How I Wrote An Historical Novel Based On Genealogy — Marilyn Meredith
Today I’m happy to welcome author Marilyn Meredith as she shares insights into her researching for her latest novel.
Many years ago, my sister did our family’s genealogy and gave all the family members a copy. While going over the facts of births, marriages and deaths, some puzzling questions arose.
First, I concentrated on my mother’s side of the family and began asking questions, but though some of my older relatives had suspicions or had heard family legends, no one really had satisfying answers. Ideas began building in my imagination, and I knew I had to do some research.
Because I enjoyed reading historical family sagas, I decided to write my own based on this genealogy. To do this, I researched all the places where the family lived and what was happening historically in the time period while they were there. This gave me a lots of ideas to use in the book, and some insights as to why things might have happened.
One of the biggest mysteries was the disappearance of a twin girl from her home in Wisconsin. No one ever knew what happened to her. My mother thought perhaps gypsies had taken her, but I couldn’t find any reference to gypsies being in the area during the time period of the occurrence. So what to do? From what I learned that was going on, I created a fictional scenario.
Of course I had no way of knowing the actual conversations that took place, but I attempted to recreate the most logical dialogue for what was happening.
Of course the closer to the present the story gets, the more it adheres to the actual happenings, though I did take some imaginative liberties in the interest of portraying a dramatic tale.
Writing this book was one of the most satisfying experiences of my writing life.
Trail to Glory was the first book of mine to be published. It is now out in a new version with a new cover.
About the book:
Based on the author’s family stories, the story follows the lives of several strong, independent women who are faced with danger, the responsibility of raising a family sometimes alone, and having to find a way to make a living on their own.
Trail to Glory is available for Kindle and in trade paperback.
First page of Trail to Glory
Mary could sense the note of frustration in the tall stranger’s voice as he spoke to Mr. Graham, the storekeeper. “Is this all you have in the way of clothing for little girls?” The dress he held in his large hands was beribboned and heavily trimmed with lace. The child he was shopping for stood beside him.
Mary smiled as she thought how inappropriate the frilly dress would be for the six or seven-year-old girl. Her straight ginger colored hair had been hacked off unevenly into a straggly bob. Her plain face was smudged with dirt and her thin body was clothed in a shirt several sizes too large, and an ill-fitting pair of overalls, one strap falling off her shoulders, pant legs rolled up above skinny ankles. The only articles of clothing which seemed to fit were on her feet—a pair of Indian moccasins.
The man was handsome in a rugged sort of way. A leather hat was jammed over thick, dark brown hair which curled above the collar of his doeskin jacket. He wore fringed pants, also made of leather, not unlike those she had seen on the Menominee, Winnebago, and Fox Sioux Indians of the area. His skin was tanned from the sun, and though he seemed disheartened at the moment, laugh lines were etched at the corners of his dark eyes. Mary guessed he was a fur trapper. The town of Woodlake, Wisconsin had begun as a small fur trading post, with Oshkosh as its closest neighbor. Mary was curious what circumstances had brought the backwoodsman to the incongruous task of shopping for a child’s clothes.
“Excuse me,” she said, surprising herself by her boldness. “Perhaps I may be of assistance.” The man turned to look at her. His smile was wide, his teeth strong and white. “Ma’am, I’d be mighty pleased with any advice you can offer. My name is William Van Vradenburg. I’m a trapper by trade—though it appears I’ll be seeking a different way to make a living now that I’m responsible for my sister here, Druscilla.”
He stuck out one of his big hands and shook Mary’s mightily. “The dresses she brought with her didn’t last long out in the woods. Besides she’s grown like a weed the past couple of months. Got the duds she’s wearing now from a farmer with a passel of boys who felt sorry for the tyke. Afraid I haven’t been any great shakes at raising this young ‘un.”
Mary responded to this outpouring with a smile, knowing instinctively the man wasn’t usually so talkative. “I’m Mary Harrington, one of the school teachers here in town. How old are you, Druscilla?”
The girl, not happy to be the object of so much attention, hid behind her brother’s leather-clad legs and murmured, “Seven, ma’am.”
“Mr. Graham, don’t you still have some of those ready-made chambray dresses like those Mrs. Otis bought for her daughters?” Mary asked.
While the storekeeper went to look for the requested items, Mary turned again to the trapper. “How long are you planning on staying in Woodlake, Mr. Van Vrandenburg?”
“If I can find a place for me and my sister to stay, I’d like to stick around at least until I find a plot of land somewhere. Guess I’ll take up farming.” Now that she knew the relationship of the child to the man, Mary was curious to hear the rest of their story. “Mrs. Brady has an empty room,” she offered. “Brady’s Boarding House—that’s where I live. When you are through with your business here, if you’d care to, you may come along with me and meet my landlady. We can see if her place would suit you. Three meals a day are included with the rent.”
“That’s mighty kind of you, Miss Harrington.
Sounds like one solution to my problems.” Mr. Graham returned with a dress nearly the right size for Druscilla. Mary held it against her and assured Mr. Van Vradenburg she could alter it to fit in a matter of minutes. She also suggested he choose some material for another garment or two, so he could hire the local dressmaker to sew others.
Marilyn Meredith is a fourth generation native Californian. The story of her remarkable ancestors contains many family legends. She is the author of many published novels including the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries.