy Gems.
If you yourself are somewhat relaxed and perhaps even a little irreverent about your genealogy hobby, you’ll likely really enjoy this book. What about the more earnest family historians? It’s still worth a glimpse into how others see us. A.J. comes peeking into the world of genealogy ready to crack jokes. And he does plenty of that. But he also comes away with a great deal of respect for the stories and relationships that can–and should, he says–bring us closer together.
This isn’t a new book this year–it’s a classic I only recently discovered and can’t recommend more enthusiastically! I listened to the audiobook version, which the author narrates himself with great skill. Now I’m going to buy the print version so I can re-read, underline, and dog-ear all the passages that made me swoon. Oh. My. Goodness. Frank Delaney is a MASTER storyteller. He crafts every sentence, every image. You can practically see the story lines unfold, hear every action, smell it. I gasped, I cried, I laughed–all out loud in the car as I listened.
Shannon is a stunning tale: Father Shannon, an American Catholic priest of Irish descent, has serious “shell-shock” trauma after serving in the trenches of World War I. His archbishop sends him on a respite trip to Ireland to travel up the Shannon River looking for his family roots. He lands in the middle of an Irish Civil War—but also encounters person after person who helps him rediscover his faith in humanity and the restorative balm of daily life. Meanwhile, intrigue is afoot within his home archdiocese. A killer, who has his own traumatic backstory in Ireland, is dispatched to make sure Father Shannon never returns home. Their stories converge in a place of love, but also far too close to a place of pain. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about it. Read it or listen–and then clear a spot on your reading list for his epic novel, Ireland, which I read immediately after this one and also loved.
Genealogy Book Club: It’s All about YOU
The Genealogy Gems Book Club is a service we provide the genealogy community because we love giving you more to talk and think about! We handpick our favorite mainstream fiction and nonfiction books that have great genealogy themes, such as someone searching out their family history, the complexities of family relationships, and the fascinating times and places our ancestors experienced.
As a special bonus, we sometimes invite authors of our Book Club titles to join us on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast, available by subscription. It’s so fun to hear my favorite authors gush about the same kinds of topics I love! Hear from beloved and best-selling writers like Fannie Flagg, Annie Barrows, Helen Simonson, Lalita Tademy, and a favorite of genealogists around the world, Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Click here to see our full book list and where you can hear these interviews.
New genealogical records this week include a big update to Genealogy Bank’s newspaper database, including titles from 31 states. Also new are Massachusetts passenger lists, a Connecticut digitization project, and oral histories for WWII veterans and for Irish...
The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 189 is published, with an exclusive interview with stars of Relative Race and more.
The newest episode of the Genealogy Gems Podcast is published and ready for your listening pleasure! Two stars of the new BYUtv show Relative Race join host Lisa Louise Cooke to talk about their experiences criss-crossing the U.S. to meet their AncestryDNA matches.
Here are some more highlights from Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 189:
Irish research tips–and tons of new Irish records online–in honor of St. Patrick’s Day this month;
3 reasons to test your DNA for genealogy, from Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard;
an excerpt from the new Genealogy Gems Book Club interview;
emails from several listeners offering inspiration and tips;
and news from the genealogy world, including databases on runaway slaves (in the U.S. and Britain) and an updated MyHeritage search technology.
I’m a fan of “genealogy TV,” and it’s fun to hear behind-the-scenes feedback from stars of Relative Race. This show’s approach–connecting everyday couples with genetic matches–puts faces to our DNA matches in a fresh and personal way. I’m not hoping to camp on my genetic matches’ lawns anytime soon, but I do sometimes wish I could knock on the doors of some (“please respond!”). Another favorite take-away from this episode was a tip from Matt in Missouri, who wrote in with a creative approach for connecting with relatives through Find A Grave.
Remember, this and all episodes of the Genealogy Gems podcast are FREE to listen to. Click here for FAQ on podcasts and how to listen on your computer or via your favorite mobile device. Click here for a list of past episodes you may have missed. Why not “binge out” a little and catch up during your next commute, workout or down time?
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In this episode:
Exploring what you can do to go deeper in your genealogy research for a more accurate family tree with Elissa Scalise Powell
Irish genealogy podcaster Lorna Moloney, a professional genealogist with Merriman Research, discusses Irish genealogy.
Marcia Finds Treasure on eBay
“I recently remembered your idea of searching for family related things on eBay.
My grandfather and his brother both worked as agents for the Wrought Iron Range Co. of St. Louis. They sold excellent quality wrought iron stoves and my great uncle did very well there as a supervisor.
I did a search for the Wrought Iron Range Co on eBay and immediately pulled up a history of the company, an advertisement for the range and a metal they gave away. I bought them all!
However, the best goodie which I am still bidding on is a “salesman’s sample Wrought Iron Range stove about 12 inches tall and 14 inches long in color and with all working parts.
(Photo: The stove Lisa inherited from her grandmother.)
I may not win the bid, but I am thrilled with what I found.
This will bring my grandfather’s occupation to life for my great nephews!!!!”
“I came across a new site that you might like to inform your listeners about. It is very new and just getting started, so I know they would appreciate a mention.
The name of this new site is “German Letters in Letters” [germanletters.org]. What they are doing is trying to collect letters written between German immigrants to the US and their relatives back home in Germany.
You can very easily submit scanned copies of any letters you have and the really neat thing is that they will post them at their site. Once they post them, they are asking for translations by any volunteers. So, this is an excellent way to have any letters in your possession to be translated….. for FREE!
I was given about 30 letters written to my GG grandfather, Johann Bernard Husam, who immigrated to Adams Co., Illinois about 1855.
They are from his siblings, nieces, and a nephew back in Germany. They range from 1866 to the early 1900s.
I scanned them and they are now on this site. I was given these letters by great granddaughter-in-law [my aunt] who spoke German as she had grown up in the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. She had escaped Czechoslovakia at the end of WWII before the Russians invaded. She, thankfully, had translated all of the letters.”
Learn more about German research from these articles at Genealogy Gems.
What Ann Likes About the Podcast
Hi, Lisa, I’d love to say that your podcast has helped me with a genealogy brick wall but at this point I’m only a “drop-in genealogist,” figuring that I’m the only one in the family interested at this time (working on one grandson though, because I think he’d be a real asset) in finding and preserving family stories.
I do research in fits and starts. But, I do love your podcasts. I’m catching up on back episodes now and recently listened to one that started with you describing a granddaughter’s first Christmas coming up.
It reminded me of one of the best things about your podcasts – it’s like you’re sitting in my living room with me, having a cup of tea, discussing your stories and tips and tricks to help with mine.
Thank you so much for all the information, and for your casual, personal, yet professional style!”
Kristine is No Longer a “Cooke-Cutter” Researcher
“I just retired and guess what is first on my list of things I WANT to do? 🙂 I jumped in with both feet listening to your Premium podcasts and realized a few times that I am the ‘cookie-cutter’ researcher. But, no more. You are the Captain of my ship now. Thank you!
After binging on your podcasts the last two weeks, the first bit of advice I took was changing the way I searched on Newspapers.com. My family’s everyday life’s treasures were buried in the pages of the local news! You made me take a second look after I dismissed the possibility of ever reading about them.
Thank you so much for your dedicated work on behalf of all the genealogists. My Premium subscription will NEVER run out. When a family member says “I don’t know what to get you” I’m prepared to solve that dilemma!
GEM: Overcoming Shallow Research with Elissa Scalise Powell
About today’s guest:
Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, is co-director of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP); past-president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and 2017 She won the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Achievement Award. She is a Certified Genealogist®, and Certified Genealogical LecturerSM. You can reach Elissa at Elissa@PowellGenealogy.com. (Thank you to Elissa for contributing notes for this episode.)
