What’s wonderful about OUR ANCESTORS THROUGH THE AGES by Evelyn Haywood Friend are the sections offering glimpses into people’s daily lives in bygone eras via 1-2 page encapsulations which summarize who the author’s relatives are and were. Embarking upon long-ago journeys as family members emigrate from England, Scotland and Ireland to Canada upon ships reminiscent in photos of the RMS Titanic presents the reader with a sense of wonder, as does learning how folks traveled inland in those days, often in crowds of 100 or more packed onto oar- and sail-propelled, flat-bottomed skiffs, entirely subject to whatever the skies overhead were doing. Whether or not a readership outside of the author’s relations is desired, these types of details could be further expanded in order to make the book, overall, even more reader-friendly.
Categorized as biography, the purpose of the illustrated collection is introduced as aimed towards providing documentation for the lives of Frederick William Haywood, Mary Minnie Gurney, and their descendants. Even so, as the book stands now, a number of difficulties may hinder even direct family members from fully engaging with it. Lists of birth, death and marriage dates generally will not captivate anyone’s attention, except for a fellow researcher. Ditto for the overabundance of family trees appearing one right after the next from pages 95 – 146. The same goes for the many uncaptioned photos failing to designate who anyone is or what events are being pictured, which span pages 157 – 214. (If such pictorial matter were woven within the volume so that photos and family trees intentionally accompanied the specific text about each family, however, that would work much better.)
There’s also a mighty excess of spelling and grammatical errors all the way through. While a bit of linguistic license for old-timey language could be appealing (for example, hick up the red slay instead of ‘hook up the red sleigh,’ and he had a fell down instead of ‘he fell down’), much of this is not done consistently (i.e. the word ‘grandma’ appears at different times as gamma, grammar, and granny). In the end, there are so many errors it begins to seem as if a decoder ring might be necessary in order to read this book. Entire segments are also repeated, verbatim. Obtaining the help of a good proofreader to make necessary corrections would be beneficial.
OUR ANCESTORS THROUGH THE AGES by Evelyn Haywood Friend is a pleasant, mild-mannered, if somewhat fragmentary look at one woman’s extended family.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader