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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Fact or Fiction, I Love a Good Family History Story!

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about our dream jobs—or at least those that look fun, exciting, and interesting in fiction.  The prompt, Top Ten Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had, has left me scratching my head, though.  I guess it's just too early in the morning for my brain to match up characters from books I enjoyed or books I want to read with jobs I wish I had.  Probably I'm being too literal.  Although I have a college degree in English, my oldest child was born prematurely (at 29 weeks gestation) not long after graduation.  I have been a stay-at-home mom ever since.  While it's hardly the most glamorous career choice in the world, I've found a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment in being able to focus on motherhood full-time.  I do feel less needed now that my oldest two are on their own and my youngest two are in school all day, but I still don't feel any great longing to enter the workforce.  The other day, my husband was joking about me getting a full-time job so he could retire (he's 44).  Our 16-year-old son, who's usually pretty "whatever" about things, looked appalled at the idea and said, "What?  No!  I need you at home, Mom."  So, there you go.  I've been working my dream job for over 22 years now and, all in all, it's been pretty great.  Still, wiping runny noses and changing dirty diapers isn't the stuff of which great fiction is made, so...

If I could choose another dream job, it would for sure be that of a professional reader.  Since book blogging is pretty darn close, I have to say that I'm actually already "working" two of my dream "jobs."  Wow!  

That brings us to family history, which has long been an interest of mine.  A couple years ago, I made the decision to become accredited as a professional genealogist.  While you don't technically need any kind of certification to work in the field, especially as a self-employed researcher, I thought it would be a fun, challenging way to up my genealogy game. And it has been.  I completed two big research projects in two different specialty areas (the Great Lakes and the Southwest regions of the U.S.) and now all I have to do is test in both.  This was supposed to have happened a year ago, but thanks to COVID, it's been postponed.  In the meantime, I've continued researching my own ancestors in an ongoing effort to know and understand those who came before me and to keep my family history sleuthing skills sharp.  One way I do this is by attending RootsTech—the world's largest family history conference—which is held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Because of the pandemic, this year's event was held entirely online and was, for the first time ever, completely free.  Even though the conference has ended, the classes and presentations that were given are still available online, meaning you can watch them right now.  If you've ever wanted to learn more about how to research your own family history straight from industry professionals, this is your chance to do it from the comfort of your own home and without spending a dime.  Click on over to for more details.


If you have any desire at all to know about your roots, I highly recommend checking out FamilySearch.  It's a free, easy-to-use genealogy website where you can build a family tree, connect it to others that are already in its enormous database (chances are excellent that your great-grandparents and beyond are in there, meaning you won't have to do extensive research to find them), and use historical records (millions of which are available to search on the site for free) to learn more about their lives.  Although my illustrious ancestors were more pauper than prince, I have found it extremely rewarding to get to know them and connect to my heritage.  

I know it seems I've meandered far away from books, but I promise this is going somewhere!  Obviously, I love learning about family history—from reading stories about my ancestors to studying old documents to Nancy Drew-ing my way through puzzling mysteries, I'm here for it all.  Not surprisingly, I also enjoy reading books about genealogy.  I've found a few that star genealogists and a lot more that feature characters who are looking into their own pasts in order to solve a mystery, understand an enigmatic family member, connect with a lost culture, or find themselves in their own pasts.  My list today is gong to be a mixture of books I've read and those I want to read about genealogy and family history.  

However you want to twist the TTT topic, you definitely want to join in the fun.  All the details are over at That Artsy Reader Girl.  Check it out.

Top Ten Books About Genealogy and Family History:  

Five I've Read—

1.  The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissmann—I read this middle grade novel earlier this year and loved it.  It's about a mixed-race girl who was adopted as a baby by a white Jewish couple.  As she prepares for her upcoming bat mitzvah, she begins studying the life of her adoptive great-grandmother, who fled her European homeland during World War II.  This propels the girl on a journey to discover who she really is and where she truly belongs.  It's an excellent, moving book about identity and family.

2.  Murder Once Removed by S.C. Perkins—This cozy mystery series features a professional genealogist who solves family history mysteries as a job.  In this first installment, she's been hired by a Texas billionaire to find the murderer of his great-great granddaddy.  Although I didn't absolutely love this book, it's still a fun read.  There are a couple more books in the series now—I need to catch up.

3.  Inheritance by Dani Shapiro—In this memoir, Shapiro recounts what happened when a DNA test she took returned unexpected results.  The journey she then undertook to find and understand her true identity is an intriguing one that asks important questions about family, identity, culture, and the ethics of sperm donation.  It's fascinating.

4.  It's All Relative by A.J. Jacobs—I heard Jacobs speak at RootsTech in 2015 after he published this book about his quest to find his roots.  It's a hilarious, entertaining read that any genealogy addict will enjoy. 

