Published books by Jim Jackson

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The following are books that I have written, some published, some pending publication and others are in the final stages of editing.  These are in preview mode so please feel free to browse through the selections:

The Brenner and Sprenger Family

What you are about to read is written in very simple terms. In general, genealogy can be a very dry, boring subject, especially since it typically involves forgettable numbers like birth dates, marriage dates and death dates. What really makes genealogy fun for me are the places, the stories and the photographs. And so, you will find that there are two main characters in this opera: The Brenner’s and the Sprenger’s. The former is the family of my maternal grandfather and the latter is the family of my maternal grandmother. The stories try to focus on three main objectives: biography, geography and histography. The first, biography, covers who that person is with data such as birth date, death date, marriage date, children, and where that person was born, etc. The second, geography, tells a little about the place where the person either came from, or where they lived or where and when they left this earth. The third, histography, well I made that word up. To me this means the historical geography of the person’s biography, basically what was happening in the world during that person’s lifetime.

I will attempt to make this book cover three aspects of the above, 1.) The data showing the important events in a person’s life, 2.) The stories and history of how and where a person lived, and 3.) Photographs related to a particular person.

I am a firm believer in “A picture is worth a thousand words.” To that end I have also included as many photographs as possible to help tell the story. In fact, you will notice that the same photo might be used more than once in this book. The reason is simple: the people that are in the photo are biographed in the book individually and the photo is significant enough that it was included for some, if not all, of the other people in that photo. As you go through this book, you will notice that it is really just a photo album with data.

As I compiled photographs for this book, I could not help but look at a few that had unknown people in them. I felt somewhat saddened that their story may be lost for all time. I looked at one photo in particular of the village of Ormesheim, near the French border, where my grandmother was born. The photo had a few people from the village looking into the camera as the photographer snapped the shutter. The photo was taken about the time when my grandmother lived there, about 1900. Near the center of the photo is a young boy looking back over his shoulder toward the camera. I wondered who the boy might be. Perhaps my grandmother knew him, not so unheard of since nearly everyone in the village was and still is related in one way or another. Who is this boy? Perhaps I will never find out.

I knew from the start that I couldn’t write about everyone on my mother’s side of the family. For one, there are just way too many people and the families continue to grow. For another, I don’t have enough information to write about a particular person and therefore would probably not do that person justice by “just writing something.” I did try to include everyone that I had a photo of, even if it was just a “cameo” appearance in the book. Hopefully in future editions I can include those that I left out and add some spice and seasoning to what little I had.
In some cases, I had a number of stories and photographs of people who are only linked by marriage to one of my direct relatives, such as the husband of one of my mother’s sisters, for example. In other cases, I have a close attachment to that person, and I felt that they should be included, either as a chapter by themselves or included in the same chapter as their spouse who is my blood relative.

In this book you will find a genealogy report, or ancestry chart. These are standard reports that a genealogist produces, and they are ancestor charts of children, their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. I have only included one of these reports since it is applicable for numerous people that are in this book. When you come to the ancestry chart for my mother, Magdalena Brenner, in the first column you will find her name, and in the adjacent columns next to her you will find her parents, followed by her vast grand parentage with their children. I have only included this one particular ancestry chart and did not add a chart for everyone due to the sheer size it would be, and the sheer boredom the data would bring. Only the die-hard genealogist would have any interest in this. Besides, most of this same data is easily found published on my family tree that is posted on the Internet. However, if you would like more data, or a copy of the family tree, or even photographs published in this book, just contact me and I will send it your way.

In this book you will note that many people were given nicknames or somehow adopted them. I don’t pretend to understand this phenomenon, but I enjoy the bastardization of otherwise standard names. Tilchen, for example is derived from Mathilda. Lena has evolved from Magdalena. Steffi has morphed from Stephanie. Sepp is derived from Joseph. Adi came from Adolf. Theresia has become Theres. Charlie was once Karl. And somehow my name, Jim, was originally Karle. I will try to understand that change one of these days. I use these nicknames throughout this book since most of the people were known by that name, although I initially list the person’s given name.

As with most family trees, the more you dig, the more you find that the branches and roots can grow in many directions. Some lead to famous people, some lead to rather shady characters, all lead to a connection with the history of the world that one cannot help but somehow feel connected to. From that connection one will find a deeper appreciation of what the world was like during that time and what their ancestors had to endure just to survive. And one cannot help but feel thankful to that ancestor for establishing that root that led to your own being.

