Friday, December 23, 2011

Why Do We Dream of a White Christmas?

The obvious reason is because Bing Crosby and company so romanticized the song that we all want one. Christmas cards and other winter scenes picture the pristine condition of the snow in a time when sleighs and carriages were popular -- not the muddy, driven-through mess that many of us have to deal with when the white stuff actually arrives in this day and age. As a Southerner though, I think there's another reason. We see so little snow that we actually want to see some. What better time than when family and friends are gathered and can stay inside and enjoy each other's company a bit more?

The weatherman has said that it will be too warm for a White Christmas this year. Instead, we're likely to have a rainy one. Am I being too bad when I hope that it's colder than the weatherman expects so that we can have that Christmas of which I dream and have only seen about three times in my entire life?  If not, I may just have to mix three songs together so that I come up with "I'll have a White Christmas if only in my dreams."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book Review: The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

Sylvia discovers a journal tucked in with some old family quilts. The journal was written by her ancestor's sister and documents the family's settlement on Elm Creek farm and involvement with the Underground Railroad. As she begins reading its pages, her friend Summer begins doing research at the county historical society. Sarah and Matt begin an archaeological excavation on the property. As a genealogist, I did not want to put this one down! I occasionally wanted Summer to seek out another source that might have held an answer, but it would have been rushing the story to prematurely reach the place that source might have led. This is my favorite in the Elm Creek Quilts series to date!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Review: Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell

This is the story of Brian O'Connal's childhood in a small town on the Saskatchewan prairie. It's full of memorable characters and even some amusing scenes in the life of a small town. I especially enjoyed Brian's first visit to the farm when he lived with his uncle for a time. The dialect sometimes made it difficult to read, but it's a book that would make a terrific read aloud for elementary aged children. The physical dimensions of the book I borrowed through interlibrary loan made it somewhat uncomfortable to read, but the illustrations made up for it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I can't believe that I waited so many years to make the acquaintance of Francie Nolan, her brother Neeley, and her parents Katie and Johnny. They reside in Brooklyn. Francie learns quickly that she is the only one in her class whose parents were born in the United States. The others were children of immigrants. Francie excels in school, especially in writing. She loves to read, although the librarian in her neighborhood library is not going to win any customer service awards. This is just a nice, clean novel about growing up in a poor family and working toward making things better for the next generation than it was for your own. I'm sure that I'll revisit this book in the future.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: The Body in the Gazebo by Katherine Hall Page

Faith's friend Pix is leaving town to attend functions associated with her child's wedding. However, her mother has been ill so she gets Faith to check in on her. Pix's mom Ursula begins to share a family secret with Faith in hopes that Faith will be able to solve it. In the meantime, $10,000 of the minister's discretionary fund has gone missing, and Faith's husband Tom is being accused by the vestry. Faith must also work to discover who has framed her husband. Both mysteries are intriguing. Because the mystery of the "body in the gazebo" is 70 years old, this installment is quite a bit different in that involves a lot of storytelling and listening.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: Murder Past Due by Miranda James

Athena College archivist Charlie Harris moved back to Athena after inheriting his aunt's home. It was his aunt's wish that he continue to board college students in the large house. The current student is Justin. He's just learned that he is the son of a famous writer who is a native of the town of Athena. No one really likes Godfrey Priest (the famed author). When he turns up dead, suspicion turns to Justin and his mother Julia. The man he's called father all these years is hospitalized at the time. Charlie really doesn't believe that Justin or Julia is responsible for the murder so he sets out to investigate. His housekeeper's daughter Kanesha is the acting chief deputy and is in charge of the investigation. There are lots of motives and lots of suspects when a womanizing man such as Godfrey Priest is the victim. As the novel progresses other motives are discovered as well. I really enjoyed this first installment in the series. Athena does not seem to be based on any of North Mississippi's towns or colleges. It's a private college in a town that appears to be small. There are some aspects that resemble Ole Miss and Oxford, but there appears to be no town square, and the town seems to be smaller than Oxford. The towns with private colleges such as Blue Mountain don't seem to be a match either. I absolutely loved Diesel, Charlie's Maine Coon cat. Diesel goes almost everywhere with Charlie -- to work, out shopping, and even to a memorial service.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What Were They Thinking? or Were They Thinking at All?

That's the question I've been asking myself since hearing about RootsTech's decision to disallow vendors who don't meet their criteria as technology vendors. I'm more and more convinced that RootsTech is nothing more than a trade show.

I actually considered attending RootsTech this year, but I decided against it because as much as I love the way technological innovations can be of great assistance in one's genealogical projects, I'd much rather attend a conference that presents advanced topics rather than one showing the latest gadgets.

When I go to genealogical conferences, I always look forward to the exhibit hall. I usually have a list of books I plan to purchase at the conference if they are available. I sometimes have software on that list as well. I will sometimes even look for other techie items. However, I do not want to go to an exhibit hall that lacks books. I can spend hours looking at the books. I always come home with more than the ones I had planned to buy. I rarely come home with technology products that were not on my list -- the FlipPal being a notable exception. (I was, however, looking for a portable scanner at the time. I just had expected to purchase it later, and I had a different one on my wish list than the Flip Pal. The rave reviews I was hearing at the conference in the exhibit hall sent me over to their booth to take a look, and I came away convinced it was the one for me.)

The truth is . . . I just can't justify most technology purchases. I can't afford to purchase all of those products. When I make a technology purchase, I have to see a clear need for it and know that I will get my money's worth from the product before it becomes obsolete. There are very few products that actually meet that criteria.

As far as online databases, I'm already subscribing to as many as my current budget will allow. These are the essential ones that I use on a regular basis. Sure, I'd love to have all of them, but the truth is, I probably would not get my money's worth out of most of the other databases. I have to pick and choose wisely. Most of the vendors of these databases display at both the NGS and FGS conferences. I'm able to take a look at them and see what new developments have arisen in the exhibit hall, as I'm browsing the books and visiting with friends.

If I were to go to a conference such as RootsTech that had technology vendors only, I'd be tempted to skip the exhibit hall completely. You can call me a Luddite . . . but I think most of my colleagues at work would disagree with you. I'm one of the techiest people on campus and have taught college-level Computer Information Systems courses. I still love my books. I also love my Kindle, but I still love the ones on paper in soft and hardcover bindings!

By the way, I wonder if RootsTech has considered that most of those books were written and published on computers using software applications of various kinds? I guess not.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Book Review: The Ninth Daughter by Barbara Hamilton

I have mixed feelings when it comes to making historical figures stars of serial fiction. On the one hand, I love the visit with that time period in a more readable fashion. On the other, I have a problem when it comes to placing the historical figure in situations in which they probably never were. Such is the case with this first installment in a series of mysteries featuring Abigail Adams, wife of later-to-be president John Adams. In this installment, one woman is dead and another is missing. It appears that a member of the Sons of Liberty, perhaps even her husband, may be responsible or have been framed. She is determined to find the real person before the English officials arrest her husband. I loved the references to historical persons. I am familiar enough with Boston and its streets and neighborhoods to have visualized and placed the geographic references. What I couldn't quite believe were the activities in which Abigail Adams engaged in the novel for a woman in that time period. In spite of my problem with the believability of the novel, it was an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book Review: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

Clara finally has a solo art show at a prominent museum in Montreal. There is a party back in Three Pines after the opening. The next morning the body of a childhood friend (and later enemy) of Clara is found in Clara's garden. The victim was an artist who had been a recovering alcoholic. The beauty of this novel is that it is a novel of contrasts, with the light and dark metaphor playing prominently into it. Her characters are realistic and flawed. Gamache allows Agent Lacoste to take the lead in this investigation to see if she's ready for a likely upcoming promotion. The officers, especially Jean-Guy, are still dealing with the psychological aftermath of the ordeal in the last novel (Bury Your Dead). There are hints of what will come in future installments. Do I really have to wait a year for the next one? The only consolation is that with Penny, it is worth the wait. [Review written in September; it won't really be quite a full year's wait now!]

