Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Somebody at the Door



Postgate, Raymond. Somebody at the Door. Scottsdale, Arizona: Poisoned Pen Press, 2017.

Henry Grayling's dies in his own home a short time after returning home on the train. Mustard gas caused his death. Some of the man's belongings are found along the road, but the payroll he transported was missing. The vicar provides Inspector Holly with a list of persons aboard the train. As he investigates them, he discovers motives for many of them. The solution may be obvious to the reader carefully paying attention to details; however, others may be left guessing until the revelation.This classic crime will appeal to those who enjoy police procedurals. My remarks are based on advance e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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Monday, December 04, 2017

The Country House Library



Purcell, Mark. The Country House Library. London ; New York: Yale University Press, 2017.

A well-researched volume featuring essays tracing the history of English country house libraries. Much of the information on contents of these libraries is derived from estate inventories and published catalogues. One essay discusses its counter-part, the town house library, specifically in the context of those who owned both homes in places such as London as well as in the country. The book was interesting but probably bogs down a bit for the average reader due to its academic nature. The book, however, will  interest  persons passionate about the history of books and libraries. The book contains a number of illustrations featuring country house libraries and their features. The review is based on an advance review copy received from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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Sunday, December 03, 2017

Your Guide to the Apocalypse



Hagee, Matt. Your Guide to the Apocalypse: What You Should Know Before the World Comes to an End. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2017.

While Hagee begins with a discussion of modern-day events and parallels to passages of Scripture, the latter part of the book is a study of the seven churches in Revelation and their parallels to the seven ages of the church. He concludes we are living in Laodicea--a phrase which brings back memories of an old contemporary Christian song (1983) by Steve Camp. I enjoyed the author's illustrations based on his own family history. This is a readable book encouraging believers in the midst of spiritual darkness. I received an electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley with expectations for an honest review to be published and shared.

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Friday, December 01, 2017

Reading Samplers


As I browsed the magazines at the store this afternoon, the top line "Sampler Sleuth: Mystery of Missing Letters" caught my attention on the December 2017 issue of Just Cross Stitch. The article discusses omission of letters, dropped stitches, and more. If you are interested in a brief history of samplers, you might wish to pick up an issue while it is still available on newstands. They usually sell remaining issues online.

The article is:

Jennett, Vickie LoPicollo. "Reading Samplers: Not as Easy as A, B, C, 1, 2, 3." Just Cross Stitch 35, no. 7 (December 2017): 42.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

It's All Relative



Jacobs, A. J. It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Journalist A.J. Jacobs immersed himself in the genealogical community for his latest adventure. He embarks on a quest to host the world's largest family reunion which he called "Global Family Reunion." He befriends many genealogists and enlists celebrities to promote the event and perform or speak at it. I was disappointed in the book. It was more about the global family reunion than it was about genealogical research.While occasional references to genealogical research are made, few persons are going to learn to research their ancestry in a correct manner by reading it. The author promotes the one world trees such as Geni.com far too much rather than emphasizing evidence analysis and reasonably exhaustive research. Reliance on these trees often leads to erroneous conclusions which propogate. The author's casual writing style does not work well for me either. The book employs the hidden footnote system which I detest. How is the reader supposed to know something is cited when no indication is made a footnote is available? This is completely unacceptable in a field such as genealogy where evidence is so important. While I'm happy to see a book about genealogical research published by a major publisher, I would have preferred one which encouraged proper methodology rather than emphasizing online trees. Not recommended.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Using Ancestry's Public Records Collections

I noticed a "shaky leaf" hint on my own entry in my Ancestry tree when I looked today. I wondered about the content of this new record with my personal information. It belonged to Ancestry's "U.S. Public Records Index, Volume 2" collection. I find this collection frustrating because it lacks record dates, a feature that volume 1 generally includes. According to the hint I resided at an address where I never officially lived. My parents moved to that house after I graduated college. In fact my graduate course work neared completion by the time they resided in that home.

