Genealogically Related Books to Give (and Receive) this Holiday Season

Genealogically Related Books to Give (and Receive) this Holiday Season

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that all I want for Christmas is books. As a researcher, I use my books over and over again for research ideas, to better understand history, and find new-to-me sources. I typically reading two or more books at a time and am always on the lookout for the next read. 

So what are some books I think are must-haves? Here are 5 that you may be interested in this Holiday Season. 

  1. Barbara Starmans’ Tracing Your Ancestors' Lives: A Guide to Social History for Family Historians (2017). I’m a big fan of Barbara Starman’s The Social Historian website and of Pen and Sword Books. Barbara does wonderful work using social history to tell the story of ancestors’ lives and this book will help you learn to go beyond just names and dates. 

  2. One of the books my book club is reading in 2022 is Tiya Miles’ All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (2021). This book is about a family heirloom and the research that uncovered the story. “…historian Tiya Miles carefully unearths these women’s faint presence in archival records to follow the paths of their lives—and the lives of so many women like them—to write a singular and revelatory history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States.”

  3. Marcel's Letters A Font And The Search For One Man's Fate by Carolyn Porter is a great story of a woman who buys some letters in an antique store with the intent of using the handwriting to create a new font but she becomes intrigued by the story of the man who wrote the letters. She ends up researching this man, his family, and his fate as a forced worker during WWII.

  4. It’s no surprise I might add a food-related book. I love Anna Kharzeeva’s The Soviet Diet Cookbook: Exploring Life, Culture and History One Recipe at a Time. This is her journey as she cooks foods found in the vintage Soviet cookbook, Book of Tasty and Healthy Food. She learns about her female ancestors’ lives and shares her food and family history with the reader.

  5. One of the books that was highly recommended to me by a bookseller is the Foundling: The True Story of A Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me by Paul Joseph Fronczak and Alex Tresniowski (2017). I love when people are passionate about books and she was incessant: “you need to read this book!” Based on an incredible story of a kidnapped infant, his return, and a DNA test that showed he wasn’t actually that kidnapped baby, this story will be of interest to genealogists interested in DNA and what it can reveal about long-believed family stories. You can read more about Paul at his website, The Foundling.

In my book club, we hold a meeting I’ve titled BYOB (Bring Your Own Book). In that meeting, we share books we’ve been reading. So what have you been reading? Any books that should be on my must-have list? Let me know in the comments below.


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.