"Beyond the age of information is the age of choices." Charles Eames. Hartman, Carla and Eames Demetrios. 100 Quotes by Charles Eames, p. 40.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Brother Against Brother: the Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey

Chadwick, Bruce, ed. Brother Against Brother: the Lost Civil War Diary of Lt. Edmund Halsey. Carol Publishing Group. 1997. 308p.

One hundred fifty years ago, Edmund Halsey of Rockaway, New Jersey enlisted in the Union Army. His older brother, Joseph, of Virginia had already joined the Confederate Army. Both men served throughout the war and left many letters, articles and other documents that were saved by their families. On one level, this book is a simple collection of eyewitness narratives documenting the rigors of wartime and military life. What gives it value, however, is the way Chadwick juxtaposes excerpts from Edmund's diary and letters with those from Joseph and other Halseys. This combination creates a vibrant look into the turmoil, as well as the day-to-day concerns, that people throughout the North and South endured.

In the first part of the book, Chadwick provides descriptive background information covering the family's background, social standing, and contributions to Rockaway's--and by extension, New Jersey's--history and growth. Some genealogical information on the related Halsey and Jackson families is even included (but not footnoted). The prospect of uncovering genealogical tidbits about the Halseys is what enticed me to borrow this book from the library, but it was the useful background information on the Rockaway community that I found particularly valuable.

The balance of the book contains Edmund's diary, extracts from Joseph's papers, family letters, and helpful parenthetical explanations from Chadwick. The arrangement is chronological from August 30, 1862 through January 20, 1865. Many of the entries detail camp life, worries about family at home, and details about Edmund's and Joseph's military jobs. Letters from sisters and Joseph's wife, Millie, portray hardships at home.

This book is not a genealogy, but will give genealogists essential background information on the Civil War and Rockaway. The bibliography and author notes don't specify where the diary, family correspondence, and other source documents are located, but it appears the bulk of the materials are held by either the University of Virginia in the Morton-Halsey papers or the Rockaway Borough Free Public Library.

Includes photographs, selected bibliography, and an index which does not include every name mentioned in the book. No eBook edition located. New and used copies available at amazon.com, bn.com, and other retailers. And, of course, borrowing it from a library is always a wise option.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: From the Family Kitchen by Gena Philibert-Ortega

Philibert-Ortega, Gena. From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes. Family Tree Books. 2012. 205p. ISBN 978-1-4403-1827-6. $13.44 (Kindle). $17.99 (hardcover).

Having attended a couple of Philibert-Ortega's presentations at local conferences in Southern California, I looked forward to adding her book to my personal library and eagerly ordered it pre-publication. Luckily, the book arrived in time to take on a cross-country flight that, thanks to From the Family Kitchen, ended up feeling like it lasted minutes instead of hours.

As the title promises, From the Family Kitchen provides family historians and genealogists a variety of tools and techniques to track down, collect, document, save and share family recipes. Definitely an ambitious project! Philibert-Ortega keeps it manageable by focusing (mostly) on family recipes and traditions developed in the U. S. Some methods to collect family recipes--such as interviewing relatives--may be familiar to researchers. Other methods, such as researching community cookbooks in local libraries and archives, may be new. She also explores how technology (e.g., refrigeration), wars, and changing economies affected our ancestors' diets.

Descriptions of ethnic food traditions and the history of cookbooks, definitions of old cooking terms/ingredients, as well as a short collection of historic recipes add valuable information for researchers and round out the book. About 25% of the book is devoted to blank pages for documenting your own family's recipes and traditions. While public librarians tend to avoid titles with fill-in-the-blank pages, this title deserves a huge exception. Libraries should buy the book anyway. It's that good!

The book is highly readable, usable, and comprehensive. Each chapter ends with a list of pertinent resources. Additional books and websites are listed in the bibliography. There's also an index. And, if that's not enough for you, the illustrations, design and layout are delightful.

From the Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes is available in hardcover from shopfamilytree.com, amazon.com, and bn.com. Kindle and Nook editions may be purchased from amazon.com and bn.com, respectively. Or, you may be able to find it at your local library since about 20+ libraries list it in Worldcat. You can learn more about Gena Philibert-Ortega at her website.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Family History Detective by Desmond Walls Allen

Allen, Desmond Walls. Family History Detective: a Step-By-Step Guide to Investigating Your Family History. Family Tree. 2011. 143p. ISBN 9781440306876. $9.34 (Kindle), $16.99 (paperback).
Family History Detective updates author Desmond Walls Allen's First Steps in Genealogy: a Beginner's Guide to Researching Your Family History (Betterway Books, 1998), by expanding recommendations to incorporate online resources and search techniques in genealogical research. The book emphasizes the importance of starting with what you know--gathering family stories, interviewing relatives, asking questions, documenting sources, etc. What makes Allen's advice shine, however, are her recommendations to develop critical evaluation skills and to learn about our ancestors' worlds. In her words, "Genealogy isn't just about collecting information; it's about analyzing and evaluating what you find."
Much of the new edition, however, retains its 1998 feel with the same text, research anecdotes, and recommendations for other books. Lackluster appendices cover 29 citation examples, 3 forms, plus a topical list of vendors, titles and other resources mentioned throughout the book. Indexing was good and will be a plus for the paperback format, but rather superfluous in a searchable eBook. Overall, this new edition is a solid, well-written introduction to genealogical research that will help newbie researchers develop good research habits. If you're just starting your own family history research or teach beginning genealogy classes, Family History Detective would be a useful resource for your personal library.
Disclosure: Purchased Family History Detective in the Kindle eBook format to review. Borrowed a copy of First Steps in Genealogy from my local library. Read both from start to finish.
Availability: Widely available from many publishers and various online bookstores for both the paperback and eBook formats.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Welcome to Blogging About GenBooks

In Blogging about GenBooks, I'll review, evaluate, and make recommendations for books (in all their many glorious formats) all about genealogy, family history, and related topics.
Fresh out of library school, the first genealogy book I purchased for my personal library was Cite Your Sources by Richard S. Lackey. Now, I collect mostly books about research techniques and places my ancestors lived. I started with Personal Ancestral File and am now on Rootsmagic 5. As an amateur genealogist, my research experience in the past 20+ years has been mostly focused on California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. I'm always interested in learning about new methods, technology, and research opportunities.
The heart of my career as a librarian is to connect people with the books they want to read, the ones that meet their needs. I'll write reviews about books I've read and/or used to help you connect with the best sources for your genealogy research. Here's what you can expect from each review:
  • An overview of the book’s content, author’s background, and any additional features (such as indexes or illustrations).
  • An evaluation of the pros and cons of the book and how it compares to similar titles.
  • My recommendation as to which researchers will benefit the most from this book, so you can decide if it’s right for you.
  • Information you need to buy, borrow and/or otherwise access the book.
  • Disclosure about how I obtained copies for reviews. Beyond the simple pleasures of evaluating books and sharing my opinions, I am not paid for reviews.