Besides reference and how-to genealogy books, history, historical crime, memoir, biography, and even fiction can give you insight into your ancestors’ lives—and possibly open up new avenues of research.
The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen
The discovery of bones in her garden leads Julia to delve into an old murder with the help of an 89-year-old man and a box of documents from the previous inhabitants of Julia’s home. Interspersed with the modern-day story is another mystery set in 1830 Boston, where Norris Marshall struggles to pay for his medical education. This book depicts Boston Medical College and maternity wards. Warning: graphical medical descriptions.
The World Below by Sue Miller
In 1919, Georgia is diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to a sanitarium. She survives and thrives there, while others waste away. Many decades later, her granddaughter Catherine uncovers Georgia’s diaries of that long-ago time and has to readjust what she knows and what she’s just learned about her grandmother’s life.
Tethered by Amy MacKinnon
Set in Brockton, Mass., this murder-mystery describes the inner workings of the funeral business and an undertaker’s job. Warning: graphic mortuary descriptions.
Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg
Shortly before his mother dies, the author discovers she had a mentally and physically disabled sister. Luxenberg takes the reader through his exhaustive research to uncover who his aunt was and why she was committed at age 21 to a psychiatric hospital.