So how did this collection decide I lived there? I decided either banking or insurance records must be some of the records in the collection. My parents added me to their bank accounts during my college years, and as they aged, they kept me on the accounts so I could take care of emergencies as they traveled the country in their RV or as their needs dictated. Dad purchased life insurance policies on all his children when we were young, and until near his death, the mailings for those policies continued to go to his home with our names on them.

For most persons, the addresses in these public records collections are places they've actually resided. However, mine was an exception, and I occasionally note other discrepancies in addresses, particularly in young adult years, where children seem to be with their parents but in another location at the same time. In my case, no record date was given, but since I never lived there, it doesn't matter. For others whose parents did not move, they may truly not be "back home" but still out on their own while addresses for some activities continue to remain at their parents' home.


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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Daring to Hope



Majors, Katie Davis. Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2017.

Katie tells the story of her call to Uganda where she became mother to a baker's dozen of girls. Her faith sees her through many circumstances including the loss of a neighbor, a boy's surgeries, and more. After an especially trying time in her life, God provided her with a husband who loves God as well. This is not a deep theological discussion but more of an inspirational title which is likely to be enjoyed more by women than by men. Katie's story is one which demonstrates reliance upon God to meet one's needs. This review is based on an advance reader's copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide


Neighbors, Joy. The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide: How to Find, Record & Preserve Your Ancestors' Graves. Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2017.

Journalist Joy Neighbors turns her attention to cemeteries for this title. Neighbors provides rudimentary information on abbreviations and symbols often depicted on markers. She discusses the materials from which markers are made. She provides tips to prepare for a graveyard visit and for photographing stones. These tips include cautions about ways genealogists and others tried to make stones more legible in the past and their harmfulness. She included information on Billion Graves and Find A Grave. The book's organization did not work well for me. Some topics seemed to be treated in sections scattered throughout the book. She introduced topics and then said, "We'll talk about that later." It is unfortunate the book went to press when it did instead of waiting just a few more months. She included information on locating cemetery deeds and types of cemeteries as well. The content is already dated due to Find A Grave's web site redesign. She included multiple screenshots which bear little resemblance to what users are now seeing. A note about the pending redesign was included, and she mentioned the "beta" site was now available. It seems screen shots should have been captured from the beta rather than the "old" version. Sentences felt "choppy" to me. At times I felt the author was "talking down" to readers. In an effort to make her content fill more pages, the author added related content such as death certificates, funeral home records, and obituaries. However, she didn't stop there but went on to include a section on basic genealogical research with checklists. This information, while possibly helpful to a beginner, was unnecessary to meet the book's purpose and wastes paper and the consumer's money, since the purchaser pays for those extra pages. She omitted grave markers made from pottery in her discussion of marker types. These are popular in some parts of the South. They tend to break at the base, but they remain quite readable. Many of the checklists and forms in the book are useful to genealogists, but a similar form can usually be found freely available on the internet. While the book is useful to some beginning researchers, most intermediate and experienced researchers would be better served by purchasing  Douglas Keister's Stories in Stones or Forever Dixie and picking up information on preservation and other topics via articles in Family Tree Magazine, Your Genealogy Today, or on a blog post. The publisher provided an electronic galley of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Unquiet Grave



McCrumb, Sharyn. The Unquiet Grave. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

McCrumb fictionalizes the story of the "Greenbrier ghost," a true murder story set in Greenbrier County, West Virginia in which the testimony of a ghost was at least partially responsible for a conviction. The cast of characters is an interesting mix of Appalachian mountain folks, scoundrels, African-Americans not that far removed from slavery, and more. Part of the story is narrated by an African-American lawyer who was second on the defense team. His story is told to one of his doctors at the colored asylum. McCrumb's book tour brought her through my city where I heard her discuss the research done on the book. The book's dedication was to a friend and fellow local genealogist who assisted her in the research. She also spoke about her role and finds that day. I knew most of the plot before I read it, but I still really enjoyed the way the story unraveled. Some people commented it took the story awhile to get going. Since I knew what was to come, that was not a problem for me. This book is the all-conference read for the conference at which I'm speaking later in the week, set in the very county where the book is set. The venue for the conference is at the Greenbrier, referred to as the "White Hotel" in the book. The story is a well-done Appalachian story, blending a real life murder trial with Appalachian life and lore. Fans of historical fiction and Appalachian fiction will find much to like in this story.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How the Finch Stole Christmas



Andrews, Donna. How the Finch Stole Christmas. New York: Minotaur Books, 2017.

