Book Review: The Cowkeeper’s Wish, a Genealogical Journey

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

The Cowkeeper’s Wish, a Genealogical Journey
By Tracy Kasaboski and Kristen Den Hartog.
Published by Douglas & McIntyre (Madeira Park, BC). 2018. 447 pages.

The opening pages show the Charles Booth Poverty maps of the London boroughs of St. Saviour, Southwark, and Whitechapel. The legend denotes the streets and residences of: “Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.”; “Very poor, casual. Chronic want.”; “Poor.”; “Mixed. Some comfortable, others poor.”; “Upper middle and Upper Classes. Wealthy.” Seeing a poverty map on the first pages of a story clues us in that this may not be a joyful tale.

The authors tell the story of their ancestors’ taking leave of rural poverty in Wales seeking a better life in urban London. Benjamin Jones gathers a few of his cows, the only manner of livelihood he knows, and along with his soon-to-be wife Margaret Davies, walks the distance from their impoverished rural homes to what becomes their impoverished urban home in the borough of London. The story follows the lives of their children and grandchildren who gradually pull out of their own difficult situations to achieve a measure of comfortable living in England and later, in London, Ontario, where a great-granddaughter Doris, who serves as a focal character of the saga, emigrates out of England to begin and live out her own life in London, Ontario, Canada.

This book is not only the story of the Jones families, but also the story of London in transition from its gritty and murderous underside (the authors’ family lived in Jack the Ripper’s neighborhood), to social reform that improved the lives of insane asylum inmates (a few of the authors’ ancestors were committed), the strikes demanding labor reform, women’s suffrage, improvement in education, to the alarm of the Spanish flu years and England’s suffering during the First World War.

Cowkeeper’s Wish is truly a family saga. The authors relate the lives and times of four generations of a family as they steadily labored through the hardships and miseries of the world, probably more representative of most lifetimes than we stop to think about.

It’s not a joyful story, but it’s an enduring one.

The Cowkeeper’s Wish may be purchased from the authors’ web site at: https://thecowkeeperswish.com as well as from Amazon at https://amzn.to/2TY7BE7.

6 Comments

I’m reading this right now 🙂 It’s very good. Lots of social history and background for the London area intermingled with family stories. Very inspiring read!

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I wish it weren’t so expensive – and available for Kindle/electronically. Sounds like it’s quite interesting.
I have Davies cousins in Wales. 🙂

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    It is available

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    Amazon shows only the hardcover version available. 😦

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    The Canadian Amazon site has the Kindle edition. Also, it’s a small publisher. I know this because their office is about 45 minutes north of where I live. The book is beautifully produced with nice quality paper and a gorgeous cover. Their books always cost a little more, but they are worth it. It’s a family run business that bought the Douglas & McIntyre imprint when it went under a few years ago. Their main house, Harbour Publishing has published many books of use to those interested in local history in British Columbia. I’m reading it from the library, but will likely buy myself a copy as well.

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I have read the book twice, as it refers to some of my relative. I was not aware of the degree of problems that existed in London during the period. I have had the opportunity to walk the streets of London as described in the book, and have a deeper appreciation for many of my relatives and the life they led. The Authors have researched the material for the book to an outstanding level, bringing the book to life.

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