Monday, December 05, 2011

Book Review: Christian Apologetics by Douglas R. Groothuis

This is one of the best works on apologetics that I've ever encountered. The author approaches the subject from a philosophical perspective and uses arguments that show how to reason with persons of different religious persuasion whether they believe in a major religion, are atheist/agnostic, or are pluralists (as so many are today). He shows how popular culture has influenced some misconceptions that are frequently encountered as well. He avoids the use of jargon. When he does use a term that might be considered jargon, he explains it very simply and uses analogies/illustrations so that the concept is very understandable. There is also a glossary of some terms. The author's bibliography and footnotes demonstrate his mastery of the subject. The index is great. It is a HUGE book, but it's very readable. Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

An Immigrant Ancestor Found

All branches of my own family have been in the United States (or the colonies that became the United States) since the 18th century (with some here as early as the late 1620s/early 1630s). I enjoy the adventures that I've had helping others with their more recent immigrants. This week one of my colleagues at the library decided to take advantage of the access to free World War II records on during her lunch break. She searched for her great grandfather, but she did not find him. She decided to see what FamilySearch had to offer. She came across an interesting record there that was in the right location, but the first name did not match what she had always been told. However, when she looked at that World War II draft registration, one thing became very clear. It was probably her ancestor. The birth year on the card did not match, but there was an age recorded which matched what her ancestor would have been (rather than the 10 years later that the birth year would have indicated). The contact person was her great grandmother. It was looking more and more like she had a match, but there was one thing that greatly puzzled her. His place of birth was Austria rather than Poland as everyone in the family believed. She came back to my office quite excited and full of questions. Armed with her new name, I quickly searched the passenger lists and found this person on ships for both 1902 and 1910. I also found a known brother's arrival in 1903 with her great grandfather listed as a contact. We also located photos for most of the ships. The passenger arrival records also cleared up the mystery. Her great grandfather was born in Austria; however, his nationality was listed as Polish, and the town in which he'd been living in Poland was given. (Incidentally, she'd had a family tradition of a town, but the spelling was off slightly and might have led her to a different place.) Now, armed with the correct name of the town, she should be able to locate additional records. She also knows that she'll have to check Austrian records. She now knows his real name. By the way, her great grandmother's name was Victoria, so what do you think he was known by in America? Albert, of course!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Book Review: A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett

Ezra Hilton, owner of a Artisans Alley, is found dead. Katie Bonner, widow of Ezra's former 10% partner, becomes executor and majority owner in the business upon his death. She'd had little to do with the business up to that point, but hated her job with an overbearing boss. She quits and decides to run the shop which is about to go under. She also doesn't think the detective is doing all he can to resolve the crime so she sets out to investigate on her own, gathering as much information as she can about the artisans. With Katie's background in marketing, we can begin to see hope for survival of the struggling business as she takes over operations. I found myself liking most of the cast of characters that will likely be repeats (although I must confess that there might be one or two that I wouldn't mind seeing charged with a future crime). I had the feeling that this book is mostly a set-up and introduction for the rest of the series. There's really very little action, and I feel we didn't get to know the detective quite as well as we should, although there were some revelations near the end about him. She did manage to keep me guessing who the perpetrator was throughout the novel although I had already guessed some aspects of the solution. Not a bad start for this series! I look forward to reading more about Katie and seeing how the gallery and her relationships with some of the men progress during the course of the next installment.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Book Review: Windflower by Gabrielle Roy

This is the story of an Eskimo woman living in northern Quebec's Nunavit region, specifically in Fort Chimo along the Koksoak River, who becomes pregnant by an American serviceman. She did not know the soldier's name because it was a difficult name for her. She refused to name the soldier, even though she recognized him, because she realized he would be disciplined for his conduct. The story is also about her son Jimmy's growth and coming of age. This is a beautiful story with rich language that paints a picture of the harsh life in the Arctic regions of Quebec. The attitudes of the people in that area along with the clashes in cultures between the white man and the natives is also depicted. The novel does a good job of showing the role of religion and the clergy in the area. This is a book that deserves a much wider audience.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell

Lawrence Durrell journeyed from Britain to Cyprus in the mid-1950s. He describes his experiences on the island as well as the landscape and culture. He gives an inside look at some of the political turmoil that was taking place at the time. I particularly enjoyed the few passages in the book that mentioned some of the Biblical events that took place on the island. Apparently there is still a tradition on the island that describes how Paul and Barnabas ate olives as they were traveling to a village. In another place it mentions where Barnbas was buried. I cannot say that I really enjoyed the political aspects of the novel. The author mentions in the introductory pages that this is not a political book. It really isn't, but it was impossible to write about this particular period in time without mentioning how the political events of the day were shaping everyday life. There was a strong anti-British element which ultimately resulted in independence from Britain after the days covered in the book.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review: The Moravians in Labrador

This book, written by an unknown person and published in the mid 1830s, details the missionary efforts of the Moravian Church among the Esquimaux (aka Eskimo) people of Labrador. The work details what like was like among the natives and missionaries. Food was sometimes difficult to come by. After the Moravian missionaries had been there a few years, they finally got to the point that a ship arrived from England once a year. The hardships were incredible, but the Moravians did appear to have a great deal of success in evangelizing the Eskimos. There seemed to be quite a bit of repetition in the book, and there was a lot of what I would call "padding" or "fluff" in the text by including conversations, particularly those of a spiritual nature, which probably were not exactly as they are written. I would have preferred a more concisely written historical account. It's difficult to provide a rating to a book that was written in another time and probably for another purpose other than that which I read it. In the end, I chose to rate it by today's standards. While the book contains glimpses into the culture and into the evangelization efforts, there is little here that would compel an individual to read this account. A journal article or book essay containing the essence of the historical and cultural nuggets and written in a style more engaging for late 20th or early 21st century readers would be much more engaging.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is recently-deceased poet Ruth Stone related?

Someone over on LibraryThing posted about poet Ruth Stone's death in one of the discussion threads. As I read her obituary, I noticed that she was born Ruth Perkins. The obituary also listed her father as a printer and part-time drummer named Roger Perkins. Since I'm descended from John Perkins and Judith Gater who immigrated to New England, I thought I'd do a little quick and dirty genealogical research to see if she might be related.  Since the obituary showed she was born in 1915, I decided to start with the 1920 census.

I found Ruth in the Roger M. Perkins household, living at 507 18th Street in Roanoke, Virginia. [Roger M. Perkins household, 1920 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Roanoke Jefferson Ward 2, Roanoke (Independent City), Virginia, ED 23, dwelling 316, family 376, p. 18A; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1912; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011]  Other family members present were her mother Ruth, a brother named Edgar A., and a sister named Elsie J. This census confirmed that her father had been a printer. This dwelling was a rental property and another family lived there as well. (Family 375 of dwelling 316 was the Vona S. and Mable Carmel family.)

Armed with the information that her father Roger was born about 1892, I turned to the 1910 census. I located Roger in his father Edgar A. Perkins' household in Indianapolis, Indiana at 307 Olive Avenue. [Edgar A. Perkins household, 1910 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis, Ward 9, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 169, dwelling 214, family 217, p. 9B; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 368; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011] The name of the street is a bit illegible, so I might discover that it is something else if I took the time to locate a map of Indianapolis from that time period. However, this is quick and dirty work, so I decided to just give it my best guess.  Roger was the oldest child of Edgar A. and Hattie Perkins. (It was recorded as a first marriage for both parents.) Three brothers (Harry, Edgar A., and Rodney), two sisters (Dorothy and Jennie W.), and one servant (Glenn Arend) are also enumerated in the household.

The family was living at 1906 Broadway in Center Township, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana in 1900. [Edgar A. Perkins household, 1900 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 38, dwelling 278, family 300, pp. 13A, 13B; NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 387; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011] By the way, you may be interested to know that Roger probably picked up his printing trade from his father as Edgar's occupation is listed as printer.

It was now time to find Edgar's parents in the 1880 census. I found Edgar living in the Ellsbury Perkins household at 104 English Avenue in Indianapolis. [Ellsbury Perkins household, 1880 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 126, p. 622B; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 296; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011]. Interestingly enough, Ellsbury was also listed as a printer. It appears that Roger was the third generation printer in the family. Ellsbury's wife is Emily. Other children besides Edgar in the household include sisters Olla, Bessie, and Norma and brothers Arthur and Harry.

The family was enumerated twice in the 1870 census, both times in Ward 8 of Indianapolis. This time Elsbury was called Asbury in one and "A." in the other. A nice name discrepancy to clear up! [Asbury Perkins household, 1870 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis Ward 8, Marion Co., Indiana, ED 2, dwelling 25, family 26, p. 480A; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 339; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011] and [A. Perkins household, 1870 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Indianapolis Ward 8, Marion Co., Indiana, dwelling 70, family 70, p. 407A; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 341; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011]. The expected children were present, although Olla is called "Ollie" in these censuses.

