Thursday, August 18, 2011

Novel Writing- Inspiration from my Family History

I once had a conversation with the amazing Mindy McGinnis, also affectionately known as BBC, regarding where we draw our inspiration. I was thrilled to find another genealogy enthusiast. See, the thing with genealogy is most people don’t find it inspiring—at all. More like the opposite. Dry and dusty. Boring. Too much work. Who cares about someone who’s dead?

Yeah, that’s how some of the family members I contacted for their family trees responded. Others didn’t bother responding at all. A small percentage—the cool ones in my opinion—are just as enthusiastic as I am, and they pulled out their family scrapbooks for me.

It takes a special (slightly obsessive) mind to enjoy the research involved in finding those hidden family stories. It’s like an Easter egg hunt. You never know if the eggs are gonna be rotten and stinky. But other times, the stories are beautiful and amazing, like my ggg grandfather who saved a drowning boy. The story of Uncle Alonzo who was interviewed by the newspaper at the age of 102 yrs, and he told how his family traveled from Illinois to Kansas by wagon train in 1880.

Talk about inspirational. When I thought up the plot for my manuscript, Juju’s Child, I'd been researching my father’s side of the family tree. My Louisiana Creole roots branched out quite a bit. I soaked up the culture and history, and included it in this this story. My ancestors spoke to me (I'm not crazy, talking to spirits or anything) through their marriage certificates, letters, actions. I'll tell ya, after learning about these amazing people who had the strength to travel across the ocean, to survive slavery, to educate their children—well, I how can I complain about my life. How can I not follow my dreams. It would be a betrayal of their pain and hardship. Of their love and hope for a better future for their descendants.

If you’re interested in learning more about genealogy, and how clueless I was when I started (yeah, it’s pretty funny in hindsight. Not so much at the time), please check out my Family History Blog. It you begin reading at the first post it chronicles my research journey. In the beginning, I was so stuck. Now have over 4,000 members on my family tree. I discovered my ancestors came from all over the world: America (Nansamond tribe), Cameroon, England, France, Italy, Germany, and Portugal (to name a few). Cool, huh!

I also have links to genealogy help websites. If you have any questions on how to start researching your own family trees, leave a comment, and I’ll be glad to help.


  1. Great post. I love family history. A few years ago, I started to trace mine back then ran into a snag. I haven't had a chance to pick it up again, but would like too. I think it definitely gives inspiration, finding out what they did, how they lived etc.


  2. I know the feeling. I've gone about as far as I can go at this point. I let my membership to lapse. I'll go back in a few years after they upload more records and see if I find anything new.

  3. This is awesome! I love how you get inspired by your history - I'm the same way :) My mom and I have been researching our genealogy for years (I'm Métis, First Nations Indian), and I have absolutely loved getting into stories about family history. It has definitely been a common thread through a lot of my work.

    And you're right, how can we not follow our dreams after learning what our ancestors had to endure!

    Great to learn this about you, Ang!

  4. Hi Jess,
    When I wrote this post, I wasn't sure if I'd have many people who related to how enticing genealogy can be. It's always fun for me to hear about other people's family history experiences. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I wish I could know more about my maternal grandfather. All I really know is that he used to be in the US Air Force.

  6. My family takes genealogy seriously. My mom has done most of the digging, so by the time I was old enough to help, she'd already uncovered a lot of family relations.

    Goodluck with your search!

  7. Hi Kate, is a good website to try even if you have minimal information. He might have miltary records online, if you have a name and birthdate to narrow in on.

    Cherie,my daughter said the same thing.She's interested in genealogy but is upset I haven't left much for her to find:)


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