The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS)
The Genealogical Proof Standard was created to help genealogists gain confidence in their research conclusions by providing criteria that can be followed. A genealogical conclusion is considered proved when it meets all five GPS components.
The 5 Components of the GPS
Reasonably exhaustive research – This type of research emphasizes original records that provide the information for all evidence that might answer a genealogist’s question about an identity, relationship, event, or situation
Complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item contributing—directly, indirectly, or negatively—to answers about that identity, relationship, event, or situation
Tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence contributing to an answer to a genealogical question or problem
Resolution of conflicts among evidence items pertaining to the proposed answer
A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion based on the strongest available evidence
The book Genealogy Standardsby the Board for Certification of Genealogists provides a standard by which all genealogists can pattern their work.
Some sources are considered “Low-hanging fruit.” They can be described as:
record type is easily understood
document states the fact desired
Many times, genealogists will need to stretch and reach for harder to find sources. These types of sources are:
possibly unknown to you at this time
not easily accessible
time-consuming to explore
take study to understand it
Elise’s Examples of the Pitfalls of Shallow Research
Believing that family stories have been accurately passed down in all details.
Believing that official documents are always correct.
Believing that published records, especially transcriptions or abstracts, are faithful representations of the original.
Premature conclusions can come back to haunt us.
Disregarding ill-fitting evidence can create brick walls.
Careless citation practices do not give us the tools we need for analysis.
Researching and understanding historical context is crucial to solving problems.
Barriers requiring expertise beyond our own should not hamper the research process.
Assuming there is only one record and suspending research when the first one is found.
Assuming that details are unimportant, or not noticing them at all.
Elissa also points out that when we do shallow research, we can actually do more harm than good. Shallow genealogical research:
Doesn’t allow our ancestors to reveal themselves or their reasons for actions
Puts them in the wrong time and place
Can create wrong kinship ties
Misleads future researchers
Causes brick walls
Wastes our time
Does a disservice to our current family and descendants
GEM: Irish Genealogy with Lorna Moloney of Merriman Research
While speaking at THE Genealogy Show conference in Birmingham England in June of this year I got a chance to sat down for the first time with Lorna Moloney host of The Genealogy Radio show which is produced at Raidio Corcabaiscinn. It airs live on Thursday at 4p.m. and is podcast (click here for episodes). Lorna runs Merriman Research which is dedicated to bringing educational solutions and resources to a wide audience.
Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. Should you search for your ancestors in any of these databases?
BRITAIN, MERCHANT SEAMAN. Findmypast.com has added nearly a quarter million records to its 1918-1941 database of British Merchant Seaman.
IDAHO VITAL RECORDS. New indexes of Idaho births (1861-1911) and deaths (1938-1961) are now searchable for free at FamilySearch.org.
ILLINOIS DEATHS. Over 3.7 million records have been added to a free index of Cook County, Illinois deaths at FamilySearch.org. Cook County is home to the city of Chicago.
INDIANA CHURCH RECORDS. A new database of Indiana United Methodist Church Records(1837-1970) is available at Ancestry.com. According to the collection description, “The registers may contain baptisms, marriages, burials, memberships, and lists of clergy.”
IRISH BIRTHS, BAPTISMS AND MARRIAGES. Complementing recent online Irish parish records collections are two databases of Non-conformist church records (meaning those not in alliance with the Church of Ireland) now at Findmypast: births/baptisms and marriages.
UNITED STATES and NEW ZEALAND ARTICLES. Findmypast.com has updated its PERSI database with over 45,000 new indexed entries and images. Ten publications spanning 1883-1984 include articles covering several New Zealand and several U.S. states, including Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
VARIOUS MARRIAGE RECORDS. FamilySearch.org has published or updated several new free marriage records collections. Click here to see the full list, which includes British Columbia, Durham (England), Indiana, Kansas, Liberia, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah.
Don’t see the records you hoped to among these new genealogy records online? Click here to read a blog post on two powerful tools to help you search for elusive records.