Genealogy Book Review: “Call Me John,” by Michael Schoenholtz

 I like genealogical mysteries, and historic fiction too.  Just lately, I learn Name Me John, A Genealogical Thriller Based mostly on a True Story, by Michael Schoenholtz and beloved the story, and the e-book.  

The publicity for the e-book says:

New Jersey, 1928. A 14-year-old boy disappears from his dwelling with no hint – nearly eternally. Ninety years later, a sequence of probability DNA matches reveals what grew to become of him. 

John needed to develop up shortly – altering his id, incomes a residing the exhausting means, and navigating love, friendship and demise throughout among the hardest instances in American historical past.

With nothing greater than an eighth grade schooling, his journey takes us by way of Prohibition, the Nice Melancholy, the Mud Bowl, the gold mines of Colorado and the Second World Conflict to finally change into successful in his personal proper.

Based mostly on a real story.

And a few critiques: 

“Michael Schoenholtz blends genealogical analysis with historic fiction as he tracks the mysterious disappearance of his lengthy misplaced uncle who cast a seamless new id to cover his darkest secret. A quick-paced, adeptly advised story.” – Syril Levin Kline, creator

“He has deftly woven collectively reality and fiction to create an interesting story that explores the affect of destiny and household by way of a slice of twentieth century historical past that is punctuated by the Nice Melancholy, the Mud Bowl and World Conflict II. We by no means escape our roots. However the occasions of life batter and construct us in our drive to form our personal future. The e-book is a web page turner. I extremely advocate it, particularly should you, like so many people, have a household secret.” – Lynne Terry, editor of The Lund Report, former NPR correspondent in Paris and reporter for The Oregonian/OregonLive

“I could not put this e-book down. At each flip I appeared ahead to seeing the place “John” would go subsequent. Schoenholtz is aware of maintain your consideration and maintain you looking forward to extra.” – Helen Raptis, TV Host of AM Northwest, Portland, Oregon.

“A compelling story about how we make a lifetime of the bits and items of DNA, decision-making, and circumstance. The primary character’s life is formed by all three. The creator transports his readers into the lives of his characters and their struggles, plunking them down in the midst of  World Conflict II and different historic occasions that examined the human spirit. Schoenholtz is a kind of uncommon storytellers who paints with phrases so successfully, the reader turns into misplaced within the telling of the story. I did.” – Carol Sveilich, creator of three books, together with: Reflections From a Glass Home: A Memoir of Mid-Century Fashionable Mayhem.

“Name Me John is a narrative born out of genealogical sleuthing right into a decades-long thriller about Nice-Uncle Isadore Katz, who at 14 walked away from dwelling and disappeared. Utilizing DNA and different data to start to unravel the thriller, Schoenholtz supplies a fictionalized re-creation of his great-uncle’s life. He raises questions concerning the mutability of id. But, the thread that runs all through is the human craving to belong and to make our households proud.”  Daphne Bramham, columnist for The Vancouver Solar, creator of The Secret Lives of Saints

 It’s totally different, as a result of Michael had solely the “information” – the data – of his father’s uncle to make use of, and couldn’t discover the entire particulars concerning the man’s life.  

Consequently, the creator has this disclaimer:

“Though numerous components of the e-book are impressed by actual occasions and folks, this can be a work of fiction. In an effort to respect the privateness of the folks in John’s life, names, characters, companies, locations, occasions, locales, and incidents are both the merchandise of the creator’s creativeness or utilized in a fictitious method.  The entire names and figuring out particulars of characters are fictitious, aside from his rapid household previous to the age of fourteen.”

It is a family tree analysis story – one primarily based partially on household lore from the creator’s father and siblings, partially primarily based on painstaking analysis in a wealth of assets from New Jersey to California, partially by the DNA clues used to seek out shut household family members and the household ties, after which the creator’s capacity to meld all of that right into a plausible story that matches the information of the recognized household historical past.

The Introduction to the e-book notes:

“A number of years in the past, once I started placing collectively a household tree, my father, Richard, requested me: ‘Why do not you discover out what occurred to my Uncle Isadore?’  He hoped that I might merely Google his title and discover all of the solutions, however there was no digital hint of him.”

If it have been simply that straightforward!  However we all know that every individual has a novel life story, and this one may be very totally different from the stereotypical “born to loving dad and mom – married an exquisite partner – died a contented man” story.  All of that was true, however the journey was eventful.

From the house in New Jersey, to the streets of New York, throughout the nation on the practice by way of Pittsburgh to Colorado the place he married, and eventually to California the place he lived out his life, aside from a stint within the U.S. Military in France throughout World Conflict II and a trip with a go to to his previous household dwelling in 1960.

The life vignettes are plausible, embody historic accuracy of occasions, locations and instances.  The ending is how all of us hope all of it ends…

Due to the title change, this story wouldn’t have been recognized aside from the DNA testing that led to identification of blood family members that solved the analysis problem.  All household historians face the potential problem that names have been modified all through time to guard the individual concerned, and we must always all the time keep in mind that as we do our family tree analysis. 

I beloved this e-book and the story.  Whereas it’s comparatively brief (152 pages within the printed model), I like to recommend it to your studying pleasure! 

NOTE:  The e-book is obtainable on Amazon in Kindle or Paperback ($9.99) – see


Disclosure: I used to be contacted by the creator a number of weeks in the past and supplied a free obtain of the e-book and browse it in three days.  I’ve re-read it twice since.  I used to be not compensated for this assessment, and the opinions are all mine.  Thanks, Michael!

Copyright (c) 2021, Randall J. Seaver

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