Friday, March 2, 2007

Genealogy

Well, first of all I should probably apologize if any of you are getting a blog twice! I am a little technologically challenged, believe it or not and I could have sworn that I already posted a blog here late last night! So, in case there is any doubt, I'm going to blog again.
My character Torie O'Shea, like a lot of working mom's in America, wears a lot of hats. She works for the historical society, she's a genealogist, a mother, a wife and an all around busy body. I created this character and her life for several reasons. For one thing, how cool would it be to work for the historical society amongst all those old documents and antiques and costumes? Okay, well, I think it's pretty cool even if other people don't. It was my dream job! The other thing was the genealogy.
Genealogy has been the cornerstone to almost all of my interests and hobbies. I'm not sure which came first, my love of history or my love of genealogy. Because after all, genealogy is just FAMILY history. I can remember sitting under the table in my grandma's kitchen and hearing her talk about her ancestors. How her grandpa spoke fluid French, how one branch of the family had landed in New Orleans and stayed there for awhile before moving on up the Mississippi to Missouri. On the other side of the family, I can remember visiting cousins in West Virginia sitting up way past my bedtime listening to my mom's family speak in a "strange" accent about the Civil War and the Revolution, and "Poppy" working in the mines. (That was the same night I heard a panther scream for the very first time just as I was dozing off to sleep. After that, I didn't get much more sleep. There's nothing quite like a panther calling in the night, the sound ricocheting off those West Virginia mountains, echoing through the valley. Let me tell you. It will raise the hair on your arms!)
At the same time, in school, I was gobbling up every history class I could take. I would take history classes as an elective when most kids would take pottery or shop!
Tracing my family tree just seemed like the natural course to take. Genealogy has allowed me to meet some fascinating people. My father's mother was an avid quilter and so I'd been exposed to quilting bees and fabrics my whole life. But quilting really came to life for me once I became a genealogist. With quilting came the history of women. So much history is defined by war and territory and politics (and excuse me for saying this, but all three of those things, historically speaking, were all done by men) and so quilting really offered me a look into the history of women. The--quite often--unsung heroes of the forming of this nation. Writing is something I've always done, so genealogy didn't fail me there, either!
I can't explain the love and desire to know where I come from. To connect with people across time who are very different from us who live today, but at the same time, incredibly alike.
This is nothing like the original blog I had intended, because in case the original blog is lost out there in the ether and decides to return, I didn't want that subject out there twice! :-)
So, next week I'm going to discuss that horrible word that all genealogists hate, "brick wall." And give examples of how some of my brick walls on my family tree came tumbling down. And how some, are still there and may never come down and how I deal with that.
Take care and Happy reading!
Rett MacPherson

4 comments:

caryn st.clair said...

So, is the town in your series based on Kimmswick or not? That is the topic most often debated about your books around here. ( I live in University City, an "inner ring" suburb of St.Louis.) I love your books.

Rett MacPherson said...

I love University City! Such a neat place.
I get asked this question a lot. In the books, Granite County is a made up county. If it were real it would be located between Jefferson County and Ste. Genevieve County. When I made up the town of New Kassel I just knew that I wanted it to be located along the Mississippi and within an hour or so of St. Louis. I got the idea for this town from several different river towns like Hermann, St. Charles, Kimmswick, Ste. Genevieve etc. New Kassel is actually too big to be Kimmswick (and the layout of New Kassel is nothing like the layout of Kimmswick) and too small to be St. Charles. So, I suppose you could say that New Kassel could be "loosely" based on Kimmswick, but then I'd have to say that it's also loosely based on Hermann, St. Charles, and Ste. Genevieve, too. I'm glad you like the books!

Monica Ferris said...

Your remark about taking history as an elective resonated with me, because I did the same thing. I am fascinated by how the folks who came before us lived, and how they were both different from and very like us. And I, too, loved to hear my older relations tell stories about their youth. Great post!

Rett MacPherson said...

Thanks Monica!
The love of history must be in my blood because my family loves to talk about their ancestors (what they can remember) as much as I love to listen! I try to pass on little tidbits to my kids, because who knows if they're ever going to wade through my boxes of research! We have this game at the dinner table where my daughter will say, "Mom, what's your mom's maiden name?" And I tell her and then she'll say, "What was her mom's maiden name?" And she just keeps on until I can't go any further! They love this game! Although, admittedly they're teenagers now and haven't done this in a few years. But still, I hold out hope that some of it sinks in!! -Rett