Menu
Browsing Category "The Writing Life"
8 Aug
2016

Thank You! Now, the Sub-Title

Help Me with My Book Sub-Title!

 

Thank you to those of you who made suggestions and contributed ideas for the title of my new book. You are great friends and supporters! It was so helpful for me to see what you liked and endorsed. I gave it much thought and as a result I have narrowed it to the following title:

SARAH’S SECRET OF BETRAYAL AND FORGIVENESS

BUT I would love your suggestions and thoughts about a sub-title. I am interested in getting either words or images of the West or Western themes. What are your suggestions???

Thanks so much for your help.

Here is a short summary of the book or you can read the longer synopsis of the book I included in my last post requesting your help in choosing the title.

SUMMARY

The story is told from the perspective of two protagonists. In the 1880’s, Sam, irresponsible, lonely and untrustworthy has abandoned those he loves until he seeks redemption and marries Sarah. In 1911, Sara, struggling to find the inner strength to overcome loneliness, poverty and illness to support her children after Sam’s death. After a perilous journey by wagon from New Mexico to Nebraska, she learns of Sam’s betrayal. Will Sarah find forgiveness in her heart and the resolve to accept her new life alone?

Share
21 Jul
2016

Help Me Choose the Title

I am excited to be finalizing my manuscript for publication. But I can’t decide on the final title. Would you be willing to help? I have listed four of the finalists below. I would be so grateful for your help.

Book Titles, Bev Scott

Which title do you like best?

Let me know which title is most likely to attract your attention if you were looking for a book to read. You might have other ideas or combinations, which is fine, too.  Let me know your choices and your thoughts in the Comments section of the blog.  Thank you!

Here is the synopsis to give you context for the title.

Synopsis

The story is told from the perspective of the two key protagonists, Will and Sarah.

In 1878, Will is on the run after killing a man in a bar room gunfight. He escapes the Texas Rangers by joining a cattle drive headed to Dodge City, as the cook. He struggles with the dilemma of saving his life or attempting to return to his pregnant wife and five children. Just when he thinks he might be able to return home, he is confronted by a bounty hunter who captures him and plans to return him to Forth Worth, Texas to be hanged. Will is freed by his trail boss and a buddy from the cattle drive. He finds himself “riding the owl hoot trail” in Kansas as a wanted man.

Will finds refuge on an isolated homestead with Peggy, a widow and her daughter, Margaret Ann. He helps her with the livestock, building a corral and a “real” house while he hides out from the law. He struggles with his responsibility to return to his wife and family and his increasing attraction to Peggy. When Will learns that his wife and children may have perished in a tornado, he gives in to his desire for Peggy, only to find that he is too afraid to take on the responsibility Peggy asks. He abruptly abandons Peggy and finds himself on the dodge from the law again when he meets an itinerant preacher named John who saves his life. John recognizes Will’s guilt and challenges him to grow up and be a man. When Will struggles with his culpability in abandoning the women in his life, he turns to John who guides him to find redemption. Will decides to homestead in Wyoming ready to settle down with a good woman.

In 1911, Sarah, a widow with five children struggles to find the inner strength to overcome betrayal, loneliness, fears, and self-doubt. Her husband, Sam, thirty years her senior, died with a curious and defiant declaration, “I won’t answer!” Despite poverty and a crippling illness, she is determined to keep her family together, leave New Mexico, and return to Nebraska to be near her parents and siblings.

Horses, great PlainsDuring the perilous journey home, Sarah must face her fears as a woman traveling without the protective company of a man, confront her son’s sometimes reckless attempts to be the man of the house, and cope with real dangers which threaten their lives. Still grieving from the loss of her husband, she ventures into unknown territory desperate to find help for her sick infant daughter and then learns of the death of her beloved father.

When Sarah returns to Nebraska, she receives staggering news which complicates her efforts to support her children. She is shocked, angry and emotionally devastated. Since she is attempting to establish herself in the community as a teacher, she believes she must keep her husband’s betrayal a secret even from her own family.

Title Choices for You!