Hoping to locate Elsbury's parents, I went back to 1860. I only located his presumed mother in this one (since relationships are not specified on this census) in Rushville, Rush County, Indiana. [Nancy Perkins household, 1860 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, Rushville, Rush Co., Indiana, dwelling 122, family 122, p. 507; NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 294; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011]  "Elsberry" was the oldest child in the household and had already taken up the printing trade. Two sisters are listed, Laura and Mary E. Mary E. was age 9, so I can presume that I might be able to locate Elsbury's father in the 1850 census.

I discovered Elsbury in the Levi Perkins household in Rush County, Indiana in 1850. [Levi Perkins household, 1850 U.S. Federal Census, population schedule, District 97, Rush Co., Indiana, dwelling 471, family 471, p. 406B; NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 170; digital image,, accessed 25 November 2011] Levi, Nancy, Elsbury, and Laura are all present. Levi is listed as a laborer.

Since I had exhausted the censuses where every household member was listed and knew that it would take extensive digging to make progress on my quest to discover whether or not I was related to the recently deceased poet, I decided to take the shortcut that all of us criticize when we see it on "Who Do You Think You Are?" I decided to see if I could go back several generations all at once with an online tree. I used WorldConnect's trees for this project and hit "pay dirt" with the Sheehan Clan tree that I found at I will just give a quick summary of my findings from this point onwards. You may click through to the tree and see the complete information. I am listing the information as it appears on this tree. All locations should be verified to make sure that they exist as stated at that time in history.

It appears that Levi Perkins died about 1852. The tree's author claims that Levi was serving as the Rush County jailor at the time of his death and that his wife Nancy continued in that role for the next 9 years. It is interesting that no occupation was listed for Nancy in the 1860 census, so I'm unable to verify this without checking records in Indiana.

Levi's father was Newton "Ute" Perkins who was born February 1792 in Lincoln Co., N.C.  Newton's father was Augustus Perkins who was born in 1763 in Lincoln Co., N.C. and died 5 September 1834 in Rushville, Rush Co., Indiana. Augustus' father was Robert Biggen Perkins who was born 16 Mar 1734/35 in St. George Parish, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 6 April 1823 in Lincoln Co., N.C. Robert's father was Richard  Perkins who was born 18 Dec 1713 in St. George Parish, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 9 July 1789 in Lincoln Co., N.C. Richard's father was Richard Perkins who was born 9 July 1689 in Mosquito Creek, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 5 August 1772 in Rowan Co., N.C. Richard's father was Richard Perkins who was born 1663 in Mosquito Creek, Baltimore Co., Maryland and died 2 May 1706 in Swan Creek, Baltimore Co., Maryland. Richard's father was the immigrant, Chauncey Perkins, born 1645 in England.

The minute the research started going into the Carolinas, I was fairly certain that this was not going to be a line that went back to John Perkins and Judith Gater of New England.  This, however, was a fun way to spend a couple of hours avoiding the Black Friday madness!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review: Black-Eyed Susan by Jennifer Armstrong

Ten-year-old Susie lives with her family on the Dakota prairie in a sod house. Her mother is very unhappy with life on the frontier and quite obviously misses her family and a more affluent life-style back East. Susie wants to find something to cheer up her mom when she and her dad go to town to purchase another quarter section of land. An encounter with a family moving further west proves to be the prescription for her mother's misery. This is a well-written children's novel that does a good job of describing the hardships faced by the pioneer settlers of the Dakota Territory. The author has done a good job with historical research to make the novel accurate in regards to homesteading and other period details. I do question if the target audience would appreciate this work as much as adults. It probably lacks the action younger readers require to hold interest.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgivings of My Younger Years

Marian Pierre-Louis made a comment on Facebook about expecting about 40 people for Thanksgiving dinner that made me think back to my younger days when we had extended family gatherings at either our house or at my paternal grandparents' home. When the gatherings were at our home, the usual attendees included my family, wives of my brothers once they were married, both sets of grandparents, some of my maternal grandfather's brothers and their families, and even my dad's brother's family. We could always count on one of the neighbors across the street showing up about the time dessert was served as well. When the gathering was at my paternal grandparents' home, the gathering included my paternal grandparents, our family (including my brother's wives once they were married), my dad's brother's family, and many of my grandfather's brothers and sisters and their families. Sometimes some of my grandmother's extended family members would also be present. There might even be a friend or two of my grandparents there who weren't related. At some point around my pre-teen to early teen years, the gatherings changed a bit. The attendees tended to be my parents, my brothers, their wives and children, surviving grandparents, my dad's brother and his wife, and my mom's brother and his wife once they moved back to Mississippi. Although you might say that the addition of aunts and uncles did make it an extended family gathering, it did not resemble the gatherings of the older days when we had trouble finding places for all the foods and desserts that were brought.

My maternal grandfather always had to have his ambrosia at the holidays. Ambrosia, as I remember it, consisted of oranges and coconut flakes, with each serving topped by a maraschino cherry. We always had turkey and ham. Of course, we had southern cornbread dressing. There was some form of sweet potato, either a casserole or candied sweet potatoes. (I preferred the casserole.) Later, we often had a butternut squash casserole instead of or in addition to the sweet potatoes. There would be green beans and/or English peas. There would be a relish tray that had pickles, olives, and things like that. (I usually skipped that one.)  We would have cranberry sauce. It was usually the canned variety. There would often be some sort of sweet salad such as a cranberry salad, "Tops" salad (which had pistachio pudding, cottage cheese, pineapples, and cool whip, I think), or maybe one that had an orange jello base to it.  There might even be another vegetable or savory salad. There would be deviled eggs for those who wanted them. We all looked forward to Mom's homemade rolls at Thanksgiving. For dessert, there would be pecan pies and either pumpkin or sweet potato pies (sometimes both). There would usually be some sort of cake also.

We try to incorporate some of those traditional items in our holiday celebrations while adding a few things that my nieces and nephews will eat nowadays. It's almost impossible to find foods that everyone will eat so we have to offer more variety in many cases. This year we'll be having the turkey, ham, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, green beans, rolls, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie from the traditional meal. We'll be substituting my sister-in-law's fruit salad for the ambrosia. We'll add a hash brown casserole to the mix. I haven't decided whether or not to add some English peas or not yet. It probably depends on how many actually show up and whether some would prefer them to the green beans.

Let me wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are celebrating with family.

Book Review: The Brass Dolphin by Caroline Harvey

Lila Cunningham learns that her father has borrowed money against their home and that now the bank is repossessing it. Her employer and friend owns a home in Malta that they never use so they decide to send Lila and her father there. They arrive at a time just before World War II breaks out. It isn't long until they are taking cover from the bombings. Lila had begun working for a Count who was a historian, but she begins helping a new friend with her hospital in the city after the war erupts. Lila also begins to see a different side to her father. I really enjoyed most of this World War II story which had some of the feeling of a romantic suspense while not being pretty light on the romance and with more of a war theme than the darker suspenseful tones. Ultimately I did not like the manner in which the book was resolved and lowered my rating because of it. (I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: A Light In the Storm by Karen Hesse

Full Title: A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin of Fenwick Island, Delaware
Author: Karen Hesse
Series: Dear America
Publication Information: New York: Scholastic, 1999.

