AncestorNews: Golden Book
9/27/2009

I always get a little envious when my genealogy friends talk about the letters and journals handed down in their families. Why couldn't my family have been so prolific with their pens? The desire to read about my ancestors' thoughts and feelings is one reason I was so taken with author Karen Sladek's book, Lucky Stars and Gold Bars: A World War II Odyssey.

The idea for the book was born when Sladek discovered a box of 400 letters her dad wrote during World War II. (Lucky lady!) This unexpected find prompted Sladek to write Lucky Stars, in an effort to chronicle her dad's journey, as well as share the letters with other people interested in the WWII era.

Using her dad's letters, as well as photographs and other documents, Sladek wrote Lucky Stars and Gold Bars—the journey of young Lyle Sladek from a South Dakota farm boy to an officer in the Army Air Corps' Cryptographic Security and Intelligence section.

In all, Lyle saw duty in the European, Mediterranean and China-Burma-India theaters of war, all the while describing everyday life in his letters home. He wrote about baseball, exercise, the food and the rapidly changing world around him, both in Europe and Asia.

Lyle's letters begin in January, 1941, and end May 18, 1946, as he returned home from Italy. His own evolution from a naive youth is evidenced in his writings. For example, the 1946 Lyle had a far more mature world-view than the 1941 man who wrote, "Well Japan has attacked Honolulu but I think Japan will be licked within a week."

I enjoyed reading Lyle's account of service life, partly because my own dad served in World War II, and I'm sure he would have shared many of Lyle's observations. If you or someone in your family experienced the WWII years, I think this is a book you'd enjoy having in your personal library. Lucky Stars and Gold Bars (weighing in 500-plus pages) is available at your local bookseller, Amazon.com, or direct from the author.

Plus: Readers Respond About Genealogy Blogs

Renee Zamora wrote, "My genealogy blog is a great way of sharing my thoughts and activities in doing genealogy. My kids even read my blog on RSS feed and stay in touch with my efforts. It's called Renee's Genealogy Blog, also on RSS feed. It's been fun getting responses to my articles." Renee also has a genealogy site.

James Campbell wrote "Because of your Blog for Free article, I started the Edmund Chandler Family Association blog as an experiment. I use this as a recruiting tool to attract more Chandler researchers so we can compare notes and link up the branches.

"It's difficult to get my members to join the blog as authors. Many researchers prefer to stick what they knew. As you know the majority of genealogy researchers are senior citizens, and it is hard to win them over with this blog idea.

"The blog is a big plus because I can ping the blog with many sites to let them know that it is updated. It also can include old photos."

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