Jill Ball over at the GeniAus Blog has posted a Five Faves Genealogy Book meme. Although it was difficult, I’ve narrowed my list down to these five books.
1. Footprints in the Soil: A Portuguese Californian Remembers by Rosemary Peters Emery. Like so many genealogists, I want to know what life was like “when”–and this book delivers!
At 97, Emery published her memoirs. Her father was a Portuguese immigrant and her mother was American born. She grew up on a ranch in the San Ramon Valley of California.
The book gives insights into life in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1900s and her families blend of Portuguese and American culture and heritage. Very much a history on changing times.
2. Pau Hana by Ronald Takaki. I would not have the understanding of my Azorean ancestors’ journey without Pau Hana. Although this book is written mostly from an Asian perspective, it’s the best book I’ve come across on what it was like being an immigrant contract laborer during the Hawaiian sugar plantation era.
It covers the history of the plantations, the behind the scenes plotting of wealthy businessmen trying to take over Hawaii, the difficulties of bringing people from so many different countries together, and what it was like being a foreigner among foreigners in a strange, exotic place called Hawaii.
3. Grove Farm Plantation by Bob Krauss and William P. Alexander. This is the story of the plantation and George Wilcox, the man who put it together. Where Pau Hana tells the story of the laborers, this book tells the story from the perspective of the plantation owner.
Wilcox was hugely successful, but often criticized by his contemporaries for not being more of an authoritarian. However, it was through some of his wacky innovations in areas such as irrigation that lead to his plantation’s success–and improvements to plantations across the islands.
He was quite the eccentric which made him all the more endearing to me.
4. A Useful Guide to Researching San Francisco Ancestry by Kathy Beals. You may not know this but when the 1906 earthquake and fire decimated San Francisco it destroyed almost all of the official written records. My Irish, Australian, and British ancestors all converged on San Francisco between 1854 and 1860 and I can tell you from experience—researching this locality is a pain in the butt!
This guide shows you what records survived and how to find them. There are some surprising alternative resources you may not have thought of. I do not know how far I could have gotten on these lines without this book.
5. Hey America! Your Roots are Showing by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. This is a great book if you’re looking for new ways to attack genealogy problems. It covers several of the authors projects, then shows you how she solved them.
It’s a wonderful book all around. I felt like she was taking me along for the ride on her many genealogy adventures.
I’ve been researching for almost 30 years. It’s important to read how others approach genealogy problems even if it isn’t in a region or about a nationality you’re interested in. I certainly learned a few new strategies from this book.
Those are my five books. I could have listed several others, but this is a good start!
I know that some of my Portuguese Hawaiian visitors will give me a bad time for leaving Portuguese Hawaiian Memories off the list. It’s such a well known book that I thought I would highlight some lesser known works.
What books have you found useful in your genealogy research? Tell us in the comments.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com