Squirrels climb the family tree, show genealogy is for kids, too
By Jo-Ann Greene, Books Editor email@example.com
Many a mature genealogical researcher must wish he had begun his quest for family facts earlier in life.
Late Great Aunt Millie surely would have known the answer to his question about their long-gone mutual relative. If only he had asked her before it was too late!
Ephrata resident Anne Schmidt Koenig introduces the joys of genealogical research to grade-schoolers in a new children's chapter book. The 73-page paperback is illustrated by her niece Marie Scoggin, of Lancaster.
"Earl Charles Squirrel: Number 6-5-3-2-3" uses two lively rodents' adventures to convey the family history concept, along with its record-keeping shorthand. (The seemingly cryptic number in the title is a simple generational birth-order code explained in the book.)
As Earl Charles Squirrel tells his friend Rosella Rodentia, "It's nice to know my number and the names of my relatives. But what I'm really nuts about is their stories."
But as Rosella's mother notes, it's not always easy to find out what we want to know, and sometimes pieces of information will remain missing. But it's still fun to work on the puzzle.
The two squirrels go off together to learn more about their family trees. They meet up with cousins at a critical moment and discover they have not just ancestors but traits in common, including a love for corny jokes.
Koenig, in a telphone interview, imagined readers chuckling or rolling their eyes over the "nutbooks," "shellphones" and other touches added for their amusement. This mother of two grown children still has plenty of contact with youngsters as a volunteer with the after-school program at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Ephrata.
And daughter Valerie Koenig-Grubb, a teacher, advised her on how to make the book useful to teachers. It includes a genealogical worksheet and vocabulary section in the back and emphasizes personal responsibility, self-esteem, diversity and kindness throughout.
In the end, Earl Charles Squirrel feels good about being connected to family -- past, present, distant, near: "Everyone makes a difference. Those who were born long ago, those who are living now, and those who will live in the future -- everyone matters."
nThis is the first book for the former Lancaster Newspapers writer and editor. She said she was inspired by her late father-in-law, Earl C. Koenig, an educator and genealogy enthusiast with roots in Berks County.
She can recall his doing the research years ago, pre-Internet: "Back then it was hard work" that involved visiting cemeteries, churches, courthouses and combing municipal records such as deeds, Koenig said.
She helped by typing his findings and arranging for him to publish "Descendants of Jonathan Koenig: A Genealogical Compilation" in 2004 through Masthof Press, Morgantown.
Masthof, a family owned and run company, specializes in genealogical publications. And while most of its books are self-published, the company contracted to publish Koenig's book and pay her royalties, according to a press release sent by Daniel Mast.
The author will sign her book, priced at $6.99, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Ephrata Recreation Center; proceeds benefit the center's scholarship fund. Signed copies are also available at Aaron's Books, Lititz. Books may also be purchased at Masthof Bookstore, 219 Mill Road, Morgantown, or online at masthofpress.com.