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Ancestor Trouble

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Member Reviews

I found ANCESTOR TROUBLE to be an interesting insight into the family story of Maid Newton. Not only did she share family stories, but her journey in discovering some actions for which she is ashamed. I’m the south, these stories are not uncommon, however her strength in sharing about her family is much different from others. 

I was intrigued about the extinct she went to in order to make some of the family connections.
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I’m fascinated by family history stories, so I was drawn to Ancestor Troubles.  From the start, I was drawn into her family story and the information about genes and DNA testing that was included.

I was intrigued by the similarities of places and migration patterns that my family heritage shared with hers.  Her family was much more colorful than mine (at least as far as I know) and that gave a spark to what otherwise may have been a bland tale.

About mid-way through the book, I began to lose interest.  I grew weary of the criticism of her father and other family members.  She dwells mostly on racism during the last part of the story, never seeming to consider that her ancestors were products from their time. We can see their wrongs from today’s view and easily pass judgement on them.  But, I wonder, if we were of their generation how much the same we would have been?

I felt like the book seemed to meander all over the place with various topics, at times being a bit repetitive.  I also found it confusing to keep track of the various relatives she mentioned.  Finally, she goes into detail about her spiritual journey, which I didn’t find to be that meaningful to her family history.

I liked the book, but a bit of editing and omitting of extraneous information could have streamlined this story and made it a better read.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group-Random House for allowing me to read an advance copy.  I am happy to give my honest review.
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I was excited to receive access to this book and savored reading it. I love reading about family research and when skeletons are unearthed. From the description, Newton had a lot of good family secrets to unravel. The book lived up to my expectations, for the most part. I read all her research about both sides of her lineage with great interest. She spends a lot of time Analyzing different things about genealogy and research, stuff that I skimmed past because frankly it didn’t interest me.
If you’re looking for a lot of family history to unwrap, look no further.
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This is a tough one to judge.  It's not a memoir, really, but rather a look by an ace researcher into her personal history.  Genealogy has become more popular with the spread of firms that do DNA profiling- which Newton employs here.  Most of us have heard tales of our forebears and occasionally wondered about the truth of those stories.  Newton set out to answer her own questions. How interesting you find this will depend on how invested you become in her family.  There's some interesting commentary as well.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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While the author has researched the genealogy and history of her family exhaustively, the results seem poorly organized in this book. The narrative was confusing and repetitive. I kept losing track of which ancestors she was discussing and why. I wasn't able to develop any empathy with either the author or the ancestors she wrote about. I had to set the book aside about 20% of the way in. It is rare for me to mark a book DNF (did not finish), but I just didn't want to invest any more time in this one.
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Maud Newton writes so well, and with such an engaging, personal style, that it’s not often clear what story she’s telling her readers in ANCESTOR TROUBLE. Her ancestors are less troubling than her parents, for her; and her investigations into her genealogy and her forays into the historical record of her family, while fascinating, ultimately reveal less about her painful circumstances than she hoped.  She wants an answer for the disappointment and suffering she sustained from her parents.  She hopes she can place it in a context, one defined by DNA and heredity.  This book is very good and worth reading, but few answers arrive tidily from DNA, regardless of the promises offered by science.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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This book was regally good to read. Not only did she get DEEP into her family history and her relationship with hr parents is not that great as well. She got into genealogy, and started her own family tree. She discovered things about her family that are beyond colorful, lol. This book is a memoir but some parts I read felt fictional, and I liked the switch, it might be true occurrences it might not, who cares this is her book, lol. I learned a lot about the process and everything was very detailed. The topic is one that doesn’t really interest me but I loved the way the author laid everything out.
Thanks Netgalley and the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book.
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I enjoyed a lot of this book, although I sometimes became bogged down in all of the detail that the writer went into to support her story.  There were several times that I found myself skipping over sections in order to move things along.  She definitely has an interesting, bizarre family, and I completely understand her concern about inheriting any of their behaviors.  The book was about her family, but there was a lot of Information on genealogy research, and also quite a bit of philosophical discussion.  I admire her for working so hard to overcome the difficulties of her childhood, which were substantial, and I have a feeling that writing this book this was very cathartic for her.  Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ARC in return for my honest review.
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In this research memoir, an acclaimed writer goes searching for the truth about her wildly unconventional Southern family. I included this in Apartment Therapy's Monthly New Book roundup.
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Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy of ANCESTOR TROUBLE by Maud Newton. As a Mormon, ancestry research is a big part of my culture. I never personally got into it, compared to some of my friends and family, but I still felt drawn to this book because of that culture. I also appreciated Newton's work to resolve her guilt over some of the things her ancestors had done—from enslaving people to stealing Native American land. I don't come from ancestors who enslaved people (my ancestors were too poor and didn't live in the South), but I think all white people in the U.S. have some kind of guilt about our history (or we should). So, I found reading about healing and reconciling that guilt helpful. I also enjoyed all her research into why we are drawn to our ancestors and why it's important to learn about them. It was a bit drawn out and tedious at times and could get repetitive—definitely a thick and slow read. Still, I kept thinking of people I knew who would love to read this and have. already started talking about it to people. So, overall, I found it a valuable read.
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It’s a very interesting concept to merge deeply personal family history with an in-depth exploration of genealogy and the ways in which humans have chosen to engage with each other, or not, in the past. Maud Newton makes her family, and all of the good and ugly, the primary focus of exploration in this account. In her desire to dig deep into figuring out what makes her parents function — their personal beliefs and the ways in which they acted for better or worse that have helped or harmed their children — Newton creates an argument for the kinds of physical and emotional traits she may have inherited as well. She talks about how generational trauma can be embedded into brains at the genetic level from generations ago, that behavior patterns are more predictable than we can comprehend, and how the choices of our ancestors have shaped us today. Overall, her research does a fantastic job of helping readers understand more about how much our past can influence our present.
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In theory, the idea to intertwine a colorful family history with the how-to's of intense genealogical research is compelling. Maud Newton approaches the research of her family tree using a wide variety of methods and has an open mind in exploring ways to confront and reconcile the more unsavory aspects of what her research uncovered.  Near the end of the book, Newton disclosed that it is her nature to address a problem from different angles to the point of exhaustion and that is an apt description of this book.  I found it repetitive and tedious, even though I was very intrigued by the book description and genealogy is a topic of interest.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read Ancestor Trouble and provide an honest review.
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ANCESTOR TROUBLE is a combination of a deeply personal account of Maud Newton's investigation into her own family history and a broader look at the ways humans have tried to connect or disconnect from their ancestors. In this examination, she conveys her sincere desire to question and understand her parents for their toxic beliefs about race and religion, and for actions her parents took that did actual harm to their children. 

