Favourite Book(s) #35 – Tracing Your Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings by Ruth A Symes

Letters and Personal WritingsThis made it to the favourite’s list for whole host of reasons.

Our existence can be tracked in paper from the moment we are born, through education, employment and taxation records. Houses we buy and sell and even articles we write. In the modern age we write blogs, send tweets, upload holiday snapshots to Facebook. On reflection the list is endless in the modern world of things we leave behind, whether they are reams of paper and notebooks or 140 character tweets.

Our lives are made up of more than just dates and places. We potentially may tap into letters, notebooks, journals of our ancestors. Perhaps we even write our own, I certainly do. This book arrived and sat on my desk buried under a pile of papers for about a week. I had made the deal with myself that I would read the book once the papers had been filed or recycled. I confess I cheated and merged two piles into one and picked up the book!

The book is divided into 11 chapters, each one concluding with questions that we might consider when reviewing our ancestors written legacy, along with a list of further reading material and websites. The book concludes with a bibliography and index. My copy of the book is covered with post it notes and this is one of those books that I would take to a desert island, along with my own notebook and pen. It did make me reflect not only on the material my own ancestors left, and their ability to read and write, the circumstances of their lives and access to materials, but also my own writings; planners, notebooks, articles and publications and the reason behind such writings.

It would be interesting to see what conclusions people would draw from my own planners and notebooks after considering the way they are written and even down to the ink I use to write in them, as that does tell the reader something about me as a writer. I also reflected on what I want to happen to such writings once I have joined my ancestors. One other thing that I had not considered was writing in code and the ability to decipher such a code. That made me recall the BBC fictional series about a group of women who worked at Bletchley Park and used those techniques to solve crimes, and of course, the actual Bletchley Park which inspired the series.

I had never considered that I perhaps might leave a written note of why I write such material, I do though keep a copy of my articles when I submit them for publication and a copy of the published one. I do this for several reasons, one of which, is because I met an author a number of years ago and we began talking. They shared with me that they had not kept a copy of a book they had written and now the book was hard to come by. I thought that was quite sad and fairly ironic that they would have to pay somewhere in the region of £60 at least, to purchase a book that they had in fact written. I guess we all live and learn.

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Six Degrees of Separation from Where am I Now? to……

The #6Degrees meme occurs on the 1st of the month over at the blog, Books are my Favourite and Best which is written by Kate.

Where Am I NowI had not come across this memoir, but was familiar with the actress, although I did not recognise the name. My husband is a huge fan of the movie, Miracle on 34th Street in which Mara Wilson starred and we probably watch it several times during the festive season. At the time of writing this I have not ordered the book, but think I am very likely too!

For this month, I have lots to choose from as Memoirs and family stories really appeal to me, but lets see where we end up by book six.

Letters and Personal Writings

This is one of my personal favourites. Letters and diaries enable genealogists to have a gateway into the lives of our ancestors and the people who went before us and provide a fascinating insight into their lives and the times in which they lived.


Another favourite is this by Helene Hanff and follows the exchange of letters between the author and the worker in a post Second World War two bookshop in London.

A House in St John's Wood

Moving on across the Capital, is this book from Matthew Spender, A House in St John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents as he researches the lives of his parents and the secrets they had.

Home - Julie MyersonRemaining in London we follow the clues of the lives of the former inhabitants of author, Julie Myerson’s house from the time it was built until recent times. Home is a fascinating read.

Bill Bryson At HomeA similar book, At Home: A Short History by well known, American author, Bill Bryson who uses a different tact, of exploring the history of his house, room by room.

End of Life Book Club by Will SchwalbeRemaining across the Atlantic we explore the book, The End of Your Life Book Club by William Schwalbe who spends time reading with his mother whilst she undergoes Chemotherapy and the discussions they had along the way.

This has been a great month and I could easily have done a 20 degrees of separation! Thanks to Kate for hosting another round of this and next month also looks to be a similarly challenge month as I will need to select just six books!

Posted in #6Degrees Meme, Books, Genealogy | 6 Comments

Book of Me Prompts – September 2018

Book of Me2018

© 2017 Julie Goucher

Welcome to the ninth set of prompts for the 2018 Series of the Book of Me. You can read when the prompts are published and about the few changes at my earlier post HERE

There are five prompts each month and you can undertake as many or as few as you wish to.

  • What can’t you do?
  • What is your favourite food and why?
  • What is your favourite drink & why?
  • What is your favourite place and why? How does it make you feel?
  • What is your favourite relaxing technique?

If you have any questions or want to share thoughts or a blog link, if you decide to share via a blog (remember to, that you don’t have to share to take part in the series) then please leave a comment. Further discussion is also happening in the closed Facebook Group.