As I write this second book on the history of my family, I cannot help but note two very odd coincidences. The first being on my paternal side which I documented in my first book. In that family line, my Jackson family takes a strange twist. My great grandfather, Alonzoa Elmo Jackson, seems to not have been a Jackson at all. Searching through old census files one of my cousins discovered that Alonzoa was actually an Adams (or perhaps a Morgan) and not a Jackson at all. He would later adopt the Jackson name when his widowed (or divorced) mother was married to my great, great grandfather James Andrew Jackson. Conversely on my maternal side of the family, the Ruppert line was interrupted when my great, great grandmother, Magdalena Ruppert, was born to an unknown father. She was subsequently “adopted” by the man who married her mother, but he eventually ran off to America and his whereabouts have thus far not been traced.

Near the latter sections of this book you will find a report on the topic of DNA. My mother’s DNA to be specific. This relatively new and exciting process has helped many genealogists examine the real roots of their ancestry. As part of the research for writing this book I obtained and had tested DNA samples from both my mother and from myself. Besides the obvious reason of wanting to know where our real roots originated, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about this genetic science. For my mother, I felt it would just show how unadulterated her German ancestry really is since both her mother and father have several hundred years of documented ancestry in Germany. Me, on the other hand, I have inherited genes from so many different lines, particularly on my father’s side, that I expected the DNA report to look like a product catalog for the Heinz 57 company. The results were not as I expected but after more research, especially on regional migration history, the results weren’t so far out of probability. Most family members reading this book will find these results very interesting.

In compiling this book, I discovered many interesting facts and statistics. But what I also found was that our Sprenger name has all but died out. Most of the men had daughters who married and dropped their paternal ancestral name. The Brenner name is also near the end. As of this writing there are only four known men who carry our ancestor’s surname. In fact, on close examination, there may only be one man left, Andre Brenner, who has the potential to carry on the Brenner legacy.

In the back of the book you will also find data and photographs of unknown family members. These are data and photographs of people who we are related to but as of this writing I have been unable to identify who these people are and their exact link. This is an opportunity for you to continue the legacy of this family history by helping to identify who these people are.

As a final word of caution, much of the data in this book has been thoroughly investigated and verified with known sources and/or documents and records, however, there may be some inaccuracies, either in the original data, or in my spelling and grammar, or in my misunderstanding of what was communicated to me. To that end I welcome any corrections, and of course, any updates, especially photographs.

For a longer preview of the above book or to order the complete e-book, please follow this link:


The Memory of Auschwitz

As part of a tour of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, we were offered a side tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. So that you know, I live in the USA but was born in Germany and immigrated to America in 1956. I had heard enough stories from my mother and read enough about the Second World War that I could write numerous books on the horrors and depravations of war, and what my family had to endure. In all honesty, I really had absolutely no desire to visit a place where so many atrocities occurred.

As our two-week-long bus tour wound its way from the beautiful city of Tallinn, Estonia and into the equally beautiful cities of Riga, Latvia, and Vilnius, Lithuania, we arrived in the very modern city of Warsaw, Poland. In Warsaw, it was strange not to see the typical old-world charm that every European city has; no classical gothic churches and city centers that go back to the medieval times. It was then that our tour guide pointed out that the Germans had pretty much leveled 85% of this town during their seizure of this capital of Poland.

Warsaw, once described as the Paris of the East and thought by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, was in ruins after Hitler ignored the agreement he had made and ordered the entire city to be razed to the ground. After the war, the Soviets set up a communist government which had a negative effect on the democratic process of the country, and the freedom of the people.

While still in Warsaw we visited a Jewish heritage museum and it had an immediate impact on me. As we entered the museum building I saw the name on a wall of donors of my former employer, Jack Tramiel, who had owned Atari and had founded Commodore Computer. Mr. Tramiel had been interned in the Auschwitz concentration camp and it is to him that this book is dedicated.

For a longer preview of the above book or to order the complete e-book, please follow this link:


A Jackson Family History from Henry Jackson of Virginia

My obsession with family history grew being spurned on by the need to identify those people in the box and to avoid losing a family history that was entrusted to me. Grandma would have been disappointed had she seen the state of our documented family history. From the day I opened my treasure box I began to wish that my grandma was still here. Until this day I wish that she were here to listen to my innumerable questions about her life in Paris, Texas and subsequent move to California with ten kids in tow. What I would give to hear her tell the tale about how she met my grandpa, how they wound up being married, and how their family’s lives were. But she is gone and with her went a wealth of family history that can never be retrieved. By writing this book I hope that I can preserve our history, our culture and the legacy of our Jackson family.

