Staff Picks: Genealogy
Thanks to all of you that came out in the heat, for our last Good Grounds meeting. Our meeting room at the Woodland West Branch Library was pretty comfortable with the fan going. We had a lot to talk about and with 15 of us there, we went a bit overtime. 15 people times 5 minutes apiece does not equal one hour-ah well, we do our best and if we have to leave a little later we just do. I enjoy this special day every month. Now, on to our summer reading report….
LAUREEN decided to do some light reading after our meeting in June. She bought a paperback romance novel at an estate sale and got hooked. First she read The Summer Wind by Mary Alice Monroe, which is book 2 in the Lowcountry Summer Trilogy. By the end of the book, the characters were almost getting it together but Laureen had to read book 3 to get all the scoop. That book was The Summer’s End. 406 pages later, all was well or on the way to becoming well. Most of what occurred in these 2 books could be summarized in a few pages. Laureen’s not sure she’ll read another romance any time soon. The best read of the month for Laureen was Gettysburg Replies: the world responds to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. This book came out after the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s famous address and was a result of a challenge from the Lincoln library foundation for essays about Lincoln, the address, or something people were passionate about. Anyone could submit an essay and 100 were chosen to be published. The authors were from all walks of life. The essays had to be handwritten and not go over the 272 words that Lincoln wrote. This was an easy and fascinating read. Laureen also read one of the prepublications that were handed out in a June SRC program for adults. The book is The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy but since Elizabeth reported on this book also, all comments about this historical fiction are found under Elizabeth’s entry.
RON finally finished all there is to read in the Clifton Chronicles series by Jeffrey Archer. The fifth is Mightier than the Sword and Ron enjoyed it, like the 4 previous books, but it left him hanging. That’s the way series books are but that fact can be hard to take after investing all that time in Archer’s work. Still, it sounds like Ron will be on the lookout for #6. As of our meeting, Ron was reading Memory Man by David Baldacci. This author’s work is as popular as ever. As of 7/31/15, only 3 of Arlington’s 28 copies of this book were on the shelves. This Baldacci work is a murder mystery but there is so much more to this story, no wonder Baldacci has so many fans.
LINDA started the month with well-known writer Joyce Carol Oates. She read Missing Mom: a novel that Oates wrote in 2005. This plot is narrated by the “black sheep” in the family. The mother of the family is murdered and the two very different daughters have to deal with that fact. Linda said Oates if a good writer and this particular work was admirable. Linda went off in an unfamiliar direction to read and enjoy a Young Adult novel, Belzar: a novel by Meg Wolitzer. The main plot of this book centers on a teenage girl who recently lost a boyfriend. She is sent to a therapeutic boarding school where she’ll train to cope with her losses. One class, in particular, centers on journal writing. Linda thinks the premise behind the book was solid and there are no wasted scenes and the author is not long-winded. One reviewer of this novel said Belzar “celebrates the sacred, transcendant power of reading and writing.”
SANDY reads something from the juvenile side of the library every so often. She recently found a kit, which includes a book and a CD of 12 previously unpublished lullabies by Margaret Wise Brown. This new publication is Goodnight Songs. Most people think of Margaret Wise Brown when they buy one of their first books for their children, Goodnight Moon. As one of the reviews of Goodnight Songs noted, Goodnight Moon has sold 24 million copies and many of her books have never gone out of print. Brown died in 1952. The editor of Brown’s work found a treasure trove of material in Brown’s sister’s attic, 20 years ago, and this new work is part of that stash. Despite all the hype, however, Sandy just thought this new publication OK-not in the great category. For her 2nd reported read, Sandy talked about the novel Foreign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndibe, Ph.D. The author is Nigerian but now teaches in the U.S. The novel follows a Nigerian immigrant who comes to the U. S. and becomes a cab driver but this man wants to go back to Nigeria to steal a god and sell it in America. Superstition and culture get in the way of this character’s plan. A reviewer said Ndibe’s novel is a meditation on the dreams, promises and frustrations of the immigrant life in America.
