A COMMENT ON GENEALOGY RESEARCH
Off and on for a lot of years, I’ve been studying my family’s genealogy. Back in my 20s, I did a rough genealogy of my father’s family. One side of his family was from Sweden and I had to actually write the priest from the parish from which my family came and ask for family records. It took a long time, but I finally received some records from that priest. I felt like I had struck gold. I was able to put together some semblance of a genealogy of my dad’s family.
After that, life happened and it took me years to get back to studying genealogy. I’ve been playing with it for a year or so now. Since my first feeble attempts all those years ago, websites like Ancestry happened and the vast databases of information that you can access through them, not just for America but all across the world. I’m still learning to use Ancestry and similar sites, but I have some of my paternal grandfather’s information in place. Since he was first-generation in the U.S., it’s been fascinating to trace him back to Sweden. I’m almost ready to start on my paternal grandmother’s line.
Genealogy got more interesting when DNA testing came about. Not only can you trace your family tree, you can actually find DNA matches amidst your family tree if you and others have tested your DNA. I have made contact with several third and fourth cousins using this feature.
It has been a superb experience to not only see my family tree on the computer screen but also to get to talk with cousins I didn’t even know existed. Coincidentally, at the same time, a long-lost first cousin found and contacted me and that prompted the first cousins on my dad’s side of the family to get in touch with each other and even discuss planning a reunion at the place from which we all came.
In these days of social media and so many of us being relatively isolated from family members, I think this is a wonderful thing. I know I am so enjoying getting reacquainted with my close cousins and getting to know more distant cousins. We’re putting together quite a family story!
When I was growing up in northeastern Kentucky, I was fortunate enough to know my grandfather, who lived deep in the heart of Appalachia. He lived only until I was 23 years of age, but I was lucky enough to be old enough to have talked to him. Really talked to him. Conversations that, to me, were important. He was a fine man. Moral, ethical, smart. I’d like to write about him and men like him some day.
There were so many things that I never had the chance or knowledge to talk to him about. My mother, his daughter, told me stories about him. Not enough stories. I wish I knew more. One story that she told me was that my grandfather was determined that she and her seven siblings would never be involved in two endeavors that were prominent in those days in southeastern Kentucky. They would never work in the coal mines and they would never be engaged in the production of “mountain dew.”
Mountain Dew. Not the soft drink. Mountain dew is the slang term for homemade liquor or moonshine, corn liquor, hooch, and a dozen other names. Southeastern Kentucky was “dry.” In other words, liquor could not be sold legally. People made their own and made it for other people. There were stills to make the liquor hidden all over the mountains that were characteristic of the area. Moonshine is 100 percent alcohol and is still made in those mountains.
My grandfather was successful. All of his children left the area, at least long enough to get a college education. My grandfather, himself, got what passed for a college education in his day and was an advocate of higher education for his entire life.
It’s always interesting for me to write a stream of consciousness post. My writing is always so planned that stream of consciousness is hard for me. But, I’m guess I’m going to give it a shot. Let’s see. What’s on my mind this Saturday morning?
I’m a political animal, so the first thing I’m thinking of is the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. When the assembly is a bunch of neo-Fascists, then I think an exception should be made. Fascists were the downfall of most of Europe during World War II. We don’t dare give an inch when it comes to Fascism in the United States. I would call for the Fascists currently occupying the White House (Steve Bannon) to be fired immediately. If he is not fired, then I would call for the impeachment of our President, Donald J. Trump, who apparently condones Fascism. Steve Bannon is one of his closest advisors. Fascists would not feel free to congregate in our streets without a person like Steve Bannon in the White House. If you have read any of my articles on our current President, you know my feelings about this.
I’ve heard, just now, that the Governor of Virginia has called for a State of Emergency and the Fascist rally has been broken up. I am waiting to see if our President will make a statement. If he doesn’t, then I will know he does indeed condone Fascism.
The other thing on my mind is writing. I won’t be blogging as much as usual over the next few months. I’m working on the “meaty” part of my novel and I have about 60,000 words to write before I leave for Florida at the first of November. I have a lot of other things I have to do on a daily basis besides write. I can usually only grab two or three hours per day.
Have a good week!
All that seems to be on my mind these days, and just about all I’m doing, is working on my novel. I’ve been reading about writing a novel as much as I’ve been writing. I’m not a novice writer, but I am certainly a novice novel writer so I’ve been trying to learn as much about novel writing as I can learn.
In order to give depth to the novel and the characters, you have to use the characters’ senses to paint the pictures in the book that you want your readers to see. One surprisingly sense that I, in writing my novel, have found particularly effective, is the sense of smell.
If your character takes a walk in the woods, for example, and the wildflowers smell sweet and lovely, that sets a scene in the reader’s mind of a beautiful day in the life of the character. But if those same wildflowers smell cloying and too sweet, the scene is interpreted by your readers as something completely different.
In novel writing, smell can be a very powerful sense for the writer to use for the purpose of illustrating a scene.
The example I’ve just given is a very subtle example that a writer can use to set the meaning of a scene in a reader’s mind. Of course, there are examples of smell that are far more obvious. The smell of asphalt on a highway. The smell of different types of food. You get the picture. If you are a professional writer or have aspirations to be, develop a file of all the different types of smells that you find that you can use in your writing and that information will serve you well.