Friday, February 12, 2016

Research Can Be Fun



For a writer published in contemporary romance and devotionals, I love research and I’ve had some interesting experiences. I do have a historical trilogy based on old family stories in the works, and I’m a pretty good sleuth—shades of the days when Nancy Drew mysteries were my reading preference.

Free family history sites can be treasure troves of information. Two of my favorites are www.DeadFred.com and www.FindAGrave.com. DeadFred is a database of historical photographs, great for assisting with descriptions of characters and period clothing. FindAGrave includes personal stories and the epitaphs can be a story themselves. For historical newspaper research, www.news.google.com/newspapers, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/, and http://fultonhistory.com/ are great resources. Free sites like http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/, and http://www.castlegarden.org/  give information about immigrants. Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans are located at http://www.dar.org/national-society/genealogy and http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm, and there are many, many more.

In researching my North Dakota roots, a local genealogy society assigned a sweet elderly lady to my case. I asked about the hardware store in the now-ghost town where my great grandparents lived. In the meantime, my mom discovered a photograph of the store’s interior with my great grandfather at the counter. When my research helper asked a neighbor, she discovered he bought the building and moved it. She was standing in what had once been my great grandfather’s store.

While posting queries on genealogy message boards about another great grandfather’s murder, I met some distant cousins who came to visit, despite my husband’s warnings that they might be axe murderers. We located a book by Fredric Remington, the famed western artist and writer that includes sketches of my great grandfather sporting a bandage from being shot in a poker game.

I discovered an 11th great grandfather who was the last man publicly beheaded on Tower Hill in London, a colonel in the War of 1812, two ancestors who served at Valley Forge, and a great uncle who gambled with Billy the Kid. Googling names from an old newspaper article led to finding my great uncle’s fiancĂ©e whose mother died in a flu epidemic. When they opened the grave to bury a child with her, there were fingernail marks on the coffin lid.

Research can be exciting when you have the right tools along with tenacity and patience. A personal touch might be just the thing for a sagging story middle and lead to some family fun along the way.


© Copyright by Norma Gail Thurston Holtman, February 9, 2014

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About the author:
Norma Gail is the author of the Christy Award nominated contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals and poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, and the New Mexico Christian Novelists. Norma is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 40 years. They have two adult children.
Connect with Norma:
Book Links:
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas Bookstore: http://store.lpcbooks.com/product/land-of-my-dreams/

14 comments:

  1. Great post! I've not done a lot of geneology but research for my stories has unearthed some fun tidbits. Thanks for the site links - very helpful.

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    1. I'm glad they were helpful, Linda! You can Google free genealogy sites and find even more that have historical insights.

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  2. Beheaded???? ACK!

    I had a several-times-over-great uncle sliced in half at the sawmill. We come from gruesome pasts.

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    1. My mom thought surely I could find someone better than a man who was beheaded and one sister asked if he fought on the right side of the Jacobite Uprising. I told her that depended on if you were Scottish or English. I thought it was very exciting. In my book, famous and infamous are exciting!

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  3. I’ve often despaired at finding the right historical newspapers. I hadn’t known about the google newspaper site. Thanks!

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    1. I'm so glad it was helpful, Terri! Thanks for letting me know!

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  4. Thanks for sharing! I love both genealogy and research. :)

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    1. Thanks for taking time to comment! It's great when hobbies and vocation blend, isn't it!

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  5. Research was one of my favorite duties when I was a public librarian. I loved digging for clues and finding the answer!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. It is a lot of fun! I would have never gone home if I had been a librarian!

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  6. Shirley Raye RedmondFebruary 12, 2016 at 3:47 PM

    I love research too...but it can be dangerously distracting, taking me away from my writing.

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    1. I agree! It's easy to get caught up in it and forget why you're doing it in the first place!

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