Again, here are the titles I’m considering for the book. Let me know what you think in the Comments below. Which of the following seems to fit the story line best? Do you have any other thoughts, ideas or critiques of the title choices that could help me? Or do you have an completely different title you might want to suggest?

I’m all ears!

A. Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness: A Western Tale

B. A Family Secret: Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness

C. “I Won’t Answer!” A Secret from the American West

D. Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness: She Kept the Secret

Share
13 Jul
2016

“Killing My Darlings?!”

old cemetery headstoneAdvice, often passed along to novice writers, includes that we have to learn to “kill our darlings.” This advice has been attributed to many famous authors such as Falkner, Wilde and King. As writers, we can become very attached to what we consider a brilliant piece of writing, a scene or a character description in earlier drafts, that no longer fits or is not appropriate for the story as it has evolved. Recently, as I worked through needed manuscript revisions and feedback from “early readers” and my editor, I came to the realization that I needed to “kill one of my darlings”. Let me share with you an excerpt from the original story which takes place in Texas in 1878:

 

Susanna

Will stepped up to the door of the tiny house off the noisy main street in Fort Worth… The door opened, he saw the flash of welcome in Susanna’s deep green eyes as a smile spread over her face. He gathered her up to carry her inside, kicking the door shut behind him. With her arms around his neck, he buried his face in her copper hair breathing deeply the sweet fragrance that always seemed to float around her. She giggled as he carried her to the back room depositing her on the bed. He began fumbling to unbutton her dress with one hand while he dropped his overalls with the other. His withered finger didn’t help.
“Let me help you.” She laughed as she finished the buttons and dropped her dress revealing her smooth unblemished skin the shade of Colorado alabaster.
Afterward, he felt more relaxed as he teased her, “I bet you let all the cowboys who come along into your bed like this?” 
Susanna lowered her eyes guiltily and then burst into the laughter that sounded like bells ringing. “You shouldn’t care. You’ll go back to your wife in a few days anyway. You can visit again the next time you’re in town.” 

I resisted this act of murder for a long time, despite advice that I should “kill this darling.” I liked Susanna’s independence.

As a beautiful woman living on her own, Susanna was used to adoration from the cowboys who came into town. Most of them would never settle down to get married. Besides, she liked her own freedom and independence. Of course, the stuffy, nose-in-the-air women in town whispered about her. But, she didn’t care. Their opinions didn’t matter to her. Their lives were controlled by weak men who tried to act powerfully by ordering their wives around. She didn’t want to cater to the demands of such a man every day.  

“Killing” Susanna

This story continues when a former lover/patron of Susanna’s barges into her house, Will gets involved in a gunfight, Susanna is killed and the Texas Rangers are looking for Will. I thought the story helped explain Will’s later behavior as he runs from the law. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that instead of explaining Will’s later behavior, this story only made him more puzzling and really didn’t explain his character at all. I did need to “kill my darling”, dump Susanna and do a major re-write.

But what would be better? The other problem was that “killing” this story meant that something needed to replace it. It is easier to delete than to create. I finally had an idea and as it unfolded, I was excited. When I finished writing, I realized I had a much better story. I needed to overcome my resistance and “kill my darlings” to write a better story.

The Revision

Here is the opening of the revised story:

The hay was tickling his nose but Will didn’t dare sneeze or even move. The voices and footsteps were coming toward theGhost town, Old West scene stables. Will held his breath and wished his pounding heart wasn’t so loud. His throat was dry, his body tense.
“I thought I saw him run this way.” One voice sounded tentative.
The second voice responded chuckling, “Didn’t expect a hay-shoveler to be that fast with a gun.”
“Well, no-one’s going to miss Graham too much, not even his wife. He was a mean SOB,” the first voice spoke again.
A third voice spoke up, “Yea, that’s true but that sod buster did kill him. Maybe he’s not really a sodbuster. Bein’ a Texas Ranger, I…”
“Hey, looking for someone?” He had heard that voice before. Will tried to place it. 
Then the third voice answered, “Yeah, mister, we’re looking for a sod buster in overalls and a vest. Bushwacked a man in the saloon. Have you seen him?”
Will’s breath caught in his throat. Did this guy see him dive into the hay? Who was he anyway? Would he turn him in? He was worried and listened intently. 