Newton's colorful extended family is part of the subject of inquiry, the good and not so good. She makes a case for what tendencies, physical and emotional, she might have inherited. She discusses genetics and some of the theories of genetic trauma that might be ensconced in brains decades or even centuries later, patterns of behavior that are sometimes repeated, and, finally, a real effort to connect to ancestors through guided meditation. This attempt to communicate with spirits is one of my favorite parts of the book; whether there was something "there" or it was a product of her mind doesn't much matter to me. I liked hearing about the experiences the intentions behind them.

Readers are sure to consider their own family histories and how to perhaps forgive past generations for terribly wrongs. It's a fascinating look at how we might connect to our own familial past.
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I received an ARC of this memoir from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Interesting book for anyone wishing to research their genealogy.  There is an abundance of colorful family members.
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This book was more interesting than I thought it would be. It's about the author's journey of using Genealogy  to uncover family secrets. And family mysteries. Which is basically what you use genealogy for solving the mysteries of the past.
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Maud Newton's dive into genealogy is very intense. She tries to reconcile past family experiences with genealogy history. She does a very thorough job. Her search and research were very informative but too involved for me. Ancestor Trouble is for serious genealogy readers only.
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I received a free e-arc copy of this book through Netgalley. 
Maud Newton has created this half-memoir, half-dive through the history of genes and epigenetics to both entertain us and educate us. I found the parts about her family: recent and distant to be more fascinating than the science side, but both are worthwhile especially together. I have read several of the books she refers to and have been interested in generational trauma which she discusses as well.
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I had foot surgery a couple of years ago and had to keep my foot elevated so my daughter taught me how to use  I’m not sure I would have understood this book without that introduction.  She and I pulled out our laptops and with her guidance I learned a lot about the program and about my family.  

The chapters are interlaced with Newton’s family’s history, modern research tools and the history of genetics. In a former life I was an interlibrary loan manager and in that role would borrow microfiche and microfilm for people doing research at the local LDS family history center.  Contemporary researchers of their family history owe those early researchers a debt of gratitude.  

In my short period of research I came appreciate the narratives that have been digitized from old church records, military records and cemetery maps.  And as Newton reveals, you might find your family’s plantation records with a full inventory of slaves.  Be careful what you wish for.
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Ancestor Trouble comes out at the end of March 2022. I was granted an early draft version for reading in exchange for an honest review. I thank the publisher for that opportunity.

Part biography, part how-to and what-for guide to genealogy and heredity, the author shows readers how she explored her own family tree to try to get answers to questions she had. Those who are of similar mindsets or are fascinated by the whole process of examining one's roots will find things to glean from Newton's story and insights. It is well researched, as attested to by the Notes section at the end of the book. The author did her homework to be sure.

