Reading Genealogy – Before We Were Yours

The last several months and especially the last couple of weeks have been hectic. Last fall my father put his name on a waiting list for a unit in a seniors facility and this spring they let him know that an apartment had come available. It was from that time that the downsizing started. Each week, when I’m not traveling for a genealogy conference, I go out to his home and help him with sorting what he needs to take and what needs to be let go.

My dad lives about an hour from my house so round trip it’s two hours. For me, it’s all about being productive and using my time efficiently. I often think that I don’t have good life balance, that perhaps I might be trying to do too much, so I decided on the drive I was going to do something more relaxing and listen to an audiobook.

But even though I was reading (listen) for pleasure why not choose something that has a hint of family history. Hence my choice of books; “Before we were Yours” by Lisa Wingate. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book. There are several storylines in this book; there is one which takes place in current time, where Avery Stafford, a member of a long-standing family in Southern Carolina has come home to work with her father who is a Senator but might be leaving politics for health reasons. During a meet and greet at a senior home she meets a woman named May and May tells her she not only knows Avery’s grandmother but that Avery is wearing her (May’s) dragonfly bracelet. Does May know her grandmother or does May have a form of dementia?

The second storyline is about a young family living on the river in 1939. The young children are left alone with the eldest daughter;  Rill Foss, while their mother is taken to the hospital with a difficult birth. While they are left alone the children are kidnapped and taken away to the Tennessee Children’s Home run by Georgia Tann.

I won’t tell you any more than to say that I not only listened as I drove to my dad’s but I was listening every chance I had even during short trips to the grocery store. I found the story so captivating because the Tennesse Children’s home was a real place and Georgia Tann was the mistress.  It gave me insight into what it might feel like to be an orphan. To what it would perhaps have felt like for my great-grandfather; Willie Beaton and his sister Annie. It gave me insight as to how it might have felt to have been a British Home Child or a child from the Orphan Trains.

So whether you choose to read this book or do as I did and listen to the audio version I’d highly recommend it.

This book can be purchased at or (each of the links will take you to the book). Or if you find yourself spending a lot of time in your car whether it’s during vacation or just those trips to the grocery store; you might want to opt for the audio version that can also be found on Amazon (did you know you can listen for free with an Amazon Prime membership?)


Did you know that ….10% of Canadian’s are descendants of British Home Children?

Did you know that the U.S. orphan trains operated between 1854 and 1929, relocating about 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children?


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