Since undertaking this project, I have been deeply involved in my family history and I have spoken with countless relatives, most of who were unknown beforehand. I have traveled to many key places where relatives lived and died. I visited their birthplaces as well as their final resting-places. I have found historical documents from census records to military pension applications and I have photographed and recorded as much detail about the lives of our ancestors, who were it not for them, I would not be here. Many of us would not be here.

Of course, just about every person with the last name of Jackson thinks they are ancestors of President Andrew Jackson. I thought so every time I pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. That big nose and wild hair was a trait of just about every Jackson in my family, both men and women. But as I really began to research my family, I quickly learned that we were not a direct relative of this great Tennessee man, although we are an indirect relation.

It’s clear that President Andrew Jackson had no children or surviving direct descendants. He did adopt an Indian baby which his troops had recently slain his parents. He also adopted his nephew after the death of his brother, but his other brothers died before this time. There are other Jackson’s that were related to Andrew. Stonewall Jackson, for instance, was a fifth cousin of Andrew’s.

At first when I began my quest for family history, I was frustrated by the lack of Jackson family history information that I found. I did however find much history on my other non-Jackson family lines, but hardly anything on my own Jackson namesake. Even census records were vague and some of my family members suggested that perhaps our Jackson’s, that were living in the Tennessee and Texas areas, simply distrusted government. The thought was that they refused to participate in anything related to the government especially something like giving personal information. I somehow may have also been handed this gene. And after you read about what James Andrew Jackson went through to get his Civil War pension from the state of Texas, you can appreciate this natural distrust.

The farthest back that I have gone on the Jackson family history is eight generations to Henry Jackson. The story of this Jackson family line will begin with him, followed by each of my Jackson grandparents, and then will commence with stories and histories of other important, (to me anyway) Jackson family members that make up our clan.

As the reader will quickly see, there is not much history on our oldest known ancestor, Henry Jackson. This is simply because there really is not much history on this man. Obviously, this man had a history as well as having a family and ancestors, but as of this writing, this information has not been found. I suspect that his father was named James, but that’s purely conjecture on my part and is based on an extremely long line of male descendants who were given this name, including me.

After the history of Henry Jackson, the historical information grows for each subsequent descendant until, at some point the story, the documents, the data and the photographs become far too many to include all of them. At that point it was difficult to decide which to include and which to exclude. I hope that I included those relevant to the history of that individual.

In writing this history I also found it difficult to not include other family lines that tie into the Jackson family tree, such as the Bartlett’s, West’s, Burton’s, Coble’s, Nash, et al. All are very important family lines and clearly some of us Jackson’s would not be here were it not for those other family lines. Adding them at this point would increase this volume tremendously and may bog down and make this Jackson history much too busy. However, these other family lines will eventually receive their own written histories at some point in the future.

For a longer preview of the above book or to order the complete e-book, please follow this link:


The following books are currently in pre-publication form and can be odered directly from the author.  Please contact me for details:


The Burton and Nash Family

Let me preface this book by stating that I hate introductions in books and I rarely read them. I sometimes feel that the author who includes a preface or introduction does so because he thinks that his or her readers are not smart enough to figure out what the book is about. From my experience I find that people who read are very intelligent and do not need any help before they start reading a particular book. In some cases, authors use a celebrity to preface the book, which I totally dislike. I too would write something good about an author’s book if I were paid handsomely for this service. However, in the case of this book, I feel compelled to give a little introduction, not only about me, but about the non-traditional aspect of this family history book. First about me:

I came to America in 1956 from Germany. My dad was born in Paris, Texas and he met my mom while he was stationed in Augsburg, Germany, where she was born. When I got off the airplane after innumerable stopovers before finally reaching San Francisco, I hit the ground running. I could only speak a handful of English words, most notably Hershey bar and chewing gum, that I had learned from the American soldiers who were stationed in the Army camp across from my German grandfather’s house. I started kindergarten right away and with the help of my two uncles and the Mickey Mouse Club, Cheyanne and Sky King, I picked up the English language pretty fast. To this day I still say that television was and still is my best teacher.