***SPOILER ALERT: This review will contain spoilers.*** Amelia Martin is the 15-year-old daughter of the assistant lighthouse keeper off the coast of Delaware as this diary begins in late 1860 and continues through 1861. She turns 16 in the book She keeps the first watch at the lighthouse.Delaware is a border state in the issue over slavery. Much of the Southern part of the state is aligned with the South, while the north tends to be more aligned with the Union. A group of runaway slaves makes Amelia realize the magnitude of the differences in her parents. Her mother believes the slaves should be sent back to their owners. Her father believes they should be helped to freedom. While Amelia has agreed with her mother in the past, something about her encounter with them makes her realize that her father is correct. It isn't long before South Carolina secedes from the Union--something that Amelia considers completely unacceptable. Other Southern States follow South Carolina's lead gradually. The tension at home begins to mount. Her mother becomes more withdrawn over time and has physical and medical problems. Her mother eventually moves in with Amelia's ailing grandmother. Her father serves divorce papers on her mother. I really enjoyed this look at the tensions in a divided community due to the war. In several places, Amelia referred to what was happening in Tennessee to Union supporters during this time. Since I live a section of Tennessee that had strong Union sympathies, these mentions were interesting. However, there was some unevenness to the writing. I felt that the author used a 20th century solution to the marriage problem. Divorce was not as commonplace in the 19th century as it is in 21st century America, and while it was not unheard of, they were more difficult to obtain. I felt the author made it too easy, even in the strained relations due to ideologies. I also felt that the diary ended rather abruptly and that its conclusion was in an awkward place and that it should have continued until one of the major events in 1862. I also felt that the Epilogue wrapped things up a little too tidily and left little room for the reader's imagination of what the future might have been for those persons mentioned in the diary. It's a good, but not a great, work of fiction.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Google Reader Sharing

I've been using Google Reader now for several years, but the recent changes incorporating sharing with Google+ have left me at a loss as to how I can define my circles so that only those persons who are interested in seeing my shared items will be troubled with them. I read a variety of blogs. Not all of these blogs are genealogy-related. I know that many people will not care to read many of the topics in my feeds, yet I struggle to know which persons really do want to read them. With the old Google Reader, only my close friends who followed me received my posts. Now with the circles feature, everyone in a circle receives something. I've considered various options such as creating a circle of only persons in a circle who express interest in posts, but that might leave some people who really want to see these out. Another is to just send it to everyone in a circle that is defined for the topic (such as genealogy); however, some might consider it SPAM particularly if they've already read the post through their reader. How do I know which genealogists also share other interests and might be interested in being added to a circle of another interest? Another option is to abandon use of sharing altogether. I really think that Google+ really didn't think this change through before implementation. I'm curious as to how others are handling this sharing -- or have you just abandoned sharing?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger

The discovery of the town's judge's body is the impetus that springs former sheriff Cork O'Connor back into action. He is partially Anishinaabe Indian. The frigid northern part of Minnesota is the setting for this mystery that takes place just prior to Christmas. His marriage is in trouble. He claims to want reconciliation even though he pursues an affair with a local waitress named Molly. As the story unfolds, many characters are in danger. More murders are revealed. A native American concept called "Windigo" plays an important role in this novel. I found this to be an interesting read, full of action. While I think there are some elements of the plot that could have been a bit tighter, the action was sufficient to move it forward. The use of the native American concepts reminds me of author Tony Hillerman's use of them. The unique setting of Krueger's novel provides contrast to the deserts of Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jonathan Edwards: Model Father?

As I was processing a gift collection, I ran across a rather interesting book entitled Marriage to a Difficult Man: The "Uncommon Union" of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards written by Elisabeth D. Dodds. It's a title that was already in our collection. The book is described as a "blend of family guidance book, sociological study, psychologically- and devotionally-oriented American historical biography" on its dust jacket. The dust jacket goes on to reveal that his children really loved him. She offers Jonathan and his wife as examples of parents to modern readers as parents who had found the balance between permissiveness and discipline in their child rearing. (The book was written in 1971.) It really sounds like a fascinating read about the man who penned one of the most famous sermons of all time, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Although the book lacks footnotes, there is a bibliography with references sorted by chapter in the back. The content appears to be mostly historical with "modern" application to its readers. This book is going on my "TBR" (to-be-read) list. It probably offers a fascinating glimpse of what life was like living in a clergy family in colonial New England. Since I had a few ancestors that fit that category, I'm hoping to find some background that might be useful in my ancestors' story.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Review: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is an excellent piece of historical fiction about the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. The narrator is an early teenage girl named Matilda whose family operates a coffeehouse. When the fever hits, many persons begin fleeing the town. Readers will empathize with Matilda as she encounters the attitudes toward fever victims and the treatments, may of which were ineffective, that were used. The author does a good job of bringing the historical elements to life. She explained that Philadelphia was the largest city in the United States at the time and brought the death toll to life for readers when she explained how many were expected to die early in the book. I suspect that the book will be enjoyed by some younger readers and not by others, but this book would be a great springboard for discussion in classes of the epidemic, medical treatments, etc.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Are we headed toward a "Paperless Society"?

Years ago when I went to library school, I remember reading an article about the world becoming a "paperless society." I believe the term was coined by F. W. Lancaster in an 1978 book entitled Toward Paperless Information Systems. (There's a bibliography which includes many of Lancaster's writings on the topic on the Wikipedia article for "paperless society.") At the time, most of us in the class could not envision such a thing happening. Of course, now most of us can envision it and fear the day it happens. As I was reading the Chronicle of Higher Education's blog this morning, I was reminded of that article. Marc Prensky has written an article entitled "In the 21st-Century University, Let's Ban Books."  I have to admit that the thought still scares me. I've seen many books that don't format well on electronic devices, particularly those with footnotes. I much prefer footnotes (or end notes) as used in The Chicago Manual of Style rather than the internal references used by the style guides produced by MLA and APA. Those of us in genealogy use footnotes all the time in our writing. OCR scanning does not handle footnotes well. When you get to a footnote, it appears right where it appeared in the text of the book. The reader has to figure out where this is and try to figure out where the footnotes end so that he can resume the sentence he has been reading. I wish publishers producing Kindle and other format e-books would recognize this and convert footnotes to end notes (at least at the chapter level) before publishing the electronic format of the book. It is such a simple process to do with most Word processing programs. Of course, it's less of a problem if the book is delivered as a PDF. There are some books that don't lend themselves well to ePub and MOBI formats because of the nature of their contents. A style guide, such as Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained is one such book. These formats would not preserve the indentations, etc. that are seen in a carefully formatted print publication. One also has to wonder what would happen to books that contain transcriptions of probate and other court cases and such where the case name is bracketed on one side and the content begins on the other. I know that moving print books to storage is in the long range plans of many academic libraries who have embraced the e-book. It's a scary thought, not only from the aspect of losing such a cherished medium, but also from the aspects of job security and the availability of books to those who really cannot afford them. If academic libraries take the lead on this, it won't be long until public libraries follow them down this "slippery slope."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: The Xibalba Murders by Lyn Hamilton

Lara McClintoch is taking a break from the antique business after a recent divorce from her husband. She doesn't want him to be able for him to obtain a larger divorce settlement. When a friend asks her to come to Merida, Mexico, she does so, even though she doesn't know a lot about the nature of what he wants. When she arrives, he cancels their first dinner and then disappears, turning up dead. The Mexican officials confiscate her passport so that she can't leave the country. She doesn't have a lot of faith in the investigator, so she begins an investigation of her own, placing herself in danger. It was a fun read that I couldn't put down. I'm not sure that I ever sorted all the characters fully in my mind though. I'm not sure if that is because of the rapidity of my reading or if that would have been the case had I read it in a slower manner. I do believe that some of the characters were developed more than others. It's not my favorite in the series, but it's worth the read if one is interested in the Mayan culture.

Monday, November 14, 2011

On County Heritage Books

Over the weekend, someone posted to that Alabama Genealogy Network on Facebook about the Heritage Books that were available for each county. The minute I saw the post, I immediately thought back to my own experiences with such books. I waited awhile to see what people would post. To my surprise, no one was cautioning people about accepting the undocumented contributions without verifying the information through their own research. Finally, I could stand it no more and posted a word of caution to those who seemed to think they may have stumbled onto some sort of resource that was going to solve all their brickwalls. I encouraged them to verify the information because there is a lot of erroneous information that is submitted.

Let me share a couple of examples of such problems. I had a brick wall on one family line. I had researched just about every person within several counties with the same surname in an attempt to resolve that brick wall. I had a promising lead in a county that was a little south of where my family lived, but then there were some things that cropped up as I was researching the family to the south that made me realize that I had some serious negative evidence that this family was not related to mine. I stumbled across a Heritage Book from the county and found a submission that tied that family to mine. I contacted the researcher for her evidence that she had connecting the two families. She sent me what she had, and I realized she had made a jump in her research without fully studying all the evidence. I explained my concerns to the other researcher. DNA has since proven that we could not be related in the manner in which she stated because the two lines have different markers. However, that particular erroneous connection is there in the Heritage Book, and I'm sure there will be others who take it to be the truth simply because it is in print, and they don't take the time to verify the information.

