Wow!Â Who knew there were so many terrific books out there with a genealogical theme?Â A thousand thank youâ€™s to all of you who posted recommendations or emailed me with suggestions after my last articleÂ (http://blogs.ancestry.com/circle/?p=461)!Â Looks as if I have a homework assignment that could last for life!
I havenâ€™t yet had a chance to go on one of my book-buying binges with the shopping list you all contributed (donâ€™t worry â€“ Iâ€™m going to â€œforceâ€ myself to snag some soon!), so I hope you can tolerate another article with a couple of books from my current stash.Â Once again, Iâ€™ve decided on a pair of non-fiction books with something of a genealogical theme.
The DNA Detectives
I admit that this one caught my eye because it had a very similar title to the one I had originally planned for Trace Your Roots with DNA.Â And by the way, let me be very clear that Iâ€™m talking about the book by Anna Meyer whose full title is The DNA Detectives: How the Double Helix is Solving Puzzles of the Past.Â I emphasize this because thereâ€™s a self-published book that starts with the same phrase, so I donâ€™t want there to be any confusion.
Anna Meyer, who recently obtained her PhD at the Australian National Universityâ€™s Centre for The Public Awareness of Science, doesnâ€™t write like a scientist.Â And thatâ€™s what I loved about this book.Â It made me feel smart because I could understand it!Â And while Iâ€™m not entirely clueless about DNA, Iâ€™m not a science whiz either.Â Anyone could understand the stories in this book.
In fact, thatâ€™s the way it reads.Â Meyer relays a series of stories about how DNA has been used to solve age-old mysteries–everything from the Neanderthals (were they our ancestors?) to the Romanovs (was that old woman really Anastasia?).Â Ever wonder if Jurassic Park could really happen, whether we could really clone dinosaurs?Â Wonder no more.Â Sheâ€™s got the answer.Â Want to know if Louis XVII of France really died in the tower?Â You could read Deborah Cadburyâ€™s The Lost King of France: Revolution, Revenge and the Search for Louis XVII (incidentally, also an excellent book), but you can get the digest version in Meyerâ€™s book.Â Perhaps just enough to help you decide whether to read Cadburyâ€™s.
If youâ€™re already into genetealogy (my word for genetic genealogy), itâ€™s a given that youâ€™ll enjoy this book, but even those who are just contemplating it would benefit from this one.Â Youâ€™ll end up absorbing some of the underlying science without even realizing it because itâ€™s cleverly disguised as storytime!
I thought I loved cemeteries, but Minda Powers-Douglas has me beat.Â In fact, Iâ€™m such an amateur that until I read her Cemetery Walk: A Journey into the Art, History and Society of the Cemetery and Beyond, I had no clue what a taphophile was.Â But Iâ€™ll bet Powers-Douglasâ€™s picture appears in the dictionary as part of the definition.Â And get this-she loves cemeteries just for cemeteries.Â She doesnâ€™t even care if any of her ancestors are buried there.
The book is just what the title suggests.Â She meanders through all topics of a cemetery nature including profiles of fellow taphophiles, photographers who specialize in tombstones and graveyards, mourning traditions, and the Museum of Funeral Customs. Check out their online shop (http://www.funeralmuseum.org/sunshop/) if youâ€™ve had a hard time finding those milk chocolate coffins youâ€™ve been looking for.Â And as a bonus for hardcore genealogists, she even has an interview with Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, author of Your Guide to Cemetery Research.Â
Powers-Douglas does all of this with a light-hearted tone that makes you feel as if youâ€™re sitting beside her in the car along for one of her cemetery field trips (and yes, she at least partly builds her vacations around cemeteries).Â Itâ€™s one of those easy reads you can swallow whole or dip into whenever or wherever youâ€™d like.
Time to Shop
Itâ€™s true that I already have a long shopping list of books, but Iâ€™d like to encourage everyone to keep posting about other books your think I (or anyone else) should read.Â Many of the books recommended focus on a specific location or ethnicity and you just never know when another reader will spot your comment about just the perfect book for them.Â So keep on posting!
Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, co-author (with Ann Turner) of Trace Your Roots with DNA: Using Genetic Tests to Explore Your Family Tree (as well as In Search of Our Ancestors, Honoring Our Ancestors and They Came to America), can be contacted through http://megansrootsworld.blogspot.com/, www.honoringourancestors.com, and www.genetealogy.com,
Upcoming Events Where Megan Will Be Speaking
- 13 February 2007,Â Haddonfield, NJ
Haddon Fortnightly – “Cases that Made My Brain Hurt”
- 24 February 2007, St. Charles, IL
DuPage County Genealogy Society Conference
- 17 March 2007, Baltimore, MD
Enoch Pratt Free Library (http://www.epfl.net/) 10:30 a.m.Wheeler Auditorium, 400 Cathedral St., Baltimore, MD
Details and links to upcoming events