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Ancestor Trouble

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Member Reviews

A memoir told through the lens of genealogical research, "Ancestor Trouble" was unputdownable. Parts of it felt quite dense, though I don't mean that in a negative way -- it's clear that Maud Newton both knows a lot about the subject of genealogy *and* did quite a bit of research for this book. Don't expect to move through this one quickly. But it's worth spending time with. Newton closely examines her family history and pulls no punches and makes no apologies for their often bad behavior, rather, she ruminates on it and presents it without explaining it away or making excuses. It's made quite an impact on how I think about my own ancestral background.
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I'm quite addicted to genealogy, and was certain I would find Ancestor Trouble to be right up my alley. The ancestors in Newton's book were no doubt interesting, but my interest in them flagged every time the focus of the book turned to more of a textbook presentation of genealogy. It seemed as if there were multiple foci of the book, so much so that the theme never truly held together for me. Brava to Ms. Newton for the amount of research she pursued to complete this book. My thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Ancestor Trouble is packed with information about how we learn about and relate to the people who have gone before us. I like genealogy and genetics. But this book is written in an academic style and resembles a textbook. It was fairly boring.  
Maud Newton’s ancestors have quite a colorful history. I enjoyed some of the stories. But I didn't enjoy the repetition of stories told in two or more chapters. And many of the stories would be valuable to her family members but not to casual readers.  
About halfway through, I noticed all the references to other books. These resources could make for interesting future reading, but I wanted to read the author's thoughts and not a regurgitation of someone else's words. 
While educational, this book is not one of my favorites.
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I tried this book to step outside my usual wheelhouse of fiction, but this book was not for me.  I found it boring and just could not get into this, unfortunately.  2 stars ⭐️.  Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced copy for review.
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I really wanted to enjoy this book. I'm the family historian and have written about my ancestors who did some despicable things, too. I do agree that our ancestors' traumas are passed down through the generations, but this book needed some serious editing. The family story was interesting but the scientific portions seemed like filler. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
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Ancestor Trouble is the story of the author’s search to know more about her interesting and troubled relatives, along with how she fits in with them. She drops in pieces of  information about genealogy and family history throughout the book. Although these sections are informative, I definitely liked the more personal parts more.  I wish some of those stories could have had more of a conclusion, but maybe there isn’t one yet.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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Disclaimer:  I am biased.  Genealogy is a part-time hobby which I pursue in earnest during rare, brief lulls between work and life's demands.  So my interest was heightened as I learned about her approach, the tools and resources leveraged,  the accuracy and legalities surrounding DNA/genetics testing, and the varied theories of epigenetics and generational trauma. 

In Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and Reconciliation, I found myself drawn to the author's motivation (which she explained very well), her focus, and persistence to learn more about her family, and answer her own questions regarding timelines, rumors, genetics, and heredity. 

The beauty of the offering is how the author puts things in context such that the reader understands the significance of her findings and her dedication to discover more about her ancestors.  Fate was not kind to a few and she honors them in death where at times it seems as though little was bestowed during their lifetime. I sympathized with her when those undesired nuggets of hard, ugly (and shameful) truths emerged.  She shared how she had to work through accepting these facts -- albeit it was painful to discover the details of their misdeeds, attitudes, and inhumane actions -- it was accompanied by paper trails proving how her family, directly and indirectly, benefited from those endeavors.

This is a profoundly introspective and revealing novel that is not only a testament to the author's tenacity but also her bravery to publish such a personal tome. 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an opportunity to review.
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I couldn’t finish this book. I tried, I really did. I just couldn’t get into it. The book could not keep my interest. I got bored of repeatedly hearing about her dad being racist.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A book about genealogy and finding out about where/ who we come from.  Who knows what you might find if you dig deep enough.  I have never read anything like it before.   Would highly recommend giving it a try.
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The brilliance of Newton’s work in Ancestor Trouble reflects her work as a journalist: balancing the personal with the universal. Newton traces much complicated and difficult family history while also giving the reader insight to the history of genealogy and the industry it’s become. Slow at certain moments, but overall a worthy read.
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To be completely transparent, I DNF this book at about 40%.