As a writer, have you had to dump a favorite passage of your own? Have you had to “kill your darlings”? Or as a reader, do you wish that a writer had deleted a section that didn’t add to the plot or make any sense?

Share
28 Jun
2016

Why Do You Write?

I have been asked recently why I am writing especially since I am retired and I am not building a career.  Here are my thoughts in answering that question.

I was standing in the Heritage Center in Dodge City, Kansas looking foWhy Do You Write? by Bev Scottr clues about the life of my grandfather before he met my grandmother.  We had also been to Weatherford, Texas where he lived with his first wife.

I had been on a search to find information about my mysterious grandfather for several years.   Although I had easily been able to find information on my grandmother’s family, I had reached dead ends in my search for information about my grandfather.  The documents in the National Archives had been an exciting find and had provided clues I wanted to explore further. (See my blogs on my genealogical search)

But I found nothing.  I could not fill in the gaps in the intriguing family story that many friends and family had encouraged me to document.  Could I write the story as fiction using the facts I had uncovered and creatively fill in the missing pieces?  I lacked confidence that I could be creative and write fiction since my previous writing experience had been non-fiction.

After taking a couple fiction writing workshops which built my confidence, I decided to try writing a historical novel inspired by the lives of my grandparents.  It has now been almost five years since I visited the library in Dodge City.  As I reflect back, I discover how much I have enjoyed the experience.

I loved the research and learning the historical details of longhorn cattle drives from Texas to Dodge City. To my surprise, I have treasured my alone-time, writing and the opportunity to imagine the life of my grandfather in 1878 or my grandmother in 1911.  I am excited when the words flow and I have written a description that creates a vivid picture of a character or the surroundings.  Working out the plot brought days of frustration and then delight in resolving the arc of the story.  I thrill when someone tells me they like my writing style.  And there is nothing like the satisfaction and exhilaration of completing a final draft.

Why Do You Write, By Bev ScottI not only needed to learn about writing fiction but as I have described in a previous blog, I needed to learn about building an “author’s platform”, the following of friends and colleagues interested in one’s writing.  Recognizing the importance of marketing and promotion, I reluctantly plunged more fully into social media.  I have increased my knowledge of publishing as I explored the options of self-publishing.  In fact, my forays into learning…learning to write fiction, book promotion on social media and choosing a publisher…have also brought new friends and colleagues into my life.  It turns out becoming a writer doesn’t have to be a totally lonely existence.

I’ve discovered that I write because I want to tell the story, because I found rewards in writing, because I found opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge and because I met new friends.

Share
1 Jun
2016

Self-Promotion, Writing and Social Media

Social Media and Writers

“I want to write.  The last thing I want to do is market my book!”

My own feelings about marketing were similar when I got serious about writing a novel inspired by my grandparents.  In fact, I frequently had avoided marketing during my former consulting career.  Self-promotion does not come easily for many of us who are consultants or writers.

But, in 2014 I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.  I realized how naïve those words are for a writer who wants to publish in today’s topsy-turvy market.  I also better understood why the second edition of my non-fiction book, published by a trade press, had not been promoted by the publisher as heavily as the first edition.

Writer’s Platform

What I learned at that Conference and in subsequent writing conferences and workshops, is that writers must market and promote their own work if they want to sell their books.  Writers need a “platform” composed of friends, colleagues and contacts who “like” or follow them.  To build that platform, writers must join two or more social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, Instagram, Google + or Goodreads.  They must also build a website and send out blogs.

Yes, you are right.  Building a platform takes time.  Frances Caballo, who has specialized and written books about social media for writers, declares that authors need to spend only thirty minutes a day posting on social media.  However, I have found that it takes a much larger time investment to learn the rules and practices of the specific platform, craft my profile and get comfortable in using it.  The effort to reach followers and build a platform must not be too flagrant, too frequent or too frustrating to your “followers”.   But what does that mean?

It means an author/writer should spend about 80 percent of her communication with her “followers” giving interesting tidbits, advice, suggestions, information and links that her readers might like or enjoy.  The other 20 percent of her communication on social media, she can write some tasteful self-promotion of her work.

Thirty Minutes?  Really?

Building a platform takes time from writing her book.  It means spending time writing a blog or finding content to post or link on social media.  It is time figuring out why the photo she wanted to post turned sideways.  It means spending some of those thirty minutes commenting and engaging with her followers.  And, there is no guarantee that engaging in all this social media will actually build a platform of followers interested in her writing.  There is only hope.

Another recommendation from the Writer’s Conference was to begin building the writer’s platform long before the book is due to be released…Two years?  At least one.  And the six months before publication when she is busy doing final edits, choosing a cover design and finalizing a publisher, she must really step up building that platform.

Publishing in Six Months

I am hoping to publish this year, in the next six months.  So, I am stepping up my social media efforts.  And I want to spend some of the twenty percent of my communication with you to boldly ask you to:  Like my Facebook page; sign up on my website to receive updates about my book in your in-box;  share my postings on your own social media; and tell your friends.

Thank you!

Share

Turning on Your Creative Brain

Our brain is complicated.  It is not as simple as right brain and left brain.  Neuroscience has studied what part of our brain lights up when we exercise our organizational/executive functions.

Ocean gaze, creativity

This author argues that we should pay attention to when it does not light up, for example when we daydream or relax.  For creative thinking, we need some time when we shut down our organization and executive thinking such as in the shower where many of us have experienced our most creative thinking.

As a writer, I am acutely aware of how important it is to turn off the chatter in my brain about dates, tasks and emails.  I find I do some of my most creative time is when I first wake up in the morning.  My mind is unfocused, unorganized and empty.

This article also offers some tips to help us be more creative in any work we are doing.  What are you doing to support your creativity?

Turning on Your Creative Brain

Share

My Grandfather, a Cowboy?

Harvey D Scott photoMy paternal grandfather was an absent figure when I was growing up.  He wasn’t just absent; he didn’t exist.  My father didn’t know anything about him; my grandmother just dismissed any questions by changing the subject.  So, I assumed he didn’t exist.

During a trip to Washington DC, I visited the National Archives and uncovered the family secret that had humiliated my grandmother and been hidden from the rest of our family. I have written in previous blogs about the resulting genealogical journey to document H. D. Scott’s life. Unable to find all the details of the story, especially what happened to him between the time he abandoned his first family and married my grandmother, I decided to fictionalize the story.

Creating Sam

I have created the fictional character, Sam, in my story based on two clues about H.D.’s life between 1878 and 1891.  He “worked cattle” with an “outfit from Dodge City, Kansas”.  Sam escapes the Texas Rangers by becoming a cowboy and joining a cattle drive going north to Dodge City.   The years 1878-1879 are the peak of the cattle drives in the midst of the cowboy era.

Developing Sam’s character in some ways was easier because I had no preconception of my grandfather.  I knew he was thirty years older than my grandmother, but I didn’t find out if he was tough, distant and cold or warm, affectionate and funny. But, as a child, I knew my grandmother. What man would she have married?  I wrestled with the contradictions of my image of the man she would marry and the facts I had uncovered. My image of a man who abandoned his pregnant wife and five children didn’t seem like the kind of person she would choose to marry.

Cowboys

Given the era, the location and the clues, I had uncovered, I began to explore and learn about cowboys as a possible Cowboy Silhouettemodel for my grandfather. Today, we identify the cowboy with the West and the time of the cattle drives. However, history tells us that men worked cattle in Massachusetts, Florida, Alabama, Georgia.  But it was the men, one-fourth of whom were black, driving the longhorn cattle from Texas north, who became the folklore heroes we think of as cowboys. They spent long dusty days driving thousands of cattle across empty plains for hundred’s of miles. It was a dangerous life. They faced animals who were easily startled into a stampede, drought, lightning and thunderstorms, rattlesnakes, Indians, and outlaws. They ate grub from the cook wagon, slept on the ground and lived a lonely, spare existence.

