What do you do when you find unspeakable things in your family history? How do you handle the accurate reporting of what happened? It’s easy to judge others, but I think a fundamental key to really reconstructing your ancestors’ lives is to not judge them. It’s paramount to take a step back from your emotional reaction, and walk in their shoes for a little while. To do this does not mean you approve of everything your ancestors did in their lifetimes, but it allows you to freely explore as much as you can of their lives. In doing this, a researcher can get a more accurate picture of the conditions in which your ancestors lived in and the circumstances in which they went through.
In her book, Into the Briar Patch: A Family Memoir, Mariann S. Regan does a superb job dealing with difficult family history issues. At the beginning of her book, she promises the reader that she will be objective with all information she finds, and she lives up to that promise. She delves into all family relationships she encounters in her family tree and shows the reader the complexities of family relationships.
Additionally, Mariann explores her ancestors who were slaveholders, and gives the reader a glimpse as to the repercussions of slaveholding on her family tree and the relationships contained therein.
As we’ve seen in several episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? and in the first two episodes of Finding Your Roots, it is not easy for descendants to learn their ancestors were slaves nor is it easy for descendants to learn their ancestors were slaveholders. And I believe in her memoir Mariann takes it past her emotional reaction and carefully looks at her slaveholding ancestors - not to condone the actions - but to fully understand the influence these actions have had on her family tree.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially those who have come across unspeakable circumstances and actions in their family history research, and especially to those who have come across ancestors who were slaveholders. Not only does she give a great example as to how to explore this difficult issue, but her "Works Cited and Selected Bibliography" might be helpful to the researcher as well.
I invite you to visit Mariann’s website as she has written in other genres as well. She also indicates on her memoir page that she is in the process of writing another memoir, and she includes the surnames of the ancestors that she is currently researching for it. Personally, I would like to know from where her Sanders line originates in America as I have a Sanders line as well from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Thus, I’m eagerly awaiting her next memoir.
Note: I am an affiliate of Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. If you click on a link ~ image or text ~ and purchase a copy of the book, I will receive a small commission for referring you. I received a copy of this book from the author so that I may review it and share it with you. Additionally, all opinions stated in my book review are honest and not contrived to make you purchase the book. I happen to love reading. I love history, especially family history. I enjoyed reading this book, and I thought you might like it as well. Please visit my Disclosure Page for general information concerning my affiliations.
While researching, how many times have you asked yourself, "Why didn't I ask them that while I still had the chance?" 'That' being, of course, whatever genealogy stumbling block you're trying to eliminate from your research.
Me? I have lots of regrets. I regret no one ever took and saved a picture of me and my great-grandmother, Boo.
And I really, really regret not asking my Great Aunt Anne about her service in the U.S. Navy as a member of the history-making W.A.V.E.S. I also regret I don't have a photo of her.
And while I am of the opinion that both of my grandfathers were jerks, the fact remains I still never met them. For my mom's dad, I've only a microfilm copy of a photo of him from the back of his U.S. Passport. Until that discovery, I had never, ever seen him.
But now? Jennifer Holik has written Branching Out: Genealogy for High School Students. What does this mean? It means there is now a wonderful resource with which to attract the younger generations to the joy of genealogy. Inside the high school editions, 30 lessons can be found that are guaranteed to not only instruct the student on best practices and strategies on genealogy, but get them addicted to genealogy in no time.
Why purchase Branching Out: Genealogy for High School Students Lessons 1-15 and Lessons 16-30?
Note: A PDF copy of Branching Out: Genealogy for High School Students Lessons 1-15 and Lessons 16-30 was given to me to read and review. My review is an honest and unbiased response to my review of both volumes. For more information about my general disclosure policies please visit my Disclosure Page.
Genealogists and family historians, stop what you are doing right now and read this.
You absolutely must read the book In the Blood by Steve Robinson.
Take a break from your own research and see what happens when a very creative person's mind takes some genealogical ideas and fleshes out a story of intrigue, mystery, and murder. If I had been reading a paper copy, I'd call this one a page turner, but as it happens I was reading it on my new Nook Tablet, Valentina. [Yes, I name my gadgets. Makes it easier to curse at them when they don't work.]
I stayed up late to read it. I woke up early [in part because of my Pug, Millie] to read it. And I read when I should have been blogging. It was that good.
