Julie's Genealogy & History Hub

Julie's Genealogy & History Hub -

Book Review – The Other Mother: A Woman’s Love for the Child She Gave Up for Adoption

Title:  The Other Mother: A Woman’s Love for the Child She Gave Up for Adoption

Author:  Carol Schaefer

Format:  Paperback, Kindle

Published: 1991; reprint, 2013

Synopsis:  (from Amazon) In 1965, Carol Schaefer was 19, a freshman in college and deeply in love. She was also pregnant. When her boyfriend’s family opposed their marrying, her parents sequestered her in a Catholic home for unwed mothers a state away, where she was isolated and where secrecy prevailed. She had only to give up her baby for her sin to be forgiven and then all would soon be forgotten she was told. The child, in turn, would be placed with a “good” family, instead of having his life ruined by the stigma of illegitimacy. Carol tried to find the strength to oppose this dogma but her shame had become too deep. “The first time I looked deep into my son’s eyes, I felt like a criminal. As I unwrapped his hospital blanket and took in the heady fragrance of a newborn, I feared the nurses or the sisters would come in and slap me for contaminating my own son.” Finding no way out, she signed the fateful papers leaving her son in the hands of strangers, but with a vow to her baby she would find him one day. For years, Carol struggled to forget and live the “normal” life promised, not understanding the consequences of the trauma she’d endured. On his eighteenth birthday, she set out to find him, although the law denied access to records. Her search became a spiritual quest to reclaim her own lost self, as she came to understand the emotional and psychological wounds she and other mothers like her had endured. Against all odds she succeeded in finding him and discovered that in many ways they had never really been apart. With her son’s encouragement and his adoptive mother’s cooperation, she tells their story.

My Rating: 

I have done some adoption research for a few people, which were all successful, and I am currently working on an adoption case using DNA.  I’ve contemplated if this is an area I’d like to specialize in, but I feel that I need to really understand all of the implications of conducting such research before I go any further down this path.  There are several books I want to read to gain more insight, but this one called to me, begging to be read first.  I’m glad it did.

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Book Review – Out of the Shoebox: An Autobiographic Mystery

Title:  Out of the Shoebox: An Autobiographic Mystery

Author:  Yaron Reshef

Format:  Paperback and Kindle

Published:  2014

Synopsis: (from Amazon)  A mysterious unexpected phone call hurls Yaron Reshef into an intensive two-year journey, during which he has to solve a mystery that took shape in the 1930s and gradually unfolded in the present.  A mysterious lot, a forgotten bank account, a people long gone along with their memory which were obliterated during the Holocaust.  All of these rise to the surface, bearing with them memories and emotions previously hidden away in the shoebox.  Out of the Shoebox is a fascinating journal that reads like a detective story, comes across as an imaginative quest into the past, yet is the true personal story of the writer, Yaron Reshef.

My Rating: 

I don’t typically read memoir-type books, but it caught my attention over at the Kindle for Genealogy group page on Facebook.  After reading the comments there and then reading reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, I decided to take a chance.  I’m glad I did.

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Book Review – What’s in a Name? History and Meaning of Wyckoff

Title:  What’s in a Name? History and Meaning of Wyckoff

Author:  M. William Wykoff

Format:  Paperback

Published:  2014

Synopsis: (from Amazon) The cumulative evidence presented here proves that the origin of the surname Wyckoff is Frisian and refers to a household or settlement on a bay, although many uninformed American descendants of Pieter Claessen Wyckoff continue to believe the name to be Dutch. Frisian was only one of the many languages spoken by early settlers of New Netherland. In the Northern Germanic linguistic area of Europe, the surname occurs principally in the Lower Saxony area of Germany which includes East Frisia from where our American ancestor emigrated. Amid the proliferation of costly false and inaccurate information being disseminated on popular interactive genealogy websites, the author suggests corrective measures that could be taken by professional genealogical societies and family associations such as the Wyckoff Association of America.

My Rating: 

For those studying the Wyckoffs descended from Pieter Claessen Wyckoff, who settled in New Netherland, this is a book you should order pronto.  This comprehensive study disproves long-held beliefs that Pieter Claessen and his adopted surname of Wyckoff were of Dutch origins, by showing evidence that the origins of both are East Frisia (Ostfriesland).  The author also clears up the mistaken identity of Pieter Claessen’s parents and supplies a meaning behind the surname Wyckoff.  Between the references, records, and experts consulted, no stone has been left unturned.

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Book Review – Guide to Genealogical Writing

GuidetoGenWritingTitle:  Guide to Genealogical Writing

Authors:  Penelope L. Stratton and Henry B. Hoff

Format:  Paperback

Published:  2014

Synopsis:  (from NEHGS website)  Whether you are new to genealogy or have been researching for years, this improved edition of our bestselling “writing guide” will help you present your findings in writing.  Using examples from NEHGS’s award-winning publications, our experts show you how to write your family history clearly and accurately—from building a genealogical sketch to adding images to indexing.  An appendix on genealogical style covers alternate spellings of names, when and how to use lineage lines, how to include adopted children and stepchildren, aspects of double dating, and other issues faced by genealogical writers.  This update of Genealogical Writing in the 21st Century is a must-have for anyone interested in sharing their research!

