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

Family stories - truth stranger than fiction

Family stories - truth stranger than fiction

From Royal Ancestors to Divided Germany

The Secret of the Notebook: Review

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin

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.

A Story of Race and Survival

Cane River: Review

Plantation House, where slave ancestors lived

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.

What's your ancestor's story?

What's your ancestor's story?

What's your ancestor's story?

Have you got an exciting family history story to share?

Several of you have shared some fascinating family history stories on my other genealogy lenses. I’d love to hear more!
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  • Snappysnapper Aug 10, 2013 @ 11:54 pm
    Fantastic lens. Well done
  • SusanAston Jul 19, 2013 @ 4:47 pm
    Brilliant lens. Very detailed and thoughtful.
  • wordstock Dec 23, 2012 @ 10:30 pm
    Came back to bless this lens. The book resources on writing your own book and I did finish my little 65 page book on the search for my husband's missing siblings. Thanks!
  • saraht43 Oct 27, 2012 @ 1:12 am
    My husband's great great Uncle bought a brand new car about 1900....after bringing it home, he discovered it wouldn't fit lengthwise into the shed or building he intended to put it in, but instead of remodeling or adding to the building, he cut the middle out of the car and welded it back together to make it fit into the building. LOL.....check out my page on genealogy research tips.
  • PostcardPassion Sep 04, 2012 @ 7:06 am
    Very informative and interesting lens.
  • wordstock Sep 03, 2012 @ 4:20 pm
    My husband's family is a closet full of skeletons and I am going to turn it into a book. That being said, I pinned this so I can go back and read everything you have here. Wonderful lens. Blessed
  • familyshortstories Jul 01, 2012 @ 12:21 pm
    I've recently started a lens exclusively for telling my family short stories, I'd like to share. Thank you for the book references you've posted. The Secret of the Notebook is on my list now! squid-like!
    " A person who won't read has no advantage over one who cannot read."
    Mark Twain
  • vikksimmons Apr 27, 2012 @ 4:34 pm
    Uh, why has this not been awarded a Purple Star? This is a wonderful page.
  • YayasHome Oct 10, 2011 @ 2:36 am
    No amount of research or tracking down other peoples' lives can make us become like someone else. That said, I feel it is very important that we find our ancestors an' honor them by showing the family connection. For sure, there will be some skeletons in the closet, but it's important to keep in mind that we are all related, in the end. Still, keeping track of the family does not mean that we are good or evil because of our link to another person. By the same token, it does give us examples of what we do or do not want to become.
  • WordCustard Oct 10, 2011 @ 2:50 am
    Thank you for such insightful comments, Yaya. Making links with the past can tell us more about our own lives, but you are right, we cannot live in reflected glory, nor is it hopeless to try to escape a less welcome legacy.

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