Friday, June 5, 2009

History as Helper

Here's a fun little fact about yours truly: 

I like history. As in, the history of my family. 

I've been tracking down (it seems like) details on my background for a looong time. Yesterday evening I finally got some facts confirmed and straightened out, and I'm going to sit here for a minute and happy. 

Say hello to my great-great Grandpa on my mother's mother's side: 

His name was Thomas Stone, and he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. This is what I really dig about researching. For instance, we knew on her side there's lotsa old well-off lawyerly guys...and we knew vaguely that there was someone like this, coming from one of the first blokes off the Mayflower. But seriously, to actually have it confirmed, and then be able toread about him,  it just somehow feels more ... real. 

In addition, I have information on another dear-to-me relative that I've always had trouble discovering information on...a Belle Haughey, a Choctaw that married my great-gramps back when that really was frowned upon. (There's a book in that one, so details will be slim here). 

What does that have to do with writing? 

Well, if you look at the top of it, not much. I mean, they're dead and gone, right? They certainly can't help me get a publishing contract. 


The longer I do this and the better I become at it (and it's only a slow improvement, heh) I come to realize I write books with themes that are important to me. I don't really get the theme or question when I'm writing it, or right when I get the idea...I get it later, when (for instance) I'm talking to my critique group and something just pops out, or I'm running and something falls into place with a click. 

I end up writing about things that I puzzle over, things that make me a better person once I get them out and on paper, and for that, for that history that spills over and out into a more satisfied Jen, I'm happy. 

Now my plan is to track down Ms. Haughey on the rolls, or try to, and see what I find out. If you have a recommendation on how to do this, I'm all ears. 

(I'll cross post this to Adventures for Friday)


  1. I love family research as well and have "met" some amazing people through it (dead, but amazing). In fact, the MC in my novel is based on a long removed aunt named Ollie. I just fell in love with the name and her steadfaastness. Great post and good luck in your search!

  2. A few years ago one of my aunts traced my roots all the way back to a farm in England. Turns out my early relatives were pear farmers, and thus the name perry. OK, I guess that makes sense.

    What was really funny though was that in looking at who was related to whom, we found out that we were second cousins to people in our little town that we absolutely hated. :-D

    On to writing, my Dad is putting together a memoir of our family. You see I am the eldest of 12 kids. Nine were born to my parents, but the last three were adopted. So you ask, why would someone with nine kids adopt three more? and from all over the world? You'll just have to wait and find out. I'm going to help him with the project when I finish my current book.

  3. Lovely post. How exciting to find someone like that in your family tree. I used to dabble in genealogy and each time you find something, it feels like a golden nugget, but I think you hit a payload! I'm sorry I can't offer any advice on the Choctaw rolls.
    I once wrote a short story using my grandmother as a model for the central character. It was an extraordinary experience. That feisty woman knew exactly what she was going to say and do! Thanks for this post.

  4. I've know the pull of family history well. It's surprising how often the stories are sad, and it's a real lesson in how many mysteries in life never get solved. There are a lot of stories in there,too. My mother once found a trial transcript for the man who shot her great-grandfather (It was in 19th century Georgia, he called a man a liar and the man returned with a gun and shot him for impugning his honor.) Only the last page of the transcript was missing, so she never found out what the verdict was.

  5. Wow, that's really neat! I know that back in the nineteenth century some ancestor of mine was locked in a castle dungeon -- our family once had love letters he wrote from prison to his wife -- and I've always wanted to learn more about the details.

    I agree, history, especially with a personal touch, can be so facinating.


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