MIDDLING FOLK by Linda H. Matthews


Three Seas, Three Centuries, One Scots-Irish Family
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Chicago Review Press cofounder and former publisher Matthews traces her family history, uncovering an ordinary family’s place in, and effect on, history.

The author acknowledges that history is blurry and often imperfect, but she recounts the undisputed facts of her ancestry with a historian’s precision and fills in the blanks and the probables with a novelist’s imagination. Matthews charts an ordinary family, the Hammills, back centuries, as they made their way from southwest Scotland to Northern Ireland, then to the Chesapeake Bay region of North America, and finally on to the Pacific Northwest. In each setting and time period, the middle-class Hammills were literate and adaptable, comfortable with social structure and respected in their communities. As pioneers they seized opportunities presented to them. They were businessmen, clerks, lawyers, blacksmiths, wagon builders and lumber and flour millers. Matthews diligently follows them through historical and social events and shifts: mass migrations, religious persecutions, loss of ancestral lands, the American Revolution, slavery and the Civil War, westward expansion and economic depressions and booms. She illustrates how these major historical events affected the often-overlooked ordinary folk, and vice versa. As the family cyclically passes through the private dramas of births and deaths, weddings and funerals, hopes and disappointments, gains and losses, the author unassumingly taps into the natural rhythm of life and history, drawing numerous universal conclusions about family, ancestry and social interaction.

A deeply felt, illuminating narrative, ranging from textbook historical accounts to personal reflections.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-55652-969-6
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Chicago Review
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2009


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