genealogy

The Jugglers’ Children Book Club Questions

 

  1. The author goes to great lengths to find out about her mysterious family – she uses DNA from many people, travels to India and Jamaica, spends exhaustive hours looking up records, etc. Can you relate to her quest to learn about her past?

 

  1. There are two main family tree branches that are discussed in this book (The Captain and the Juggler). Which one did you find more interesting? Did you prefer one over the other?

 

  1. Did the two family stories complement each other by highlighting similarities, or did the book seem more fragmented by the inclusion of both?

 

  1. Similarly, did you find yourself wondering about the other branches?

 

  1. History is told by the victors. It seems like the science of DNA as well as genealogical records also reflect this. What are some examples in the book that bring up issues of race, sex, conquest, enslavement, etc.?

 

  1. While there are two family tree branches discussed in the novel, there is also a lot of information about genetic genealogy and inheritance. Did this add to or detract from the book for you?

 

  1. At times the characters in the book are larger than life and mysterious. Did the book read a bit like fiction to you? Had it been a work of fiction, do you think it would have been believable?

 

  1. There are many examples of a disparity between family lore and scientific fact (i.e. Stephen’s family history of Native American ancestry, but his lack of NA markers; Paul Crooks’ research leading him to Africa while he has a European Y; Roberta Estes’s found and lost and found brother. etc.) Do you think one should carry more weight than the other – what’s more important: science or history?

 

  1. The book says that the results do not exist in a vacuum and reveal information about more people than just the test-taker… There were also cases where the results were surprising/traumatic/shameful… do you think the genetic genealogist has the responsibility to reveal scientific truth or hide “surprises”? Would you want to know about “surprises”?

 

  1. Carolyn Abraham requested DNA from a number of people. Their responses were quite varied, ranging from enthusiasm, mild interest, trepidation, etc. (in fact, quite a few people didn’t even want to discuss the past full stop)– how do you think you would respond to such a request? What misgivings (if any) do you have for testing DNA?

 

  1. At times Carolyn Abraham goes to great lengths to find DNA – even contemplating exhumation. Her father thinks it’s a no brainer and not a big deal, while her mother has a very different view. What do you think?

 

  1. There are a few examples of big coincidences in the book. Were you surprised by these or do you think that these things are bound to happen (i.e. discover Paul Crooks’ book and his Y, the patient of Aunt Doris that knew their family in Jamaica, etc.)?

 

  1. Were you satisfied with the ending? Although Carolyn Abraham found out a lot of information about her family background, she hasn’t found many close relations or solid facts. Do you think she’s found out more since the book was written (especially considering the rate at which genetic technology is progressing)?

 

 

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