It was good to see characters I could relate to on a genealogical level. Mr. Robinson did not assume I was dumb and wouldn't have a clue as to what he was talking about. Through his characters he briefly explained in dialogue or in a action what was going on genealogy-wise, and I appreciated that immensely.
I read a lot, especially suspense murder mysteries, and I can truly say that In the Blood is on par with the best. Then add the genealogy part, and, well, this one is a winner.
Mr. Robinson weaves a multi-layered tale with the flawed protagonist, Jefferson Tayte, being pushed out of his comfort zone to search for the answer. Kinda like what we genealogists and family historians do every day. We research the past looking for answers about our ancestors and our ourselves.
Does Tayte find the answers? I dunno. You're gonna have to read it. All 877 pages of it. [Told you he fleshes it out.]
[Note: I am an affiliate for both Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. What does this mean? Well, if you choose to purchase a copy of the book by selecting one of the image links below, I will receive a small commission for referring you. Does this mean I totally made up this review so that you'd buy a copy? No. If this book sucked, I would have said, "This book sucked." I'll read anything, but I don't suggest books for others to read lightly. If you like murder mysteries and genealogy, then I think you'll like this book. And if you'd like to purchase it, here's some links to help you do that. And if enough people buy it through my links, perhaps I can support my habit of reading. I know my husband would like that. For more information about my associations and affiliations with companies and my disclosure please visit my Disclosure Page.]
[I first met Jennifer Wilson on Twitter. She started following me. Then I followed her back. Then we just started tweeting back and forth. One evening I tweeted about making my Paw Paw's Corn Chowder for dinner. And Jennifer replied back that it sounded delicious and would I mind sharing it. So I did. I tweeted my Paw Paw's Corn Chowder recipe. She laughed and remarked that that was the first time she'd seen someone tweet a recipe. <grin>
Jennifer Wilson's family story is so amazing, and what she and her family did is so awe-inspiring. I highly recommend her book, and I feel honored and blessed to share her story with you. Once you start reading it, you won't be able to put it down until you're done. And then? Then you'll want to go find your family story too. But don't take my word for it. Listen to Jennifer's story... ~Caroline]
Off the Grid Genealogy
I set out to take a family sabbatical and write a nice travelogue. I ended up with a kamikaze genealogy mission haunted by dead ancestors, dark secrets, bootleg liquor and sheep on a spit.
By Jennifer Wilson
“Radošević people, there are good and bad ones.” Viktor let out a slow, rumbling laugh that bordered on the diabolical.
“Which Radošević are you?”
This is the kind of ominous taunt you encounter when you take your genealogy search out of the archives and into the analog world. An old man, laughing, hinting that your homeland village may or may not (but probably!) aligned with Nazis and Fascists in World War Two. And oh, by the way? We’re not sure if your people had anything to do with it (but probably!).
This was so very far from the pleasant, rustic tale I set out to discover when my husband Jim and our two young children returned to the ancient Croatian mountain village of my ancestors to live, recovering the lost lessons of my great-grandparents.
It wasn’t all roasted sheep on a spit and frolicking through meadow flowers, as you’ll find out in Running Away to Home (St. Martin’s Press), my book about our crazy adventure. Though there is a decent amount of frolicking. And roasting things on spits.
But, as you know, genealogy isn’t for lightweights. When you go rooting around the ancestors’ stomping grounds, you find out things you weren’t expecting.
See, the tiny village of Mrkopalj is an odd place.
Oddly beautiful, tucked away in the evergreen-covered mountains of northern Croatia.
The region where it’s located is oddly empty, as in barely populated since even before the Turks tried to invade. When they did, the Habsburgs sent pirates and outcasts to live there just so the place didn’t look totally free for the taking (Recovered Family Fact Number One).
And, well, just standard-issue odd. Our drunken landlord Robert hadn’t finished our rooms when we arrived, jet-lagged and wary, unsure we wanted to spend the next several months in a Balkan construction zone. Which was, by the way, next door to neighbors who kept cattle on the first floor of their house. In the midst of a neighborhood where every single person mowed their lawn with a slingblade.
You may be asking yourself why a mother would drag her family across the globe and back a century just to live like the ancestors.
