3. Michael Williams, Richard Cahan and Nicholas Osborn spent 10 years rummaging through garage sales, antique stores and Web sites to create Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America (CityFiles Press). The result is a portrait of real Americans by amateur photographers depicting a nation of racy, quirky and fun-loving people. Maybe one of them is your missing ancestor.
Recommended by: Sonia Schoenfield, reference librarian at Cook Memorial Public Library District in Libertyville, Ill., and 10-year genealogy veteran
Summary: Using a narrative style rather than a “bare bones” genealogical approach, the book tells the story of the authors’ ancestors, from the Pilgrims to their WWII parents.
Likes and dislikes: I liked the early chapters, especially the unimaginably courageous story of Penelope Van Princs Stout: She survived a brutal attack by Indians (in which her husband died), lived to marry again and had 10 children. She’s a truly remarkable pioneer woman. The authors really helped me understand the Pilgrim and Puritan mindset. I only wish there had been maps.
Behind the scenes: I read it to write a review for the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s quarterly.
Lasting impressions: An American Family is a great example of how to write your family history in the context of the times in which your ancestors lived. It has made me more aware of the “big picture” my relatives lived in.