Here is a list of some of the books I have read or am reading that I have found useful or educational in my genealogy research. They include both non-fiction and fiction but no standard genealogy reference books. I have done reviews on several of these. All of them have been readily available through my local library and the various consortiums it is a member of. I love being able to request a book and pick it up at my library! There are other books that are not (yet) on this list, mostly very specific histories of a place as well as some I have forgotten to include.
My plan in making this a page is to keep adding to it as I discover books or remember one, especially those that contribute to my understanding of the context for a family or person. Eventually I may categorize the listings in some way, or separate them into fiction and nonfiction, but for the moment I am listing them in alphabetical order by author:
Brown, Daniel. The Boys in the Boat. Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This tells the story of the University of Washington 8-oar crew that went to Berlin, and the back stories of the rowers, the coaches, the boat-builder, and Washington state in the early 1930s.
Fremont, Helen. After Long Silence. One of the first books I read after I started researching my husband’s family lines. It is non-fiction with names changed. It tells the story (not so uncommon) of a woman who grew up thinking her parents were Catholics and only discovered as a young woman that they had been Jewish. It is a memoir, a story of a long-held secret and silences that her parents did not want told. The author and her sister felt they had to know, and so went looking for what they could find.
Godges, John Paul. Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century. The story of an immigrant family from Italy who came starting to America in the early 1900s and another from Poland who came a couple of decades later. These two very different families were merged with the marriage of a Polish son and an Italian daughter. These two proceeded to build a solid family together, despite their differences. This was a book recommended by Lisa Louise Cooke on her podcast; she liked it so much and raved about it to the point I had to read it for myself.
Gup, Ted. A Secret Gift. This tells how a man (Gup, a journalist) found a suitcase full of letters which had been written in 1933 in Canton, Ohio in response to a newspaper offer a week before Christmas to financially aid 50-75 families in need. Canton had been slammed by the Great Depression and the letters provided great detail about what families were experiencing. It turned out that the mystery man who had made the offer was Gup’s grandfather and there is a lot of his family history here. I didn’t do a full review of this one, but did write a little about it in this post about the Great Depression in Canton.
Kline, Christina Baker. Orphan Train. Story of an old woman who had been an orphan train rider as a young girl, and a teenage girl who is about to age out of the welfare system, and the relationship they dievelop.
Laskin, David. The Family. Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century– I did a review, here. This book taught me about why young Jews in Europe in the late 1890s-early 1900s traveled to Palestine and stayed. It also showed me a lot of other things about the Jewish experience. I’m still trying to get Genealogygal Judy to read this one – I’d love her opinion about it!
Luxenberg, Steve. Annie’s Ghosts – I did a brief notice about this book as my first post. I found it a powerful story of earlier attitudes toward mental health problems, and a good report about the work it took to find the truth. (Hint: mental health records are very difficult to get your hands on.)
Marcus, William. A Place That Lives Only in Memory. The Old Jewish Neighborhood of Syracuse, New York. This is a history in words and pictures of a specific place and time; the title says it all. This book is the exception to being easily available locally: I ordered it from the Onondaga Historical Association which is the only place to get it as far as I know. Worth having or at least reading for those who have Jewish roots in Syracuse.
Shavit, Ari. My Promised Land. The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. This provides a history of the state of Israel from before it was a state up to current times.
Stackpole, Renny A. Sea Letters – I did a review of this book. This weaves together the stories of several members of the Pinkham family that first lived in Nantucket and then moved to the Cincinnati area of Ohio at the same time my direct relatives did in the early 1800s. There is alot of maritime and naval information from our country’s early days as well as descriptions of what life was like.
Warren, Roland L. Mary Coffin Starbuck and the Early History of Nantucket. This is a history of early Nantucket and a biography of Mary Coffin Starbuck (1644/45- 1717), who came with her Coffin family to Nantucket as a teenager.
Wildman, Sarah. Paper Love. Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind. This is the story of the author’s grandfather’s early life in Austria as a Jew and the life of a girl he had to leave behind when he and some of his family managed to escape six months after the Nazis had annexed Austria. I intended to do a review of this one, but got overwhelmed by the story. It is a book based on letters between the author’s grandfather and his girl as well as the rest of her story as the author was able to re-construct it.
Wiseman, Ellen Marie. The Plum Tree. Story of a young German girl who had worked as a domestic for a wealthy Jewish family and fallen in love with their son, confronting the horrors of Nazi control and concentration camps to find him again.