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  • Michael J. Walsh
Koman, Alan J. A Who’s Who of Your Ancestral Saints. (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. 2010. Pp. x, 447. $34.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-8063-1824-0.)

There are three parts to this book. Part I is titled “Twenty-Four Medieval Europeans and Their Two Hundred and Seventy-Five Ancestral Saints,” and serves as a rather unwieldy form of index to the rest of the book. The other two parts give short lives of these saints, some of whom are “Direct Ancestors” (part II) and the remainder “Aunts and Uncles” (part III). It is the author’s contention that all Europeans and Americans have saints in their families if one goes back far enough, which is no doubt true enough, for—as the blurb on the back cover rightly remarks—the twenty-four men and women have hundreds of millions of living descendants. The most recently deceased of them, Sir John Stewart of Balveny, first earl of Atholl, died in 1512. Sir John undoubtedly contributed to these hundreds of millions, having sired in two marriages two sons (one of whom became a bishop) and at least five daughters. The reviewer learned these facts from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a source not quoted in Alan J. Koman’s otherwise extensive bibliography. That is a pity. A very large proportion of the saints whose lives he briefly relates (275 of them in all) come from the British Isles, and those mainly from England and Wales. Even a brief glance at their well-researched entries in the ODNB would have helped him to distinguish the possibly historical from the almost certainly legendary. As it is, he relates the lives of his subjects as if all the details he recounts were equally—and firmly—historically established, which, of course, they are not. The book is a curiosity, and it is very unclear what useful purpose it might serve. [End Page 645]

Michael J. Walsh
Heythrop College, University of London


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