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Book Review: If We Can Winter This

6 Jun 2023 7:41 PM | Anonymous

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

If We Can Winter This
Essays and Genealogies, The Gordon Family of County Leitrim, Ireland and 
The Norris Family of County Tyrone, (now) Northern Ireland

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack. Published by Scattered Leaves Press, Salt Lake City. 2022. 268 pages.

Ms. Carmack’s family saga features Delia and Mary Gordon, emigrants to America seeking escape from the ruinous times of the Great Famine in Ireland. While their story is a commonplace one among the multitudes of Irish immigrants who worked their way across the Atlantic towards the promise of an uplift for their lives, Ms. Carmack’s personal treatment of her great-grandmother Delia and great-grandaunt Mary reminds us of the daring and dauntlessness of unremarkable folk who defied the unknown and whose efforts left their descendants thriving in considerably more secure and prosperous circumstances.

The first half of the book introduces the Gordon family of Ardvarney, County Leitrim, although “introduce” might not be the correct word. If We Can Winter This is an extensively revised version of My Wild Irish Rose, the author’s account of the lives of Rose Norris, her mother Delia Gordon, and Delia’s sister Mary Gordon. The new book has more researched information on more cousins, but with the author’s added musings about the Whys: why this behavior, why that action, why that decision, good and bad, what are the back stories of complicated relationships. Whys that strike familiar to all genealogists who yearn to know the answers to the ancestral questions.

Each essay-chapter describes a distinct fragment of the sisters’ lives. The essay On Their Own” describes their living in Greenwich, Connecticut, and ponders how they found employment as domestic servants. Irish girls were well-regarded among wealthy households as reliable domestic servants; Irish children attended national school to at least the eighth grade, lending literacy as a desirable attribute of the servant girls.

Part IV recites the genealogy of the other side of the author’s family, the Norris family (Delia Gordon married David Norris). The Norris family’s origins are in Tamlaghtmore, County Tyrone. The author departs from the essay/story structure as she presents the Norris family in standard genealogy report fashion, a nice change of reading pace. The report style illustrates this very useful and effective way to compile and publish family genealogies.

Ms. Carmack resides among the upper-crust of genealogical writers. Her name is likely familiar to many readers, with good reason. 

This, her latest book, is a particularly handsome example of how to put forward a family history. The usual elements are present in superior form: introduction, citations, notes, index, bibliography. Photos are placed in context to their stories (the house photos are particularly affecting), maps offer geographic clarity, the writing is of a highly-personalized style, easy to follow and captures the reader. 

A family history book to learn from, and a family history book to enjoy.

If We Can Winter This may be purchased from Scattered Leaves Press at, Amazon at and from most any other book stores by specifying ISBN 9780997207675 (ISBN10: 0997207671).

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