Genealogy: Time Traveling

How To Bring Your Ancestors to Life

It is said that everyone dies twice – the first time when the soul leaves the body and the second time when the last person who can remember you dies. Genealogy brings those forgotten people back to the light. Approaching like an archeological dig, we go to libraries, museums, genealogical societies and the internet to delve into the terrain of wills, land ownership, birth, marriage and death dates. Painstaking research yields valuable finds, but we want to know more about our unearthed ancestor.

What were his or her likes and dislikes? What did family, friends and neighbors think of him or her? Did they enjoy a good talk with the person or did they avoid him or her at all costs? Which was our ancestor’s favorite season of the year, the green promise of spring with its rain and mud, the busy hot days of summer, the mellow autumn with the crops harvested , or the slower days of winter when work moved inside by the fire and the ground was frozen for easier traveling? While we can’t sit down and talk to the person we are researching, we want to come as close as we can to knowing something about our ancestor. We need to know of the concerns and trials, the triumphs and tragedies of each person, of each family, of each settlement.

Some great books to help you write your family’s life story are:

Books about ancestor’s lives and strengths:

  • “Generations” by William Strauss and Neil Howe give us a picture of life in past – and present – generations.
  • “Seven Kinds of Smart” by Thomas Armstrong guide us in learning about personalities and strengths.

Books about War:

  •  “Yankee Doodle Boy” by Joseph Plumb Martin is a great reference for learning about life and service in the Revolutionary War.
  • “What I saw of Shiloh” by Ambrose Bierce for reading about the Civil War

A good reference about life of the common people in the United States is: 

  • “The People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn

Books about making a life in Colonial America:

  • “Colonial Living” and “Frontier Living” by Edwin Tunis
  • “Pioneers of Old Monocacy” by Tracy Green

A Great Book for how to lay out your story:

  • “My Life as a Story” by Tristine Rainer shows how to make your book a great read with easy to follow information.

Some examples of the final result of my research are the following books: my books are:

Reviewed on

A Farming Family in the New World: The Barnard Family Saga in America 1679-2005 by CA Coffey is an interesting family biography. It is a family genealogy that has been researched very well. This book is geared more for this family and I think would mean much more to them than to the general reader. But if you are researching your family history this book might be able to assist you in how to search for information. Included are family pictures, a bibliography, recipes and memoriam. It is well written.
Some of the information that is included is from I recommend this book for anyone working on their family history and would like some help in how to proceed. C.A. Coffey did an excellent job with this.


Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers’ Favorite

This is a very important book. Mein Name Ist Peter Dietrich is important and timely, in part because of the argument about the value and importance that immigration plays in this great American experience. This is the authentic story of Peter Dietrich, but in many ways, this is the American story and captures the essence of a key component of something that makes America great. That component is the ability of the immigrant to come to America and, with hard work, assimilate, thrive, and in the process re-invigorate the American spirit. In my own opinion, it does not matter where the immigrant is from. If he or she finds a welcoming environment where hard work and good ideas are rewarded, they will become American. People here sometimes forget the power of this. People here sometimes feel it’s time to close the door. That is why a book like Mein Name Ist Peter Dietrich is important.

All beginnings are hard. That is the quote found at the front of Mein Name Ist Peter Dietrich by Ronald J. Deatrick and Claudia Barnard Coffey. That is the essence of the immigration experience. It is a beginning and it is difficult. What I like so much about this particular story is that it is so well written, so well researched, and so obviously a labor of love. This is the story of Peter, but more importantly it is the story of the Dietrich family. I would go so far to say it is the story of America, or at least an important part of it. So many aspects of the American experience are the experience of Peter Dietrich and his family. All Americans should read this. It is as valuable as any American history class I have ever attended.