BETTY took home and reported on one of the giveaway titles from a library-sponsored Summer Reading Club program. She read At the Water’s Edge: a novel by Sara Gruen. Betty thought it “pretty interesting” but she had a hard time with the fascination with the Loch Ness Monster lore and the idle, obnoxious rich in the story. The cover is attractive but the story doesn’t deliver, according to this reader. Betty resorted to reading some enjoyable “mindless mysteries”—among them, Anthea Fraser’s Justice Postponed (a Rona Parish mystery) and The Wounded Thorn (a Suzie Fewings Genealogical mystery) by Fay Sampson. Both plots take place in Great Britain. As of our meeting, Betty was trying to plod through 937 pages of James Michener’s Hawaii.
HELEN tried us out for size this month and we all enjoyed hearing her add to our conversation. Welcome, Helen, and thanks for coming. Helen was already 4 or 5 chapters into the e-version of Harper Lee’s latest publication Go Set a Watchman. Although some reviewers have been wary of the new book, Helen seemed to be enjoying it. She thought it portrayed modern day attitudes about women in society and she said the humor was still there to enjoy. Helen also mentioned reading two Lisa Jackson books, Hot Blooded and Cold Blooded. Author Jackson specializes in romantic suspense fiction.
RONNIE talked about the Neil deGrasse Tyson book that both Pete and David have discussed in the past—The Pluto Files: the rise and fall of America’s favorite planet. Ronnie thought it an “earthy” wonderful read. She admires Tyson, whom she thinks does a good job of promoting science, especially to young people. This 2009 book would be good background reading considering the recent New Horizons fly-by of the dwarf planet. Ronnie also read Judy Blume’s new adult novel, In the Unlikely Event but considers it a beach read with some light nostalgia from the 1950s. As of our meeting, Ronnie was reading Butterfly People: an American encounter with the beauty of the world by William R. Leach. It is a history of the science of butterflies, beginning in 19th century America and discusses how naturalists and hobbyists unveiled butterflies’ mysteries.
TONY brought a Louise Penny book to the Good Grounds meeting. Our group has talked about this author in the past and Tony discovered her this last month. He read Penny’s The Beautiful Mystery: a Chief Inspector Gamache novel. It is number 8 in the series but these books don’t have to be read in any order. Tony liked this one because it took place in a monastery and the choir director is killed so Inspector Gamache has to be called in to investigate the crime. Tony said several mysteries were going on at once and he thought the premise interesting. Penny’s stories take place in Quebec, Canada. Just for enjoyment, Tony also read a Joan Rivers book, I Hate Everybody--Starting with Me. One reviewer said Rivers’ book is a “humorous tirade on nearly everything and everyone.” A good summer read, no doubt.
SHEILA told us that she followed up on an earlier read called The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: a novel by Rachel Joyce. That first book is an unusual tale of a man’s quest for peace and acceptance. Now a follow-up novel has come out called The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: a novel. Sheila read this one, as well, which is written from the perspective of character Queenie, in the hospital and Sheila enjoyed it as much as the first novel, but she did wind up in tears by the end. Next Sheila reported reading American Sniper: the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. History by Chris Kyle. She read this to try to get a handle on this famous man. A movie was made about him Kyle’s four tours in Iraq. Sheila admitted having a hard time understanding this man’s motivations. Two more books were on Sheila’s reading list in July—The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry (a new novel with the theme, Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story) and One Season of Hope by Jim Stovall. This last book Sheila felt weak. It is easy to read but not overly interesting. To keep up with her teenage daughter, Sheila is now reading To Kill a Mockingbird, before going on to the new Lee novel.
KATY brought a series mystery to the table this past month. She read Alex Kava’s Stranded. It is a Maggie O’Dell novel and this FBI agent has a partner named Tully. They are both investigating deaths along interstates. It turns out that the serial killer tells his victims that he is stranded on the road. He targets truckers and travelers. Katy thought this a cautionary tale. As of our meeting, Katy was reading a book on the National Parks-no title given.
PETE read a book that Elizabeth brought to the table last month. She bought it in a bookstore near Fort Davis and read it and reported on it. She offered it to our group and Pete took her up on it. What got his attention is that the tiny book, Foxbarr by H. L. Smith was published in Wilmot, South Dakota. Pete enjoyed it as a good story which takes place on an Indian Reservation in Montana. He called it a conversational tale. Pete emailed Birchbark Books (Minneapolis,) which is owned by writer Louise Erdrich, to see if he could get more information on the book or author but that business couldn’t find the book’s trail. They thought it might have been self-published. Pete also reported on The Fold by Peter Clines. The APL catalog classifies this book as teleportation fiction, so it is definitely Science Fiction. It is a thriller as well. Clines has previously worked in the film industry. Pete read a book that David previously bought, reported on and gave to Pete, to see if we should add it to the Genealogy collection at the Northeast Branch Library. This book is Reunited: an Investigative Genealogist unlocks some of life’s greatest family mysteries by Pamela Slayton. Pete felt the book focused on the emotional side of Genealogy done for adoptees, rather than technique, but he does want to add it to APL’s Genealogy collection. As of the meeting, Pete was reading Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall.