Cowboys as folk heroes can be handsome, mysterious, courageous and charismatic. In fact, we have hundreds of stories in novels, movies, radio, and television that have charmed and fascinated us.  Consider Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger or Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon among many other cowboy personalities. The lore and lure of the Western way of life draw many “dudes” today to wear Western wear, reserve weeks at guest ranches in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana and attend rodeo’s, and Wild West shows displaying the skill and fearlessness of the cowboy.

As a person who I grew up in Montana with a family who live today’s Western way of life in Wyoming and Colorado, it was easy for me to imagine my character, Sam as a cowboy…Handsome, charming, independent, mysterious and attractive to my grandmother.

I have been engaged and challenged as I created Sam’s character. I am excited to be nearing the end with the hope of publishing the story this year.

Do you have cowboy heroes or favorite books or programs? What is your image of a cowboy?

Does Western lore bore you or lure you?

 

Share
18 Apr
2016

How to Avoid Being Crushed in a Stampede

This post is the first in a series about the era of the cattle drive from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas. 

“Ride! Ride like the devil! Ride for your life, man!  Stick spur in your pony’s flank, and press hard and press long; lean low over your saddle bow—speak quick, sharp words of encouragement and command to your beast, and ride for your life! For behind you, like the waves of a mad sea, are ten thousand frightened steers, and you are scarce the length of your horse ahead of them!  If your pony stumbles….if anything happens by which his speed is checked…the hoofs that are thundering at your heels shall tramp every semblance of humanity out of your body before you can utter a prayer or curse!” (quoted in “The Western: The Greatest Cattle Trail 1874-1886 by Kraisinger and Kraisinger)

Grandfather disappeared

My grandfather not only disappeared from his family in Weatherford, Texas after he took a load of corn to town in 1879, he also disappeared from the official records.  I could find no information in the 1880 census nor any other official record until he shows up filing a homestead claim in Glendo. Wyoming in 1891.  What was he doing in those missing years?

I never imagined my grandfather, H.D. Scott, involved in the famous longhorn cattle drives from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas.  But, I found two clues in the National Archive documents:  H.D., himself, claimed he worked cattle during that time and one of the government agents reported that he served as “a cook on an overland expedition” for an outfit from Dodge City.

Texas Cattle Drives

albuminLOCcowboysathchuckwagon3a18543rAs a result of these clues I began to explore the Texas cattle drives that began in the late 1860’s on the famous Chisholm Trail.  At the time it was the only trail through Indian Territory to Kansas.  Later, between 1874 and 1886, cattle were driven up the much longer Western Trail not only to Kansas but also up to Ogallala, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana according to The Western: The Greatest Cattle Trail, 1874-1886 by Gary and Margaret Kraisinger.  The cattle shipped from the Western Trail on rail cars headed east are reported to be over five million cattle!

TV, movies and novels have glorified the Texas cattle drive and the Cowboys that served as drovers.  Life on the trail was not very glamorous. Cowboys slept on the ground and ate monotonous food.   They coped with blistering sun, thunderstorms, floods and Indians.  It was lonely, and at the time very dangerous.

Wild Longhorn Cattle

The Longhorn was a defensive and skittish animal descended through natural selection on the range from Spanish and Anglo-American cattle.  These animals were wild, with long powerful legs and hard hoofs, capable of surviving long drives with minimal grazing feed.  The Kraisingers report that they could do “a several-hundred-mile trek and …still gain weight.”  But any sudden noise such as thunder and lightning, or strange event, lighting a match or the sound of a tin cup, could cause a frantic stampede such as described above.  The consequences could be gruesome:

“We went back to look for him, and we found him among the prairie dog holes, beside his horse.  The horse’s ribs were scraped bare of hide and all the rest of horse and man was mashed into the ground as flat as a pancake.  The only thing you could recognize was the handle of his six-shooter.  We tried to think the lightning hit him, and that was what we wrote his folks…But we couldn’t really believe it ourselves…I’m afraid his horse stepped into one of them holes and they both went down before the stampede.”  (quoted in Kraisinger and Kraisinger)