In another case, the wrong first name is attributed to my great great grandmother. I had tons of information stating that her first name was Nancy. The person who submitted the article said that her name was Nora. I have never seen one record of the time that shows her name as Nora. (Most of the records simply use an N. plus her middle name or her middle name alone; however, I do have several that list her first name as Nancy.) I attempted to contact the person at an e-mail address I found online, but I never received a response. To make matters even worse, someone (either her or another person who found the article in the heritage book) purchased a second grave marker to accompany the original marker which listed her only as "& wife." Now we have a marker that permanently identifies her by the wrong first name because someone did not look at all the evidence of what her name was. The person who submitted the article is a very distant cousin who was probably trying to remember some of the childhood stories of the family and remembered the name wrong or confused the name with another person. Most of the remainder of the article did seem to rely mostly on family tradition, so I'm fairly certain she didn't really research much and just wanted to have our ancestor honored. It would have been nice if this person had done an exhaustive search of resources before publishing erroneous information.

I have a third family included in another heritage book. The line is so garbled in the narrative that one is better off completely ignoring that contribution. Even a simple census search for any year will reveal some of the errors in that essay. There are gaps in generations as well in that submission.

Too often these sorts of mistakes are included in the heritage books by someone who means well but really does not perform the reasonable exhaustive search, misinterprets evidence, etc. Do I completely ignore the books? No. I simply use them for clues and hints as I would any secondary source. I have also found that the historical information on various communities in the county is often of better quality than the individual family essays. One still needs to verify that type of information to the best of his ability.

I don't really get excited when I stumble across a heritage book. I recognize it for what it is. I do get excited when I research in original records or when I'm able to build a case using a combination of records. It's a shame that the motivation behind these was to "sell books" rather than to produce well-documented family histories. Maybe one of these days someone will insist that submissions meet genealogical standards. Until then, I'll probably continue to do most of my research before looking at the heritage books.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review: Eggs Benedict Arnold by Laura Childs

One of the co-owners of the funeral home turns up dead on his own embalming table. He's someone everyone in the town loves, so no one can quite figure out who would have a motive to murder him. As Suzanne and Sheriff Doogie investigate, they turn up a wide range of possibilities and motives. I enjoyed this second installment in the Cackleberry Club series even more than the first. The girls' reaction when visiting an abandoned cemetery is one that many genealogists such as myself often have. There are lots of red herrings. This is one that will keep many readers guessing to the very end, even if they read a lot of mysteries.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

It's nearing Christmas, and in order to keep the family in house and home, the Colonel has agreed to allow a movie crew to shoot on location at Buckshaw. The star of the show is one of the most famed actresses of the time. It's about 40% of the way into the book before we get to the corpse. Needless to say, 11-year-old Flavia will get involved in the investigation. This is the first in the series where Flavia has spent the majority of the time at Buckshaw. I enjoyed this change. Flavia is always a delight! I enjoyed all the literary references in this installment. While the book is set during the Christmas season, it's a book that can be enjoyed year-round. I would encourage reading the earlier books before reading this one because there are some things that will be appreciated only by those who have followed the series. This review is based on an advance uncorrected proof provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program with the expectation that a review would be written. 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain

Author: Nicholas Carr
Publication Information: New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.

Nicholas Carr, like many others, noted that attention spans are on the decrease. He notes changes in the print media brought about by the age of the Internet. Many newspapers have gone under; others have declared bankruptcy. Formats have changed for both newspapers and magazines to make the experience more Web-like. He acknowledges that sometimes it is even difficult to remain focused on a blog post which is more than a few paragraphs long. He notes the presence of e-readers, but at the time he wrote the book, they had not gained the full audience they have now so he didn't feel that they were influencing reading that differently. There is much to think about in this book because Carr also analyzes the experiences of previous generations and the changes they experienced. One of the most thought-provoking sections is one which shares the results of research on multitasking. I think this title would create great discussion among faculty members. I'm not sure that I agree with all conclusions he makes. I find that I am able to stay concentrated and focused while readings books and e-books on my Kindle reader. I am sometimes overwhelmed by information coming to me by way of the Internet through Facebook or my RSS reader for blogs, newspapers, etc. I find that I'm able to often read a headline and pass up an item. I do have trouble staying focused on longer blog posts because I am usually more pressed for time when I'm reading these online items. I realize the need to be offline, so I've prioritized reading and find other ways to keep myself from staring at a screen (both computer and television). I think that the author alludes to the Internet's ability to be addictive, but he probably doesn't address it forcefully enough. This is an important book that is certain to be discussed for years to come.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Book Review: K.C.: A History of Kansas City, Missouri

Authors: A. Theodore Brown and Lyle W. Dorsett
Publication Information: Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Pub. Co., 1978.

This is a rather dry and tedious read. It focuses on the political history of the city and very little on its settlement, progress, and other things that would have made it a more engaging read. It is also flawed by its lack of footnotes/endnotes. The authors do have a list of sources used for each chapter at the end of the book, but the failure to tie these references to specific points is a major failure.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Do You Want to Visit 19th Century Maine?

I heartily recommend reading Sarah Orne Jewett's classic work, The Country of Pointed Firs. I recently read this book which is available as a free download for most e-readers, including my Kindle. I loved the author's descriptions of the landscape and vegetation of the area of coastal Maine which she called "Dunnet Landing" in the book. It features descriptions of change by many of the residents of the area as they tell their story to a vacationer who is staying in the schoolhouse during the summer months.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Book Review: A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

Young Flavia befriends a gypsy whose tent burned down. It's not long until the gypsy is injured by an intruder to her caravan. She would have died had Flavia not arrived unexpectedly. Then a local man turns up dead. Flavia finds herself suddenly interested in a religious sect in the area. She puzzles through many clues as well as plenty of red herrings to find the truth. Of course, the Inspector on the case is a bit upset that she keeps contaminating his crime scenes. Flavia's character continues to delight in this installment of the series.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Drives

As I was at church this morning, I heard a comment which made me remember the Sunday afternoon drives that used to be quite traditional for persons in the South. Usually around 4:00 in the afternoon, we'd load up the car and take a drive out into the country and down some back roads. I'm not really sure what the purpose of the drive was except to get out of the house and see a little of the county. We would always go back and eat leftovers or a sandwich before heading to church for the evening. It was a simpler time. The late afternoon ball game was probably on the television network we didn't get. This gave us a way to get out of the house and do something together as a family.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Genealogy Conference in Sevier County

The SCPLS 2011 Genealogy Conference focuses on the 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the Civil War. The conference dates are Thursday, November 3 – Saturday, November 5. Conference location is at the Sevier County Public Library System (SCPLS) King Family Library, 408 High Street, Sevierville, TN.

A pre-conference session features “Rediscovering Sevierville Walking Tour.” A tour of the historical sites and buildings in downtown Sevierville hosted by Carroll McMahan starts at 12:00 P.M. at the SCPLS King Family Library. The tour ends with refreshments at the library followed by a Local Author Reception featuring Fred McMahan (Auto Parts, Pickin’ and Politickin’: The Three Lives of Fred McMahan) and a review of the book, Images of America: Gatlinburg with Kenton Temple and Karen McDonald, Anna Porter Public Library.

A special part of the pre-conference will be the unveiling of the “Laura C. Cooper and David A. Cooper Memorial Collection” of genealogical materials. The collection represents a wealth of work covering over 15 years of research and data collection of the Cooper, Cowan, Buchannan, Thomas, Silver, Rice, Quarles, Peay, Cooper, Pearson, Lewis, Householder, and many more surnames. The collection will be on display during the conference and available for use after the conference.

Conference sessions for Friday, November 4 start at 9:00 A.M. include: 

  • Duay O’Neill - Talk on the Civil War
  • Dr. Stanley A. Mize – Mize Family in the Civil War
  • Don Williams – The White Caps & the Blue Bills
  • Hannah Clevenger & Julie Ferguson – The Fields Ran Red: Battle Field Medicine in the Civil War

Finishing the day from 6:00 – 8:00 P.M. will be the “StoryTellers’ Dinner & Down-Home Silent Auction.” The auction of local handmade items and book collections will start at 5:30 P.M.   The story telling dinner featuring Conny Ottway, Music & Songs of the Civil War, begins at 6:00 p.m.
Conference sessions for Saturday, November 5 starting at 9:00 A.M. include:

  • Carol Roberts - Tennessee State Library & Archives: Conservation Basics for Family Collections
  • Bill Walker – Civil War Surgical Experience 
  • Kathryn Rutherford – Identification and Care of Photographic Collections
  • Dr. Gail Palmer – Cemeteries of the Smokies  
  • Donna Stinnett – Plants and Herbs Used During the Civil War

The SCPLS Foundation is sponsoring the Sevier County Public Library System History Center 2011 Genealogy Conference. The registration fee for the three-day conference, including evening meal on November 4, will be $75.00 or $50.00 for the three-day conference and $25.00 for the StoryTellers’ Dinner & Down-Home Silent Auction.