DAVID read a book that Betty brought to the table last month, Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters. It is a mystery and the main character is Vicky Bliss, a museum curator. A piece of art is stolen and Vicky Bliss has to find it. David said the art theft part of the story is pretty mindless but he enjoyed the references to Country Music songs, descriptions of Egyptian artifacts and the settings in tombs. Memphis in this case is in Egypt, not Tennessee. It doesn’t take David long to get back to his favorite genre, Science Fiction, though, so David’s next discussion was about Rolling Thunder by John Varley (2008.) It is the 3rd book of 4 in the Thunder and Lightning series. Varley has his characters build a space colony on Mars and then succeeding generations have to take it from there. The four books in the series, in order, are Red Thunder, Red Lightning, Rolling Thunder and Dark Lightning. Although many of the protagonists are teens, this book is probably not a good choice for children to read.
PAUL started off the month reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln’s wife—Mary Todd Lincoln by Jean H. Baker. He really didn’t enjoy this book since Baker depicted Lincoln as a depressed narcissist. Non-fiction seemed to be Paul’s “bag” this summer. Laureen had to do some detective work on the next entry and she’s not sure she has the right book but Paul mentioned he had read a book called A Species by an Israeli with the name Isaac. This book is supposed to be similar to the book Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond. The main theme of that book is social revolution so Laureen looked up social revolution and Isaac in Amazon and got a hit on a 64 page book called Darwin to Double Helix, a 64 page book by Leonard Isaacs, from 1977. That book is in the Science in the Social Context series. The next book Paul mentioned was Eat Right for Your Type by Peter D’Adamo. There is a long subtitle to this book. It was written in 1996 and has an interesting discussion about the history of blood types. Diet and weight are also discussed.
ELIZABETH went through a move last month so she couldn’t read as much as usual. She did, however, finish one of the pre-pub titles that she picked up from the Summer Reading Club program at the Lake Arlington Branch Library. It is The Mapmaker’s Children: a Novel by Sarah McCoy. Both Elizabeth and Laureen read this historical fiction book, featuring the John Brown family from the anti-slavery movement. It is a book of duel stories—pre-Civil War and a modern story set in a home used by the Brown family in the 1800s. Neither Good Grounds reader felt it well-written and disjointed was another comment. Laureen thought the title was poorly chosen, since Sarah Brown eventually adopted some bi-racial children but that was a relatively small part of the plot. The historical Afterword was interesting but, overall, Elizabeth and Laureen felt it wasn’t successful.
JOYCE read a new romantic saga by Colleen McCullough called Bittersweet. That turns out to be something of an ironic title since McCullough passed away last January. This story takes place in 1920s New South Wales, Australia as 4 sisters (2 sets of twins) come of age and look for challenging professions. They take nurse’s training and meet many people along the way. Maturity and independence eventually come but the results are sometimes bittersweet. Next up, on Joyce’s reading list, was Old Man’s War a 2005 Science Fiction book by John Scalzi. Two of the subject categories in this book are “life on other planets” and “space colonies.” Those are normal subjects in this genre but the difference is that Scalzi’s characters go to those place after they are 75 years old! They also fight in a war at their age. Very interesting! Joyce’s favorite read, however, was Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson. She “loved” this non-fiction book that has to do with finding a pirate ship. The treasure hunters had to get into the mind of the pirate to try to narrow the search for the vessel. Joyce said how they looked was the most interesting part of the book.
That’s a wrap for this month. Good Grounds for Books meets next on August 19 in the Woodland West Community Room. I’ll just leave you with an interesting question brought up by our newest member—how did you become a reader? Was it one book that excited you? Was it a research project or a high school or college assignment? Was it your mother reading to you, as a child or teen? We don’t have topics to our meetings but this initial question certainly made me think…See you soon, I hope.
