Monday, 7 January 2013

Book Review: Reunion: A Search for Ancestors

Ryan Littrell approached me some weeks ago with the offer of a review copy of this book. I gladly accepted, but had to tell him other things would keep it on the back burner for a while.
I'm glad I eventually found the time.
His  story is of researching his mother's mother's paternal line of McDonald. He uses techniques commonplace to genealogists, starting with family held information and documents, following up at local courthouses, online records, visiting cemeteries and old residences.
The story takes off when he discovers that the Y-DNA of his McDonald great uncle matches that of the McDonald clan involved in the "Massacre of Glencoe". The DNA evidence provides a well defined distant landmark for subsequent research which he follows to a successful conclusion through a variety of sources and techniques familiar to US genealogists.
The book interleaves in alternate chapters the story of the search with that of the clan revealing its history and lore. They nicely converge at the end of the successful search where he "finds embers burning for him after all these years."
As a genealogist who doesn't normally deal with US records I enjoyed the story of the chase. The material on the clan must be fascinating to the many with McDonald ancestry, the name is in the the top 100 of British surnames and there's a large diaspora.
What compels someone to pursue such a quest after a distant ancestor, one of several hundred he could claim in the days of the massacre in 1692? In Littrell's case it seems to be a combination of being the maiden name of a favourite grandmother and successful pursuit to a notable event that makes for Glencoe being where his soul lies, as expressed in a quote from an Ontario genealogist named Brenda. I wonder who that could be?
I enjoyed the well written story of the genealogical chase, that of the clan was less appealing to me. My soul lies in a different direction.
The book is widely available through web bookstores or through http://ryanlittrell.com/book.html

1 comment:

Frank McGonigal said...

My older brother Bill was adopted by my parents when he was a baby,after he died his son Frank asked me to see if I could find some living relatives,I traced his mothers ancestors but his father wasn't named on Bills birth cert...I sent his son Frank a YDNA kit and immediately found a match..anyway to cut a long story short he is a MacDonald descended from the Glencoe MacDonalds,some of the descendants moved to Canada and I traced a living one in BC Canada.