The Sevier County History Center is located on the third floor of the King Family Library at 408 High Street in Sevierville. Brochures and registration forms for the conference are available at the King Family Library, the Seymour Branch Library @ 137 w. Macon Lane in Seymour, and the Kodak Branch Library at 319 West Dumplin Valley Road in Kodak. For more information regarding the Sevier County History Center Genealogy Conference, please contact Tim Fisher or Theresa Williams at (865)453-3532 or

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Main Street Public Library by Wayne A. Wiegand

Wiegand provides histories of four upper midwestern libraries and then devotes a chapter to analyzing the catalogs of these libraries up to about 1970. The libraries studied are The Bryant Library in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, The Sage Library of Osage, Iowa, The Charles H. Moore Library of Lexington, Michigan, and the Rhinelander Public Library in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The study is interesting as it shows the development of these small town libraries through the ages. Today's libraries scorn censorship, but it was not a problem for most of these libraries in their early days. They scorned some of the dime novels of the day. Book selection was usually made by committee in the early days and later became a responsibility of the librarian. One thing that really surprised me were the late hours many of the libraries kept. Libraries often did not open until mid-afternoon and were open until as late as 10 p.m., closing during the supper hour. The bibliography is fairly extensive, providing an excellent starting point for those interested in further research. Wiegand has done a good job researching the literary history of these communities. My only criticism is that the text becomes mired down with details that make for tedious reading in places. This book, however, is intended for a more scholarly audience, and persons interested in these communities as well as persons interested in literary or library history will find it fascinating. This review is based on a advanced readers galley received through NetGalley for review. 4 stars.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading by Tony Reinke

Have you ever read a book that wasn't quite what you expected, but which was quite good nonetheless? This is such a book. I expected that the author would employ a reader's advisory tone in his writing; however, he approached the subject from the perspective of learning to love books and literature. He demonstrated the value of reading both Christian and non-Christian books to one's spiritual growth. He also offered tips on how parents could inspire children to love books and to pastors on how to get church members appreciate and read books. There are many quotes from the Bible and from other writers throughout the book on the value of reading. He encourages readers to create marginalia, but only in books which are their own. Even though this book was not what I expected, I found it to be extremely valuable. I received an advanced electronic galley from the publisher through NetGalley for review, but I intend to purchase my own print copy of the book. I found myself highlighting many passages as I read through the galley on my Kindle which will be valuable to me as a librarian who enjoys promoting reading and literature. 4 stars.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: Shaking the Family Tree

Jackson, Buzzy. Shaking the Family Tree: Blue Bloods, Black Sheep, and Other Obsessions of an Accidental Genealogist. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Buzzy Jackson, who earned a Ph.D. in history, shares her ventures into the world of family history. She begins with her first local genealogical society meetings, has her own mtDNA and her father's Y-DNA tested, goes on a genealogical cruise, encounters her Alabama relatives, and visits the Family History Library in the course of the book. While I enjoyed the book, I didn't love it. It was written in a slightly more contemporary conversational tone than many books of this nature. It was interesting to see her impressions of some of the most prominent genealogists in the field. Some of these descriptions had me laughing. Although she emphasized the importance of documents, I sometimes had the same feeling that I have watching episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" on television, namely that too much was jumped. I realize that her intention was not to provide a detailed account of tracing her line, but I would have preferred an approach that resembles the methodology taught by the leading genealogists. I purchased this book after hearing the author speak at the National Genealogical Society's conference in May 2011. Because I enjoyed her keynote address so much, I expected to like the book more than I did. There are portions that should be read by those new to genealogical research. They will identify with someone who was going through what they are encountering as they begin their family history research. Experienced researchers have little to gain by reading this, except for an occasional laugh or two as they recognize their genealogical colleagues and picture them as the author did. (3 stars)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Need Chainsaw

Anyone have a chainsaw? Free wood available. My loss due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.

The Sandburg Connection by Mark De Castrique

Sam Blackburn and his partner Nakayla Robertson are investigating an insurance claim case. When the person being investigated dies while exerting herself more than she should have with her injury, it doesn't take long for Sam, who had been tailing her, to realize that there is something not quite right with the circumstances surrounding her death. Much of the book is set in the Asheville, North Carolina area. Part of it is set at the Carl Sandburg home south of the city which is part of the National Park Service. UNC-Asheville, Warren Wilson College, and downtown Asheville play parts in the setting as well. I enjoyed the mystery which was not as predictable as some. I enjoyed the setting tremendously. This is the first of the mysteries featuring Sam and Nakayla that I have read, but I now want to go back and read earlier installments. Persons who enjoy literature, Civil War history, or just the Asheville, North Carolina setting will likely enjoy this mystery. This review is based on an advanced e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Saint's Gate by Carla Neggers

Agent Emma Sharpe has been called back to the convent where she was once a novice by Sister Joan to comment on a painting. Emma's family had been involved in art restoration for years and now Emma investigates art crimes for the FBI. Sister Joan goes to the tower where the painting is located, surprising a thief. When Sister Joan doesn't return as expected, Emma sets off to find her. She encounters a novice named Cecelia along the way. She finds Sister Joan dead, it becomes a matter for local law enforcement, but naturally, she gets involved. Another FBI agent, Colin Donovan is in the area. Her boss Matt Yankowski comes up from Boston. Colin's friend Father Finian Bracken also plays an important role. All the crimes seem to be related to a period shortly after Sister Linden made the convent known for its art. I found this an enjoyable read. I liked the Maine setting. I enjoyed the characters. The plot was different from a lot of mysteries. While there is a touch of romance, I wouldn't necessarily classify this as a romantic suspense because the lead female character is law enforcement official instead of a governess, secretary, or other household servant. This review is based on an electronic galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review.

The Legacy by Katherine Webb

After inheriting Storton Manor from their grandmother, sisters Erica and Beth Calcott go back to a place that has haunted them since the day of the disappearance of a friend years ago. In poking through some things, she finds a photo of her great grandmother Caroline with a baby -- one which surely must have been born before Caroline's known marriage.

In a parallel story covering the early part of the 20th century, we learn that Caroline, a woman from New York, married an Oklahoma rancher, and traveled west to meet him and live. We learn of the trials and tragedies of the short time she spent out west before she left the area and what prompted her to hide that part of her life from her descendants.

I really enjoyed the Oklahoma portion of the novel far more than the contemporary portion and would have liked to have seen it be the star of its own novel. The contemporary sections were not as engaging, and the manner in which they were presented sometimes made it hard to determine if it was 20 years ago or present-day since the characters involved were the same. It is also clear that there were repercussions of Caroline's past in the manner in which she treated those around her, including her own daughter. As a genealogist, I was also disappointed that Erica, as she began her search, did not try to research American records to determine if there had been a previous marriage and to see where this might have taken her. There were certainly enough clues interspersed throughout the narrative that would have led me to several sources which would likely have told more of Caroline's story for her descendants. I certainly appreciated Erica's consulting with a relative who had done some family history research, but it was clear that the author did not seem to understand genealogical problem solving.

Recommended for persons who can appreciate the historical aspects of the story without being too disappointed in the disjointed nature of the contemporary story. This review is based on an Advance Readers Copy of the book offered by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. 3 stars.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

What better way is there for literary friends to celebrate than to tour the home of an author? We visited the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, NC (south of Asheville and Hendersonville).

We had to climb a quite steel 3/10 of a mile trail to get to the home. It was pouring down rain. We are thankful for umbrellas. About halfway up, we got our first glimpse of the home.

This is a view from the front porch of Connemara.

One of the many shelves of books in the house. There are over 12,000 books in the house (although 4 bookcases in one room had been removed for dusting). We learned that Carl Sandburg liked all sorts of books except for one kind -- mysteries. How sad! That's my favorite genre. We made a comment that we were certain that we had seen some in his legacy library on LibraryThing. The guide told us they belonged to his daughter. There were some in the house.

This table had rather interesting provenance. Apparently the wood came from the Lincoln White House.

