Cottonwood Roots was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1993.  The Press kept in print for about a decade before returning the copyright to me. In 2006, I put it back in circulation via photographic reprint, taking advantage of a special authors’ program. Now, over twenty-five years after it first appeared, I have made use of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing tools to issue a fully revised second edition.

The book is an account of a car journey from my birthplace in Broken Bow, Nebraska, across the Midwest to New York State. As I move eastward, carrying out genealogical research on one of my family lines, I also travel back in time. The trip becomes an occasion for a number of reflections, including sections on  courthouse architecture, the financial and social stresses of proving up land claims, the formation of family dynasties, and the craft of genealogy.


Some endoresements:

“[This book] is like taking a long car ride with an extremely knowledgeable yet good-natured uncle, whose purpose in bringing you along on the trip was not just to enlist you in some ancestral sleuthing, but also to give you a seminar-on-wheels across a vast array of historical and sociological topics.”

— Dayton Duncan, author of Out West: An American Journey and Miles from Nowhere

“At last someone has taken that old and popular hobby of genealogy and turned it into an actual and metaphoric journey: Kem Luther’s Cottonwood Roots moves across the American land toward revelations that illumine all our ancestries.”

–William Least Heat Moon, author of Blue Highways: A Journey into America and PrairyErth

“[Cottonwood Roots] has, as we used to say at the rooming house table, [great] reach. That authority rests upon a double basis: knowledge and the wisdom to see that knowledge in the context of our national history. Add to that double base a style that is lucid, relaxed, and good-humored.”

–D. L. Emblen, editor of The Reader’s Rejoinder newsletter



In the two years after it first appeared, Cottonwood Roots received about a dozen critical notices. Below are some of the reviews. Click on an image to open the associated review in a new window in PDF format.

J. Kloberdanz
North Dakota History
L. Bunker
The Annals of Iowa
E. Gray
W. Friedberger
New York History
Wilson Library Journal
DeBartolo Carmack
The American Genealogist
Records, Today!

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