Latest Review – Family Tree magazine, March 2015 edition

A genealogical quest

Seeking John Campbell: Finding Pioneers & Patriots in the Pampas by John Daffurn

signedThis remarkable real-life story reveals what happened when the author, amateur British genealogist John Daffurn, set himself an heir-hunting exercise that turned into a four-year obsession. The story begins in 2010 when John, on a whim, picked a random name from the Government’s Bona Vacantia list of more than 10,000 people who had died intestate, in a bid to discover why professional heir-hunters had not identified any living descendants to claim the estate. In the process of this ‘intellectual challenge’, which, as John states, is ‘a genealogical jigsaw puzzle that, even if it ended in failure, would enhance my ancestry research skills’, he uncovers the fascinating family histories of three men called John Campbell, all possible candidates for being the father of the deceased 68-year-old widow of interest, (Mary) Isabel Greig, who died on New Year’s Eve 1995. The three John Campbells’ family stories take us on a fascinating journey from Prussia and the Scottish lowlands to Argentina (where Isabel was born illegitimate), then back to Europe and the horrors of World Wars I and II. Covering the history of two families descended from the Symmetry migrants who sailed to Argentina from Leith in 1825, and a third family descended from the town’s Gibson shipbrokers, it details the impact Scottish migrants had on Argentina, and how the later world wars tore families apart. Interestingly, what started as a genealogical experiment turns into a heart-felt quest to record past lives of those lost in the mists of time, or at the very least precariously perched on the peripherals of family memory.

The research undertaken is incredible – the history and biographies are wonderfully detailed, with plenty of photographs too, to picture the individuals and places involved, along with family trees to keep you on track. The delicate process of ancestral discovery – which also contains useful research tips – is woven into a thoughtful first-person narrative that never grows tired or dull. Indeed, the final outcomes of John’s adventures are touching and not entirely expected, and are something from which we can all perhaps learn. So, did he manage to identify Isabel’s family and trace living heirs to her estate? Well now, that would be telling.

 ISBN: 9780993147906. RRP £9.99 paperback, RRP £4.79 Kindle. Eptex. Available from Amazon.

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WDYTYA magazine review of Seeking John Campbell


The March edition of Who Do You Think You Are ? magazine is out today and contains a review in brief of Seeking John Campbell. See Here.

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Signed copy of Seeking John Campbell


For anyone that missed my book signing and would like a signed copy of Seeking John Campbell please hit the book cover link below


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Home tomorrow


No more imbibing at the hells angel run bar on top of the world.

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Latest book review

See the latest book review of Seeking John Campbell by Sandra Danby, author of Ignoring Gravity.

image“…a well-written historical account of three men – each coincidentally called John Campbell – who may be the unknown father of Isabel Greig. In discovering the stories of these three men, the author tells the history of the twentieth century though the prism of three families.”

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All work and no play!

What does one do after publishing a book?

JD takes a break.

imageNormal service will be resumed on Saturday.

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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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