Books and Print Material

A Summer Reading List for Genealogists

Well friends, it’s almost time to hit the road for summer genealogy travel season.  Warm weather months are a great time to pack your bags, book airbnb accommodations, and road trip around the country in search of those elusive genealogy records.  Whether your travel takes you around North America or beyond, you are going to want to bring along a few books to burn through your travel time and just before bed time.

To keep costs low, visit your local library to look for these titles.   If you’re in a hurry, and want to checkout items from home, try using your library’s digital collection of e-books and e-audiobooks.

Now, here is a list of great new reads for genealogists this summer!

The Pioneers by David McCullough
pioneersWhen the newly minted United States of America won its independence from Great Britain, it gained the immense wilderness empire of what would become the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A small group of New England men pushed to open this new territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War, many of whom were impoverished or held no land of their own. Included in this push for settlement were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. Settling in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River in 1788, these pioneers and their families faced unknown dangers, hardships, and limited communication with the rest of the nation. McCullough weaves an fine narrative of these settlers in a way which is both intriguing and a gratifying reading experience.  Put this book on the top of your reading list!

The Jamestown Brides by Jennifer Potter jamestown brides
The Jamestown colony was England’s first real foothold in the New World.  The early settlers, most of them men intent on growing rich off the cash crops of the new world, struggled with starvation, disease, and skirmishes with the native population.  With a impossibly high death rate, the colony needed more than fresh men, it needed women.  In 1621, fifty-six young women left their homes in England to take up husbands and lay the foundations of a stable colony.  Unlike their French “Filles du Roi” counterparts in Quebec, these women, aged sixteen to twenty-eight, were outright bought and paid for by the colony’s men.   The author Jennifer Potter brings the lives of these “Maids of Virginia” into focus, and documents their experiences in a time when a majority of women were unable to read or write.  A must-read for genealogists with early Virginia ancestors, as well as anyone with an interest in colonial history.



The Polar Bear Expedition: The Heroes of America’s Forgotten Invasion of Russia 1918-1919 by James Carl Nelsonpolar bear

One of the little-known chapters of the Great War involves the presence of American troops in Russia from 1918-1919.  Where most ‘Doughboys’ were being sent to the Western Front in France, a smaller force took place along side troops from England, France Japan and Czechoslovakia to protect the Trans-Siberian Railway. With Russia in the middle of a civil war, foreign soldiers were needed to protect the one railway line which services multiple countries.  While some time before the Armistice was spent battling Bolshevik forces, American soldiers were essentially left in a foreign land to keep the peace without a steady supply of food, fuel, and equipment.  While this could have been a dower read, the author took great pains to include the voices and experiences of the men who survived the experience.  What surprised me was how many of these young men were from Detroit, Michigan, a place I know and love.  There were great photographs, letter, and other memorabilia included in the writing of this book, which demonstrates how personal family collections can make a positive impact on a historical narrative.  This is a great read for anyone who loves military history or World War I topics.



Invisible Heroes of World War II by Jerry Borrowmaninvisible heroes WII

Invisible Heroes of World War II documents ten fascinating true stories of a diverse group of soldiers and noncombatants from all over the world, including African Americans, women, and Native Americans, who fought with the Allies during World War II.  The author took great pains to include a lot of personal and biographical information on these little known heroes, and presented his work in such a compelling way I started recommending this book to just about everyone I meet.  I particularly loved the portions of the book which documented the ordinary people who fought in the French Resistance, as that topic has been of personal interest to me.  With the 75th anniversary of D-Day coming up, you will definitely want to add this book to your summer reading list!



White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing by Gail Lukasik white like her
In April, our library invited Gail Lukasik to visit during National Library Week.  At our genealogy club meeting, Gail presented “How PBS Genealogy Roadshow Helped Solve My Family History.”  In anticipation of her visit, I picked up her book during a one-day Amazon Kindle sale as the library copy I wanted was checked out to another patron.  In White Like Her, the author not only presents a heartfelt and historical memoir of her mother’s experience living as a hidden mixed-raced woman in suburban Ohio, but dives deeper into centuries of her family’s history in Louisiana.  While most of the book lays out modern events of her family life, I found the periods before hand to be engaging and fascinating to read.  The ideal match of family history and memoir writing, White Like Her is a must-read book for anyone needing inspiration in breaking down their familial and genealogical brick walls.

Leave your comments or suggestions of your recommended book titles in the comment box below this blog entry.  With that being said, go out there and make this summer’s road trip one to remember!

See You At the Library!

#GeneabloggersTRIBE #SummerReading #Genealogy #ThriftyThursday

8 thoughts on “A Summer Reading List for Genealogists

  1. When the Irish Invaded Canada by Christopher Klein. The outlandish, untold story of the Irish-American revolutionaries who tried to free Ireland by invading Canada. Just over a year after Robert E. Lee relinquished his sword, a band of Union and Confederate veterans dusted off their guns. But these former foes had no intention of reigniting the Civil War. Instead, they were bound by a common goal: to seize the British province of Canada and to hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured. By the time that these invasions–known together as the Fenian Raids–began in 1866, Ireland had been Britain’s unwilling colony for seven hundred years. Thousands of Civil War veterans considered themselves Irishmen before they were Americans. They were those who fled rather than perish in the wake of the Great Hunger, and now they took their cue from a previous generation of successful American revolutionaries. With the tacit support of the U.S. government, the Fenian Brotherhood established a state in exile, planned prison breaks, weathered infighting, stockpiled weapons, and assassinated enemies. Defiantly, this motley group, including a one-armed war hero, an English spy infiltrating rebel forces, and a radical who staged his own funeral, managed to seize a piece of Canada–if only for three days. When the Irish Invaded Canada is the untold tale of a band of fiercely patriotic Irish-Americans and their chapter in Ireland’s centuries-long fight for independence. Inspiring, lively, and often undeniably comic, this is a story of fighting for what’s right in the face of impossible odds”– Provided by publisher.

    1. Thank you for these great book reviews! I am the adult services librarian in a public library, and the county genealogist. I will have to make sure to order these for our library bookshelves. Ah, these are the times I really love my job!!

  2. Thank you for highlighting the book about the Polar Bear Expedition. My great-grandfather Robbins was a Polar Bear. I have written about his exploits on my blog. Many of those soldiers were not just from Detroit, but from all over Michigan and also Wisconsin. They were specifically sent to North Russia because it was believed that since they could stand cold Great Lakes winters, they could handle Russian ones, as well. My blog series on the Polar Bears can be found at here.

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