Connemara. The home was named by its previous owner, a Charleston businessman who summered in Flat Rock. He named it Connemara because it reminded him of the hills of Ireland.

The lake. It's very near the parking area.

This is a splendid mountain view from one of the windows in the upper floor of Connemara.

Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville

Enjoyed lunch today at the Tupelo Honey Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina.

This was their wonderful Charleston Chicken Sandwich that comes with a cranberry mayonnaise on it!

Of course, we had to take a photo of the official jar of Tupelo honey. One person in our party ordered the rosemary peach lemonade. She said it was very good.

They brought biscuits to everyone (along with honey and some preserves).

Three LibraryThing friends meet up at the Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

Ivy Malone is an elderly woman whose best friend dies. Her best friend rents an apartment to a young woman going by the name of Kendra. When Kendra disappears and a body is found matching her description, Ivy comes forward to identify the body. The woman had been using the identity of someone deceased. Ivy is not satisfied that the police are being thorough and sets out to investigate. There were parts of this story I enjoyed. The opening chapter has Ivy and her best friend in a cemetery and appalled by the vandalism that had taken place there. Having seen cemeteries in this condition, I can completely identify with the outrage. Ivy, however, has some neighbors who are obsessed with genealogy. Unfortunately the author seems to be making fun of their avocation. Genealogical research is not pictured in a favorable light, and the author's unfamiliarity with professional genealogical standards is quite apparent. This is a minor plot line, but it marred my enjoyment of the book. There is a problem with believability. I really cannot picture an elderly woman such as Ivy crouching all night in a cemetery behind tombstones hiding out or being willing to do so. There are also other things that just do not seem that plausible. Ivy is a likable sleuth. This is a work of Christian fiction, and at times I felt that the author was being evangelistic rather than allowing testimonies to take a natural course. All this said, Ivy is likeable, as is one of the detectives, and I would probably read the second book if it is offered as a free Kindle download as this first one was. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

An excellent book that shows the culture clash between the British colonists and the native Hindus and Muslims of India. The first section of the book is largely prefatory and introduces us to the cast of characters. The second portion of the book is the central section of the book, dealing with Miss Quested's experiences in the Malabar caves. The third section, which is the briefest portion of the book, is somewhat like an extended afterward. I enjoyed reading about the cultural differences, and the tension that was created because of the British view of themselves as being superior to the Indian natives. We also get to see the Indian system of government and justice at work in the novel. I loved this novel for the sense of place it created, but I can certainly understand why the British found it offensive at the time of publication. It reminds one of some of the other literary works that served to expose needed reforms. 4 stars.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on Borders Liquidation

I remember the excitement when Cincinnati (where I was then living) got its first Borders store. It was on the cutting edge then in combining music and books at one location. While I didn't give up trips to other bookstores or to the library, I did find myself going to the store nearest my home quite a bit.

When I moved to East Tennessee, I discovered that I liked the Borders stores in Knoxville better than the Barnes & Noble and BooksAMillion stores in the city. (The BooksAMillion in Sevierville is much better than the Knoxville store.) The Borders store also did things for the education community that were not replicated by the other stores -- such as an Educators Appreciation Day. Now, if the news reports are to be believed, liquidation of all Borders stores will begin as early as Friday. That's just 4 days away. I'm losing a familiar friend. I'm not very happy that it is my favorite of the area "new" bookstores that is closing. [I do purchase more books at McKays (our wonderful used book dealer).]

What does this mean? I've already begun to use the library more often. I also opted for a Kindle so gets most of my e-book business (unless something is DRM-free and can be converted). I will continue to purchase books at McKays, especially fiction books that I am not going to keep forever. However, it means that Barnes & Noble in Knoxville and BooksAMillion in Sevierville will now be vying for the dollars I spent at Borders. How will they win the battle for my dollars? They'll need to have the types of books that I'm seeking in stock! I often purchase local history books at an area bookstore, especially things by small presses or that are privately printed. If they can come up with some unique ones that I just have to own, they'll get my business. As far as bricks and mortar stores, the East Tennessee Historical Society's store probably does a better job here. Stock the mysteries on my wish list. I tend not to browse as much as I once did because my wish list of books to read is massive. Stock interesting social histories that bring to life the world of my ancestors. Neither of them do this very well. I usually do better at the used bookstore or for this type of book. Offer interesting cookbooks on the discount table rather than the canned ones that are always there. I don't want to pay $35 for a cookbook. I'll wait until it shows up at the used bookstore or until I find a deal on Keep some piano music books in stock. Borders definitely had the best selection of these when I was in the mood for a keyboard collection of some sort. I usually prefer stuff like Broadway hits, jazz, 70s music, TV tunes, etc. for the occasions when the music-buying urge hits. The bookstore that caters to my music mood will get that business because I want to look at the books before purchasing them. I generally won't be ordering these from Offer better discounts. They tend to only offer discounts on current bestsellers. If a discount is offered, it is only 10% (which basically, in Tennessee, means that they are paying your sales tax.) Why should I pay full price in the bookstore when I can order it online and have it delivered to my home for less? One thing against both of them is that they both charge for their "rewards" or "perks" cards. One thing that both already do right is that they both have coffee shops. I enjoy drinking a hot or iced coffee beverage while shopping.

When I look at my list of demands and my book habits, it's really a wonder that any "new" bookstore can stay in business. I guess I should be thankful I still have some. When Waldenbooks folds with its parent Borders, there will be many communities without bookstores.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott’s short book provides a glimpse into the life of a Civil War hospital in Washington, DC from the viewpoint of nurse Periwinkle (Alcott herself) who came from the Boston area. It shows a contrast between the way various hospitals were run. I loved her descriptions of the towns as she was traveling through them in the early chapters of the book. Very descriptive; good writing. 4 stars.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick

Recently divorced, Evelyn visits New Bern, Connecticut and decides to leave Texas and open a quilt shop in the small town. This book is about quilts, friendship, cancer, faith, and love. I loved the characters and the setting. Although published by a mainstream publisher, it is obvious to me that the author of this book is a Christian. Many of her characters either share their faith when the circumstance arises or they have "old-fashioned values." It also makes me want to grab some fabric scraps and start stitching them together. My only complaint is that the author seems to champion machine quilting because she mentions needing machines at various times. While I'm sure machine quilting is much faster, some of the best quilts are those which were done entirely by hand. I will look forward to my future visits with Evelyn, Abigail, Liza, Margot, Charlie, Garrett, Franklin, and all the others in New Bern in future installments of the series. 4 stars.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Cross-Country Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini

In this third installment of the Elm Creek Quilts novel, the focus is less on the staff of the quilting retreat and more on the campers. We are introduced to Sylvia's friend Grace, a renowned quilt artist who finds herself out of ideas for new projects because of a condition she is battling. We are also introduced to Internet friends Megan and Donna. Megan has won this trip because of a quilt contest and convinces Donna to join her. Megan as a single mother is dealing with a negligent father and the problems her son is having because of no male role model. Donna is struggling with her college daughter's sudden behavioral change due to a relationship in which she is involved. Then there is Julia, an actress who needs to learn to quilt for a role she will be portraying. Returning once again is Vinnie, a lady who is determined to find a match for her grandson who has just ended a long-time relationship. Before leaving the camp, they agree to create a challenge quilt but can only work on their piece when they have resolved or made efforts to resolve the problem. The book alternates between the women showing the progress they are making during the year and future meet-ups. This book is all about friendship and how friends can get you through the toughest of times. The characters are well-developed and quite likeable. I absolutely loved this installment in the series and am looking forward to the next installment. 4 stars.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Churches of the Smokies by Charles W. Maynard

This small booklet describes churches which were in existence when the Great Smoky Mountain National Park began whose structures remain today. While the author does mention the total number of churches which were on the North Carolina side when the lands were purchased from settlers, the author did not actually research the number on the Tennessee side, making simply an estimate. I would have liked to have seen a listing of all the churches that had been on the park lands, even if the ones no longer there were not treated further. I found the coverage of the churches to be uneven. Having read church minutes from the earlier periods, I know that the author could have found many more stories that would have been interesting to readers and expanded the book if he had done further research. It seems to be a book that was primarily written for the tourist audience, and unfortunately about all one gets is the information that would be presented to tourists by a guide. The information contained is very readable, but I would have preferred to have known a little more about the churches and their members. 3 stars.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Land of the Smokies by Tim Hollis

