Van Alstyne Author Rolls Out First Book

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Leader Photo by Rodney Williams  Tracy reads aloud a passage from her new book
Leader Photo by Rodney Williams  Author Janice Tracy, with husband Vance at right, signs a copy of her new book at the Van Alstyne Public Library

Who better than a genealogist to tell a family story? And who better than Janice Branch Tracy to tell the story of Tillman Branch, a fascinating character who was part of the rich tapestry of Mississippi history as well as her own family history?

Tracy, a noted genealogist whose blog, Mississippi Memories, was recognized by Family History magazine as one of theTop 40 Genealogy Blogs is a friend of the Leader as she is a contributer with her Tracing Your Roots column. She is also a Van Alstyne resident who was celebrating the publication of her first book, The Juke Joint King of the Mississippi Hills, at the Van Alstyne Public Library on Saturday.

For Tracy, who took an appreciative audience through the publication process with History Press and her efforts to research her family’s most infamous relative, the book was a chance to delve into the man whom she had heard so many stories about as a young child.

“I was somewhat intrigued by what they said, especially the story of how one our relatives, Tillman Branch, was a known bootlegger who sold liquor during a time when it was illegal in Mississippi,” writes Tracy in the preface to the book. She goes on to detail how Branch built an empire on moonshine, craps games and blues acts at his notorious juke joints and what led him to become the man Mississippi Delta blues great Honeyboy Edwards referred to as the “baddest white man in Mississippi.”

After taking audience questions Tracy signed copies of her book. She also announced that another book will be forthcoming as a contract is in the works for an as yet unnamed project, the details of which will be announced at a later date.