Tag Archives: Book Reviews

So You Think You Know George Washington?: Stories They Didn’t Tell You in School by Jack Darrell Crowder: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

So You Think You Know George Washington? by Jack Darrell Crowder is in a fun, casual format, divided into chapters and sub-topics that readers will enjoy.

Contents

THE MAN

1 The Myth of George Washington
2 Young George Washington
3 George Washington Body and Soul
4 The Emotions of George Washington
5 The Humor of George Washington
6 George Washington the Ladies Man
7 Martha Dandridge Custis Washington
8 George Washington and Religion
9 George Washington: Teeth, Illness, and Death
10 George Washington the Planter
11 George Washington and Slavery
1 George Washington Begins His Military Career 1752-1757
13 George Washington the Politician

THE GENERAL

14 George Washington Takes Command
15 George Washington: A Great General or Just Lucky
16 Disrespect Towards George Washington
17 Close Calls for George Washington

THE PRESIDENT

18 President George Washington

Conclusion
End Notes
Bibliography

The author’s stated purpose in writing this book is “to take a closer look at Washington, the man behind the legend, and reveal little known stories that shows us what George Washington was really like.”

I have to admit I am quite taken with this book. Crowder opens with debunking the oft repeated stories about Washington, like chopping down the cherry tree. However, he quickly moves on to all kinds of interesting – short – factual tidbits about our first President.

Did you know that, as a young man, Washington rarely attended church? Further, for most of his life, his real estate rarely showed profits in business, but by the end of his life, he owned over 50,000 acres of land and, in spite of his wealth that was tied up in real and personal property, Washington had to borrow money to travel to his own inauguration as President. Or that George and wife Martha arranged 16 marriages, including that of James Madison and Dolly Payne? Lastly, Washington wasn’t the strongest of generals and made overly complicated battle plans.

The author has certainly attained his goal of painting a picture of that man that Washington really was. He closes with “George Washington, a man much like us, was concerned about money, possessions, reputation, family. and success. He also doubted his abilities at times and was sensitive to criticisms. In many ways he was just an average man going about life. he did not seek greatness, but had it forced upon him.”

My only criticism of this book is that an editor should have caught a few incomplete sentences and/or typographical errors that occasionally appear.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is seriously interested in the 18th century and the founding of the United States of America. It would also be an excellent reference for teachers of early American or Presidential history. Strong teen readers with an interest in American history would also enjoy this book.

So You Think You Know George Washington? Stories They Didn’t Tell You in School by Jack Darrell Crowder and newly published by Clearfield Company in 2023 can be purchased on Genealogical.com for $45.00.


Old Dominion, New Commonwealth, A History of Virginia 1607-2007: Book Review

Old Dominion – New Commonwealth

Old Dominion, New Commonwealth by Heinemann, Kolp, Parent and Shade is an oldie but goodie that I learned about when I took a class on Virginia resources. It’s described as being seen as a “classic in the years to come” and is a highly regarded work that covers four centuries of Virginia history, from its founding to its quadricentennial.

A quick perusal gave me a first impression of a textbook, although each chapter has “sources” rather than footnotes, so it’s a bit of work if someone wants to determine the origin of a particular fact. At just under 400 pages, the book also has the size of a textbook.

Contents

List of Maps
Preface
1 Before Virginia
2 Atlantic Outpost: 1607-1650
3 Imperial Outpost: 16550-1690
4 A Planter’s Patriarchy: 1690-1775
5 An Empire in Crisis: 1750-1775
6 From British Colony to American State:1775-1788
7 The Virginia Dynasty: 1789-1825
8 Democratizing the Old Dominion: 1825-1851
9 Virginia at Midcentury: 1840-1860
10 Slavery, Secession, and the Civil War: 1850-1865
11 The Reconstruction Era: 1865-1885
12 Progress and Preservation: 1885-1915
13 The Rise of the Byrd Organization: 1915-1930
14 Depression and War: 1930-1945
15 The Politics of Race: 1945-1960
16 A New Commonwealth: 1960-2007
Epilogue
Appendix: Virginia Population Figures
General Bibliography
Index

Old Dominion, New Commonwealth is an incredibly detailed overview (I know those words would seem to contradict one another) of the founding and growth of Virginia. Given the minutiae of information in each paragraph, this book isn’t quick or easy to read. There’s a lot for the brain to digest.

