November 2008 Book Report

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Premium

Required Reading: Classic resources you shouldn’t research without.

Limners and tappers and bothes, oh my! Next time an unfamiliar term stymies your research, consult A to Zax: A Comprehensive Dictionary for Genealogists and Historians by Barbara Jean Evans (Heritage Books). It explains thousands of little-used and old-fashioned words and abbreviations – medical, legal, religious, occupational, monetary, geographical, ethnic and colloquial vocabulary – that will help you decipher old documents. The book’s a true bargain considering how often you’ll reach for it, and it’s compact enough to take along on research trips. (In case you were wondering: A limner is a self-taught traveling artist, a tapper is an innkeeper and a bothe is a storehouse or a shop where goods are sold.)

Hot Off the Press: New books to heat up your family history search.

1. Looking for a good read, or need a gift for a genealogy cousin? Try The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (Voice/Hyperion). Part historical novel and part ghost story, the book follows the main character’s search for the truth about her lineage, during which she turns up local legends, journal entries, old photographs and letters.

2. Edward Ball recounted the ancestral discoveries he made through traditional research in Slaves in the Family (Ballantine Books). Now, The Genetic Strand: Exploring a Family History Through DNA (Simon & Schuster) tells how Ball used genetic testing to pinpoint where his white forebears intermingled with other races. You’ll learn the intricacies of DNA lab results as you follow his captivating search.

3. Until now, there’s been little published guidance for those seeking Northern European roots. Virginia Mattson-Schultz brings aid in Far Northern Connections: Researching Your Sami (and Other) Ancestors in Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia (Dorrance Publishing). Along with how-to advice, the book gives helpful foreign-word lists, parish lists and bibliographies.

Pro’s Picks: Genealogy gurus share their reading recommendations.

The Life And Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (Broadway Books)

? Recommended by: Dick Robinson, owner of Legacy Scribe <> and a 10-year genealogy veteran

? Book summary: The author recalls his all-American boyhood in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950s. Bryson says it was a simpler, more carefree and happier America, and the best time to be a kid. He packs the book with wit and rich historical and cultural background.

? Likes and dislikes: The book brought back so many great memories of growing up in the 1950s. I laughed aloud at the descriptions of the vibrating electric football games, amusement park bumper car rides, and the “toity jar.”

? Behind the scenes: A lady gave a speech on the book at my Toastmasters Club. I started reading it because I wanted a good laugh about a period when I grew up.

? Lasting impressions: This was one of the funniest, most entertaining books I’ve read. Bryson vividly brought history alive, connecting it to everyday family life. I especially recommend this book as a soothing break from research or just to relax from stress or boredom. Laughter is the best medicine and a respite from deep genealogy research.

? Best bonus: This book vividly illustrates the value of telling stories, written or spoken, to enlighten and entertain your audience, and shows family historians how to blend facts, stories, dialogue, description and historical-cultural background to create a riveting family narrative.

From the November 2008 Family Tree Magazine