My Rating: 

This book caught my attention before it was even published and I of course had to get my order in early so that when it was published, I’d be among the first to receive a copy.  Although this is considered an update to Genealogical Writing in the 21st Century (second edition published in 2006), I tend to disagree, only because I feel it is its own book.  While there is some topical overlap between the two books, each is written and organized differently. 

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Book Review – Where’s Merrill?

Title:  Where’s Merrill?

Author:  Gearoid O’Neary

Format:  Paperback and Kindle

Published:  2013

Synopsis:  (partial, from Amazon)  Where’s Merrill? is a uniquely crafted mystery thriller based upon real life historical events. In fact, it is two inter-related stories in one novel set in different time-frames, namely the past and the present. An Irish genealogist called Jed is commissioned by Tim, an American client, who needs to understand more about his mysterious maternal ancestry. Fate had dictated that Tim never got the chance to meet his grandparents, and he didn’t even know the name of his mother’s father. She refused to tell Tim, even on her death bed. Why? That was a question which troubled Tim as he witnessed his mother’s melancholy throughout his adult life, and after her death he resolves to find some answers – and some peace of mind. A web of worrying deceit woven by Tim’s ancestors is gradually unraveled. Once hidden family secrets are exposed, Jed turns from genealogist into cold case detective as he comes to the conclusion that multiple criminal misdeeds have been covered up … but where is Merrill?

My Rating: 

Similar to other genealogical mysteries, including those by Steve Robinson and Nathan Dylan Goodwin, Where’s Merrill? has two storylines: one in the present and one in the past.  The difference however, is that this book’s past storyline bounces around the time continuum, sometimes making it hard to follow along.  I know it was deliberately presented this way, based on the actual progression of the research, but wonder if it would have read better if told in a linear manner.

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Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series Continues With Another Great Book

Just finished reading the book The Lost Empress, the fourth in the series of Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mysteries by British author Steven Robinson.  My love of this series, and the author, started in 2011 when I read the first book in the series, In the Blood.

The main character of the series, Jefferson Tayte, is a professional American genealogist, who always seems to have a genealogical case that involves mystery and mayhem.  Each book is set predominantly in England, but American readers love the series nonetheless.

Robinson writes great stories, that weave the present and the past together to tell a wonderful genealogical tale.  I love his style of writing, his storylines, and trying to solve the mysteries.

If you like a good mystery with a genealogy twist, I highly recommend this series.  There is an underlying storyline that starts in the first book, so you might want to read them in order, although it isn’t necessary at this time (I think the next book will start to unravel that storyline a lot more).

You can purchase all four books on Amazon, in either paperback or Kindle editions.

Book Review – The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide

FTGerGenTitle:  The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide

Author:  James M. Beidler

Format:  Paperback, Kindle, Nook

Published:  2014

Synopsis:  (from book cover) Follow your family tree back to its roots in Bavaria, Baden, Prussia, Hesse, Saxony, Wurttemburg and beyond. This in-depth genealogy guide will walk you step by step through the exciting journey of researching your German heritage, whether your ancestors came from lands now in modern-day Germany or other German-speaking areas of Europe, including Austria, Switzerland, and enclaves across Eastern Europe.

My Rating: 

I have read (or perhaps I should say, in some cases, tried to read) other German genealogy guides.  Most of the time, while informative, the writing is stilted and the content is very overwhelming, especially for those new to the idea of researching German ancestors.  The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide is written more casually and conversationally and allows the reader to absorb the content a little easier; I appreciate that.

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Book Review – Relatively Dead

Title:  Relatively Dead

Author:  Sheila Connolly

Format:  Kindle

Published:  2013

Synopsis: (from Amazon) 

Abby Kimball has just moved to New England with her boyfriend and is trying to settle in, but the experience is proving to be quite unsettling, to say the least. While on a tour of local historic homes, Abby witnesses a family scene that leaves her gasping for breath—because the family has been dead for nearly a century. Another haunting episode follows, and another, until it seems to Abby that everything she touches is drawing her in, calling to her from the past. Abby would doubt her sanity if it weren’t for Ned Newhall, the kind and knowledgeable guide on that disturbing house tour. Rather than telling her she’s hallucinating, Ned takes an interest in Abby’s strange encounters and encourages her to figure out what’s going on, starting with investigating the story of the family she saw . . . and exploring her own past. But as Abby begins to piece together a history that’s as moving as it is shocking and unravels a long-ago mystery that nearly tore her family apart, she also begins to suspect that Ned’s got secrets of his own, and that his interest may be driven as much by a taste for romance as a love for history.

My Rating: 

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