On the plus side, the chapters are neatly defined and I found reading one at a time and then taking a short break was a method of which my mind approved. Don’t take that as a criticism of the book, as it’s not meant to be. The details contribute to the overall quality of Virginia’s story. It just makes for some intense concentrated reading.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who would like to add to their knowledge of American history, but especially to those who have deep early roots in the Old Dominion. While it’s true that each state has contributed to and influenced American history, Virginia paved the way.

Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia 1607-2007 by Ronald Heinemann, John G. Kolp, Anthony S. Parent, Jr. and William G. Shade was published by University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville and London, 2007. Secondhand copies can be found on eBay for well under $20 with a number offered for less than $10. Those prices are a bargain for what I have to agree is a classic book on Virginia history.

You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

My review of this book came about in a slightly different way than all of the other books I’ve received from Genealogical Publishing Company. Most of the time, books randomly appear, unannounced, in my mailbox.

You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack was offered to me for review after a recent blog post discussed the process of writing a family history.

Another difference is that the majority of books that I receive from a publisher are either newly on the market or are updated editions. Carmack’s book was first published in 2003, but due to her subject matter, this book is not at all out of date, except perhaps aside from newer options for self-publishing online.

Table of Contents At a Glance

Introduction: A Labor of Love?
1 What Type of Family History Will Your Write?
2 Defining the Scope of Your Project
3 How Much Genealogical Research Is Enough?
4 Determining the Plot and Structure
5 Isolating Themes in Your Family History
6 Revisiting Genealogical Sources
7 Researching Social Histories
8 Gathering and Organizing Your Research
9 Making Choices About the Narrative
10 Bringing Your Ancestors to Life as Characters
11 Describing Your Ancestors’ Setting
12 Using Family Stories in Your Narrative
13 Including Suspense, Humor, and Romance
14 Blending Social History with Family History
15 Including Documentation
16 Adding Illustrations
17 The End Matters
18 Getting Ready to Publish
19 Publishing and Marketing

Bibliography
Appendix A the Charles Fearn Family Narrative: Frontier Military Life
Appendix B Example of Reverse Chronology Structure: “A Place Among Nations”
Appendix C Writing Courses, Contests, Organizations, and Conferences

Let’s face it! Writing a family history book is both challenging and overwhelming for most of us. In spite of that, have you thought about writing your own family history? Maybe you’ve even had a go at starting, but weren’t quite sure just how to complete the project.

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack has done a superb job presenting step-by-step directions on how to get started, how to engage our readers by mixing the narrative with social history, documenting sources and how to eventually market and publish a family history book.

I really liked the style of presentation of this book. With information presented in a logical, as-needed order, anyone considering writing their family history should have Carmack’s book on their reference shelf.

The process of decision making is clearly laid out in simple steps with many examples.

Consider, for example, how much of your family history you want to write about and how you might begin. Will you write about a single surname, tell the life stories of your four grandparents and their descendants or jump right in, covering all the families in your pedigree chart?

Exactly how much research should you complete before writing? How should social history be blended into your story? Will you include photos, documents, maps or other illustrations? How should family lore and/or sensitive topics be handled?

All of these questions are answered and the author presents those answers in a way that makes writing a family history seem not so daunting. In summary, everything one needs to know about writing a family history is contained in this book.

As mentioned earlier in this review, the only part of the book that is really outdated is the section that provides URLs (e.g. The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors is now only on Facebook) and contact information for publishing options (e.g. Picton Press closed in 2016 after its owner, Lewis Bunker Rohrbach, passed away.)

However, the outdated items are few in number and there is absolutely nothing outdated in the decision making and writing process so clearly explained by Carmack.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with plans to beginning writing a family history. By following the author’s recommendations, readers will find that the process from an idea to publication is actually very manageable.

You Can Write Your Family History (2003) by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack can be purchased online at genealogical.com in paperback for $26.50 or hard cover for $35.50.