Friday, October 11, 2013


One of my favorite TV shows is "Who Do You Think You Are?" produced by Those of you who read this blog regularly know that A Writer's Life maintains family values. Today, I’m talking about a different type of family values.

My brother and sister in law are visiting from halfway across the United States. They live in North Carolina and I live in Texas. I seldom see them, although we keep in touch via phone, email, and Facebook. Having them visit is a treat that occurs only once every few years.

My brother Don and sister in law Penny

For many years I have been interested in family history. A clever move on my part was introducing my brother to the addicting hobby. He has since zoomed ahead of my level of expertise. When we are able to visit face to face, we talk about “Remember when . . . ?” and “Guess what I found out?” until we are exhausted and the eyes of those around us glaze over .

Our Georgia ancestor

Each of us loves history, but particularly as it pertains to our family. Part of my love grew into writing western historical romances set mainly in Texas. Together, we are compiling a lengthy book about our father’s family and allied lines. As my brother unravels more family mysteries, the book grows in content. Hero has asked if we are going back to Noah or all the way to Adam. Such a cynic.

I write western history with happily ever after

Actually, we are almost that bad. Genealogy is an addiction. Each name discovered begs the question What were the names of the parents? When and where were they born? When and where did they die?

We began trying to learn about our father’s grandparents. Many of the stories we have learned would make a wonderful romance novel—if anyone would believe it actually could have happened. The late Tom Clancy said, “The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.” At least, I hope my fiction makes sense.

Our handsome father

You ask the value of all this delving? We have learned much about ourselves. Many patterns repeat in numerous generations. Many illnesses are genetic. We understand our parents’ and grandparents’ superstitions, sayings, and even some behaviors.  

For instance, the only time my grandmother ever scolded me was when I was playing dress up and opened an umbrella in the house. She grabbed it from me and closed it and said, “Now trouble will rain down on this house.”

In addition, we have learned about where we came from as a family. If you’ve watched “Who Do You Think You Are?” you know the type of knowledge I address. We think we are a composite of all those who have come before us.

Another for instance, my maternal grandmother died when my dad was four. She died on Christmas Day. After that, he and his sister and brothers were never allowed to celebrate Christmas. Their father thought it would be disrespectful to celebrate on the date of their mother’s death. What was my dad’s opinion of Christmas? No big deal, just another day. My mom was gung ho on the occasion and planned for weeks and weeks before the day. He went along with her to please her, not because the day had meaning for him.

Our mom's version of Christmas

Over and over, we have learned exciting, sad, funny, and scandalous things about our family. So many events were turning points in our ancestors’ lives.  We have learned why one family moved and another did not. What events persuaded a group to pioneer. What religion they practiced.

We value all this family information. When we have completed this book for which I have been gathering information for twenty years, I will be relieved to pursue my fiction writing exclusively. 

My brother? He will keep digging for the next person or event. It’s an addiction.

Thanks for stopping by! 

1 comment:

Caroline Clemmons said...

I was fascinated! Can't wait to read your history book!