Category Archives: Book Review

Monthly Update – May 14, 2015

Dear Mother, Love Daddy coverDear Mother, Love Daddy

I have not set up a book giveaway this month so I am trying something new. I figured out how to offer discounts directly through the Create Space publishing website.  For a limited time, using coupon code: 6AVMLLGB, Dear Mother, Love Daddy will be $12.99. The purchase must be through the Create Space store (not Amazon). Use the link to go directly to the book: Please let me know if you encounter any difficulties using this method.

My newest shipment of books has arrived. Exclusively through me, I am offering autographed copies of the book for $20. Priority mail shipping is included. Send me a message through the contact form on the website. For anyone attending Jamboree in southern California in June, I will have a few copies for sale for $15.

I have contacted a few World War II museums including the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Since Roscoe served in the Pacific, this museum was responsive to receiving a donated copy of the book for their archives. The number of museums and libraries I have contacted who have not responded has been slightly disheartening.  If you are aware of any museums, libraries, veterans’ groups, or military organizations who might be interested in receiving a donated copy of Dear Mother, Love Daddy, please leave a comment below or send me a message through the contact form.

Alfred M. Dicks Cover #3 (front)Alfred M. Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois

I have not done much to market my first book as I felt the audience was very small. The book’s target audience is the descendants of Alfred and his extended family (his siblings, their descendants, etc). Since very few records about Alfred exist and he was a migrant, his descendants have been trying to break through the brick wall of his ancestry for over a generation. The book provides a good example of a proof argument for anyone looking to expand their genealogical writing skills. Since I am trying to reach a specific target audience, I donated a few copies to several genealogy libraries, including the National Genealogical Society’s library in St. Louis. As a thank you to their members for donating books, the National Genealogical Society publishes brief synopses of donated books in their quarterly magazine, the NGS Magazine. The latest issue (April-June 2015) features a synopsis of Alfred M. Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois (p. 9). As a result, I am seeing a slight increase in sales of this book (which is a completely unexpected benefit of the donation).

Professional Learning

I have been told that my ProGen certificate is in the process of being signed by all my mentors. Angela McGhie has passed on the certificates to Barbara Mathews, C.G. Rest assured, I will be posting a copy of the certificate when it finally arrives on my doorstep!

I still haven’t decided what new coursework to take on yet. It’s been rather nice not having to worry about a homework assignment though.

Genealogy Programs Summer Sac LibraryLocal News

This last weekend I met with the volunteer coordinator at my library branch. Hopefully, by the end of the month, we will have our own Ask A Genealogist program up and running. Tentatively, I will be volunteering one Saturday afternoon a month to help mentor people with their genealogy problems. The library will handle booking the time slots and the advertising.

This summer one of my BU classmates, Jim Walton, will be giving a presentation at the main branch of the Sacramento Library. Jim’s lecture will be based (I think) upon some of the research he did on his Walton line. His article “John Walton, English Immigrant, New Hampshire Native, or Phantom?” was published in the December 2014 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.


Painted by Deborah Sweeney

Painted by Deborah Sweeney

I continue to pin clothing from the 19th and early 20th century on Pinterest. Each board covers clothing from one decade, beginning with the 1820s through the 1920s. Future boards will be for the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. I have published two articles in my series “Identifying Everyday Clues in Photographs.” The next article will begin to put together period silhouettes and timelines of individuals. My newest Pinterest board is Genealogy and Fashion. Links to all the articles in the Identifying Everyday Clues series are pinned there.

 Book Review

I am continuing to work on this part of the blog, but it is one of the most time consuming aspects! While I love to read, finding the time can be hard. Many of you may not know that I am a die hard bookworm. I love mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, YA/teen literature and historical fiction. For the past few years, I have participated in an annual book challenge. One of my college friends is a children’s librarian in Massachusetts and her library runs the challenge. Previously, the contest was all about how many books could one read in a year. The goal was 50. Some years I made it while others I did not. This year the challenge has evolved to categories instead of a book count. I am currently working on my “Trilogy” requirement. I am on the last book in Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches series. While I am enjoying the series very much, I will not be reviewing on my blog. The next book I am in the process of reading for a book review is Disaster & Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush Through the Civil War by Cheryl Anne Stapp. The book focuses on six women who lived in the Sacramento area during the Gold Rush years. The author has used many historical resources to build and tell their stories. I am hoping to finish reading this book in the next few weeks.

Looking Ahead

Hobert, Nathaniel - gravestone

Gravestone of Nathaniel Hobert. Future subject of a Register article?

I am contemplating writing an article for the “new” New England Historical and Genealogical Register. The Register was been published for 170 years and is one of the top journals of genealogy scholarship in the country. I have many New England stories I want to tell and the journal would be a perfect place to see them published. I have a couple ancestors that I used in my ProGen research and assignments so I can not really use them for my BCG portfolio (as they have already been reviewed).

