Latest book review

Review by US blogger T K Sand

I’m the kind of person who can spend whole days sitting at the computer doing research (more or less!) of a genealogical or family history nature. And although my interest began more than a quarter of a century ago, I’ve never run out of things to look up. I’m pretty sure I never will. But sometimes I just feel the need to step away from the computer and stretch out on the couch for awhile, so I’m always on the lookout for some good reading material with a genealogical theme. The recently-released Seeking John Campbell: Finding pioneers and patriots in the pampas by John Daffurn was a great choice in that vein.

John Daffurn began researching his family history many years ago and discovered, as many of us do, that the really interesting stuff is somewhere beyond the names and dates that fill the blanks on your ancestor chart. And when you get to that point, you may find the research process so enjoyable and so stimulating that it ceases to be all about you and your chart. You realize that you’ve learned some skills that are fun to use, and one day–reader, has this happened to you?–you begin to research someone who’s not even related to you.

Daffurn did this when he found Britain’s Bona Vacantia list, a list of deceased persons whose estates had gone unclaimed. Knowing he’d acquired some useful research skills, he decided to try his hand at heir-hunting. He rather randomly selected a name from the list–that of a woman who had died more than a decade before–and set out to discover her family connections and perhaps locate someone who was entitled to inherit her estate.

An illegitimate child, Maria Isabel Pemberton Greig was, Daffurn learned, the daughter of one John Campbell. One, if you think about it, among many! But eventually, Daffurn was able to narrow the field down to three John Campbells. From that point, he researched all three of them in great detail and, reader, from there springs Seeking John Campbell, a fascinating nonfiction page-turner.

I did not expect to learn so much about world history, I did not expect to bump into names I would recognize, and I did not expect to find a John Campbell injured in battle on the west coast of Italy in World War II, where he might have ended up in a hospital bed next to my dad. The world, I learned from this book, is much smaller than I had ever imagined.

I’m sure John Daffurn could not have foreseen the rich and colorful story that would come to him in this project. Maria Isabel Pemberton Greig was just a name on a list–a name with a date of death. There was so much more to be found! Seeking John Campbell is a spectacular example of what might lie beyond the names and dates, and Daffurn’s story is an inspiration for researchers.

I really enjoyed this book! Can you tell?

——

And in case you are wondering, no, I am not being paid to write this review, nor to write any other review appearing at Before My Time.

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