Book and Movie Club: Dances with Luigi

Here’s another book review. If you have a book or movie that relates to your family history and you’d like to share it, please send it to  

I have just finished reading Dances with Luigi, by Paul Paolicelli, St. Martin’s Press, New York.  This is about a grandson’s quest to understand Italy, Italians and especially his ancestors.  I don’t have Italian ancestors, but I believe that for someone with Italian ancestors it would be very helpful.  Besides, it was an interesting read.

Ann Meisburger

Thanks for sharing this Ann!

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Curl Up with a Genealogical Mystery, by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Recently, I’ve been frustrated by what seems to be an emerging trend–non-genealogists getting their own familLineages and Lies, by Jimmy Foxy histories published as mainstream books in spite of mediocre research.  The most recent I’ve come across presents the discovery of a census record from 1880 as a major find.  This “revelation” is given to the author by an archives since she was unable to find it because the entry was indexed under an unexpected spelling.  I was able to locate the same record on in about 45 seconds, and if I were to give you the names, you could do the same.

I know not to judge a book by its cover and I suppose I should judge it more by its content than the research behind it, but as both a genealogist and writer, I can’t help but consider both aspects.  I’d like to see well-researched books such as Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy & Its Aftermath (by John Philip Colletta) and Isle of Canes (by Elizabeth Shown Mills) get a fraction of the attention that some of these other books receive.  Where are all the genealogically-based best-sellers? Continue reading

Book and Movie Club: The Lives of Women on the Frontier

I highly recommend Pioneer Women: The Lives of Women on the Frontier. The book includes excerpts from diaries, oral histories and journals and gives a very different view of the lives of those who journeyed west. The real joy of the book is all the wonderful photos on every single page. The book was written by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith and published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
Janell Gregson

Book and Movie Club: Books on Galveston Hurricane, Women’s Rights, and Abigail Adams

Thank you for all the interesting book reviews. I have a couple of recommendations to add. When I was a child growing up in Texas my family still talked about the great hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900. Much to my delight Eric Larson wrote Isaac’s Storm in 1999, and for anyone doing genealogy in the Texas region it is a must read!

Also, for anyone interested in the history of women’s rights, Not For Ourselves Alone, by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns is a very enjoyable book.

Lastly, the book Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams, by Lynne Withey, gives unique insight into the marriage of John and Abigail Adams and the history of early America.

Norma Reynolds
Spokane WA

Book and Movie Club: Went to Kansas

Today’s book review:

I suggest Went To Kansas.  As the title page suggests, it is “a thrilling account of an ill-fated expedition” to Kansas.  It illustrates some of the scams and resulting frustrations and hardships pioneer families experienced in a search for a better life.
The work is by Mrs. Miriam Davis Colt and describes her family’s move to Kansas from New York in the 1850’s.  Incidentally, the book was published by the Laura Ingalls publishing company in 1862.
The book is available on-line at:

Jack Coffee

Book and Movie Club: Schoolwomen of the Prairies and Plains

Here’s today’s book review. If you have a book that you think other family historians would appreciate knowing about, send it to: and we’ll add it to the collection.

The name of the book is Schoolwomen of the Prairies and Plains, by Mary Hurlbut Cordier, published 1992 by the University of New Mexico Press.  My mother went from Missouri to Montana as a school teacher in about 1916.  She was not mentioned in this book but I felt that it described her experience.  It was very interesting.

Ann Meisburger

Book and Movie Club: Ohio Books

 Here’s today’s book suggestion: 

I would like to recommend several books for family history seekers.  Some of these may be out-of-print but you should be able to find them at your library, or order them from  The Bounty Lands by William Donohue Ellis not only informs us on how the bounty land system worked after the Revolutionary War, but the process of Ohio becoming a territory and later a state.  To see how our American form of government worked on a smaller scale is quite an education.

