The Best True-Life Family History Stories
Amazing Family Stories from the Past
So many of us are discovering the thrill of researching our ancestors. I'm yet to meet anyone who didn't have a fantastic family history story or two to share.Some have even turned their years of genealogical research into published books. Here I share my pick of these true-life family history books which read like novels and prove that truth often is stranger than fiction!
These books are truly special. They are based on the real life of people in the authors' own family trees. Sometimes they weave wonderful tales based on the facts that survive about their family's past. Sometimes they focus on the writer's own family history research, sharing the ups and downs of genealogy. You, the reader, will feel you are there as they make exciting discoveries about their ancestors.
The true-life family histories reviewed here are books that I have greatly enjoyed. I am delighted to now share these amazing true stories with my fellow geneaology enthusiasts.
Image by Grafixar on morgueFile.
Family stories - truth stranger than fiction
From Royal Ancestors to Divided Germany - The Secret of the Notebook: Review
Image shows Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, Germany. Copyright author.
A secret notebook and a family legend
Imagine if you grew up with the knowledge that your parents had hidden away a very special notebook which held the key to your family's history.
For Eve Haas, the notebook that her father once showed her was to remain a mystery until after her mother's death. Only then did she take possession of this precious piece of family history.
At the beginning of her quest, her only clue was that her great grandmother had passed the book down through the family, and that it had belonged once to her great-great grandmother. The family legend was that it had been given to her by a royal admirer.
A real life quest for truth
The book follows the true-life adventure of Eve and her long-suffering husband as they track down the truth behind the rumours. It is a journey that takes this couple back to face their fears in pre-unification East Germany. This is a trip into the past which holds dark memories both for Eve, who escaped with her parents from Berlin as a Jewish schoolgirl, leaving her beloved grandmother to perish at the hands of the Nazis.
Her husband accompanies her despite his own fears, having fled for his life from East Germany as a young man and having no wish to return.
The modern day dramas that intertwine with their research into Eve's family history are as interesting as the uncovering of the identity of her great-great grandfather and the story of his marriage and hidden child that history was supposed to forget.
And bridging the generations, the grandmother whose tragic end is made even more emotional as a result of the truths that emerge when the final pieces of the family story are put into place.
The Secrets of the Notebook
Why I recommend this book
This is a very personal account which brings a human touch to both researchers and ancestors alike. One of history’s great men is given a touch of reality as Eve lays claim to her connection with him.
A Story of Race and Survival - Cane River: Review
Image of Plantation House shared by Wikimedia Commons.
Four generations of women
The author's research began with her fascination with her great grandmother, Emily. As she worked her way back through the maternal line, she traced her family's roots to the community of Cane River in Louisiana, where she uncovered 3 generations of slaves: Emily's mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
The fictional account which resulted from her encounter with her family history brings these women to life in a tale which has at its heart the strength of women determined to survive in spite of those around them.
Their true-life stories are weaved with fiction to make this a compelling account. As a result the story reads like a novel, with wonderful narratives and descriptions bringing the characters to life. What is so fascinating is that these tales are grounded on confirmed facts. The pages are peppered with photos of the story's characters and scans of letters and newspaper reports, perfectly blending hard evidence with fictional narratives.
Why I recommend this book.
Cane River is described as: a story of slavery and freedom in the American deep south. This is a family history which has been written as a novel. It makes for a gripping and beautifully-written read which was selected for Oprah’s book club.
What's your ancestor's story?
Several of you have shared some fascinating family history stories on my other genealogy lenses. I'd love to hear more!