Cover Image: Ancestor Trouble

Ancestor Trouble

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Ms Newton knits together genetics, genealogy, and sociology while she reflects on rockier parts of her familial history. Part memoir, part expose; 'Ancestor Trouble' lyrically connects a personal story to a societal fiber to help you realize how close we all are. An insightful personal journey that helps breathe life into genealogy and connecting to ones roots. Well written, I enjoyed this title and delight in adding it to my personal shelf.
Was this review helpful?
While I'm very interested in genealogy for personal reasons, I found Ancestor Trouble to be too dry and text bookish. With that said, the author, Maud Newton, adds her own familial antedotes which are relatable and interesting. Overall, I felt too much technical detail washed throughout. Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 3 Stars
Was this review helpful?
Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation is Maud Newton’s memoir about her search for her southern family and the search for truth. I voluntarily read this complimentary copy of this informative, well-researched book. When researching the history and genealogy of one’s family, like Newton, one must be ready to unearth secrets of the past. Interesting read.
Was this review helpful?
I really wanted to like this book. The title and description grabbed my attention, then I started reading. The book reads more like a textbook and becomes boring as you go through it. Don't get me wrong, the information is educational, but not what I expected. I was hoping for more family stories and explanation of what was discovered through genealogy, DNA testing or anything but the dry textbook feel. I really had to stick with it to get to the end.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
"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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
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!
Was this review helpful?
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
Was this review helpful?