It's nearly Christmas in Caerphilly. Michael is directing the production of A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is being portrayed by an almost forgotten actor named Haver who has a drinking problem. In the meantime, Goudian finches are plentiful in the area thanks to a wildlife smuggling ring. Meg finds more finches, a tiger, a puppy mill, other exotic animals, and house full of cats, and a corpse, after following Haver to locate his drink supplier. Haver keeps disappearing so Michael is prepared to fill in, if necessary. Various townspeople, including Meg's grandfather the vet and her father the doctor, get involved in the plot while the police are sorting things out. It's a fun read, but not one of the strongest in the series, which is typical with most holiday reads. Still it provides a pleasant distraction for readers during a busy season when readers need a little escape. I received an advance electronic review copy from the publisher through Netgalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Nile Crossing


Beebe, Katy. Nile Crossing. Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017.

A boy in Ancient Egypt travels with his father on the Nile to attend his first day of school. This interesting book which mentions several of the gods of Ancient Egypt is an interesting addition to a growing collection of children's books published by Eerdmans. The research notes at the end of the book provide further information to help readers (and teachers) with this book rooted in ancient history. The accompanying illustrations are well-done. The glossary will be a helpful addition for younger readers not familiar with many of the terms. I received an advance e-galley of the book for review purposes through NetGalley.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Homegrown



Jennings, Matt with Jessica Battilana. Homegrown. Photographs by Huge Galdones. New York: Artisan, a division of Workman, 2017.

Chef Matt Jennings, owner of a Boston area restaurant and former owner of one in the Providence area, offers recipes showcasing New England foods with a bit of a twist. The book provides commentary about New England foods as well as Jennings' life and career. The recipes are generally not for those who want things that can be prepared quickly. They tend to be for those who truly savor cooking. Many of the ingredients may be difficult for persons in some parts of the country to locate. The book is beautifully illustrated by the photography of Huge Galdones.This review is based on an advance review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an unbiased review. I attended a webinar about forthcoming cookbooks in which the publisher's representative offered to send advance review copies to any attendee through NetGalley or Edelweiss.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Murder in Montego Bay



Lennon, Paula. Murder in Montego Bay. London: Jacaranda Books, 2017.

Lennon penned the first in a series featuring Jamaican detective Raythan Preddy assisted by visiting Glasgow (Scotland) detective Sean Harris. Together they solve the murder of a wealthy Ellis family member. The Ellis family includes Chinese ancestors. The case involves narcotics. Readers question why Harris is in Jamaica and never find the answer. The author overuses Jamaican dialect in conversations. While the author accurately describes Jamaica's impoverished and wealthy residents, it is difficult to connect with her characters. While I appreciated the setting, the book is too gritty for my mystery reading tastes. Readers who enjoy grittier books will rate the book higher than I did. The publisher provided an electronic Advance Reader's Copy through NetGalley with the expectation of an unbiased review.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Twelve Slays of Christmas



Frost, Jacqueline. Twelve Slays of Christmas. (Christmas Tree Farm Mystery, no. 1). New York: Crooked Lane Books, 2017.

What a fun cozy Christmas mystery! Holly White returns home to Mistletoe, Maine after a failed engagement, just in time for the 12 days of reindeer games hosted on her parents' farm. Unfortunately Margaret Fenwick, head of the local historical society, is killed right on the farm, and Holly discovers the body. Holly can't help but investigate, which brings threats to her and her parents. I really enjoyed this light mystery which includes a spark of romance between Holly and Sheriff Evan Gray, a Boston transplant. I enjoyed many of Holly's friends. This one has a lot of potential as a series, although if murders continue at Christmas each year, I doubt anyone will be wanting to visit the reindeer games. I look forward to the next installment of the series and may try some of the author's "Kitty Couture" mysteries written under the name Julie Chase. I received an advance review e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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Death Overdue



Brook, Allison. Death Overdue. (Haunted Library Mystery ; 1). New York: Crooked Lane, 2017.