And of course, I am counting down the days until Jamboree. I have started looking at the schedules to see which lectures I am interested in attending. Some lectures will be live-streamed so I could watch them later when I get home. For a list of speakers and the schedule, check out the Jamboree website:

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©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
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Book Review & Giveaway

Dear Mother, Love Daddy coverIf you have missed out on either of my previous book giveaways, check out the latest review at Copper Leaf Genealogy today and sign up for the giveaway. Stick around and read some of the posts on Copper Leaf Genealogy’s blog, too!

Book Review – Hiding the Past

[Disclaimer: I was not asked to review this book and I purchased my own copy. I love fiction books that incorporate genealogy mysteries. One of my all time favorite books is Possession by A.S. Byatt (which if you haven’t read, you should! It has several wonderful genealogy twists).]

Hiding the Past: A Genealogical Crime Mystery. Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. 228 pages. Paperback, $12.99, Kindle eBook, $6.89. ISBN: 1492737429.

Hiding the Past is the first book in the Forensic Genealogist mystery series. Morton Farrier is a forensic genealogist and he has been hired to track down an adoption puzzle. James Coldrick was taken to British Children’s home in the days following D-Day in 1944. The only clues to his identity are a photograph of a young woman holding the infant James and a small box. After a lifetime of trying to solve the mystery of his parentage, James’ task was passed on to his son Peter. When Peter discovers the photograph amongst his father’s papers, he hires Morton to work on the case. What begins as a simple adoption case turns into a complicated British conspiracy which will stop at nothing to keep the mystery of James’ parentage a secret.

It is clear from Hiding the Past that Goodwin has a background in solid genealogical research as well as modern forensic methods. His knowledge brings a level of realism to Morton’s methods. The narrative of the story switches between two times periods: Morton’s present day world as he pieces the clues together and the days up to and preceding D-day in 1944 when James Coldrick was an infant. The reader is given tantalizing bits of James’ back story as Morton picks apart the conspiracy and brings the perpetrators to justice.  Additionally, the reader learns about Morton’s history as an adoptee. Since this is the first book in the series, the mystery of Morton’s parentage creates a larger story arc which goes beyond the first novel.

Any fan of modern British mystery novels should enjoy this book; a forensic genealogist detective is an added bonus. Any genealogist can relate to the thrill of discovering a new clue, or to the disappointment of not finding a record where it should be. Hiding the Past is an entertaining mystery with a sufficient hook at the end to leave the reader waiting for the next installment.

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
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Book Review – The Horse Lawyer and Other Poems

The Horse Lawyer and Other Poems. By Greg Seeley. Published by AuthorHouse; Bloomington, Indiana; 2014. 114 p. Table of Contents, photographs. Paperback, $14.95. Kindle eBook, $3.99.

The Horse Lawyer and Other Poems is a slim volume of free verse poetry which recalls the lives of three Seeley men: Ira, Frank, and Donald. After the Civil War, former Union soldier Ira Seeley purchases land near Afton, Iowa. Raised in Pennsylvania as an educated man, he served as schoolmaster and local sheriff before the war. In the beginning poem, Ira muses, “If I get home to Iowa with my health, I want to build a farm – with a fine white house – in which to raise our children and orchards and a garden….kiss the babies and tell them Papa loves them.” The poems continue to tell the tale of Ira’s toils on his land. After he dies, the land passes to his son Frank, and finally to his grandson Donald. The poems span the years from 1865 to post World War II when the land finally passes to another family when Donald’s children have no desire to be farmers.  Based upon the oral history and papers passed down to the author, The Horse Lawyer… provides a slice of American history from the 19th and 20th centuries as well as a view of Iowan farm life.

The Horse Lawyer… is at times reminiscent of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, especially with poems like “The Windmill Doctor,” “Big Smith” or “The Last Blacksmith.” In these poems, Seeley writes about individuals who inhabited the world of Afton, Iowa, in the early 20th century. These persons were well known to the Seeley family and part of the local community. The book is similar in form and format to Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (which won several book awards for 2014). In her book, Woodson tells the story of her childhood in South Carolina and New York, during the 1960s and 1970s, using free verse. Genealogy and family history can often be dry subjects, a regurgitation of facts and dates. It takes a skilled storyteller to capture the tales of long gone ancestors and retell them as interesting narratives. Greg Seeley has taken the additional step of transforming his family’s stories into powerful vignettes.  The free verse style works well, and the only regrettable critique that this reviewer can provide is that the book was not longer. Seeley is not the first to use free verse to tell stories, and he definitely can compete with the masters.

©2015 copyright Deborah Sweeney
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Book Review – He Wrote Her Every Day

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not asked to review this book and I purchased my own copy. I am interested in reading books about World War II which are based upon real letters since I have worked to transcribe and publish my own grandparents’ letters as well.]

He Wrote Her Every Day: A Novel Based on a WWII Soldier’s Letters to His Wife. By Gail Lindenberg. Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing; revised second edition, 2014. 300p. Photographs. Paperback $12.99, Kindle eBook $6.99. ISBN: 978-1492358657.