5.  The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton—I'm a huge fan of Morton's multi-layered family sagas for lots of reasons.  This one concerns a young girl who is taken in by a tender-hearted old man when she arrives alone in Australia without anyone to retrieve her.  She's raised by the man and his wife, without knowing she's not their biological child.  When she finds out, she sets out on a journey to find out who she really is.

Five I Want to Read—

1.  The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn—Stephanie over at She's Probably at the Library recommended this book about the author's search for his family's Holocaust story.  The way she described his painstaking research process made me especially interested in reading this heavy tome that Stephanie says is heartbreaking but fascinating.  

2.  Under the Light of the Italian Moon by Jennifer Anton (available March 8, 2021)—Based on the author's own family history, this novel tells the story of one woman's resilience during World War II in Italy.

3.  Send For Me by Lauren Fox—This dual-timeline novel concerns a woman who finds her grandmother's letters from World War II Germany, which propels her on a journey into her family's tragic past.  Have I mentioned that I've got a thing for family history?

4.  Paging the Dead by Brynn Bonner—The first installment in a family history mystery series, this one has the professional genealogist main character investigating a murder in order to clear her own name.  Sounds fun!

5.  The Lost Family by Libby Copeland—This book, which examines DNA results and family history research, has gotten some good buzz.  I'm definitely interested in reading it.

There you go, ten books about family history/genealogy that I've read and want to read.  Which books of this type have you enjoyed?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!


  1. Wow, your oldest child was born early! I have a cousin who was born at roughly the same gestational age as your child. She's an adult now and doing well. Medicine is truly amazing. I hope your oldest is also doing well.

    And I love reading books about families and genealogy and history, too. Such interesting stuff.

    My post:

    1. Both of my boys were actually born at 29 weeks thanks to my wonky uterus :) You wouldn't know it now, though - they're both tall and healthy, thank goodness. I'm extremely grateful for modern medicine. It absolutely saved both of their lives.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lydia!

  2. That's so cute that your sixteen-year-old son said he still needed you at home. And The Lost is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction reads. Fun TTT!

    1. He would never admit it, but he's actually a pretty big mama's boy :)

      I'm glad you loved THE LOST. That makes me even more excited to read it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lark!

  3. My mother and her family did the big root dig. She got some interesting information. A very interesting post.

    1. It can be a wild ride for sure. I haven't found anything surprising in mine, but I have come across some funny stories and amazing people!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Sam!

  4. These all sound so interesting! And I honestly wish being paid to just read was an actual job.

    1. Right? As a book blogger, I feel like I get paid in books, but still, making actual money would be nice :)

      Thanks for stopping in, Leah!

  5. I'm a stay at home mom too and honestly I'm pretty much good! I can't imagine doing anything else really. Though I would like to make professional genealogist happen. I'm reading a Brynn Bonner book right now and enjoying it. I need to go back and get the others. I've only read the Morton and the Perkins and enjoyed both and now want to read the rest you have on your list!

    1. Same. I've always been happiest at home. And genealogical research is absolutely a job that can be done from home, so bonus!

      I'm glad Bonner's good. I'd never heard of her until I Googled "genealogy mystery books" today. LOL.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Katherine!

  6. Being a wonderful mother is the best and most important job out there. I worked while my children were young, but I am sure enjoying spending time with my grandchildren. What a great twist Susan. I am going to check out that site you suggested, who knows I might find some of my father's family.

    1. I absolutely agree! I'm grateful I've had the opportunity to be at home with my kids throughout their childhoods. I know lots of mothers who wish they could be in my place. We do the best we can, don't we?

      I'm so glad you're going to play around with FamilySearch. It's an awesome site! Just remember that your family tree won't automatically populate until you've added someone who is dead to your tree. The privacy of living people is protected, so they won't show up in the database. Once you've added someone who is dead, hopefully your tree will automatically fill in with information that has already been gathered. If you need help, let me know. I'm happy to walk you through it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Carla!

  7. I love how you always find cool ways of putting a personal and creative spin to the weekly TTT topics. Happy to hear your oldest boys are doing great! Will have to look into some of your book recommendations on family history

    1. Thanks! The topics don't always appeal to me, so I try to spin them in a way that suits :)

      My boys are doing great, thanks. The oldest was in the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) for a month and a half, the younger for a month. It was very stressful, but they received excellent care. Preemies are fighters!

      Thanks for stopping in, Andge!

  8. What an awesome post, Susan! I love that you have been living your dream job. I am too. I've always kind of have been stuck and a wanderer. I came really close to becoming a Librarian when I worked at the library. I decided to pivot and it took sooo long to get pregnant and stay pregnant was a challenge but I LOVE being a SAHM. I would say, it's really one of the hardest jobs but so rewarding. The fact that your 16 year old said he still needs his mom at home.. is just the best!! <3 Also, yes to a professional reader.. we are close there with all the reading and talking we do about books!! <3

    1. Being a parent, especially a mom, is absolutely the hardest job in the world! It takes so much energy - physical and emotional - that it's a wonder any of us are ever upright. LOL. It's rewarding, though, for sure, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Not that there aren't days when I want to disown them all ...

