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Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England and Dukes of Bourbon. c.1465. Newberr
Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England and Dukes of Bourbon. c.1465. Newberry Case MS 166.

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On the Shelf: The Juggler's Children

Abraham, Carolyn. The Juggler’s Children.: A Family History Gene By Gene. Toronto  Random House Of Canada, Limited 2013. (Call # On-order)

I recently completed this interesting book and found it a fascinating exploration of the application of genetic testing to genealogy research. The author’s family has two mysteries at its core: who were her great-grandfathers, one reputed to be a Jamaican sea captain, the other a supposed Chinese juggler? Abraham enlists her immediate family members in providing DNA samples, and the results take her, both literally and figuratively, to many corners of the globe. Some of her findings surprise her, and as the accuracy of genetic testing improves, her conclusions aren’t as ironclad as they first seem.

Most riveting to me was discovering the ways in which traditional genealogical research was still essential to solving the family mysteries. As a science journalist, Abraham handles the technical aspects of genetic testing with aplomb, explaining concepts in easily digestible bites for the layman, but woven through her DNA testing results and interpretations is a steady reliance on primary sources as evidence. It seems that the most cutting-edge of scientific tests is still most powerful when combined with written historical records.

I highly recommend this book to any genealogist interested in learning about the power and limitations of genetic testing in genealogy research.

By Matt Rutherford, Curator of Genealogy and Local History

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