Well, it’s because I’m odd, too.
(If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming we might be kindred spirits in the oddness department. Or maybe you’re just waiting for me to get to the point. Yes! The point! There is one. Here it comes.)
I’m odd because I love history. Adore antique things. My idea of a good time is interviewing old people. Instead of dating, my husband and I restored Victorian houses.
And yet, I can’t do traditional genealogy. I’m convinced I have some sort of genealogical dyslexia. One look at a family tree, a mere mention of the words “first cousin, twice removed,” and my brain goes into an opossum-like paralysis. I simply can’t comprehend the book work, and I don’t understand the protocol. My mind doesn’t operate that way. I’m jealous of those who do.
And so, when my ancestors came calling (as dead ancestors do), I took a different tack. When someone with my special (lack of) skills becomes obsessed with the family tree, we have to flat-out climb the thing.
It began when my great aunt, Sister Mary Paula Radošević, passed away—the last of the immigrant relatives—I inherited her personal papers. On the night after her funeral, I got lost in the family history of the ancient mountain village of Mrkopalj, Croatia. The ancestors whispered in my ear, tempting my mom-frazzled brain with a simpler life in the Old Country. I wanted my kids out of soccer practice and ballet, and into the branches of apple trees. I wanted Jim back from his office computer, walking with me through the meadow.
So, with lots of weird and wonderful twists of fate in between, we returned to the same place Valentin and Jelena Radošević came from 100 years ago. We lived there for several months, immersed in that simple life I dreamed of. It’s a very special, thing to walk in the steps of the ancestors. To page through the ancient Book of Names in the church, or interview the old ones through my interpreter, Stefanija, who was also everybody’s favorite bartender at the local café.
Which brings us back to Viktor’s kitchen, where his wife Manda is putting on tea from flowers she picked on the mountain. He’s telling me about the rough history of Mrkopalj, and reminding me that I would probably never know what happened to my people, because no one kept up with them (dammit, Mom!). But most certainly they’d been entwined in Croatia’s 1000-year history of war. That during World War Two they’d have been forced, like everyone, to choose between Communists and Nazis, if they wanted to survive. And no, I can’t tell you all the details. What? I can’t tell you every single thing, or my publisher would kill me!
But we also learned that the ancestors sang songs as they worked in the forest, and lived through a beautiful bustling age when the lumber mills were booming and everybody had a cow in the yard and chickens for the pot. They ski’d in the powder snow that fell from October to April, which was so deep they had to wear snowshoes to the mercantile.
I have a flimsy paper trail from that time, at best. But I (Jim) did just enough research to know that I’m probably related to most of Mrkopalj. I found a few long-lost relatives, but a village full of family that I’m still in touch with. And really, that’s good enough for me.
I believe I am my own version of a genealogist. Maybe just the Braille version, and an odd one at that.
Either way, we’ve all found our way home.
Jennifer Wilson is a writer for such magazines as Esquire, National Geographic Traveler, Better Homes & Gardens, Parents,Traditional Home, Midwest Living and many national newspapers and magazines. Running Away to Home is her first book.
© 2011 Copyright Amy Coffin ~ Used with permission.
I SO could have used this book when I started blogging. Seriously. With The Big Genealogy Blog Book, Amy Coffin, my friend and colleague, brings to the genealogy blogging world a great resource that has been sorely missing.
With over 2000 genealogy blogs listed at Geneabloggers.com, you might think, "Does the world really need another genealogy blog?" In her new e-book, Amy successfully tackles this question and many others that surround the genealogy blogging world.
Amy Coffin is the author of the very successful genealogy blog, The We Tree Genealogy Blog, and she describes herself on her blog as someone who can "...find genealogy information in the darndest places and I like showing others how to do the same." And she does this very well in her new book.
Here are 3 reasons why you should buy The Big Genealogy Blog Book:
Lulu.com PDF and EPUB
or at Amazon.com:
Note: A copy of the book, "The Big Genealogy Blog Book" was given to me for review by the author. All thoughts and opinions listed in the above review are my own. Additionally, I am an affiliate for Amazon.com. This means that when you click on an Amazon.com link on my site and you make a purchase, then I will be paid a commission. [But it will not cost you anything more.] For more information about my blog disclosure please visit my Disclosure Page.