Books and Print Material

Summer reads with genealogy tie-ins – Wisdom Wednesday

I had a rude awakening a few weeks ago when my mom called and asked me what I’d been reading lately.  Crash Course in Genealogy I told her proudly.  “I blogged about it a few days ago.” Truth be told, I’ve been lusting over content and the 1940 census breakdown the way some folks might admire a busty pin-up.

“Don’t you ever read anything else?” She asked.

Needless to say I was a little hurt and more than a little offended.  But as a matter of fact, yes I told her, I had been reading two other books as well: The Sinner’s Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe by Tony Perrottet and If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende.  Both non-fiction, and both considered to be uninteresting material for both my parents.

“You should read Nora Roberts, you’d really like her,” my mother began listing a gourmet dinner grocery list of books I should be reading.

‘Tis the season for road trips, cemetery research, and pumping information from relatives at the family reunion, I explained.  It’s time to enjoy the ride to the Allen County Public Library, eat the food I don’t normally allow myself to even look at, and justify the resulting credit card statement as an ‘educational expense.’  My complaints were unacknowledged.

So in the face of such overwhelming criticism of my literary habits, I broke down and read the In the Garden series (Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, & Red Lily) by Nora Roberts.  And I’m very pleased to report that genealogy is a major plot device in the series.  I’d definitely recommend it if you don’t mind genealogy research sharing the stage with gardening, romance, southern culture, and a psychotic ghost.  But maybe, that was my mom’s point all along.  Use your interests as a spring board and maybe you’ll find some inspiration to look at research in a new way.

But I have to share this one irk with the book;  the characters said they found information pertaining to their ghost problem and Memphis in the 1890 census.


The closest thing we have to the 1890 census in Tennessee is the Veteran’s Census from 1890.  Not helpful in this aspect of the plot.  Most researchers rely on the Memphis City Directory from 1890-1891 to assist them with this 20 year blackout between census records.

I’ve let this fact rest, as the book series is entirely fictional.  But I’m still shaking my head over it.  I’d love to live in a book where I have access to the full 1890 census.  It would totally make most of my research much easier.

Keeping this literary tune in mind, what books (both fiction and non-fiction) with a genealogical bent have you read and could recommend?  Leave your interesting, creative, or otherwise informative responses in the comment area below this post.

Next week I’ll give you the scoop on our special August workshop “Bringing Family History to Life: The Stories We Could Tell.”   This presentation will help people interested in telling their family stories to convert their past into well written and published collections. Click here for registration and more information.

See you at the Library!


6 thoughts on “Summer reads with genealogy tie-ins – Wisdom Wednesday

  1. Great post Debra! I’m reading (slowly) “The Lake of Dreams” by Kim Edwards. It has a genealogy mystery to it and is fiction. The book is good I just have so many other things going on I can’t just sit and finish it. Though I’m dying to know the end of the mystery!
    I’m also reading “Nearby History” Exploring the Past Around You by Kyvig and Marty. Then I have my genealogy society journals I’m catching up on and Family Tree Magazine plus the blogs. And I read a book called “Fourplay” while at the pool. Mindless entertainment.
    And finally I’m waiting for the Board for Certification of Genealogists Standards Manual to arrive in my mailbox. I’m going to seek certification next year so need to start reading that.
    If you need company for any road trips let me know! I’m road tripping to the MO State Archives, Jefferson City Library and Callaway County Historical Society and Library next week. Can’t wait!

  2. Legacy, by Danielle Steele. Very cool story and I didn’t find any flaws in the genealogy part (no 1890 census here!). Well, perhaps the speed with which the heroine was able to do her research and get results….

  3. For a fast, fun read, the cozy mystery – Family Skeletons – by Rett MacPherson features an amateur genealogist as the heroine. I believe she has written sequels and that the book is available through Prairie Cat.
    Also, I just acquired the book Polish Catholics in Chicago 1850-1920 by John Joseph Parot. If you have Poiish Ancestors, who were in early Chicago, the book contains excellent information about the parishes and you may even find information on your ancestors. There is a chapter on the priest who married my g-grandparents and it has helped explain why my grandmother and brothers were baptized at different churches, only two blocks apart! Very informative!

  4. A great topic to post on – I often wish there was more fiction with genealogy tie-ins! One that usually comes to mind when I’m doing research in original sources is ‘The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane’ by Katherine Howe. Great book with twists, suspense and lush descriptions of the very old New England home the protagonist is holed up in while she does her research. She is tracing the family of Deliverance Dane down through the centuries from the Salem Witch Trials to present day, trying to determine what happened to the family and if Deliverance’s legacy was really what it seemed. She spends plenty of time in dusty archives, courthouses and libraries, which most of us can relate to, but the story is not as dry as any of those! I recommend it highly if you like a good bit of mystery.

  5. I just finished “Who Do You Think You Are?” by Megan Smolenyak. It’s a quick read, how-to, covers all the basics kind of book. The author uses a lot of very interesting examples. I got it at the library, but think I’ll probably go buy a copy to have as a reference. I highly recommend for any beginners that are serious about genealogy. Next on the list is “Shaking the Family Tree” by Buzzy Jackson.

  6. I also read ‘The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane’ by Katherine Howe and second Genealady’s comments. Such a great book you will not be able to put it down. I finished it two summers ago when it came out, in the middle of the night as we drove our kids to Disney World, by the light of my IPod because I HAD to finish it. A must read.

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