Genealogy At Heart’s second blog article today is a book review of More Psychic Roots: Further Adventures in Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997). You can read here about my first blog today which covered Henry Z. Jones, Jr.’s Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993).
Again, here’s my disclaimer – I’ve read both books several years ago but not for the purpose of a book review. After my October 1st blog, October Genealogical Coincidences Part 1, was posted, I was contacted by a reader who requested I write the book reviews. I thought that was a wonderful way to end my series. I received no monetary compensation for these reviews, however, I did receive a free copy of both books.
Although Further Adventures is the sequel, the books may be read in any order. There are nearly 300 more uncanny genealogical experiences highlighted. Unlike Psychic Roots, the stories in Further Adventures were obtained from family historians who had either read the prior work or seen an episode of Unsolved Mysteries that featured Jones and several genealogists whose stories had been highlighted in the first book. Jones refers to the self-reporters as “grassroots” genealogists who bravely shared their odd experiences. He acknowledges that there are those who mock others who have had strange incidences occur, likely because the events happen unexpectedly and can’t be reproduced at will. He reminds the reader that many unexplained phenomena were once considered supernatural but as science progressed, are now understood.
Further Adventures is subdivided into different types of occurrences, such as dreams, researching at the archives, visiting a bookstore/cemetery/ancestral locale, mistakenly ordering the wrong material, or looking in an unlikely location, such as reading the first book, recognizing a surname, and finding a distant family contact with whom to connect. In the back of both books is a surname index. One of the surnames that I research, Harbaugh, was found in the sequel; I was familiar with the ancestor but not the contributor who has a different last name. I also recognized two stories included by one of my blog readers, Linda Stufflebean. Perhaps, you too will recognize a connection.
Further Adventures contains more than just odd reports, there are solid genealogical practices noted. My favorite is a story of a father and daughter’s attempt to find a remote cemetery location of an ancestor. They were thrilled to report to a family member that they accomplished their goal only to be asked by the relative, “Why didn’t you ask me?” Clearly, the importance of doing family interviews could save us time and travel.
The book also reminds us of the need to examine records in the counties surrounding where our ancestors once lived. This is definitely a sound practice. The value of documenting sources, staying abreast of current practices, and double-checking all evidence is emphasized.
Another recommendation is to trust our intuition. That little voice that nudges you to examine a hunch just might be correct. Flexibility in our research plan, a positive attitude and a sense of humor can lead to discovering the unexpected. As Jones points out, our immigrant ancestors gambled “their lives on the unknown” and took a great risk. Getting out of our comfort zone by picking a book at random might just lead us to a new discovery.
I especially like the idea “that when you help someone else, the favor is always repaid in full measure – maybe not by the recipient, but from somewhere a bonanza falls into your eager hands!” p. 186. I can attest to that.
This work does focus more on ghostly encounters and unconventional techniques, such as automatic writing, than the prior book. It was emphasized by a contributor, however, that serendipity does not come without research.
Although DNA was not as prevalent at the time the book was written, there is a broad mention of it. The work of philosopher Emmanuel Kant regarding gaining a priori knowledge is attributed to perhaps genetic programming we do not yet fully understand. LaVonne Harper Stiffler’s work on genetic connections of adoptees to their birth parents was also explored.
Jones’ final chapter is a mini-memoir of his relationships gained through his careers as an entertainer and a genealogist. It is here where the reader learns the root of Jones’ personal philosophy and genealogical practices. A touching tribute to his longtime collaborator, Carla Mittelstaedt Kubaseck, concludes the book.
I think it is fitting to house both of Jones’ works on my bookshelf next to Mills’ Evidence Explained. How does one cite the illogical occurrences that led us through a brick wall? I will ponder that on another day. For now, I appreciate all of the contributors, and especially, Jones, for revealing their strange encounters. I am also very thankful to have experienced many of my own coincidences and synchronicities. Personally, I don’t particularly care how they occur, I just hope they keep on coming!