This is a history of tourism in the Great Smoky Mountains area, primarily in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville areas in Tennessee and Cherokee area in North Carolina. However, the author did include comments on places in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina in the Boone and Blowing Rock areas and a chapter on attractions in the Chattanooga area. It was a fun trip down memory lane. While I'm too young to remember what it was like before the mid-1960s, we had ViewMaster slides, postcards, and other memorabilia around my house depicting those areas then so much of it was not foreign to me. It is interesting to see how changes have been made over the years and also, since I live in the area, to recognize changes from the time the book was published until now. While no book can ever be comprehensive in its treatment of the area's tourist attractions, this one does a good job of making it interesting. There are lots of vintage photographs and advertisements included throughout. My one criticism is that the author often left things that could have probably been tracked down better ambiguous. I suspect he was dealing with publication deadlines, but it left me with a feeling that there were still things that needed to have been researched before the book went to print. In spite of that flaw, it is still a great trip down Memory Lane for persons familiar with the Smokies. 3.5 stars.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Jakob Kuisl is the hangman of Schongau in 17th century Bavaria. His daughter Magdalena is attracted to Simon, the son of the local doctor, even though such a relationship is forbidden in the culture. When orphans are found dead bearing a mark that is widely thought to be a sign of a witch, the local midwife is imprisoned. Jakob and other are convinced that she is not a witch, although it would be much easier if she were to just confess to the crime. It is up to Jakob, Simon, and Magdalena to find the truth behind the murders before Jakob has to kill the woman who brought his children into the world. I really enjoyed this tale based on the author's own family history. He, of course, has taken liberties with the story and plot, but it has brought to light the witch scares in Germany that preceded the one in Salem here in the United States. A great piece of historical fiction! 4 stars.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Taste of Romania by Nicolae Klepper

This is not a terrible cookbook. It is just one that failed to inspire me as others do. It was interesting to see the kinds of food that Romanians eat, to learn a little about the history of the country, to read a folktale or two, to read a couple of poems that describe the country, etc. Many of the dishes seem to be somewhat similar to goulashes. Romania wasn't a country until the latter half of the 19th century. This relatively new country's cuisine has, therefore, been influenced by the cuisines of many nearby countries as well as France. There is an extensive bibliography in the book, and the indexes appear comprehensive. The predominant cheese used throughout the book is caşcaval. In the Kindle version of the book, there is often a footnote indicated by one or more asterisks. Unfortunately it is very difficult to determine which asterisk goes to which page because they begin at about 97% of the way through the book on the Kindle edition with each footnote being on a separate page. I was able to determine that the one for this type of cheese was usually a footnote indicating other cheeses that could be used for Americans unable to locate this cheese. One thing I noted about Romanian cuisine is the extensive use of sour cream in just about everything. I've decided that I can just add some sour cream to a dish and call it "Romanian." It's an interesting book, but it's not one that I'll be using often. 3 stars.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Book Review: From the Jewish Heartland

Steinberg, Ellen F. and Prost, Jack H. From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2011.

Authors Ellen F. Steinberg and Jack H. Prost have done a marvelous job combining social history with cookbooks and recipes to create an outstanding book on Jewish foodways in the Midwestern United States over the last two centuries. The authors have examined extensive published and unpublished sources, and their research is evident. As a genealogist, my favorite portions of the book were those which talked about Jewish culture and shared recipes from eras long ago, especially when the sources of such recipes were handwritten cookbooks or other manuscripts. I loved that they had researched in newspapers and manuscript collections to find the materials to adequately document their research. They did not overlook the many resources which can be found on the Internet. Carefully chosen photographs and facsimiles illustrate the text. This book will be treasured by persons interested in Jewish history, those interested in foodways of various ethnic groups, and by genealogists and other historians. This review is based on an advance reader's e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation that a review would be written.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

It's My Blog's 7th Anniversary

Thanks to Thomas for letting me know it was today! I'd almost forgotten that I started this on the 8th of June. I did, however, remember it was in the month of June. I actually created my first post in a blogging workshop at the library conference I'll be attending next week.

I haven't been keeping on top of blogging as much as I should lately. It's what you call having too many irons in the fire. You see, the library conference I'll be attending next week is being held in Ohio. I actually have Ohio ancestry. I've done most of the Ohio research for my Amish line, but I really need to get some additional records on some of my New England lines that made their way to Ohio. I won't have a lot of spare time on either side of the conference -- part of a day on the front end and one full day and two partial ones on the tail end -- to do research so I've been busy making lists of what is held by 3 repositories so that I can compare their holdings, get the things unique to a repository while at it, and prioritize the items I need based on research goals. If I have a little extra time after meeting my goals, I will explore other resources. I haven't had an opportunity to work on these lines in quite some time, so I'm really looking forward to getting to work on my own research for a change.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Skyward by Mary Alice Monroe

Harris Henderson owns and operates the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center in Awendaw, South Carolina. His wife abandoned him and his daughter, but now he finds that he is unable to manage his daughter's juvenile diabetes without help. He advertises for a nanny who preferably has some medical knowledge. Ella Majors responds to the ad. She had been a pediatric nurse in Vermont before she had seen one child too many die. Ella develops a love for the child, the birds, and even for the father. The rehab extends not only to the birds but also to some of those working there. This book has lots of well-developed characters. I love the gullah man "Lijah" who brings in an injured eagle and stays around to help until the eagle is able to thrive on its own. I also love the change brought in some of the characters. The birds are the focus of the story. There are parallels between their rehabilitation and what is taking place in the lives of some of the characters. The story's pace is slow at times, but never so much that I wanted to give it up. The story also creates an awareness for juvenile diabetes. This is based on an e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley with the expectation that a review would be written.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pearl of China by Anchee Min

Author Anchee Min has fictionalized author Pearl Buck's life. She tells it through the life of Willow, who is a composite of several persons Pearl knew in China over the years. I enjoyed the story, but I knew that it differed from accounts of Pearl's life that I had read years ago. Pearl was the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary. In the story, Willow is the daughter of one of Pearl's father's first converts who eventually becomes a leader in the church although his initial motive for joining was purely selfish. The book covers a wide range of time, including the period after Pearl left China during the Revolution and never returned. The biggest problem with the book is the liberties that the author took with the story. That is always a danger when fictionalizing the life of a real person. Perhaps the author would have been wise to stick with the facts and make that narrative readable rather than creating a composite individual who would have know Pearl throughout her time in China. This book was received as a complimentary copy through GoodRead's First Reads Program with encouragement to write a review.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Norway has its first serial killer who leaves behind a snowman as his signature. Harry Hole is the only detective with experience tracking serial killers. He sets out to find the person responsible for the deaths in what appears at first to be a missing persons case. It's a mystery filled with suspense -- much of it a little too nightmarish for my personal taste. Although I understand why the author used it, I don't enjoy reading things that involve sex crimes. While this one doesn't go all that far in that direction, it did so to an extent beyond my comfort level. It's a well-plotted mystery, full of action that builds the suspense. There are some formatting issues with the Kindle version that make it a little awkward to read in places. It's not on every page but there are awkward line breaks and breaks in the middle of words. This review is based on an advance reader's e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley, and it is hoped that the formatting issues will be resolved in the final version. 3.5 stars.

This book is scheduled for release today, May 10, 2011.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Digital Disciple by Adam Thomas

I expected to like this book much more than I did. The author is an Episcopalian priest. He identifies himself as a member of the Millennial generation, and unfortunately the writing is so geared toward the Millennial generation or to those younger that it was difficult to follow his thoughts. Even though I am quite familiar with Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media, I could not identify with metaphors he used from World of Warcraft and other computer games as I had never played them. The copy that I read was an advance Kindle-version e-galley provided through NetGalley. There were serious problems with the formatting that marred my reading enjoyment. It appears that they used OCR to convert the book. Drop caps were letters that were a line above the second letter of the word in opening chapters. Footnotes appeared exactly following the word where they appeared at the bottom of the page. This means that every time I got to footnotes that I had to skip one or more of them and locate the line where the rest of the sentence continued. Sometimes it was difficult to tell that you were beginning the text of the footnote or to identify where a footnote ended and the top of the next page began. I sincerely hope that the publisher will convert the text to utilize endnotes (either at the end of the book or at the end of the chapter) in the final Kindle version. I've always been a fan of footnotes in print publications, but after reading this book, I will admit that they don't work in the MOBI format. 2 stars.