Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blogging on the brain

I've been thinking about this blog a lot, lately, more so than I've been writing on it. Since I'm spending so much time at the bookshop, recent posts have been about the book business. But I'm wondering if my readers would rather see more about genealogy. In 2009, I started writing about my research on the English family and travel. Travels with Books will be three years old April 11 — can you believe it?!

This blog has been a great place to share research with extended family members, wrestle with ideas as I turn a bunch of facts into a historical novel, and document some great adventures. I hope it will become a "platform" when my book is finally published.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog post by Ana Hoffman and had a light-bulb moment. She makes income from her blog. A real person, not some famous personality or globe-trotting tech wizard. The inevitable thought followed — could I do that? I started reading, and researching, and thinking. The result, so far, is a few affiliate ads on the left side of this screen. Don't worry, I plan to avoid pop-ups and flashy things, because that turns me off on other people's websites (if you see a small flashy ad, it's because it's a great coupon for you and that's the only way I could post it). And ads are not the main attraction here, just a sideline.

The important part, of course, is the content. What should I focus on? Robert Lee Brewer is hosting an April Platform Challenge for writers. What great timing! I'm not sure what he'll have us do, but our daily tasks start April 1 and you'll probably see some of them right here in the coming month.

Travel, genealogy, history, writing and books. What would you like to see more?

Image: David Castillo Dominici /

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Hunting Season

This weekend I plan to take a road trip to catch a nice book sale in Chatham County — and visit one of my favorite restaurants.

Last month I went to the big winter sale at Beth David Synagogue. Saturday night is always fun. The small fee includes wine and cheese and yummy appetizers. My sister and her husband joined me there. This was the first year I made it early and stood in line with the other booksellers and aficionados. With almost a year of bookselling experience under my belt (preceded by years of bibliomania), I was determined to be pickier with my purchases.

As we poured into the large room full of books, I headed for the vintage table, first. Then I waded into the nonfiction aisles as people around me pulled out every book and frantically scanned each bar code. I couldn't help but be excited, but I felt like a comparative sea of calm as I perused titles and only picked up a book if I was interested in it (I even stopped to read part of one).

Nothing against the other booksellers, they just have a different business model. But, I thought, they looked like they weren't having any fun. Here I was, in a room full of books, and later I would have a glass of merlot in my hand as I chatted with people I hadn't seen since last year. What's not to love?  :-)

I was proud of myself for getting just one box of books, although I did go back on Tuesday for bag-sale day to indulge in some less profitable books, like trade paperbacks.

My best finds from Saturday night were a book of facsimile Civil War newspapers and an art book by Winston Churchill.

Competitive? Moi?

The Churchill book was next to the wall, buried in a pile of books, underneath a table, where I'd crawled to find it.

No bar code on this one, baby!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

DNA Genealogy Excitement!

As I've said in previous posts, I'm the fourth generation searching for our ancestor Thomas S. Maness, who disappeared from his family in Randolph County, N.C. in 1875. We suspect he may be Thomas "Swain" Maness of Moore County, who was married to several women (at the same time), including one in Randolph County. We tried testing Y-DNA (male family lines) to compare with his first cousin-once removed, and came up with no match. But the stories about Swain are so similar, and he was adopted by relatives — we can't help but question his undocumented parentage. I began to look for living direct descendants (instead of cousins), but found only females, including a granddaughter, Mrs. Myrtle (correction: I talked to Mrs. Lessie; Mrs. Myrtle is her sister).

A few weeks ago, I read more about DNA testing on the Family Tree DNA website. I hadn't realized that autosomal testing works with either gender. However, that portion of DNA gets more mixed up with every generation, so it's only useful for close relatives. Autosomal testing has a high reliability for comparing up to third cousins. I drew a little chart to see how close Ms. Lessie would be to us if Swain were our ancestor. I was stunned to realize she would be my grandfather's first cousin, and my living uncle's first cousin-once removed.

Thomas S. married my great-grandmother in 1874 when he was 25. Swain married Ms. Myrtle's grandmother in 1901 when he was about 50 and she was much younger. I hadn't realized that his children by different women, half-siblings, could be an entire generation apart.

Could DNA give us the answer we've been searching for for more than a century?

I have two obstacles.
1. The test costs $289. To compare, we would need a test for my uncle and a test for Ms. Myrtle — nearly $600! This is not a good time in my life to come up with that kind of money.
2. DNA testing can sound big-brotherish to some people. Would Ms. Lessie, who is 89 years old, consent to be tested?

Image by jscreationzs /

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bookshop Birthday!

I can't believe it's been a year since I followed my long-time, crazy dream of opening a bookshop! Thanks to the customers and friends who came by to celebrate!

(And a special thanks to two who brought me lunch!)

Of course, I had to break out the Irish — books and goodies.