Book Reviews Books

A Who’s Who of Your Ancestral Saints

A Who’s Who of Your Ancestral Saints

By Alan J. Koman

Genealogical Publishing Company, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8063-1824-0

Publisher’s Synopsis: For anyone interested in his or her own genealogical links to medieval Europe and early Christianity, this book offers an extraordinary opportunity. For the first time, the lives of 275 early European saints are retold and accompanied by lineages connecting those saints to twenty-four of the great men and women of medieval Europe (see below for a list of saints). Today, those twenty-four men and women have hundreds of millions of living descendants. Anyone living today who can connect to these medieval personages can claim forefathers among the princes of the earth as well as ancestors among the princes of Heaven. (Readers can consult any of the standard works on colonial American genealogy to help make the connection.)

The historical period covered by this work is vast. From St. Gregory “the Illuminator” (b. 256 – d.326) to St. Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster (b. ca 1277 – d. 22 March 1322), the saints presented in this book span ten centuries. On earth, some were great men, such as Alfred “the Great,” Bernard of Clairvaux, and Charlemagne. Others, such as Elizabeth of Hungary, Marie of Brabant, and Odilia, led lives that are just as moving today as in their own time.

For the first time, A Who’s Who of Your Ancestral Saints merges centuries of Catholic and Protestant scholarship and gives members of all Christian faiths the chance to welcome the third millennium of their religion knowing that they are the descendants of many of its early heroes.

Review by

This guide of medieval saints is intended for a Christian-audience who are interested in finding genealogical links to people who have been canonized. Alan J. Koman has provided a list of 275 saints where he was able to track down some type of family connections that would allow modern-day ancestors to track them down (if you have some kind of connection to the English royal family, you will be pleased to know that many saints can be found in your genealogical tree).

The majority of the book is taken up with naming and providing a biography to these saints, followed by listing their lineages.  The amount of information provided various from saint to saint, with some getting two full pages, while others just receive a couple of lines recounting their lives.

By listing only saints which can be traced genealogically, those who are listed tend to be men and women associated with royal or political families – for example St. Ethelburga, Queen of Northumbria.  This leaves out many prominent medieval saints, such as St. Francis, St.Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine.

This guide will be of limited to use to medieval scholars, as the list of saints found here is only a small proportion of the total number (no accurate count of how many saints’ there are, but the Roma Catholic church believes that it is more than 10000).

The biographies tend to be rather positive and uncritical portrayals – part of the reason for this is that Koman wants to give his readers examples of good Christian behaviour. The biographies are followed by lists of descendants going down a couple of generations.

While the book won’t be useful for scholarly endeavours, it should be satisfying for its intended audience – if you have an interest in your genealogy this book should provide with you with at least a few examples of medieval saints in your distant family tree.

Reviewed by Peter Konieczny

Click here to see the Publisher’s website

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