Guns and Gods in my Genes
History, Travel, Cover Design
Neill McKee takes the reader through 400 years and 15,000 miles of an on-the-road adventure. It's an entertaining, well-researched, critical and comparative review of the evolution of gun culture and religion in United States and Canada through a personal genealogical search, employing vivid descriptions, historical analysis, dialog, lyrical prose, rediscovered poetry, and loads of images.
McKee begins with the history and stories of his peaceful Scots-Irish ancestors in Canada. Then his adventure turns south and west as he follows the trail of his maternal grandfather, a Canadian preacher who married an American woman in Wisconsin in 1895, and braved the American Wild West from 1904 to 1907. The author delves into his grandparents' likely experience of the aftermath of the Indian Wars in Nebraska, and their life in a Wyoming town where a two-story brothel stood across from their church and parsonage, and where the sheriff owned a saloon and dance hall, while carrying a gun with 20 notches, one for each man he had killed.
Much to his surprise, McKee finds his American ancestors were involved in every major conflict on North American soil: the Civil War, the American Revolution, and the French and Indian War. In the last few chapters, McKee also discovers and documents his Pilgrim ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower, landing at Plymouth in 1620, and their Puritan descendants who fought in the early Indian Wars of New England; conflicts which foretold the near-genocide of Native Americans throughout the land.
With the help of professional genealogical researchers and many excellent sources, McKee tracks down and tells the stories of the heroes, villains, rascals, as well as the godly and ordinary folk in his genes, while discovering many facts and exposing myths. He also lets readers in on a personal struggle: whether to apply for Canadian-American dual citizenship or remain only a Canadian.
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Guns and Gods in My Genes is a poignant, intense exploration of research into the author’s ancestry where he begins in the modern day, talking to relatives and descendants in both the US and Canada, and gradually takes the reader back through 400 years to his first ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower.
352 pages / 116 photos & illustrations / 6.0 x 9.0
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-7329457-3-9. $20.95
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-7329457-4-7. $9.95
Prices in USD and vary by retail outlet.
Subjects: Travel Memoir / Family Genealogy / US and Canadian History / Firearms and Warfare / Religion / Social Life and Customs / Puritans and Pilgrims / Mayflower Descendants
Guns and Gods in my Genes
"Neill McKee has done a fine job in mixing genealogy, history and insight in his book. Being an avid genealogy researcher and being interested in part of his family’s history I was curious to read his book. He has combined the story of his family with the surrounding history at the time thus putting his family’s lives in context. As I was reading it I was reminded of the various twists and turns that ancestral research throws at you. The various chapters reflect these twists and turns as he seeks to find evidence of his family’s existence across a great many states and countries. In part, his book reflects the westward migration of our ancestors over time from the colonial days in New England to the post-Civil War days in the far west. There is also an interesting parallel to the history of Canada as well as the United States. Well done."
—Robert, review on Amazon
"...What really stood out was how so much of this book also incorporated meditative, reflective moments in which the author seemed to speak to the reader, to his ancestors as he explored moments in history, and to himself. It allows the reader to really get a sense of the connection the author had to this journey and his family as he delved deeper and deeper into their history, allowing the reader to also feel more connected as well..."
—Anthony Avina, read full review on Amazon
"Early graphic memories of deer hunting as a boy opens this treatise of Neill McKee's hunt for ancestors. The reader not only goes along on his treks, but is also privy to his thinking and the lens through which he even asks questions about the past....Each generation is set in historical context as McKee also offers his own speculation as to how his predecessors may have reacted to what was current news at the time. The book is enhanced by a genealogy flow chart, maps, tables of ancestors, and extensive chapter notes. If you enjoy genealogy, mystery or a fascinating search for history, 'Guns and Gods in My Genes' is a compelling trek with the author to the places where his own ancestors actually lived."
