Book Review: Visiting Your Ancestral Town

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Visiting_Your_Ancestral_TownVisiting Your Ancestral Town
by Carolyn Schott. Published by Columbia-Capstone. 2015. 141 pages.

If anyone perfects the Travel-Back-in-Time Machine, the genealogists will be the first to sign up as test passengers.

How we long to go back in time and place to meet our ancestors. Those silent spirits who made fateful decisions, such as leaving the Old Country or enlisting into war, whose lives we remember, and whose memories we honor.

If only we could meet them.

Unfortunately, we have to settle for less.

Carolyn Schott wrote Visiting Your Ancestral Town after visiting her own ancestral town of Hoffnungstal, located in the Ukraine.

Her experience was so unforgettable, so memorable, that she wanted to share her experiences with us, and encourage us to make the same trip.

So to give us encouragement, she wrote Visiting to provide for us the details of working out the trip, what to do, what to avoid, and hopefully make it all appear easy enough for us to actually go, and experience our own memorable trip to our own ancestral hometown.

The first chapters describe how to go about finding the location of your family town. Beginning with what your family knows, or tells in legend and in story, and then moving on to doing deeper research and systematically laying out the facts, Ms. Schott will guide your research toward reliable conclusions.

The author invokes the Genealogical Proof Standard, and much of the book is basic instruction for doing skillful, high-quality genealogy research.

Chapter Four gets down to coaching the reader in how to finally find the town. From broad, generalized family information (the author began searching in “South Russia,” which proved to be a very long way from the true place), to ultimately getting to the precise location. The author writes about using maps and gazetteers, online and paper; genealogy organizations specific to your ethnicity and region of origin; and other records important to your quest in identifying the right town before flying off to the wrong one.

This is not a large book, but it’s inspirational and just might get you going. It’s a singular experience to see the hills your ancestor look upon, an opportunity not to be missed.

Visiting Your Ancestral Town by Carolyn Schott is available from the publisher at http://www.columbia-capstone.com/yyyn-visiting-your-ancestral-town.html and from Amazon as a paperback book at http://goo.gl/1ZEspj and as a Kindle-format ebook at http://goo.gl/SY1GMt.

4 Comments

What a great resource. I can attest to the thrill of not only visiting my ancestral town in France last summer, but of also finding the actual home my family left to come to America nearly 300 years ago. In addition to years of my own research, the help of a professional family historian in France with access to area archives was invaluable. Thanks for telling us about this book.

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Several members of my family have been lucky enough to visit Sandefjord, Vestfold, Norway, where my maternal grandfather lived as a child. He, his mother, and 3 younger siblings left there for America when he was 12, and his stories led us to the records. On my father’s side, however, we can trace back to a Hans Wagner, who appeared in the Carolinas in the 1730s. The family history book, written in the 1920s, can’t agree about whether he was Dutch or German. I’ve not been able to get any further than that. It’s not helped by the fact that there now appear to be a Hans Wagner in NC and a John Waggoner is Charleston, SC, at overlapping times in the 1760s. Hans is supposed to have had at least 6 wives, but I’m guessing a few of those are John’s. We’re well attested from Hans’ son Isaac, who served in the Rev. War, on down. But until we pin down where Hans came from, I don’t think I’ll be able to visit his ancestral village. It doesn’t help that Hans Wagner is the equivalent of John Smith.

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