Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Monday, March 20, 2017

Lion, King, and Coin


Nam, Jeong-hee. Lion, King, and Coin. Illustrated by Lucia Sforza. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2017.

This is an informative children's book about how we came to have money. It discusses bartering, exchanging goods, and the difficulty of finding someone who actually wanted what you had to trade before currency. It talks about some of the precursors to coinage. The illustrations seem to fit the period of history being discussed.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bone Soup and Flipped Bread


Larkey, Sue Spertus. Bone Soup and Flipped Bread: The Yemenite Jewish Table. Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing House, 2017.

The author gives readers insights into both the cultures of Yemen and of the Jewish people in this volume. A great deal of cultural and background material is woven into the book  -- from the introductory chapters which are almost entirely cultural to the recipes grouped in two sections. She shows the reader the importance of food to the Yemen Jews in normal things in the life cycle -- birth, circumcision, Bar/Bas Mitzvah, betrothal, marriage, days of blessing, and mourning. She also shows the importance of good in the feasts and holidays and on the Sabbath by the Jews. This is a winning combination for anyone interested in more than just a recipe book. The cultural foodways shine in this volume. I received an electronic advance review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Old Testament Is Dying


Strawn, Brent A. The Old Testament Is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017.

Strawn creates an analogy of the Old Testament being a language which he carries throughout the book. The only problem is the analogy is a flawed one. He makes many of his points with illustrations from linguistics. He uses data from studies showing less biblical knowledge. In spite of the author's deep research, I'm not convinced he made his point in a convincing manner. I'm not certain his solution is practical. The Old Testament is alive and well at our church because our pastor uses it to deepen our understanding of God in all three persons. There are riches and treasures in its pages, and Strawn tries to become too philosophical about the problem when the truth of the matter is that studying the Old Testament is the only solution for what he sees as the process of dying. Pastors and Sunday School teachers need to teach the Word of God -- and all of it. Too many churches got away from using curriculum that takes readers through the entire Bible within a certain amount of time and began using topical studies. Don't get me wrong. There is a time and place for topical studies, but church members need exegesis too. I receivved an advance review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Cousins You Meet Online

When I first began researching my family history, I knew very little about researching beyond my own family. I was fortunate to live in a city housing one of the country's best genealogical libraries at the time. I grew up in the South and just assumed I came from a deep line of Southerners. Imagine my surprise when I found a census record with my maternal grandfather in it which identified his place of birth as Illinois. I then began to get the family stories. 

My great grandfather who was of Amish-Mennonite heritage married a woman who grew up Methodist. They began attending the Christian Church after marriage. Her line was an interesting one to me. Her mother's line was clearly New England. The only information I really had about her father's line was something published in one of those "vanity" publications. While parts of it were greatly embellished, it identified her father Stephen's father as Stephen and her grandfather as Isaac. It was said Stephen Sr. went off to fight in the War of 1812 and never came back. Some people say he died in Michigan. No records of his War of 1812 service exist. Stephen Sr. was in Washington County, Ohio by 1804 when he married Lovica Rathbone. Stephen Jr. was born in February 1814. Most people say Stephen Sr. died in 1814 in or near Detroit. We do not know exactly when Stephen Sr. was born, but it is estimated as being around 1780. Stephen Jr. said his father was born in New York. (Some accounts say it was in Little Hoosick, Albany County.)

I was intrigued by my connection to New England and New York. I began to communicate with other researchers via the various mailing lists and message boards that began to crop up. One person answered my query about Stephen, Stephen, and Isaac. He was descended from Isaac's son Cornelius and had been researching the line for many years. Cornelius and Stephen had a sister Debora who married Edmund Rathbone, Lovica's brother. 

My newly found cousin told me about the Taylors and Rathbones ownership of a mill in Ohio County, Virginia. (See the Find a Grave story about Private Edmund Rathbone.) This cousin was never one to share everything he knew. I think he wanted to see if you reached the same conclusion he did. However, he provided hints. Where was Isaac in 1790? My newly found cousin had researched all of the options and was leaning toward Isaac being the one in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania that year. He later concluded that was the case. He never provided a proof argument to me for this. It doesn't really go all that well with Stephen Jr.'s alleged birthplace in New York State.

My distant cousin Edgar Rives Taylor, Jr. died January 31 of this year. His son Gary contacted me earlier this week with the sad news as he was going through his father's email correspondence. When I resume work on the Taylor line, I need to go through my correspondence to pick up any clues or hints provided over the years. The proof argument will be my own, based on my own research, when I am able to clearly identify my ancestor. I will, however, miss Edgar's knowledge and the ability to ask him if he found anything that would negate a conclusion I make. His son Gary posted a lovely tribute to his father which includes part of his father's autobiography.


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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Adam and the Genome



Venema, Dennis R. and Scot McKnight. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2017.

My hopes for this book exceeded what was presented. I expected more from genetic science than the very basic information presented. I supposed the authors think Christians know nothing about genetics, because that is how they treated the matter.  The book is really more about how we should view Genesis 1-11 in view of modern science. Findings of the human genome project are taken into account in the author's argument of a theistic evolutionary approach. The writers incorporate too much from apocryphal works for their conclusions to be accepted by many Evangelicals. They spend a lot of time discussing the literary Adam, the historical Adam, and the genealogical Adam. Ultimately they were not very convincing in their arguments. While I received an Advance Review Copy from the publisher through NetGalley, I forgot I had pre-ordered a copy. I compared both and am basing the review on the completed copy.

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The Barrowfields



Lewis, Phillip. The Barrowfields. New York: Hogarth, 2017.

I had a love-hate relationship with this book. On the one hand, the book was well-written. On the other, I really could not identify with the characters, making it tedious. The book focuses on the Aster family of Western North Carolina. The father is a lawyer with a great love for books and aspirations of becoming an author. They live in a house where the previous tenants were murdered. Tragedy takes the father. The narrator is the son Henry who eventually goes off to the university, promising his sister Threnody he’ll return home. He meets a woman named Story at the university. Henry can’t bring himself to go back home. His mother and sister eventually move away. Although the story line goes much further, I’ll leave readers to discover the outcome for themselves. Although the two books are really not that similar, my mind kept being drawn to William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as I was reading it. I think the writing and some of the themes reminded me of the book. It’s a great first effort by an author. I received an electronic advance copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

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The Roanoke Girls


Engel, Amy. The Roanoke Girls. New York: Crown, 2017.

When Lane Roanoke's mother commits suicide, she is sent to live with her grandparents in Kansas. Unfortunately she finds dark family secrets. She grew up with cousin Allegra. Lane runs as far away as she can to Los Angeles. She is called home when Allegra goes missing. Unfortunately I did not like this novel. I tried to stick with it, but when I got to a section where profanity was overused, I just could not tolerate it any longer. Other readers might enjoy this more than I did, but I couldn't even finish the book. I received an advance electronic copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

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