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Favourite Book(s) #34 – The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee

the geneI spotted this book when it was first released in paperback. I almost bought it then remembered that I could purchase it on the way back to the car, then promptly forgot. I ordered it from Amazon and it arrived the next day. I set about reading immediately; I was drawn in my the prologue alone.

It is not a book that you can read cover to cover, completing in a few days. I read in chapters and took a few weeks to complete the book, not because it was heavy going or difficult to read, but because I needed to think between chapters and reflect.

Whatever our personal circumstances, we are in many ways determined by our genetics and the blood that runs through our veins, whether or not we know those people. In the prologue to the book the author talks of a visit to India and visiting a cousin who had a mental illness diagnosis and had been confined to an appropriate hospital. In may ways, the circumstances for those with this diagnosis is tragic and those left behind struggle with acceptance and the stigma that is attached to that.

Like the author, my Grandfather had a first cousin who was confined to such a hospital from an early age. She remained there for decades until the Government began closing the facilities and selling off the land and promoting “care in the community”. By that point she was totally institutionalised, but went to live with her brother who condemned their father for putting her through that. I remember explaining to the two of them, that in the early part of the 20th Century and prior, many conditions that are treatable today were not then and furthermore, were not explainable. Conditions such as Epilepsy and even dementia like symptoms as a result of a untreated Thyroid condition all were treated the same, rightly or wrongly, as mental illness. We have come a long way in a short space of time in that regards, yet the stigma for some conditions remains and for some, the damage of decades of incorrect treatment and diagnosis remains; furthermore, a diagnosis and the modern knowledge may simply be too late to reverse the situation, which is thoroughly tragic on many levels. We can not condemn the past on the knowledge of the present.

The book has made it to my favourite list because I walked away from it reflecting and contemplating the medical conditions of the cousin mentioned above and even my late Mum, who did not have a mental health condition. She had Polio as a child and the effects of that, both at the time and decades later were not understood then and in some cases even now. I will write about that later this year when I unveil a project I have been working on!

Any book that makes you think, both as you read it and for days, weeks, months afterwards is, in my book (no pun intended!) a good one. The book has done it’s job, in educating, providing knowledge, thought, reflection and understanding all in addition to be a pleasure to read. In fact when Amazon had the Kindle version on sale at 99p earlier this year I bought that too, because at that price why not!

We are determined by those that went before us and that is why many of us spend decades researching the lives of our ancestors. It too is why some of us have undertaken DNA tests as a way of connecting with others with whom we share an ancestral link. I am no DNA expert, but more and more I am seeing the benefit of those tests. I will write about DNA tests, projects and my results later in the year.

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Polish Communities – Migration & Resettlement

On Friday I released a short presentation for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. This can be viewed, and the syllabus downloaded HERE, if you have a Legacy Webinar subscription.

This topic is a very interesting one and over the coming weeks and months I will share some material that did not make it into the presentation, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, if you have Polish ancestry & a subscription do listen to the presentation and download the syllabus.

If you have any questions, please do leave a comment.

Posted in Genealogy, Presentations | 1 Comment

Webinar – My Italian One-Name Study

Orlando-ONS-PresentationThe webinar I jointly presented with Michael Cassara on Tuesday 21st August is now  available on the Guild of One-Name Studies website.

Usually the webinars are available to the public for a week before becoming a members benefit, but Michael and I both felt that we would like our webinar to be open for the public ongoing and the same applies to the handout.

You can watch the presentation and download the handout via this link.

I hope you enjoy the presentation and if you are researching an Italian surname or have any questions, please do get in touch or leave a comment. Our thanks to Tessa Keough for the introductions and being our host.

Posted in DNA & Surname Projects, Genealogy, One-Name Studies, One-Place Studies, Pharos - Introduction to One-Name Studies course, Presentations | 1 Comment

Webinar – My Italian Surname Study

Italian ONS PresentationNext Tuesday, 21st August 2018 the Guild of One-Name Studies will be offering their latest webinar in their 7 Pillars series.

Michael Cassara, who runs the Cuono One-Name Study and myself who runs the Orlando One-Name Study, will be talking about our perspective Italian Surname research and why we think there is a real and positive benefit to a One-Name study if you are researching an Italian surname or indeed any particular surname, especially if your ancestors hailed from Europe.

You can register for the webinar HERE – the webinar will be broadcast live at 7pm London England time (GMT+1) and we do hope you can join us for what Michael and I believe will be an informative webinar.

Posted in Genealogy, One-Name Studies, Orlando, Pharos - Introduction to One-Name Studies course, Presentations, Sutera Sicily | 2 Comments

Favourite Book(s) #33 – How to Bullet Plan by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

51kvt1Nnm8LFor reasons I cannot explain this book has become a favourite. It is a shame that this likely first book about Bullet planning was published by someone who did not devise the concept, but such is life!

I spotted this in a magazine I think last year and ordered it from Amazon because I could always return it, but it became a favourite, probably because like many others I am fascinated by what people include in their planners, whether or not they bullet journal.