The next recommendation is the series by Conrad Richter-The Trees, The Fields, and The Town.  This series is also about early Ohio.  It is told from the viewpoint of a teenage girl as she and her family settles in early Ohio after walking from Pennsylvania. After her mother dies, her father abandons the family and the girl takes on the protective roll.  We see her grow from a young girl to a young wife and mother, and finally as a grandmother who was very much part of the community that grows around the land her father claimed.  This was made into a television mini-series starring Elizabeth Montgomery.  It was called The Awakening Land.

After reading any of these books, one can understand why records weren’t always created as they had been in the colonies.

Beth Hanson
Williamsburg, VA

If you have a good book or movie that you’d like to suggest, please send it to  Thanks to Beth for her recommendations!


Book and Movie Club: Books on Pioneer Life

Here’s today’s book club review. If you have a book or movie you’d like to add, send it to and we’ll post them with the title or subject in the headline. 

I would like to add two books I have found to be fascinating descriptions of pioneer life.  One is Pioneer Women: Voices From the Kansas Frontier, by Joanna L. Stratton, published in 1981.  The author used memoirs from pioneer women, collected by her grandmother in the 1920s, to describe life on the frontier in Kansas.  The photo of harnessed turkeys pulling a tiny wagon is worth the price of the book! 

The second book is Treasures in the Trunk: Quilts of the Oregon Trail, by Mary Bywater Cross.  While this is primarily a quilt book, it includes many photos and descriptions of and by women who travelled the Oregon Trail in the mid to late 1800s.  The story of a teenage bride walking the trail, stitching squares together as she walked, and dropping them into a found copper kettle, while her young husband toils as a teamster, tugs at your heartstrings.  The couple figured when they got to Oregon, they would have a kettle, a quilt and each other.

Even if you don’t have pioneer ancestors–mine didn’t leave New Jersey until the 1940s–these books will give you a vivid picture of westward migration and settlement from a women’s perspective.

Jo Johnson
Stilwell, Kansas

If you missed the first few book and movie reviews, you can find them by clicking on the Book and Movie Club link in the sidebar.

Book and Movie Club: Rise to Rebellion and other books by Jeff Shaara

 Here’s today’s book club review. If you have a book or movie you’d like to add, send it to and we’ll post them with the title in the headline.

One of the most interesting “historical fiction” books I read recently was Rise to Rebellion, by Jeff Shaara.  It covered the events from about 1760 to July 1776 that shaped the American Revolution.  Each chapter focused on one of the important players-John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Gage, George Washington, etc.  It’s one thing to learn in history class about people and battles, but to “hear” the words and thoughts (often using historical letters or memoirs) of the protagonists is fascinating to me.  I have a much better understanding of the times, the leaders and the events leading up to the War than before.
Shaara’s sequel, called The Glorious Cause, is on my reading table now.  It continues from 1776 to the end of hostilities in 1781.
He has also written several books on the American Civil War, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, and I saw another book about the Mexican-American War on the shelf at the library today.  All of these are on my reading list now.

Randy Seaver, Chula Vista CA

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Book and Movie Club: Sarum and Other Books by Edward Rutherford

Today, we’re starting the Book and Movie Club section of 24/7 Family History Circle. If you have a book or movie you’d like to add, send it to and we’ll post them with the title in the headline. I look forward to seeing your suggestions and comments as I’m looking for some good summer reading! Here’s our first book suggestion:

There are a number of books that can give some real insights into the lives of our ancestors.  The books that came immediately to mind are those written by Edward Rutherford.  The first and, I feel, the best was Sarum.  It follows family lines from pre-historic times through to WWII.  It gives great insight, not only into their daily lives, but also how some events (like plague) and beliefs (the ongoing struggle between various church factions) affected the ordinary person and how some physical characteristics and talents keep resurfacing generation after generation.  I do not feel the others were quite as good, but they are worth the effort to read.  One in particular was Russka..  After reading it, I had a much better appreciation of why Russia is the way that it is (including the rise there of their brand of Communism).  They may be works of fiction, but they make me glad that I did not have to live through some of those horrific times.

Tom Aman