The drover’s job was to get the terrified animals under control by riding his mount abreast of the lead steer to turn them to run in a circle.  The circle could be miles wide but gradually as the cattle were exhausted they would mill in a circle and quiet down.  Rivers had to be crossed even in at flood stage.  There was a right way to negotiate a river that took the time of day, and outside influences into account.  Cattle, horses, and men could lose their lives in a fast-moving river.

The wave of homesteaders moving into former Indian Territories and the advent of barbed wire brought the era of Longhorn cattle drives to a close by 1886.  But during a short period of time, savvy organizers and contractors could make a fortune.  Some report over $100,000 according to Harry Drago! However, there was always a risk of losing upwards of 1500 head of cattle in a herd of 3000.  The drovers didn’t get rich.  They might receive $30.00 a month with $100 for the trail boss.  Some of them, though, did parlay their opportunity into becoming land owners with a herd of cattle.

Creating the Story

Once I determined that I would write my family story as fiction, the clues in the Archive documents lead me to explore this history and the stories of the cattle drives.  I have found both challenge and enjoyment in creating the story of my character’s experience as a cook on a Texas cattle drive.  Here’s a short excerpt from his second day on the drive:

He enjoyed the camaraderie on this crew.  It reminded him of his time in the Union Army–sleeping on the ground, boring food, dirty, no women or home comforts.  A hard life. But it was eased by the easy-going company of men joking with each other, telling stories or singing around the campfire.  Being here was like putting on old boots that have molded to your feet. He didn’t need to worry about these men learning his secret. Cowboys minded their own business.  He was sure their pasts weren’t pure and no one asked any questions, including Jake  (From Trust, Betrayal, and Forgiveness:  A Family Story).

 

     

 

Share
5 Apr
2016

Do You Have the Courage to Write Fiction?

courage, risk, balance, adventure, writing fictionReading Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic, caused me to reflect on my internal journey to be willing to write the fictionalized story of my grandparents.

“Do you have the courage?  Do you have the courage to bring forth this work?  The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”

Quoted by Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Have you pretended that you weren’t afraid or used excuses to avoid being brave?  It took many years for me to find the courage to begin even the research required to write the story about my grandparents.  I would share some details and the family rumors about their lives with others, which would encourage me to write about it.  But I brushed the idea away.  I told myself that I had a career and other goals to pursue.  But as I read this quote in Gilbert’s book, I realized that I didn’t have the courage to take the risk of writing about this story. I was afraid to put it out in public.  It was safer to work with clients or to write about my consulting experience both of which denoted years, even decades of successful practice in the field of organization development.

Finally, I was ready to slow down my consulting practice and create the time to conduct the research to uncover all the details about my grandfather’s life.  So I set out as I have written in other blogs to confirm the whispered family secrets and to learn about his life before he met my grandmother.  Gilbert mentions that it is common among women to want to be one hundred percent prepared for taking on a new project or position.  I was no different.  I sought to have all the details and be thoroughly knowledgeable about the dates of birth, marriage, death, Civil War service, explanations about moves to far away states and many more details.   I figured when I had all this information; I could write about my grandparents’ lives as an expert.  Having all “your ducks in a row” does not require courage or bravery.   The facts and detailed information provide a clear cover.

Missing Information

Alas!  I could not find all the information to explain why my grandfather left a wife pregnant with their sixth child, why he is missing from all the public records for almost fourteen years or why he moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma and then to New Mexico.  I now wanted to share the story, but there was so much missing information from the account that I wasn’t sure what would complete the tale.

I could write the story as fiction based on the true story as I knew it.  Write fiction!  I had never done that; I had only written non-fiction–professional papers and books.  I would need to learn how to be creative.  I didn’t think of myself as creative. Gilbert argues that if we are alive, we are creative.  It was scary for me to think about writing fiction when I knew nothing about this genre.  But Gilbert suggests that courage and bravery mean doing something scary.  Did I have the courage to bring this story forth in fiction?

