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Summer Reads

Take a break from the hot summer days and sit under the air conditioning with a good book. Here are a few that I am reading.


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Yesterday, here in Southern California it reached 108 degrees. It's getting to the point that every time you go someplace you end up a sweaty, sticky mess. With gas prices as high as they are and the ever increasing heat, you, like me, might be deciding to stay at home under the cool air conditioning. If you feel like taking a break from genealogical research, think about catching up on some reading.

Lately, I've been reading books that are autobiographical/genealogical in nature, even though they may not be labeled as such. Usually, no matter what I read, the book has some sort of nod to genealogy. I am currently reading Kinfolks: Falling off the Family Tree-The Search for my Melungeon Ancestors by Lisa Alther. Melungeon's are an ethnic group founded in the Appalachia region of the United States and one of their genetic traits can be an extra thumb found on the hand. This book starts out as a remembrance of the author's childhood but then gets into her research on her family history. She discusses interviews with distant family members and how her family hid the "skeletons" in their closet. This book is a good example of how family members may become embarrassed about an aspect of their past and go to great lengths to cover it up.

Hard Times in Paradise: An American Family's Struggle to Carve out a Homestead in California's Redwood by David and Micki Colfax isn't a genealogy book. In fact it is a book about a homeschooling family. This family leaves everything behind, the father was a professor who because of his politics moved from various universities, to buy land in the California Redwoods and then proceeds to build a house. Their struggle to raise four boys in extremely primitive conditions reminded me of what it was like for our pioneering ancestors. Even when this family's house is built, something they accomplish knowing virtually nothing about, they live without electricity and running water. This is a great story that will give you a better understanding of just what is required to start life in a new place and live off the land.

A favorite author of mine is Tony Horwitz. I've read his book Confederates in the Attic : Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War and am getting ready to read his book A Voyage Long and Strange. Confederates in the Attic is a look at the Southern United States and the Civil War as it is played out today. Tony rekindles his childhood love for Civil War history and takes a pilgrimage to various parts of the the South. He spends time with Civil War reenactors, looks at Southern Civil War heroes, and checks out Southern organizations like the United Daughters (and Sons) of the Confederacy. It is often an irreverent look mixed with some history and current events. I have read this book multiple times and, for the most part, I like his descriptions of reenacting. I think it is a good reminder of what hardships our soldier ancestors endured.

Tony's book, A Voyage Long and Strange is the story of the founding of America, starting with the Vikings and other groups who came to America long before the Mayflower was even thought of. Tony's books, including this one, are a mixture of travelogue, memoir, humor, and history.

Love Cemetery: Unburying the Secret History of Slaves by China Galland is the story of a white woman who while researching her Harrison County, Texas family history learns about a little-known unmarked slave cemetery. Galland and community members go about restoring, researching, and getting community access to the Love Cemetery. This book is a mixture of genealogical research, lost stories, and community social action. It is the story of how a group of people can restore our fading historical cemeteries so that once again they can be visited and the people buried, remembered. The book includes a section on resources for African American history, cemeteries, history, and social action.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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