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Leslie!

  9. We have a lot in common. I've been a stay at home mom for more years than I probably should have been by this point. I also would love to be a professional reader. ;)

    1. Even though my kids need me in different ways now than they did when they were little, I still think it's incredibly important to be home for them as much as I can. They might be teenagers, but they still need their mommy!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Deanna!

  10. I've never read a single book from this list, but thank you for sharing.

    1. You're welcome! My favorite thing about reading book blogs is seeing what other people are reading and getting great recommendations.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting!

  11. I am going to write all of these books down. My sisters and I are into genealogy.We can trace our mother's ancestor's all the way back to before the Mayflower, the French Huguenots to 1500s. Unfortunately our dad was orphaned at age 7 and half and does not remember much so we can only go back to our great grandparents. We only know three came from Ireland and one from Holland. Happy Genealogy searching.

    1. That's awesome that you can go back so far! Adoption does make the research more difficult. I've been working on my adoptive daughter's lines and it's rough going since we have so little info about one side of her birth family. DNA is helping a little with that. It might help in your dad's case as well.

      Happy searching to you as well! Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Marilyn!

  12. I'm fascinated by genealogy and have recently been exploring a family history that one of my great- aunts put together. I am definitely going to check out those sites! I can't wait to see what I discover. And I love a good cozy. A cozy mystery plus genealogy sounds like a definite win!

    1. How fun! If you're interested in learning how to research, the RootsTech classes are amazing. And FamilySearch is an awesome site for family tree building. If you've used Ancestry, it's very similar except everything is free and since it's a not-for-profit site, it always will be :) Yay for free!

      Thanks for stopping in, Greg!

  13. I was also an English major who ended up staying home full-time! No regrets here, either. :) We've dug a bit into our genealogy but we've never used RootsTech before. We'll have to check it out! I have The Forgotten Garden on my shelf waiting to be read. Happy to hear you enjoyed it. <3

    1. I'm definitely glad I got my degree, even if I've never really used it in a professional capacity. It was still worth it. The SAHM gig has been as well.

      The RootsTech classes have never been all free and online before, so this is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of them.

      I love everything Kate Morton has written (well, her newest wasn't quite up to snuff in my opinion, but still...). She's a great author.

      Thanks for coming by, Dedra!

  14. I love family stories and family sagas crossing generations. So much in those reads. Thank you for the list.

    1. Me, too! I'm always on the lookout for good ones :)

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Mystica!

  15. How lovely. I gave up my full-time job when my oldest was born and then my work from home job when I had my second child and we moved to England. My boys appreciated it that I was always there for them, so I know exactly what your son meant.

    But it was always a great opportunity to volunteer anywhere, school, church, boy scouts, whatever groups they participated it. So, I wasn't just there for them at home but also in their other activities.

    Genealogy is another thing we have in common. I worked on our family history with my mum as long as she was still able to do it and now we have quite a decent list.

    I haven't read any of the books you mentioned but since we talked about "The Forgotten Garden" recently, that's on my wishlist.

    Thanks, as always, for visiting my TTT earlier.

    1. Same! I've always had the flexibility to volunteer when I wanted to, which helped me be involved in the kids' lives outside of home as well. Also, the kids have always known they can bring their friends home because I would be here to watch them, unlike some of their friends' parents who were working.

      My mom is a HUGE genealogy person. We've worked on our lines together a lot over the years. With COVID, even my dad has really started to get into it!

      I really like Kate Morton's book. Except for her newest, which I didn't like as much, I've loved all her books.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Marianne!

    2. Same here. My boys loved it. And even if sometimes they might have wished me to know a little less about what was going on at school, now they appreciate that I was always there for them. And their friends. The amount of kids I've helped with their homework ...

  16. Hi from another stay at home mum! I loved every minute (well, there may have been *some* days...) of bringing up my girls and have so many great memories. I did do volunteer work for charities when they got older but only a couple of days a week, plus I was active in the PTA. People think stay at home mum must be bored and 'boring' but it really is not the case in my experience. I had so many hobbies and interests that I shared with my daughters, the biggest being Star Trek. LOL

    1. Agreed! There were definitely days (especially back in the diaper/baby stage) that I was so exhausted and frustrated with being at home full-time with my kids that I wanted to throw in the towel, but those were always balanced by days of peace and contentment knowing I was doing something important. I've always volunteered as well - with the schools, my church, etc. It keeps me involved.

