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The Online Blog Meeting of the Legacy Book Club

I love books. Books are my lifelong obsession. I started working at the local library when I was 15 years old. My house is full of books and I run two virtual book clubs. It’s no surprise that I read quite a bit. I not only buy books but I borrow them from local libraries via the Libby app. And since I never want to miss an opportunity to read I have physical books and an eReader always at close reach. 

It’s July and here in Southern California it’s getting hot, so it’s a good time to sit in the air conditioning and read. Right now I’m spending time reading about 19th century American women’s lives, old regional recipes, and various social history topics. It’s also a good time to study a specific topic that will help your genealogy research or to delve into a pile of novels that provide some escapism during a much-needed time.

Because I love books I thought it would be great if we had a blog “book club meeting” where we share what we are reading. This provides all of us an opportunity to discover our next must-reads. Instead of a meeting at a specific time and place, this meeting is right here on the blog so you can “attend” whenever is best for you. The comments section below will serve as the place for our discussion and sharing. That way we can all benefit from learning about what everyone else is reading.

My Current Bookshelf


Book shelfie

What am I reading? I have quite a few books that I‘m studying right now but let me share three titles:

Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt. One of my favorite books, this is the story of a woman and her daughter who answer a challenge to be the first women to walk across the United States. With the hope of a financial reward that will help their family, Helga and her daughter set out in 1896 to walk from Washington state to New York. This book is an important read for researchers because it’s also the story of how a woman who did something amazing was pretty much forgotten and how family stories are silenced. Thanks to the essay of a young descendant coupled with the research of the author, Helga’s experience walking across the United States is documented. I can’t recommend this book enough. I have loved it since I first read it years ago.

One of the best presentations I ever heard at a conference was about the London cholera epidemic and how Dr. John Snow solved that mystery. The Ghost Map: The Story of Lund’s Most Terrifying Epidemic-and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson tells that story. “It’s the summer of 1854, and London is seized by a violent outbreak of cholera that no one know how to stop. As the epidemic spreads, a maverick physician and a local curate are spurred in action, working to solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time…” That conference presentation I heard so many years ago is what helped me realize that combining social history with genealogy was what I was passionate about. I’m looking forward to learning more about this story of cholera and its effect on our ancestors.

One of my latest book purchases is The Art of the Jewish Family: A History of Women in Early New York in Five Objects by Laura Arnold Leibman. Lucky for me one of my book clubs includes meetings where we just sit and discuss what we are currently reading and one of our members shared this book with us. It combines material culture and female ancestors, so what’s not to like? It is beautifully illustrated with color images of the items discussed and you can find YouTube videos of the author presenting on her research. “In order to rethink early Jewish American women’s lives, The Art of the Jewish Family examines five objects owned by Jewish women who lived at least a portion of their lives in early New York between 1750 and 1850. Each chapter creates a biography of a single woman through her object, but also uses her story to shed light on the larger changes in Jewish American women’s lives.” This work focuses on using archival research to recreate women’s lives. An important topic for genealogists.

Now It’s Your Turn

I’m reading more than the three books mentioned above including some cookbooks but I want to hear about what you’re reading. Use the comments below and share what you’re reading or some of your recent favorites. Are your book choices of late strictly for fun or have they helped you with your research? What was an important take-away from what you read?

I’m looking forward to hearing about your summer reads!


Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.




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The Cruelest Month - Louise Penney (second reading)
How to Do Everything Genealogy - George Morgan
Genealogy and the Law - Kay Haviland Frelich
The Secret Wife - Steve Robinson
Morton in Lockdown - Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Strong Women Stay Young - Mirian Nelson

After this week’s excellent webinar by Carol Baxter, I’m re-reading her Writing interesting Family Histories and another title, this one by Hazel Edwards, Not just a piece of cake: Being an author.

The Dressmaker's Gift - Fiona Valpy

Unofficial Guide to by Dana McCullough
Thread the Halls by Lea Wait
The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters
The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland (recently finished)

Wonderful video talking about your first book "Bold Spirit"

Czechoslovakia: Behind the Iron Curtain by Zuzana Palovic and Gabriela Bereghazyovs - my mother's oldest sister went back to Slovakia with her husband some time after 1920 after he inherited the family farm. She sent letters to my mother about what life was like there. This book helped me understand the background.

The Introvert's Way - Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling.

Rule 34 by Charles Stross - one of my favorite science fiction authors.

After the excellent webinar by Carol Baxter Captain Thunderbolt and His Lady
Research for my uncle's biography - Every Man A Hero by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice
and Whatever It Took by Henry Langrehr and Jim DeFelice
The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory (just finished)

The Manor, by Max Griswold

Rather than reading I have been writing a 480 page book about my family using the program StoryWorth and no, I have no connection with the company. I got one question a week that my son picked about my childhood and family. Now I am editing and then we will publish the book. I strongly suggest the program. I have tried to do this for years and finally this made it possible.

Also because my family is from Sicily I am reading A House in the Mountains: The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism by Caroline Moorehead.

And, an excellent WWII novel: Blame the Dead by Ed Ruggero

Tracing Your East End Ancestors: A Guide For Family Historians – Jane Cox
Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery – Richard Hollingham
Over the Mountains of the Sea: Life on a Migrant Ship 1870-1885 – David Hastings
The Highland Clearances – John Prebble

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

HELMETS AND LIPSTICK by an American WW2 Army Nurse, Ruth G. Haskell
WE ARE AT WAR by the great Simon Garfield
FASHION ON THE RATION by Julie Summers, (the creator of TV's Home Fires)
Lindsey Davis books - on lives of ordinary citizens in Ancient Rome.

I really enjoyed "Ghost Map"!

Books I recently finished that I would recommend:
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flue of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney

Twenty Years at Hull House: History of the Settlement House and Social Reformism in Chicago's West Side by Jane Adams

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