Annie Barrows Talks Family History and The Truth According to Us

Annie Barrow interviewIf you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you know how brilliantly co-author Annie Barrows stitched together letters, conversations and history in her fictional love story and account of the Nazi-occupied island of Guernsey during World War II. I love that book. So I was super excited to hear her talking on The Diane Rehm Show recently about her new book, The Truth According to Us: A Novel.

Of course, Annie read from the opening of her book, which made me put it at the top of my reading list. Then she talked about how history can be so different, depending on who is telling the story and from what perspective. I loved her take on small-town history and family history: how it’s remembered so deeply and passionately by its own, and often so mis-remembered or mis-represented by outsiders.

Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck’s father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers’ Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla’s arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family’s past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.”

Annie did talk about the Guernsey book, too. I hadn’t realized her aunt wrote the original manuscript, then became too ill to do the rewrites her publisher wanted. So Annie took on the task. As the author of the acclaimed Ivy and Bean children’s series, clearly she was up to the task. But she didn’t dream it would become an international best-seller!

Genealogy Gems Book Club Genealogy Family HistoryThat’s my latest recommendation as the “curator” of the Genealogy Gems Book Club. We recommend mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles that resonate with people who love family history. Up soon on the Genealogy Gems Book Club schedule: our interview with author Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) (we’ll put the link up on the Book Club page when it’s ready). We also recently published this new companion list of how-to genealogy books we love.

 

TV’s Who Do You Think You Are? #WDYTYA Starts Tomorrow

aisha tyler wdytya

It’s time for a new season of Who Do You Think You Are? here in the U.S. Episode one features comedian and actress Aisha Tyler (Archer, Ghost Whisper.)

According to TLC, Aisha “tracks down her 2x great-grandfather, whose story had been lost over generations, and uncovers an astonishing tale of a prominent ancestor whose struggle to keep his illegitimate son a secret made headlines.”

 

 

The new season of Who Do You Think You Are? premieres Sunday, April 3 at 9/8c

The contributors featured in the upcoming season include:

  • Scott Foley finds a relative who risked his life for one of America’s founding fathers, and an ancestor who suffered unspeakably during one of this nation’s darkest times.
  • Lea Michele nails down where her mysterious paternal ancestors came from, and learns of the dire economic circumstances they endured while trying to emigrate to the U.S.
  • Chris Noth learns his ancestors suffered during one of the greatest catastrophes in American history, and a relative who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of all time.
  • Molly Ringwald explores family lore of Swedish royalty which uncovers her ancestors’ harrowing lives and a brave woman who forever changed her family’s fate.
  • Katey Sagal is shocked to learn of her family’s Amish roots, and digs deeper as she realizes the level of dedication to their faith.

 

FamilySearch and Ancestry: Billion Record Deal

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch International, the two largest online providers of genealogy data,  just announced an agreement that’s expected to put a billion more historical records from around the world within reach online.

1 Billion Records FamilySearch and Ancestry

FamilySearch and Ancestry: Billion Record Deal

A billion is a LOT of records. If you wanted to count to a billion, it would take you 95 years.

According to an Ancestry.com press release, the organizations will partner “with the archive community over the next five years to digitize, index and publish these records from the FamilySearch vault.”

“The access to the global collection of records marks a major investment in international content as Ancestry.com continues to invest in expanding family history interest in its current markets and worldwide,” continues the release. “Ancestry.com expects to invest more than $60 million over the next five years in the project alongside thousands of hours of volunteer efforts facilitated by FamilySearch.”

This kind of collaboration (rather than competition) between these two enormous organizations will likely mean fabulous fruits for the genealogist. I love that the emphasis is on worldwide records, too. Though people in certain international markets may be the ones using their records, the ancestors of those folks have come from all parts of the world. As always, stay tuned to Genealogy Gems to hear news like this and for updates as these records start becoming available.

Lunar Mission One: You Can Put Your DNA on the Moon

A new project backed by top British scientists is crowd-sourcing space exploration by offering donors the chance to put their DNA on the moon. Their first Kickstarter campaign successfully ends today: over  £600,000 has been raised in less than a month!

Lunar Mission One hopes to put a research craft on the “South Pole” end of the moon within ten years. The vessel will drill deep into the rock in an effort to learn more about the moon’s origin and history.

Around 6700 individual pledges were made in this first phase of funding. Those who pledged at a certain amount will receive space in a “digital memory box” that will be sent into space with the research craft, a sort of 21st-century time capsule and digital archive on the moon.

“People will be able to upload whatever they want to their memory box – including personal messages, photos, audio and video,” promises the Lunar Mission One website. “There will also be the option to submit a strand of hair for those who wish to store their DNA for inclusion in the time capsule.”

“The price of the digital memory boxes will be determined by capacity – starting from as little as a few dollars. Most digital information-only purchases are expected to be $10+. Customers who want to combine digital information with a strand of hair, will pay $100+. We are also developing prestige packages ($1,000+) and a lottery option from $1.”

What do you think? It’s not too late to join the fun! According to the Lunar Mission One website, “Following the Kickstarter fundraising, and for the next four years, people will still be able to reserve space in the private archive, through an online portal. This could be for themselves or as a gift. Individuals will be able to get involved in other ways, such as through membership of our Supporters Club.” Learn more at the Lunar Mission One website.

 

 

 

Chilling Historical Video Footage Found in Online Archive

Eastland disasterA determined graduate student found some chilling historical video footage of a ship that capsized in Chicago. It was in an online archive–but he still had to dig deep for it!

Recently Gems fan Kathy sent us a story about an amazing video footage find. The subject line of her email caught my eye: “Gems can’t always be found by ‘panning:’ sometimes we have to ‘dig!'” She went on to say:

“You’re always stressing the importance of looking in the less obvious places but this is one of the best examples. Attached is an article about a horrific tragedy that happened in Chicago 100 years ago….It explains how video footage [about this disaster] was found in a British online newsreel–but it was not referenced under “Eastland,” the name of the ship, or “Chicago,” the location. We all like the easy way of finding things but finding gems sometimes takes digging and you just can’t pan for it.” (Click here to see the footage, though it may not be something everyone wants to watch.)

Thank you, Kathy! I often encourage people to dig for historical video footage (see Resources, below). Old footage shows us the past so compellingly! Also, did you notice that the video for a Chicago disaster was found in a British archive?? Not even the same country! Not too long ago, we blogged about how the media often picks up out-of-town stories. We may discover coverage about our relatives in newspapers and newsreels far from their homes. Just a tip to help YOU find more gems.

 

Resources:

My Most Amazing Find Ever: Family History on YouTube (No Kidding!)

Find Your Family History in the 1950s (tips for finding video footage)

6 Tips for Using YouTube for Family History

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