Anyway, I currently manage three family trees using a computerized program. Each one contains over 100,000 names and several hundred megabytes of digital photos and documents. The three family tree files are so large that they are difficult to share on the website of the company that owns the family tree program. For many years I have worked with the software company to get my files uploaded, without success. I mean what good is doing all this research and collecting all this data if you can’t share it? Being unable to post them on the internet for anyone to have access to it, I have written a book that is probably more enjoyable than the static details of the actual family tree file.

The result of my attempt at writing is actually my fourth book. The first three were also family history books and I guess the Hollywood producers haven’t had the time to read them yet. But I have heard from family members who enjoyed seeing their name and biography in a book, except my brother who is a professional writer and threatens me every time we have a family gathering or a barbeque. Of course, he sets a very high bar and without his help and constant advice, the first three books would still be floating around in my head.

This book is not a family history book in the traditional sense of the word. It does not start with our ancestor, Og the Caveman, and follow his descendants all the way to me. Instead, I have taken people that are in this family and written about them, placing them in the book by marriages and/or family groups (Burton, Coble/Kobel, Nash, etc.) At the beginning of each family group, you will find an ancestry chart that shows that particular groups lineage.

In some cases, I have a lot of data, photos and stories about a particular person and I have included as much as possible. In other cases, I have relatively little data other than birthdate, death date and their place in our family tree. Did I included everyone related in these lines? No, because the book would be way too thick. Did I make mistakes? Yes, there are probably numerous errors in this book as well as conflicting data. For that I apologize in advance and ask that if anyone should find said errors, grammatical or otherwise, please let me know and the changes will occur at the next revision.

Please contact me to obtain the full e-book edition of the above.


A Chain of Events, Along the 13th Parallel

This book attempts to illustrate the relationship of opposing principles and how they complement and affect each other during the course of a small chapter in the lives of several individuals who may or may not be related themselves. To some this notion of contrasting or opposing principles is the Yin and Yang concept in Chinese philosophy that originated in the 3rd century BCE. And the basic concept is that although some things are opposite of each other, they nonetheless compliment each other. Somewhat like water (rain) compliments the earth (soil) and helps makes things grow.

This book is not about anything directly related to spiritualism, religion, Zen, or even about how certain rocks, minerals and gems may help someone fall asleep at night. It is simply about a specific point in time and how certain conflicting and opposing elements interrelate with one another and form a somewhat symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship.

In the natural order of things, instinct and outside influence play a large role in the outcome of relationships. How one minuscule event influences a future event is probably an impossible odd to calculate. A chance event or encounter may appear to be a diminutive act, which may in fact turn into a colossal life altering consequence. How a simple act such as rain falling on a dried earth can become a huge carpet of colorful wildflowers, then you can also appreciate a chance meeting that could change the course of someone life.

The basic premise of the Yin Yang principle is that life goes through five constantly interchanging phases—earth, water, wood, metal and fire. In Yin and Yang everything has an opposite and that opposite compliments the other; neither of the opposing objects is superior over the other and in fact this is why there is a so-called perfect balance between the two. Although in certain cultures who practice Yin and Yang principles, this is not always the case, especially when men are considered superior to women. And of course, the ambiguity of what is in the middle between the Yin (Shady) and the Yang (Sunny) is a distance of immeasurable expanse.

In the course of reading this book, the reader will find that the title is a Yin and Yang. And although each title is diametrically opposed and completely opposite of the other, they are somehow related. The reader is encouraged to think about the title of each chapter and how its opposite relates not only to its mate but also how it may reflect on everyday life. Some think that the Yin is one end of the spectrum while Yang is at the other end of the spectrum, somewhat like the endings of very long ropes. That’s not really the case, as Yin and Yang are merely reference points. To understand this the reader should think about that space between the Yin and the Yang in the title, then consider what may lie on the other side of their end points.

Why even consider the concept of Yin and Yang? Well, for one, it helps in decision making, especially in evaluating an engineering problem. Using the concept of Yin and Yang in evaluating a problem (it’s either one or the other); the product is either good or bad, then one can attempt to dig further down. Does the work? Yes or no. Is there anything physically broken on the item? Yes or no. Using the concept of “it’s either one or the other” can oftentimes help in finding a solution to a problem, whether physical or even mental. Of course, there is more to it than just asking is it wet or dry, is it hot or cold, is it off or on. But the “keep it simple” approach makes the ultimate process easier to tackle.

