The Book Report March 2008

The Book Report March 2008

Top tomes for your roots research.

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

Maps and genealogy go hand in hand. After all, you can’t do much with names and dates if you don’t where your ancestors lived and conducted their business. Walking with Your Ancestors: A Genealogist’s Guide to Using Maps and Geography by Melinda Kashuba (Family Tree Books) is an indispensable manual to help blaze the trail of unexpected details about your ancestors. Whether you need to determine the roads, rivers or pathways your ancestors traveled; where their homestead was located; which courthouse to search; or how to find their final resting place, Kashuba will guide you through the world of maps, atlases and gazetteers.

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

1 Chock-full of tips, Tom Zoellner’s Homemade Biography: How to Collect, Record, and Tell the Life Story of Someone You Love (St. Martin’s Press) is an easy-to-follow guide to recording and preserving your relatives’ stories. Not only does Zoellner provide more than 300 sample interview questions, but he also shows you how to weave oral history into a narrative life story.

2 Romance, Remedies, and Revolution: The Journal of Dr. Elihu Ashley of Deerfield, Massachusetts, 1773-1775 edited by Amelia F. Miller and A. R. Riggs (University of Massachusetts Press) records practically everything Ashley did and observed in his medical practice for two and a half years. His detailed journal includes more than 750 brief biographies of the people he encountered, opening a window to the lives of Deerfield’s denizens.

3 Unsure how to cite your sources, especially when your information comes from electronic media, books, articles, courthouses and archives? Need help evaluating the facts, too? Let Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Co.) come to the rescue. This 885-page tome offers citation examples for thousands of sources.

Pros’ Picks: Genealogy gurus share their reading recommendations.

Battersea Girl: Tracing a London Life by Martin Knight (Mainstream Publishing)

? Recommended by: Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, chief family historian for Ancestry.com <Ancestry.com >, co-founder of Roots Television <rootstelevision.com> and a 36-year genealogy veteran

? Book summary:Battersea Girl is a factually based novel about Ellen “Neil” Tregent, a woman of Irish heritage and the author’s grandmother, who spent her entire 100-year life (1888-1988) in Battersea, London.

? Likes and dislikes: I was pulled in by the writer’s talent for bringing his grandmother to life. What Nell experienced and endured during her century is remarkable, and yet, she was seemingly all but invisible. This book demonstrates how extraordinary even the most “ordinary” of lives often is.

? Behind the scenes: I discovered it by accident in a bookstore in London. I had just spent a weekend exploring the South Bank of the Thames exactly the area featured in this book.

? Lasting impressions: My pet peeves include routine discoveries (such as, say, census records) being treated as major revelations, and an author’s failure to pursue obvious opportunities to learn more. This book is the antidote to that, proving it’s possible to ferret out previously unknown or forgotten information and write the life story of a “nobody” in a way that captivates others.

? Best bonus: I’ve always been story-focused, but reading this book has reinforced that tendency. I hope I’ll now be even more vigilant about looking for ways to “put flesh on the bones.”

From the March 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

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