—Laureen the (retired) Librarian, Good Grounds for Books Leader
These books are housed at the Northeast Branch Library and used at that facility. In the Arlington Public Library catalog, enter each title and click on Full Display and Expand to get detailed descriptions. The cataloging system used here is not Dewey Decimal but it is easy to follow—the majority of items are shelved by state.
The first item on this list is a beauty, put out by The University of Oklahoma Press in 2010, but it is a Texas book through and through. It is Texas: a historical atlas by A. Ray Stevens. [Catalog # GEN REF TX.912S] Since this is an atlas, it contains 175 maps but has a wealth of historical material and the appendix has transcribed historical documents. The APL record contains a full annotation and a table of contents, so you can preview this book in the catalog to see if it has the information you need. It also has a good index, for those hard-to-find items in your research.
Speaking of Texas, one of the most used items in the large Texas part of the Genealogy collection is Little Towns of Texas by Kathleen E. St. Clair and Clifton R. St. Clair. [Catalog # GEN REF TX.9L] There are 961 pages of details here and it was published in 1982 in Jacksonville, Texas. Each town has about a one page write up that includes zip code, county, about where it is and the population in 1982, plus interesting details about each town. The authors signed this book. There is no index. Entries are alphabetical by town name.
Not researching Texas? How about something on colonial America? The Genealogy collection features Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers 1607-1635: a biographical dictionary by Jamestown historian Martha W. McCartney. [Catalog # GEN REF VA.29M] There are 833 pages of this book to enjoy and this author astutely includes name variations and a glossary of terms to understand colonial-era vocabulary. The catalog entry includes several reviews of this book so you can read them to learn about the book’s strengths and weaknesses.
This next book is an updated edition of a book originally written in 1879 by Thomas Corbett. Modern authors Laurel Michele Wickersham and Rawlene Le Baron add to our knowledge of frontier life with Mine Owners and Mines of the Colorado Gold Rush [Catalog # GEN REF CO.9W] When looking through this book, you may be able to find an ancestor who went West, but did not make it all the way to California. The APL catalog has a nice annotation of this book and a Table of Contents. Wickersham and Le Baron added a useful name Index of mine officers, owners and key employees to their work.
This book doesn’t have an exciting cover but its contents could be very useful to you, as a Genealogy searcher. Our collection owns 10 volumes of this title. Some Georgia County Records, was compiled by the Reverend Silas Emmet Lucas, Jr. in 1977. [Catalog # GEN REF GA.6S] When you get this title up in the APL catalog, there is a Contents Section listing which gives the specific county names in each volume. Armed with that information, when you find the book on the shelf, you can go to the exact volume you need.
Native American genealogy work can be difficult but there are records scattered throughout the Metroplex and the National Archives at Fort Worth to get you started. Our own collection in Arlington contains the book, Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal. [Catalog # GEN REF AA.1L] This work is by Rachal Mills Lennon, a certified genealogical records specialist. It was published in 2002 and contains a few nice maps. The 5 Civilized Tribes are: Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole, so if you are researching people in one of those tribes, this book could help steer you in the right direction. The authors said the Index covers all personal names, place names, topics and tribes mentioned in the book. The Early Federal Records part of the book mentions manuscripts, books and films, as well. The library catalog contains 2 reviews of this book and it has a scanned copy of the table of contents. The Mansfield Library has a copy of this book to check out, under the Dewey number 970.004 LENNON. You can easily reserve this book with your library card and have it sent to your nearest library branch.
Another republished book that came out in 1900 and was reprinted in 1998 (always a plus for Genealogists) is Ohio Valley Genealogies: relating chiefly to families in Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, and Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania [Catalog # GEN REF WZ.2H] This book was not placed in the Ohio section of the Genealogy collection because the Ohio Valley spills over into Pennsylvania and three more counties are included. There is no table of contents in this book but family names come in alphabetical order by county. One of the best aspects of this book is the long Introduction which discusses different waves of settlers from elsewhere (Scotch-Irish, Germans, Quakers and Virginians.) This information gives the reader a good background for research.
If you are doing Ohio research, our Genealogy section has another set of books that may help you. We have 3 volumes of early Ohio settler books that list land purchasers. The one highlighted here is Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of land in East and East Central Ohio, 1800-1840, compiled by Ellen Thomas Berry and David A. Berry in 1989. [Catalog # GEN REF OF.6B] This particular book has 12 counties worth of material from the Steubenville and Zanesville areas of Ohio. The other two volumes concentrate on SW and SE Ohio. The Berry’s book has a list of purchasers in columnar form-not exciting but maybe worthwhile!