Courage to Write Fictionreview smartphone android

I began going to workshops, reading, signing up for blogs and going to a writer’s conference and meeting with other authors.  I joined a writers group.  I learned about the publishing industry and writing fiction.  I was excited about everything I learned.  As I networked and met new colleagues, I needed a new identity.  Gilbert declares that defining yourself as a creative person begins by identifying yourself.  I started to say “I am a writer.”  As I called myself a writer, I found the courage to bring forth the fictionalized story of my grandparents which I hope to publish this year.

Have you avoided bringing forth your work?  How did you overcome your fear?  Have you thought of yourself as creative?  Courageous?

Share
22 Mar
2016

Finding Family Secrets

March 12 was Genealogy Day begun by Christ Church in Ireland in Ireland in 2013.  In celebration of the day, I offer a brief story of the sources I used in my own roots journey.  Not all genealogy sources are on-line.  Going on location, seeing actual gravesites and including others in your search such as museum and library staff or members of historical societies, can also lead to special assistance, new leads and the encouragement from those who love history and genealogy.  I hope that this story might inspire you to begin a search or look at alternative sources to help you put the pieces of your family puzzle together. 

Finding Family - 2

In the early years of my adult life balancing my roles as mother, spouse and professional, I didn’t have time to think about my ancestors or my family heritage.  I was too busy coping with carpool, making dinner or meeting the demands of my boss.  However, as I attended family gatherings and funerals when my parents or their siblings died, I began to hear interesting family myths and stories that intrigued me.   Others around me began pursuing their own family roots.  One of my aunts encouraged me to find information about her father, my grandfather, Harvey Depew Scott.  And my genealogical journey began.

Finding Family - 3It began at the National Archives in Washington, DC where I found thick files of correspondence, government forms and personal letters about my grandfather.  The National Archives is a treasure trove of fascinating information about veterans who have served in our armed forces as well as immigrants who arrived at the US borders from countries around the world seeking a better life. It is an excellent place to begin your own genealogy search.   I knew the surprising fact that my grandfather fought in the Civil War and my aunt had given me the data about his enlistment in the Union Army under a different name, John Howard Scott.  This enabled me to request the files and to be able to read through each valuable piece of information.

What I learned from those files, confirmed the whispered family secrets about John Howard Scott who changed his name to Harvey Depew Scott.  I learned where and when he was born, lived and died.  I now had enough information to search for more information about him and his ancestry.    Over the next several years, I traveled to many states in search of answers to my questions about his family of origin.  In Indiana where he was born, I visited the county courthouse and the local public library.  I learned about his father’s death when he was four and that his mother died in a poor house.  I found remote rural cemeteries where his uncle was buried; in the library, I discovered his uncle was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi River.  But I found nothing about how or when John Howard’s parents came to Indiana, nor could I find any information about his grandparents.

Now I was hooked.  Doing the research in family history is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  As I found one piece of data, it would suggest other connections and often raise more questions.  I was on the search to find more pieces toFinding Family - 4 fit into the puzzle.  I combed through the US Census Data, traveled to other states where John Howard and later Harvey Depew lived.  I visited historical museums and requested help from local historical societies.  I even made copies of the whole file at the National Archives so I could review every detail.

I joined Ancestry.com to see if anyone else might be researching the same family, hoping to find new information.  There were some other potential connections to John Howard Scott’s family but without documentation.  I have learned to beware of the validity of postings of family relationships based on family stories but without documentation.  So alas, I was not able to find documentation, confirmation or information to answer my questions.

My genealogical journey has been fascinating.  I wrote a detailed series of blogs about what I found called “Journey to Fiction”.  As that title suggests, I decided that I could best write the story as fiction, with the opportunity to be creative with the missing information.  I hope to publish the book, “Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness: A Family Story” later this year. Have you searched for family history in your family?  What have you found?  What has been your experience doing genealogy?

Share
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons