We were delighted to see that the prestigious Midwest Book Review published a long and glowing review of J. Michael Cleverley’s book, Family Stories . . . and How I Found Mine. We have reprinted it in its entirety below.
Reviewer’s Bookwatch: July 2020
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
Family Stories…and How I Found Mine
J. Michael Cleverley Clearfield Company
9780806359090, $44.95, PB, 560pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: “Family Stories …and How I Found Mine” is actually several books blended into one. At its simplest, it conveys the history of author J. Michael Cleverley’s family from the early Middle Ages, through its establishment in colonial New England, and later in the American Midwest and Mountain West. Unlike many genealogies, however, it examines these stories in the context of American and European history. Cleverley is a retired senior diplomat in the U.S. foreign service who is keenly aware of the impact individuals and families have on their times, and vice versa.
By being with the Cleverley ancestors as they negotiate the challenges of prior centuries, readers of “Family Stories …and How I found Mine” will find insight into the lives and challenges of their own ancestors. Interspersed throughout the chapters is a treatise on how to produce a family history, showing by example how family stories can be discovered, often more easily than thought, and what researchers may be able to find in today’s rich cyber world of family history.
“Family Stories …and How I Found Mine” spreads out over a millennium. The story begins with Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, before jumping to the Greene family serving in the court of Plantagenet kings from 1300 to 1500. Next comes a chapter devoted to Puritan New England ancestors of the 1600s, their subsequent exile as non-conformists to Rhode Island, and their fight for religious and gender rights. Another chapter recounts their service at the Battle of Concord in 1775. From the 1830s to 1860s, we follow the family to Missouri and Kansas, where they serve in the Civil War. Others survive western Indian Wars, and some trudge the trails to Utah and Idaho. The story concludes with a stirring account of Seija Cleverley (the author’s wife) and her family’s hardships during Finland’s struggles with Soviet Russia in the Second World War.
Each chapter, including the methodological commentary, is self-contained. The reader can pick up the book at any point for a complete experience of a specific era and family members under discussion or can read the volume straight through in its entirety. Either way, this is a volume that entertains as it enlightens, and teaches as it chronicles a family history.
Critique: An inherently interesting and impressively informative read from cover to cover, “Family Stories…and How I Found Mine” would well serve as a template for writing comprehensive family histories within historical contexts. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, “Family Stories…and How I Found Mine” is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.
Editorial Note: J. Michael Cleverley (“Mike”) spent over thirty years as an American Foreign Service officer with the US Department of State. His hobby is writing. Since retiring, has taken temporary assignments with the State Department, taught university political science and economics, and spent his time writing. Over his State Department career, Mike was Deputy US Permanent Representative to the UN agencies in Rome and Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassies in Athens and Helsinki. He also worked at the American missions in Pretoria, London, Milan. He holds diplomas from the National War College, the Harvard Kennedy School, and Brigham Young University. Mike was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and speaks Finnish, Italian, and Greek.