This book has a mixture of snippets from famous diarists, such as Samuel Pepys and includes some  ideas for what you might keep in your planner or notebook, anything from tracking how much water you drink to chores, from health and food, debriefs if you see a councillor or similar professional. There are lists of quotes, planner set ups, daily, weekly, monthly and even future year – this is useful if you start booking events and things before purchasing the next planner. Packing lists, books and TV series lists and an assortment of others.

Did I learn something from this book, well yes I did and I dare say you will too if you choose to purchase the book or even look at the preview on Amazon. We are limited by only our imagination and sometimes, our imagination is expanded by the unlikeliest of books or things. There is a book written by the man (Ryder Carroll) who designed the concept of Bullet planning which will be published October of this year. I have it on advance order, because I would be interested in reading what he says about this style of planning and notebook writing.

At the back of this book is a small bibliography, a list of the pens the author uses. I don’t use the pens the author uses and when I did try them found them not to my liking. My preferred pen is a series of coloured Uniball ones and whilst I always by the set of 8 from Amazon, the colours I use the most are green and blue. Do I need to use colour pens? No, but that goes back to my O-level days and I am a creature of habit.

My advice to anyone is this – any pen and notebook (and/or planner) will work great. Make it yours and change the way you write and what you record until you find a way that works for you. Like with anything, our ways are always evolving.

Posted in Books, Favourite Book(s), Filofax, Journals & Notebooks | 4 Comments

Favourite Book(s) #32 – Sicily by John Julius Norwich

51uPSoGcJmLWhilst this book has hit my favourites list it almost did not. This is a not a substantial book in terms of pages, there are over 350, but in terms of contents and historical scope.

The book starts with the history of the island from the Greeks and continues through to the period just after the Second World War. As someone who is half Sicilian it is a great grounding for understanding the island through the historical trials, tribulations and more importantly perhaps, the habitation of other occupiers.

Whilst Sicily is part of Italy now, although with autonomy in it’s administration, that was not always the case and those early inhabitants left a variety of legacies, all of which have shaped the islands and the cultures of the islanders.

This is not a book which can be read over a few days, I have read this book several times over a period of a number of months, dipping into the chapters, needing time to digest and reflect on 2500 years of Sicilian history.


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Six Degrees of Separation from Atonement to….

I spotted the #6Degrees meme of Kate’s who blogs at Books are my Favourite and Best on the blog of Lisa who blogs at ANZ LitLovers and felt like playing along this month and think I might do next too!

AtonementIt has been a long time since I read Atonement by Ian McEwan, I pulled my copy off the shelf and the within a few pages of the first chapter could spot my books for this #6Degrees. Curiously, whilst I enjoyed it, I was not wowed by the book and I have commented recently that in my experience I have been often disappointed by the winners of literary prizes, so I was surprised that the book had survived several book culls (it might not next time!).

The MiniaturistWhen The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton was first published I really wanted to be able to get into the book. I had spotted it in the window of Waterstones, but there was something that just didn’t click for me. Then at Christmas the BBC released their three part series based on the book and I really enjoyed it. I decided to try again with the book and was not disappointed this time.

Coffee TraderThe Coffee Trader by David Liss is one of my favourite books and I probably read it every few years. I then went onto read other books written by Liss, including one called The Day of Atonement.

Having been to Amsterdam and visited  Anne Frank’s house which is a very powerful place to visit and well worth it, if you ever have opportunity I selected the next book because on that same trip I visited Delft and bought back a beautiful Delft mug for my late Mum which now resides in my Breakfast room.

Midnight BlueMidnight Blue is about the birth of Delft pottery and set in what is described as the “Dutch golden age” when Dutch trading ships were bring back discoveries and wares from the Far East. It is a lovely book and the cover is just “perfect”.

The Hungry EmpireAs the same time as the Dutch Empire was shaping and dominating parts of the world so too was the British Empire and here enters my next book, which has been brilliantly researched and is filled with examples of how the foods from parts of the Empire were used. There is an extensive bibliography and notes section.

Tea Planter's DaughterMy next book links in to the Empire and a significant commodity that was adapted and exported, drunk the world over and that is Tea. This is the first of a series, The Tea Planter’s Daughter. You can view the series HERE

Marigold HotelAnd the last book in the #6Degrees is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach. The BBC have recently in the last few years launched a series, The Real Marigold Hotel where they take a group of celebrities who are in their retirement years (65+) and take them to India to see if they would consider a retirement in India. The third series is currently being broadcast in the UK and you can see some details HERE on the BBC website.

I have just spent a lovely hour writing this post and reacquaint myself with the books here. I did not manage to leave the Amazon website without a purchase though! Thanks so much to Kate and Lisa.

Posted in #6Degrees Meme, Books | 3 Comments