McKee’s Guns and Gods in my Genes is a rewarding memoir that transports us through important eras of Canada’s and America’s history. Though the author may not have known at the start of his genealogical research that he’d travel over 15,000 miles to complete this memoir, he did publish it in time to honor the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. Since his heritage traces back to his ninth great-grandfather, the Mayflower becomes an important element in McKee’s account.
The book is available in paperback (through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores and libraries) and in email edition (via Kobo). I welcome it as a fascinating addition to accounts of our country’s founding, including the regrettable and bloody wars between the indigenous peoples and the earliest newcomers.
Of particular interest is McKee’s tracking of his Haskin lineage, traced through his mother’s line via his maternal grandmother, Effie Jane Haskins (d. 1966). This segment of the author’s history carries us back to one Anthony H[o]skins who lived between 1632 and 1707. The chapter, “The Haskins Family and the Civil War,” introduces us to Lafayette Haskins, the author’s great-grandfather, who enlisted in the 7th Wisconsin Regiment in 1861, at the age of 17.
As an eager young soldier, Lafayette must have struggled with the awkward guns used in the Civil War. Bullets from these guns could cause irreparable internal damage to soldiers. Yet officers instructed the troops not to help the wounded, as they had to continue their tasks of loading and recharging their rifles as quickly as possible. In spite of dim prospects for survival, Lafayette Haskins, having fallen sick and thereby missing the Battle of Gettysburg, survived to 1925. In this chapter, McKee includes the shocking statistic that, of the 700,00 soldiers who died in this war, many succumbed not from battle itself, but from such diseases as dysentery, pneumonia, measles, typhoid fever or tuberculosis. (pp.127-130)
This chapter is only a tiny sampling of the fascinating and detailed accounts McKee offers. His inclusion of maps, a highly comprehensive and significant genealogical chart, eight tables, and detailed chapter notes at the back, aid the reader through the complexities of the account—vividly descriptive, poetical, and analytical in equal measure.