Davis, William C. The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf.

San Diego: Harcourt, 2005. 706p., hardcover. Index, illus, maps. $28.00. ISBN 0-15-100403-X.

In Louisiana, both historians — academic and “hobbyist” — and genealogists have long been interested in Jean Laffite (or Lafitte) and his brother Pierre, their activities around Barataria, and especially their part in the Battle of New Orleans. Over the years, beginning in the mid-19th century, many biographies of the Lafitte boys have been written, several “true” personal memoirs have been published, and a great many researchers have taken up one theory or another regarding their origins and eventual deaths. One of the best-known is Lyle Saxon’s Laffite the Pirate, published in 1930, but while it’s an entertaining book, Saxon’s sources are as questionable as any other author’s. With the publication of this new work, however, the whole Laffite story enters a new and more respectable phase.

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Published in: on 16 January 2010 at 9:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Yalom, Marilyn. The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. 336p., hardcover. Index, illus. $30.00. ISBN 0-618-62427-0.

Non-genealogists are apt not to understand why we come back from a vacation, and the only pictures in the camera are of tombs and grave markers. Cemeteries are fascinating places to those who research the history of their families. But they’re also an intimate ingredient in American cultural history. As families of varying ethnic origins migrated west (or north), they took their burial traditions with them, which means there’s not much that a colonial burying ground in Connecticut, a Hispanic cemetery in San Antonio, and a rural church graveyard in Missouri have in common — at least on the surface. (more…)

Published in: on 12 January 2010 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide.

3d ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2006. 526p, softcover. Illus, maps. $24.95 ISBN 0-8063-1768-X.

Other than the Germans and the English themselves, the Irish produced more immigrants to America than any other Western culture. Almost all of us (including probably the majority of African Americans) have some Irish blood. But because most of those who left Ireland did so under the pressure of eviction and often outright starvation, they generally came from the bottom rungs of society. (more…)

Published in: on 11 January 2010 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hart, Craig. A Genealogy of the Wives of the American Presidents and Their First Two Generations of Descent.

Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2004. 303p., softcover. Index. ISBN 0-7864-1956-3.

There have been thirty-eight First Ladies — an entirely unofficial designation for those women who sometimes have been very influential in their nation’s history. Five other wives of future presidents died before their husbands took office, two women became the wives of ex-presidents, and Ronald Reagan divorced his first wife, Jane Wyman; all forty-six are included in this volume. Each lineage listing begins with the grandchildren of the subject, then the children, then the woman herself, then each earlier generation as far back as it can be traced — which, in the case especially of the earlier, more aristocratic Virginia families, means latching on to a royal “gateway” ancestor which can whisk one back to the 8th or 9th century. (more…)

Published in: on 11 January 2010 at 3:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fitzpatrick, Colleen. Forensic Genealogy.

Fountain Valley, CA: Rice Book Press, 2005. 220p., softcover. Illus. $26.50 + $4.95 s/h. ISBN 0-9767160-0-3. (Andrew Yeiser & Assocs., 302 Cleveland Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92648 / Web: www.forensicgenealogy.info)

“Forensics” refers to the use of science and technology in the investigation of evidence and establishment of facts. We generally use the term in relation to legal and police work, but there’s no reason forensic methods can’t be applied to any sort of research in the social sciences, including genealogy. In this book, however, it often seems to have acquired a looser meaning — something like “close, careful examination.” And that’s incorrect, but ever since CSI became popular on TV, “forensic” has become a sexy word. And the author makes some excellent points about paying attention to the sources you examine, so I won’t carp about the label she adopts. Dr. Fitzpatrick (who, in the real world, is a physicist with a specialty in laser optics) is becoming quite well known as a genealogical conference speaker at the local and national level, partly, I think, because she does a good job explaining concepts and methodology in the area of DNA research — which is definitely a forensic topic. (more…)

Published in: on 11 January 2010 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment