Saturday, June 4, 2022

Off the Shelf:
From Humble Beginnings


When researching family history, I'm always on the lookout for a good story. Sometimes, those stories even come to me prepackaged. A while back, while working on my mother's McClellan line—and entering all the descendants and possible DNA matches into my database—I ran across a fourth cousin to my bookish mother who happened to write his own story. 

Finding a book written by another family member, no matter how distant the relationship, is—for me, at least—an enticing sales proposition. Of course, I had to have a copy of the book. And now, at just the perfect point for sitting at an outdoor cafe for a morning of leisurely reading, I'll be opening the covers of Lamar Jolly's From Humble Beginnings: An Autobiography.

While a number of my distant relatives have enjoyed a successful career in real estate development or other business endeavors, Lamar Jolly's story is somewhat different in that he began with service in the United States Coast Guard. Most of his active duty service was spent as a staff member of the Officer Candidate School on the grounds of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy. The leadership lessons gained from that experience are peppered throughout the book, along with remembrances of key individuals he met who made an impact on the author in his younger years.

While many books by family members are self-published and have a more homespun appearance, such are often the very resources which help us peek inside the life story of relatives we might not otherwise have gotten to know. Page after page in such books, as the tales unwind, we become acquainted with these distant cousins in ways we couldn't glean simply by harvesting facts from vital records or obituaries.

Although not everyone in our family tree may have published a book—or even kept a diary to be passed down through the generations—when we do run across the chance discovery of such a volume, it's time to snatch it up. I'm always glad to make such discoveries, and even happier when I can locate a copy of the book, whether in or out of print.




  1. I found my great grandmother's cousin's autobiography, who served in the Civil War, It started with his arrival in our county at age 8 or 9 and how he and his twin helped dad build their log cabin. Priceless.

    1. Oh, what a treasure, Miss Merry! How fortunate that you were able to find a book like that.


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