For myself, I found that she was getting a little repetitive - retelling the same fascinating tidbits about family members multiple times. A little more editorial input might have helped to tighten this tome up a bit. Don't get me wrong - Newton has an interesting and colorful family tree. If you shake any of the branches of most family trees, you're bound to have a few loose nuts that drop. However, I found myself skipping ahead a number of times to get to a new point. It is likely that I am just not the right target for this one; I tend to not spend a lot of time looking backwards - especially now when so many of my family members are long gone. I want to spend what time I'm still granted looking and moving forward.
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My aunt wrote a book about her (and therefore, my) ancestors. I'm now reading it, and it's really interesting. As a child, I remember going to the library with my mom when she would research our genealogy using the microfilm machine there. In 2019, many of us traveled to Germany to see the places our ancestors had lived. Fascinating! And yet, as I read the stories, there are troubling things there as well as good.

That's probably what sparked my interest in "Ancestor Trouble." I was curious to see how author Maud Newton would explore the topic. And oh my -- explore she does. Newton (not her real  name; she has taken on the name as an ancestor to write under) has always been extremely interested in her past. Much of that is probably due to her relatives being decidedly colorful. In her history, there is a relative who has been married 13 times; another who, tired of having child after child, killed the most recent baby by hitting its head against the outdoor steps; another who fought and killed a friend in a battle involving a hay hook. I can guarantee that you'll feel better about your own family history after perusing Maud's.

This book is equal parts Maud's family history and forays into various aspects of genealogy, genetics, etc. As to her look into her own family, she is decidedly angry about her father, going on and on AND ON about him being racist. This theme was so prevalent that I did a search (yes, I read this on Kindle), and racist/racism were mentioned 34 times. "He and Mamma both were openly, unremittingly -- 'jubilantly' is not too strong a word -- racist." Racism is a huge issue for Maud, and in addition to calling her dad on it, she takes the issue further. She feels is racist in offering Heritage Tours. She mentions the Department of Defense using programs "with sometimes racist results." Discovering that she is fully white, after having her DNA tested, "was deeply, irrationally disappointing, as though having mixed ancestry would somehow mitigate the wrongs of my forebears." Wow! I pictured Maud as one of the current batch of woke 30-somethings, but she's actually around 50. Race is obviously an issue of huge import to her -- and though I'm sure she'd disagree, I find that in itself racist. Oh, that we could all just view people as people, rather than as their color. And I wondered about her dad. He's a lawyer, presumably still living. She is estranged from him, but if he is as awful as she describes, it's hard to imagine him maintaining such a career.

Maud isn't just upset about her forebears' racism, but about their wrong treatment of indigenous peoples as well. "It's one thing to acknowledge bigotry and inhumanity where we expect it, where we've always judged it, in people we already view critically. It's another thing to face and acknowledge it in the people we love most. My ancestors through Granny perpetrated other large-scale wrongs, too. I'd never imagined my own forebears interacting with indigenous people of this land. That history, like the Mayflower, felt remote, like something that couldn't have involved my family directly, even though I knew that they -- and I -- had benefited from systemic injustices against Native people." Yes, this is an actual quote. Can you tell that I was cooling on this book faster than if I'd been shoved into the freezer? In an attempt to assuage her familial guilt, she asks "forgiveness of the land and its Native people, living and dead. On the worn dirt at the foot of a bench, I emptied a bottle of wine as an offering." I am not making this up.

At this point, the contrarian in me had to look at Maud's angst over the actions of her relatives and ancestors, see her sanctimonious attitude, but then wonder what future generations would think about her in, say, 2100. Will the woke attitudes she so prizes be equally prized then? Or will future generations judge her as harshly as she now judges those past? It's worth considering.

In the midst of all this, guess who enters the picture? Yep, Donald Trump. In a chapter about eugenics, Maud writes "Donald J. Trump, former president of the United States, credited 'good genes' for his success, intelligence, and health, and the orange glow of his skin." Awww -- she captured the "orange man bad" phrasing so popular among the woke. Later in the book we read of something praised by "former president Bill Clinton," since of course his name could only be associated with positivity. We also read of "a bill proposed by congressional Republicans in 2017 that would have allowed employers to require their employees to undergo genetic testing or pay a fine if they refused." She makes no mention of current congressional Democrats, who support fines, mandates, and even firing for those choosing not to get Covid vaccines. I'm sure that troubles her just as much.

In the parts of the book that take a more non-fiction angle, Maud explores all aspects of genealogy. Many of these are quite tangential, but I credit the author for being a deep thinker and for leaving no rabbit trail unfollowed. She is "a committed unbeliever," "a committed agnostic," who is offended at the Christian beliefs of many of her relatives and ancestors. Early in the book she points out what she sees as inconsistencies in the Bible. She explores spirituality in various ways, by studying many different religions and going on some experiences that sound like seances. She feels "all our dead who have not been properly grieved and elevated are unwell ghosts cluttering up the spirit realm, preventing us from accessing the wisdom of our ancestors and the best way forward for ourselves."

I have many more things highlighted, but that's about enough. As you can probably guess, this was not a hit for me. I credit Maud with good writing, and I do feel sad for all the stress and anxiety she feels, even as I disagree strenuously with her methods for finding resolution and peace. "Ancestor Trouble" isn't a book I can recommend.
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