He Wrote Her Every Day is a tribute to James William Hendrickson, Jr., who served in the Army during World War II. Years later, author Gail Lindenberg received an old box containing her father’s letters  from her widowed mother. The resulting book is part historical fact, imagined fiction based upon the letters, and a memoir of her time spent interviewing her mother about the war years. Lindenberg describes the letters in the book’s preface. ”Thin and fragile envelopes line up in regimented files within the brown box as though awaiting inspection. Each pale soldier, a sentinel of time past, stands at attention still.”

The narrative is essentially told from three points of view: edited transcriptions of the letters, a retelling of the personal journey the author took while retrieving the letters and interviewing her mother, and a fictional (though well-researched) narrative that fleshes out the story between the letters and various oral histories of family members. Eventually, the transitions work seamlessly, but early on in the novel, some of the transitions are too jumpy, breaking the reader’s flow. The novel hits its stride in the second half, when the narrative focuses more on the letters and the fictional narrative. The memoir portions of the story are less intrusive or necessary to the events on the battlefield, and become mostly non-existent. The reader is also warned that the book does not contain every letter that PFC Hendrickson wrote during his deployment; the book’s title is somewhat misleading although images of all the letters can be found on the author’s website.

The book is illustrated with a few photographs of PFC Hendrickson, but a future edition of the book would benefit from the inclusion of some graphics, visual aids, and organizational tools. To name a few examples: the book does not contain an index or a table of contents; it lacks charts of the Hendrickson or Ison families; and timelines of the war in Europe and Hendrickson’s involvement are not included. Within the narrative, several websites were referenced and the book would benefit from a complete bibliography of sources.

Any self-published book has additional burdens placed upon it by its very nature. He Wrote Her Every Day is clearly a work dear to the author’s heart. This World War II story is familiar to many Americans, even if the names are different. While the story was clearly researched and written well, the book would have benefited from more careful editing and formatting of the text. Margins were not justified as one would find in a typical book. Minor punctuation errors, especially with quotation marks, occasionally left this reviewer re-reading passages trying to determine who the speaker was. Odd spaces occur at the bottom of pages, or within paragraphs.

Despite (or in spite of) the non-traditional formatting of this book, the story between James W. Hendrickson and his wife, Irene, is the true heart of this book. The letters and narrative convey the love of this couple and how they endured their separation during the war. Anyone interested in the personal stories of World War II soldiers, in their own words, should enjoy this book. Additional resources beyond the book, including images of the actual letters, can be found at the author’s website:

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
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Book Review – Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry Through DNA Testing

I am going begin posting the occasional book review. I will primarily review books that have something to do with genealogy, family history, family document preservation, etc., which have also been independently published. As an independent author myself, I know the importance of book reviews and word of mouth recommendations. If you are an independent author and you have written a book in the above genres, please contact me.

[DISCLAIMER: I did download a free copy of this eBook when it was offered in mid December 2014, but was under no obligation to review it. This review was previously published in the Root Cellar (Sacramento Genealogical Society)’s newsletter PRESERVES (February 2015).]

Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing. By Richard Hill. Published by Atrax LLC; Sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.; 2014, 33 pages. Kindle eBook. $0.99.

This DNA guide book is a quick read, and is the perfect book for someone who knows ABSOLUTELY nothing about using DNA for genealogy research. Written by Richard Hill, the award-winning author of the best-selling memoir Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA, Mr. Hill’s latest book provides a brief overview of the field of genetic genealogy.

Providing a summary of current options in DNA testing, the book is geared towards the most basic of genetic genealogy beginners, especially someone who has never previously tested. The book provides good descriptions of the three major types of DNA testing available: Y-DNA, Autosomal DNA, and Mitochondrial DNA. Summaries of the three major testing companies are also included as well as advice for testing strategies and money saving tips. Despite the assertions of the book’s subtitle, it will not help a family researcher identify their ancestors or confirm relationships. While there are sections on using DNA to find relatives, such as “Powerful Tools for Adoptees,” and “Uncovering Previously Unknown Relatives,” these sections gloss over the methodology and hard work needed for achieving such goals. Mr. Hill’s focus on using DNA to guide adoptees in finding their families is apparent throughout the book, with the last few pages dedicated to promoting his memoir.

As with most ebooks, Guide to DNA Testing is a quick read and geared towards a specific audience. A reader hoping to learn more about the uses and methodology of genetic genealogy will be disappointed, and would be better served by reading books like Emily D. Aulicino’s Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond, or many of the excellent blogs by industry leaders such as CeCe Moore, Judy Russell, Roberta Estes or Blaine T. Bettinger. Overall, the book reads like a power point presentation from a one hour lecture and would be a good gift for that family member who is undecided about testing and keeps asking the question “Why should I test?”

I am currently reading He Wrote Her Every Day by Gail Lindenberg, published by CreateSpace, 2013. Look for the review in the coming days!

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
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