Carrie, a floating librarian at a Connecticut public library, decided it was time to move on when opportunity knocked on her door. While her uncle, a member of the library board was partially responsible for the opportunity, library director Sally offers her a permanent position in programs and events. After a brief consideration, she decides to accept the job and begins looking for a home. At the first event, set up by the librarian who moved away, the detective who failed to solve a case years before and suddenly claims to have solved it dies. A cookie unlike any purchased for the event bore the poison. Carrie and the son of the woman murdered years before set out to solve the crime. Carrie soon discovers the ghost of a former library director resides in the library. Only a few people see her. The ghost proves helpful to Carrie on a number of occasions. While I really don't like paranormal elements such as ghosts, this one is beneficent. I think it's a cute Halloween installment, but I'm not sure it will work long-term as a plot device. I fingered the murderer pretty early, but the author crafted several red herrings. I'll probably read the next installment. I received an advance uncorrected e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reading the Census when Indexes Fail to Locate the Individual

Monday night my persistence paid off.

As I reviewed information on Judd Emerson Leys, my second cousin once removed, I noticed a gap in my records for him. I lacked his 1940 census entry.

I knew he should be residing at 236 West Wood Street in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he was enrolled as a student at Purdue University. He resided there according to city directories from 1939 and 1943 already located. I also knew he continued to live at that address after graduating from Purdue and taking a job with the university as a store keeper.2

I searched in the 1940 census for him in Tippecanoe County. I tried the search by Leys only, by Emerson only, and by Judd only. All searches failed. I located the correct enumeration district for his address using the descriptions found at the National Archives' 1940 census web site.3 I found the pages for the enumeration district were slow to load at the 1940 census site, so I went back to Ancestry to locate the enumeration district and begin a page by page search for his street address. At the bottom of the 30th image (of 40) for the district, I found him. The enumerator used his middle name as his surname and his surname as his first name. He recorded an incorrect middle initial. My cousin was hiding as "Leys L. Emerson."4

Ancestry offered no record suggestions for this census, either on my tree or on records already located for him. Apparently I was the first Ancestry user to persevere and track him down with information I knew. I'll try to locate additional city directory information to fill additional gaps in my research of Judd until his death of "cardiac insufficiency" due to "muscular dystrophy" on 6 August 1957.5 Judd was buried in the Olio Township Cemetery in Eureka, Woodford County, Illinois.6


1 For 1939, see: Polk's Lafayette (Tippecanoe County, Ind.) City Directory 1939 Including West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County (Indianapolis, Ind.: R. L. Polk, 1939), p. 216, entry for J. Emerson Leys; digital image, "U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989," database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/10875429?pid=559176424 : accessed 25 Sep 2017; requires subscription). For 1943, see: Polk's Lafayette (Tippecanoe County, Ind.) City Directory 1943 Including West Lafayette (Indianapolis, Ind.: R. L. Polk, 1943), p. 309, entry for J. Emerson Leys; digital image, "U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989," database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/10882246?pid=559931621 : accessed 25 Sep 2017).
2 Polk's Lafayette (Tippecanoe County, Ind.) City Directory 1943 Including West Lafayette (Indianapolis, Ind.: R. L. Polk, 1943), p. 309, entry for J. Emerson Leys; digital image, "U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989," database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/10838027?pid=555046495 : accessed 25 Sep 2017; requires subscription).
3 National Archives, 1940 Census (https://1940census.archives.gov/search/#searchby=location&searchmode=browse&year=1940 : accessed 25 Sep 2017). Search criteria included Indiana as state, Tippecanoe as county, and West Lafayette as city. Click on "descriptions." See description for ED 79-35 which covered Ward 1 of the city.
4 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, population schedule, West Lafayette, Ward 1, SD 2, ED 79-35, p. 166B (stamped), 236 West Wood, visit 416, line 77, Leys L. Emerson; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2442/M-T0627-01099-00350?pid=53171610 : accessed 26 Sep 2017; requires subscription); citing National Archives microfilm publication T627, roll 1099.
5 "Tippecanoe County, Indiana, Death Certificate no. 57-487 (state no. 57-027547), Judd Emerson Leys; digital image, "Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011, database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/60716/44494_351194-00743?pid=4754564 : accessed 25 Sep 2017; subscription required)."
6 Find A Grave (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73315305 : accessed 25 Sep 2017), memorial for Jud Emerson Leys (1913-1957), memorial no. 73315305; citing Olio Township Cemetery, Eureka, Woodford County, Illinois.(

