Memorable Memoirs

Memorable Memoirs

10 tales to help you develop a knack for family history narratives.

  1. A Scattered People: An American Family Moves West by Gerald McFarland (Ivan R. Dee, $16.95). Originally published in 1985 and re-released in 2000, this classic family history narrative transcends the author’s family. A Scattered People is also the tale of millions of ordinary people who participated in the westward movement.

  2. The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White by Henry Wiencek (St. Martin’s Press, $14.95). At a plantation in North Carolina, Wiencek met the heir to a family of slave owners; that same day he met the grandson of one of the slaves. Both men shared the last name Hairston. The Hairstons spans two centuries, from the American Revolution to the present.

  3. The Hatch and Brood of Time: Five Phelps Families in the Atlantic World, 1720-1880 by Peter Haring Judd (Newbury Street Press, $40). In this two-part history of five families, Judd crafts an illuminating and engaging family history narrative in the first half, followed by traditional genealogical summaries.

  4. Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (Random House, $15.95). Gracefully weaving past and present, this national best-seller is one man’s story of discovering more about his slave-owning ancestors as he searches for their slaves’ descendants. In his journey to trace his family history, he reveals the blood ties between those slave descendants and his white family.

  5. Where She Came From: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother’s Story by Helen Epstein (Plume, $12.95). Haunted by the tragic lives of three female ancestorsNher mother, grandmother and great-grandmotherNEpstein chronicles her Jewish ancestry, traveling to Czechoslovakia, Austria and Israel.

  6. Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath by John Philip Colletta (self-published, $21 postpaid to 1245 Walter St. SE, Washington, DC 20003). Written by a renowned genealogist, this is the engaging story of Colletta’s ancestor, whom family lore claimed was murdered in Mississippi. After 30 years of research, Colletta reveals what really happened on the night of March 4, 1873.

  7. The Langhornes of Langhorne Park by D. Brenton Simons (Newbury Street Press, $29.50). This extensively illustrated family history covers three generations&#151a Quaker immigrant, his children and grandchildren. The genealogical narrative offers traditional research analysis with an in-depth biographical section on immigrant Thomas Langhorne.

  8. Halfway Home: A Granddaughter’s Biography by Mary Logue (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $14.95). Mystery writer Mary Logue takes you along on her search to learn more about her grandmother. In piecing together the past, she tells a larger story of intriguing genealogical research, community, a way of life and a woman’s struggle to survive.

  9. A Community of Memory: My Days with George and Clara by Jeffrey Gundy (University of Illinois Press, $14.95). This series of stories is about the author’s ancestors, each told in first person as if the ancestor were writing the narrative. (Genealogical purists may be bothered by its literary license.)

  10. How Grand a Flame: A Chronicle of a Plantation Family, 1813-1947 by Clyde Bresee (Algonquin Books, $21.95). Covering three generations of the Lawton family in South Carolina, this story emphasizes the Civil War era. Bresee utilizes two main sources: a female ancestor’s diary and oral history.

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