The stories in this book may or may not reflect reality or actual occurrences, that is for further investigation. Most of the places described in these stories are real places in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. However, as a disclaimer, the people in these stories may or may not be real. Their names may have been made up, or from some hidden remembrance in the mind of the author. Again, that is for further investigation which is encouraged in order to learn more about a specific individual or an event in history.

Lastly, the places that are named in this book as places that should be visited and should be on everyone’s bucket list. One will find that these remarkable places range the entire spectrum.

Please contact me to obtain the full e-book edition of the above.


Skinny Gabor cover page

The Greatest Bands You Never Heard Of

A longer preview is available at:

Bands have come and gone by the thousands over the years. But what remains is their musical legacy and the artwork on their album covers, which sometimes are even more iconic and identifiable than the actual recordings themselves. I have always enjoyed the artwork of record albums, especially since the first Santana album came out with the Lee Conklin, pen and ink drawing that was used as a poster at a Bill Graham concert at the Fillmore West. I attended that concert which the up and coming Santana band opened for Canned Heat.

Then the record album industry all but died out when compact discs became popular. However, somehow the artwork reduction from a 12 1/4” record album platform to a 4 3/4” CD image never had the same affect, at least not on me. I had over the years amassed a huge collection of record albums, some rare, some pretty common but were quickly disappearing and also becoming quite rare. In my collection are some very obscure recordings by artists who really never made it to the zenith that some bands reached almost overnight. The album covers and the stories in this book are about those rare, obscure, and very interesting bands, those greatest bands that you never heard of.

Please contact me to obtain the full e-book edition of the above.


The California Railfan

Ever since I was a very young child, I have loved trains, perhaps not all trains, but most trains. However, I am not some train fanatics who love everything about railroading. I dislike the boring trains that consist made up of endless tanker cars, or box cars or stacks of trailers. What I love are the locomotives. And I guess since I grew up at the end of the steam age, I am not too particularly fond of those old, predominantly black engines. Never one to get too deeply involved the various makes of engines, it seemed to me that they were all practically the same.

Of course, I have a great fondness for color, which really is evident in my mismatch of colors in my attire. And although I wore a tie to work nearly every day, I always had to ask someone if my tie matched my shirt. The point of this is that I really enjoy seeing different train locomotives, especially in scenic and historic locations. Hence the reason I enjoy seeing the more modern, and colorful, diesel locomotives. Plus, I can tell them apart by their maker and model, and what railroad owns them.

Railroads, although not as prolific in America as they are in other places like Europe, there are nonetheless many miles of railroads that are run by the larger companies, like Union Pacific, BNSF and Norfolk Southern. There are also many, many miles of railroads that are run by the smaller local companies that shuttle deliveries for the larger companies. Of these there are hundreds. For the average railroad fan, it is quite easy to plan a vacation or even day trips around the places where railroads exist. For the businessperson, as I once was before retirement, I would make it a point to search out places where I could observe and photographs railroads during down time.

With so many railroads worldwide it would be impossible, and probably very boring for the reader if I were to attempt to show them all. And so, with a self-imposed limit of the number of pages in this book, I will show, and tell, those items of railroading that I enjoyed and my hope is that the reader agrees with my selections.

My fascination with trains happened nearly the same time as I developed a passion for photography. Both have gone hand-in-hand, although not always with equal success. It seems that I have owned every type of camera imaginable from my first Kodak Brownie to my favorite Nikon digital. And everything in between from the Instamatic, the Polaroid Land Camera, the Mamiya twin lens reflex, to the analog Minolta and even an assortment of disposable cameras that I would send in for processing. Oh I wish that I had not wasted so much money on inexpensive cameras! And how I wish that digital cameras were in popular use back in the 1950s. Instead of all those wasted rolls of analog film that gave results several days later when you picked them up from the local drug store that offered film development. To have been able to set the correct exposure and speed in an instant by having a preview screen would have saved me much and yielded far better results than what I got.

And so, in this book you will find a journey of sorts, my journey in fact, of places that I visited. You will see photographs that you will instantly recognize their vintage, especially those from the 1960s and 1970s.

I hope that you enjoy this journey.

Please contact me to obtain the full e-book edition of the above.


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