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This Side of Murder



Huber, Anna Lee. This Side of Murder. New York: Kensington, 2017.

Verity Kent goes to an English island with some of her husband Sidney's acquaintances from the war. A letter accusing her late husband of treason caused her to go. She discovers the men are hiding something. A coded message is found in a book that belonged to Sidney. The gardener was a man Verity knew well, and his presence adds an interesting twist to the situation. I tolerated this book. The plot was just too convoluted. It reminded me of locked room mysteries, but it was not as well-written as many of those. I received an electronic advance reader's copy from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Life and Times of Martin Luther



Roth-Beck, Meike. The Life and Times of Martin Luther. Illustrated by Klaus Ensikat. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017.

Publishers are issuing many books on Martin Luther as we celebrate the 500th anniversary on the Reformation. Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church October 31, 1517. The action led to one of the greatest religious movements in history--the Protestant Reformation. Roth-Beck has written an engaging account of Luther's life for younger readers. He explains the religious culture of the time, how Luther came to be a monk, and how his studies led him to question the teachings of the church. The illustrations by Ensikat are well-done. There is a key to the illustrations at the end of the book, explaining each in further detail. While some younger readers would not be able to handle some of the vocabulary terms on their own, the book would make a great read-aloud book for parents to read and discuss with their children. The book will be very useful in Christian schools and home-schools. Even though it is aimed at a younger audience, it would provide a good overview for teens and adults interested in learning about Luther. I received an advance review copy of this title through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder



McDowell, Marta. The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Frontier Landscapes That Inspired the Little House Books. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2017.

Author Marta McDowell takes readers to each location Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband Almonzo lived, discussing things present and things omitted from the books. The book shows Laura's connection with the land, demonstrating the importance of agriculture in the era in which she lived. The book designed to celebrate the 150th birthday of the author is well-researched but written at a level most fans will enjoy. Its carefully selected illustrations add to the reading experience for the fan. The book would make a great gift for those reading the books for the first time or for a lifelong Laura Ingalls Wilder enthusiast. This review is based on an advance electronic galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An Echo of Murder


Perry, Anne. An Echo of Murder: A William Monk Novel. New York: Ballantine, 2017.

The murder of a Hungarian man whose shop faces the river brings Monk and his Thames River force to the scene. The crime is horrific--extremely violent, an act of hate--and accompanied by 17 candles, two of which are purple, and the smashing of Roman Catholic icons. A man, aspiring to be the leader of the Hungarian community in London, is first on the scene. His alibi is airtight. The man is very observant. Communicating with the Hungarian population is problematic.

Monk and Hester's adopted son "Scuff" is apprenticed to a doctor, coming in contact with Fitz, a doctor who served with Hester in Crimea. As the body count grows, the pressure to locate the perpetrator increases due to the growing unrest of the Hungarian community.

I do not read every installment of the Monk series, but I enjoyed this one very much. While any experienced mystery reader will be able to predict some of the action, certain aspects of this installment will keep readers interested. It held my attention--something most books failed to do recently.

I received an advance review copy from the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.

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