Book Review

By Martha Rasmussen                                                                                                 

Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America, by Francois Weil. Published by Harvard  University Press, 2013. 304 p. $27.95. ISBN 978‐0‐674‐0458‐5. Includes index, notes. And acknowledgments.


    Francois Weil is Chancellor of the Universities of Paris and a professor of history. His 
interest in American history is most obvious in his writing of this book in which he traces 
the development of the study of genealogy in American families from the colonial era until 
the present. 

    His discussions of the ways Americans used genealogy in the 18th and 19th century 
for social advancement and even formed family associations to hire genealogists to visit 
Europe to search for family connections are most interesting. He explains how standards, 
forms, and certification of genealogists by the various organizations such as the American 
Society of Genealogists. Weil also points out the relationship of the influence of varied 
ethnic groups on genealogy. This was not only from individuals but organizing national 
groups to keep the family connections for the children of the immigrants. This 
democratized the practice of genealogy in early 20th century. 

    Weil also provides information regarding genealogists, good and bad, who served 
the whims of the “market” and gives an idea of who some of the more interesting ways they 
did provide this service. The influence of the TV program “Roots” is discussed and how it 
made an impact on non‐genealogist as well as those “into” family history with many having 
an interest in learning more about their family. 

    In the last chapter of the book, Weil discusses the effects of diversity, the internet, 
and the recent discoveries in using DNA testing for genealogy have had. There is evidence 
that there will be more interest in the role of race in family background, although it may 
also strengthen the truth that we’re all related in the end. And accept the fact that there 
our society is interrelated. 

    This interesting and well‐researched book on the subject of genealogy is well worth 
a reading for “serious” genealogists. Family Trees is not for a popular audience but a study of the field in America. One that we can be glad was undertaken by this author.
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All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, Legendary Irish Famine Ship By Kathryn Miles published by Free Press. New York, 2013. 239p with Notes and Index. ISBN 978-1-4516-1013-0. Hardcover. $26.

All Standing Definition:. 1. To be equipped or rigged. 2. To turn in full clothed; at the ready. 3. To be brought to anchor, at a full stop. The Sailor’s Word Book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms.

This story of the legendary Irish Famine ship the Jeanie Johnston will both fascinate and impress descendants of emigrants… especially the Irish. Known as the “luckiest” ship taking Irish to North America, the Jeanie never lost a passenger as she took 100 or more at a time across the ocean to Quebec, New York and Baltimore. And never having any passenger die en route.

Kathryn Miles, the author who served as an apprentice on a recreation of the Jeanie Johnston in a recent voyage, provides her readers with not only the fruit of that experience, but her research among archives, newspaper accounts and other resources that bring to life the 11 voyages made by this amazing ship from Ireland to North America during mid-19th century. Miles lives in Maine where one of her hobbies is sailing and so she has recreated the voyages from that perspective. 

Many important characters are included in this saga- John Munn, a Quebec shipwright and builder of the Jeanie Johnston and known for the superior quality of his ships. The owner, Nicholas Donovan, an importer/exporter of timber and grain, saw the exchange of immigrants for other products as a business opportunity. And of course, Nicholas Reilly, son of Daniel and Margaret Reilly, who was born on Easter as the maiden voyage of the JEANIE JOHNSTON began in 1848.  Nicholas Reilly and his parents arrived safely in Quebec and immigrated first to Indiana. He and his family moved on to Minnesota. But theirs is only one story in this account of multiple lives intertwining in chapters depicting the immigrant experience both during and after the voyage.

Unlike many stories of immigrant voyages, Miles includes a portrait of Captain James Attridge of the Jeanie Johnston, the crew and the ship’s physician, Dr. Richard Blennerhassettt, who did so much to maintain the passenger’s health on the voyage. The author also provides much of the history of the Irish famine -- the relief efforts from both the British government viewpoint of Charles Trevelyan, assistant secretary of HM Treasury, Lord John Russell , Prime Minister.  The role of  physicians was told including Henry Blennerhassett father of Richard, who was medical supervisor of famine relief in Tralee, Ireland and George Mellis Douglas, physician and medical superintendent at the Grosse Ile, where ill immigrants were detained at a quarantine station in Quebec, Canada where many immigrants died.

Parts of the book are set in the United States where some of the immigrants settled with information about their lives there … Kathryn Miles, the author, also gives the feel of  the many ways the passengers and crew might have experienced storms, illness and other events during the voyages as well as the lives of crew, owner and passengers. 

The fate of the Jeanie Johnston makes a dramatic conclusion to this story, but doesn't take away the achievement of these individuals acting both together and separately to ensure the safety of the Jeanie Johnston passengers to North Amercia. The ship sank on a return voyage to Ireland as the result of a storm in 1856, but the Dutch Ship Sophia Elizabeth rescued the crew of the Jeanie Johnston of 15 people including the captain and his wife and 2 –year-old son. Just one more reason that the Jeanie is known at the “luckiest” ship to cross from Ireland to North America

A most interesting story for all we "want-to-be" sailors and genealogists wondering what it was "like" for our ancestors coming to America.


TURN YOUR IPAD INTO A GENEALOGY POWERHOUSE, by Lisa Louisa Cooke, published by Genealogy Gems Podcast., 2012 147 p. paperback.

I've had my IPAD II over a year and I still learned some new possibilities forusing it in my genealogy research.

Lisa Louise Cooke's explanations of the various ways one can make use of the IPAD is inspiring as well as helpful.


Lisa L. Cooke has over a dozen chapters just on Apps in applications we all use like Audio/Visual, collaboration and Communication, file storage and sharing, photography as well as utilities. So almost any user can find interesting and practical information in this guide. Cooke covers the “social media” apps like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, but she goes into help for organization of your research, taking notes, and using screenshots to share your information with other genealogists.


All in all, I found the book a useful resource for me in reminding me of things I can try out and learn from using Google Earth to using the IPAD as an emergency alarm clock should I be traveling without one. Lisa Louise Cooke also keeps her explanations short and clear. Something we all should learn to do.

The book is available as an e-book or paperack via Lisa's website at www.genealogygems.com, through Family Chronicles magazine, or Internet Genealogy magazine books at their website at www.familychronicle..com.It makes a super gift for anyone who has an interest in Tablet computer use of devies like IPAD.