The female side of the world is often hard to research in old records. Luckily for people looking into the first settlers in America, Patty Barthell Myers made a female Index from an early Genealogical dictionary. The Female Index to Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England by James Savage [Catalog # GEN REF WZ.2M] contains an alphabetical list of women’s names from Savage’s 4 volume dictionary. There are variations of the surnames, plus the ladies are listed under maiden names and married names. The APL record for this has an annotation and Myers’ Genealogical background is given. James Savage’s original tome is also in our collection and probably gets the prize for the longest title of the day—A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, showing three generations who came before May, 1692, on the basis of Farmer’s Register.
The last book in this list includes research information for all of the Americas-North and South, plus the Caribbean. The family history section of the Arlington Public Library owns Genealogical Encyclopedia of the Colonial Americas: a complete digest of the records of all the countries of the Western Hemisphere by Christina K. Schaefer. [Catalog #AA.13S] The cataloging entry contains reviews of this book and a nice table of contents. The book itself contains a general Index. The timeline/chronology of this work may be helpful to put history in context, plus researchers for Canada and South America have areas to concentrate on.
Laureen J., AGS member
Ancestry.com is the world's largest online family history resource home to billions of historical records. It has digitized, indexed and put records online since 1996. It has more than 200 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories. With a customer friendly search function, Ancestry Library Edition is in libraries across the world, providing access to historical data from the 1500s to the 2000s.
The 1940 census is going to be released at 9 a.m. (eastern standard time) April 2. The good news is that is it digitized and ready to be viewed-the bad news is that it is not yet indexed and probably won't be entirely indexed for 6 months to a year. You can start by looking where your family was in the 1930 census. The National Archives has prepared a guide on how to use the enumeration district. The enumeration district is geographic area assigned to each census taker, usually representing a specific portion of a city or county. Stephen P. Morses's website has indexed Enumeration Districts of the 1940 census. You may also use city directories as a finding aid-The University of Texas at Arlington Special Collections has a collection of city directories for Fort Worth on microfilm (coverage for Arlington is hit and miss.)
If you are interested in helping get the 1940 census indexed Familysearch.org is looking for volunteers to help with the indexing. This is the first census lots of our parents and grandparents will be included it-it will be exciting to hear what they remember about it.
I just received a Facebook message from one of my relatives about the inspirational words she found while reading from a book our ancestor, William Bradford, wrote. And of course this reminded me that this month is family history month. I've put together 4 suggestions for "celebrating" the month.
1. Come visit our local genealogy society
This month the subject is pictures that Polly Smith took during the 1930s for the Texas Centennial. Every month the Arlington Genealogical Society have interesting and informative topics. It is also a great way to meet fellow family history researchers and get tips and tricks from people dedicated to the past.
2. Talk to a family member
Family history research is boring if it's just names and dates. Find out exactly what the Great Depression was like or even get interesting stories about grandma's first date. I recently found out that even though my grandfather passed away 15 years ago and has been gone from San Angelo, Texas, for 50 years, people still remember his name because of his work as a doctor in the 1950s and early 1960s.
3. Pick an ancestor and research them fully
Maybe your stuck on a particular problem or maybe are just getting started in genealogy and just have a bare bones outline. Choose one of those people and try to get a complete picture of what it was like for them at the time. Search local histories not just for their name but also for the stories and characters that they might have interacted with at the time. Check out our microfilm newspapers on the second floor of the Central Library or Ancestry Library Edition at any library's public computer.
4. Use new resources
Don't be afraid to randomly open a book and read! Or better yet, do a focused search on Google Books. Sometimes you can get a whole book, but many of the books come from authors and publishers who participate in their Partner Program. For those books you might get a few sample pages to the whole book. But if you know that your ancestor's name is in a book, it makes you want to search out and try to find the reference and we can help with that through our interlibrary loan. While many genealogy books are not able to be sent to our library, you can request copies of the pages found in Google Books. For instance, I found a reference to the afore mentioned grandfather in the 1939 edition of Nu Sigma Nu's (a medical fraternity) bulletin. It only shows me a fraction of the sentence about him. But I can gather the page number and other pertinent information and hopefully find the reference for myself!
Of course, these are just my suggestions. Here are links to suggestions from other websites. I hope your Family History Month is fruitful!
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