      I love that you and your daughters are Trekkies! My husband loves Star Trek, but none of our kids are into it. He and I do enjoy watching Voyager together. That's the only Star Trek series I've really watched.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Cath!

  17. Thanks for sharing, Susan! I feel I'm knowing you a bit more through these TTT posts. :) Stay-at-home mom is never an easy job but it's such a fulfilling one as you watch your children grow up and not to mention those bonding time. Those moments will stay in your mind for a long time. :)

    And I do enjoy a good family saga book and I agree Kate Morton is one of the best at this genre.

    1. Agreed. I don't think any parent looks back on quality time spent with their children as wasted time. It's precious indeed.

      Yes! Kate Morton is a master. I especially love that her books are rich and compelling but without a lot of graphic violence, language, or sex. That's something I really appreciate.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Melody!

  18. I was a stay-at-home mom for twenty years while my two sons were at home, and I loved it, too. And I still had time to work fulltime as a librarian later and even retire from it!

    P.S. I'm fascinated with family history, too.

    1. I know a lot of women who stayed at home when their kids were young and started careers afterward. Amazing!

      Thanks for stopping in, Deb!

  19. Wonderful post, captivating books and fabulous topic. I have read most of the books listed here and they are all memorable and unforgettable. I knew my background but 3 years ago I received the Ancestry as a gift which confirmed what I was aware of. 100% Askenazi. Thanks for your most interesting post.

    1. Awesome! Have you ever watched the PBS show "Finding Your Roots" with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.? It's fabulous and they're always talking about Askenazi Jewish DNA on there. Fascinating stuff. My DNA is super boring - 100% European. I was hoping I might get a fun surprise ... nope!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  20. I wish I could be a stay at home mom! I have a 4 month old at home, but we just can't survive on just my husband's teacher salary. Luckily, my mom is our full time babysitter so I know she is in good hands during the day. I've done some genealogy work too. My mom recently found out she had a first cousin she never knew about through

    1. I'm sure it breaks your heart to leave your baby every day :( I love that your mom is her full-time caregiver, though. If there's anyone who has as much love to give as a mother, it's a grandmother!

      Oooh, I love DNA surprises! I'm sure they can lead to difficult situations, but I also love the idea of families expanding and expanding.

      Thanks for coming by, Sara!

  21. Great post! I love the topic that you chose. My dream job would also be to be a professional reader...

    My mom worked from home when my twin sister and I were 4 years old and I am so glad that she did. The three of us are very, very close and I will always cherish the time we spent together. We were also homeschooled/did independent study (aka what everyone is doing now for virtual classes lol) from the 4th grade until we went off to college ... we were also competitive figure skaters so we got to spend even more time together. My mom has no regrets about her choice to work from home for all those years and swears it makes a difference in the upbringing of kids. My sister and I live in a different state now than my mom does and we are now almost 23 years old and we are just as close as we were when we left home 5 years ago. While she was not the traditional stay at home mom and she was more of a hybrid, I have such respect for mothers and stay at home mothers... you are all amazing, selfless human beings and we are so very thankful for you all.

    Great post and happy TTT!

    1. Wow, what a Supermom! It's awesome that she devoted so much time to you and your sister and that you're all so close. What a blessing for all three of you. I agree that having a mom at home full-time makes a huge difference for kids. It's required some sacrifice, but it's been absolutely worth it for me.

      Thanks for stopping in, Maya!

  22. I like your twist on the topic! Family history can be so interesting and I love stories that span generations of one family. I remember reading Roots when I was younger and enjoying it, but can't remember much other than that it was good!

    1. Me, too. Rich multi-generational family sagas are my favorite kind of read. I haven't read ROOTS, though. I definitely should. Thanks for the reminder :)

      Thanks for coming by, Catherine!

  23. Such a great post. I've wanted to learn more about my family history for a while now but haven't really known where to even begin so I will definitely have to check out the resources you shared.

    1. I definitely recommend starting with FamilySearch. You can build a family tree there and because its database is so vast, it's likely that once you add a dead ancestor, your tree will automatically populate. Then, you can learn about the ancestors that show up and extend your search to any that are missing. FS is a great site - very user-friendly. I also love that it is absolutely free! Good luck with researching your family history. If you need help, just let me know.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Suzanne!

  24. I want to read Inheritance.

    1. It's a good one. Very thought-provoking. I hope you enjoy it!

      Thanks for coming by!

  25. I always love hearing about your genealogical research, but I didn't know there was any kind of accreditation program. That sounds really cool.

    And whoa, there's still a whole post about books below your cool stories/helpful facts?? What a great read this week's post is, late as I am to it. I haven't read any of those but they all sound good. And I actually have a possible book/author rec for you on this topic -- I might have posted Root, Petal, Thorn on a TTT TBR post once, but if not, have you read that or anything else by Ella Joy Olsen? She seems like someone whose books would be right up your alley.


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