I love genealogy, family sagas, and memoirs. However there was a lot going on in this one that I had to put the book aside as it was not keeping my interest. That is not to say that Newton is not an incredible writer, she is.  The amount of research and details included about her family and genealogy in general were impressive, but overall I just couldn't get into it.
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"Birds of a feather flock together" All my life I have used this phrase in terms of personality. As in like-minded people will stick together but seeing as the author used it for skin colour in a racist manner is astounding. It makes perfect sense, why didn't I think of this earlier? This book has opened my eyes to so many new terminologies it is marvellous. However, I found this book a bit boring. It felt like being in a class reading a textbook I didn't want to read. Not that the information wasn't meaningful but it was written in a nun engaging sort of way.
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Award-winning writer and critic Maud Newton’s debut book, Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation,  is an engaging memoir about the quest for truth and the unanswered questions buried deep within her family’s history. In a story that is part genealogical scavenger hunt, cultural critique, and family history—Newton’s highly researched memoir grapples with the complexity of her family tree, and how it informs her life. Since childhood Newton has been obsessed with her southern ancestors. From her grandfather who came of age during the Great Depression; to her father a lawyer who eulogized the virtues of slavery, and the religious fanaticism of her family’s maternal line that caused an ancestor to be accused of being a witch-- readers will become transfixed upon the lives of her family’s narratives.
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for inviting me to read and review Ancestor Trouble. In exchange for the free digital copy I’ve provided my unbiased opinion.

The blending of the authors family history plus her foray into genealogy: tracing, discovering and documenting her journey sounded like the potential for a perfect book. Unfortunately, I found the format confusing; I had difficulty keeping track of her family tree and I found Maud’s research into genetics, genealogy, DNA, slavery, and a host of other tangents overwhelming, redundant and slightly dry. 
Maud’s family tree is ripe with characters and the discoveries she made along the way were often disheartening and difficult. I applaud the author for her honesty and willingness to keep digging further, even when the results were often hard for her to understand/ accept. 
While I found this book compelling and at times both fascinating and entertaining, I do think improvements could have been made. A good addition to  books highlighting the perils of  DNA / ancestry sleuthing.
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Maud Newton investigates her family history in Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation. Newton's family has quite a few skeletons in the closet, but my curiosity could not get me through the endless genealogy trivia the author includes in each chapter. And I was reading this book as a potential pick for my genealogy book club!
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Ancestor Trouble is an intriguing historical detective memoir, though the answers Maud Newton is searching for are more nebulous and more intriguing than any “whodunnit” could be. The nicest thing you can say about her antecedents is that they are interesting. She is estranged from her father who is so racist he would paint out the faces of Black people in her books when she was a child. A certain level of mental illness persisted from generation to generation including religious mania in her mother and ninth great-grandmother. Definitely an interesting bunch. I am sure they were far more entertaining to read about than to live with.



I think Ancestor Trouble begins well enough. It’s fascinating, at first, to learn more about her family and see the reverberation of trauma over generations. I think, though, that she fails to recognize that if nature provides a bit of insanity, that may also translate into nurture, so she becomes a bit too much of a biological determinist for me. As the book progressed she got more and more into the mystical/spiritual side of things and it turned me off.

I received an e-galley of Ancestor Trouble from the publisher through NetGalley

Ancestor Trouble at Penguin Random House
Maud Newton author site
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Truly titled, this book. As I read, it felt that the reckoning came in tides, presented in a wide-ranging narrative of the author's family members and their experiences (as she understands them), separated in parts: Genealogy, Genetic Genealogy, Nature and Nurture, Physicality, Inheritance, Spirituality and Creativity. Surprising categories, I thought, but well-deployed.

Reconciliation is more difficult than Reckoning. Reckonings can be ongoing, extended and continued. . . a Reconciliation is a done-deal, a conclusion, a complete settlement on a designated or defined value. That's where I was often tossed-lost in these chapters - what was just opinion, where was the settling up. And perhaps that's the point! How does a descendant in 2022 truly settle up an abusive indenture that happened 200 years ago? The abuser and abused are long gone. It's the ghost of abuse that remains, often echoing down the years in the families of the abuser and the abused. Still, fighting phantoms is dicey work.

This was an interesting read - not the read I thought I was getting, but something altogether different. This the author's valiant attempt to consider, acknowledge and specifically point out some of the shoulders on which she stands. Ten or twenty years from now, I wonder if this same premise and effort were employed, would a completely different book result?

A Sincere Thank you to Maud Newton, Random House, and NetGalley for an ARC to read and review.
#AncestorTrouble #NetGalley
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Ancestor Trouble has so much marketing that I was excited to read this memoir. Unfortunately, it was much more an investigation of the history of genealogy than the author's personal family. I found it to be dry and I wouldn't have chosen this book if I knew it was more of a textbook than a memoir.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review. Being someone who is interested in genealogy, I really liked this book. It was interesting and has some great points about genetic genealogy. Some of the information was not new to me but it was still something that kept my interest.
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DNF at about 25% felt this was trying too hard to be scholarly in between the bits about the authors ancestors. Some interesting ideas posed but not really an enjoyable read for me and just couldn’t push through. Thanks to #netgalley and the publisher for this copy of #ancestertrouble.
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