—Joy Neal Kidney, read full review on Amazon
..."Mr. McKee took an interesting road to uncovering the stories of his ancestors. His research trips are the stuff from which legends are made. Fate certainly does favor the prepared, as he had worked to increase the odds of putting himself in the path of the cousins he met, and those people willing to share their passion for history with him...."
—Margaret McMohan "Dr. Mac", A Week of Genealogy, Read full review here
McKee’s book made me realize the importance of tracing and documenting our own lineage. Living in a time that sadly, is filled with self doubt and uncertainty, having information on where we “really” come from and learning stories about our elders or even ancestors is not only enlightening, it is also empowering.
His style of incorporating documents, opinions, personal analysis, dialogue and stories was exceptional. He made this book informative and very interesting. I am now enticed to begin researching about my own family. If you are into history, Guns and Gods in my Genes a nice book to read. Sort of behind the scenes details that can’t be found on regular history books. If you’re into memoirs, you will find so many juicy stories and personal reflections here too.
—Rozelyn DeSagun, The Frugalistic Mom, read full review here
From 2013 to 2019, Neill McKee embarked upon a 15,000 mile trek across Canada and the United States, unearthing 400 years of his family history that took him through key American battles--the Revolution, the French and Indian Wars, Civil War, Battle of Little Big Horn all the way back to The Mayflower. In a word, this book is fascinating. Not only is it a vivid travelogue, giving us a glimpse of history but also a memoir in that he introjects his responses to his search and his passion for his mission. His voice is authentic and believable and he brings his characters alive on the page. In the first chapter, he recalls his day as a youth when he went hunting with his uncle. He kills a deer at close range and has a visceral response that leads him to decide his
Aversion to guns. This makes him curious about their role his family played with guns, hence his mission to explore guns and gods in his genes. With the help of Ancestry.com, profession genealogical research and his own dogged determination to learn about his roots, McKee has created a masterpiece. His extensive research brings history alive and tapped into curiosity about my own roots. An enjoyable, informative, engaging read. Perfect for history buffs or anyone interested in exploring family roots. This book easily earned my five-star review.
—Kathleen Pooler, review on Amazon
Guns and Gods in My Genes: A 15,000 - mile North American Search Through Four Centuries, to the Mayflower is a unique book written by talented author Neill McKee. I use the word unique because it's not simply an author explaining how they delved into their heritage. This book is more than that. It's a magical journey I as a reader was pulled into and beyond that, it's the type of book with the ability to change your life. Each step of the way there is lesson you can apply to your own life. This book left me changed. McKee's ability to draw the reader into his thoughts and share intimate emotions feels intimate and incredibly personal.
This is a book you'll want to savor. I'd be lying if I said I read it quickly and it's not because it did not keep my interest. Like a delicious dessert or bottle of the finest wine, I wanted it to last as long as possible; savoring each morsel/sip/page. I read a chapter and then got lost in my own thoughts and pondered what I had read while also considering my own life for a bit. I enjoyed each chapter slowly and intentionally. When I finished Guns and Gods in My Genes, I carefully placed it on my bookshelf knowing it's the type of book you look forward to enjoying again and again. I definitely recommend this book to others, though I'm unwilling to part with my copy. Like a fine wine, I guarantee this will get better over time and I'm looking forward to reading it again.
—Crystal (a.k.a. Marc) Otto, review on Amazon
...While I’ve never seen myself as the type to pour over family history and ancestry records, author Neill McKee piqued my interest. The meditations sprinkled through the story really spoke to me. It’s when the author reflected on the various bits and pieces he learned and when he really draws close to his family ancestry. It gave me insights as to how important this journey was to the author. In one scene, he meditated alongside a river where an ancestor had been buried: 'Why did her daughter leave her here with strangers, by a river she hardly knew? I spoke to her, “Am I the only descendant son in the last 100 years who has visited your courage in this lonely place, this alien land?” But the only answer that came was the distant sound of rushing water.'”...
—Nicole Pyles, Writer, read full review on Goodreads