Genealogical Sources for Writers, part 4

Well, today is my last day of posting about genealogical sources for a while, although I’m likely to do more eventually.   My class starts next week and I just got an e-mail from Savvy Authors saying that I have enough people to actually go forward with the class.  Thank you, thank you, if any of you were some that signed up.  I just want to emphasize again that although these sources we have discussed for the past four weeks (part 1, part 2, and part 3) are only a foretaste of what will be presented in my class.  We will not only be talking about sources for enriching your fiction, we will also be talking about family structure, marriage and childbirth patterns through history which will allow you to populate your fantasy world, etc., as well as giving you concrete examples of how NOT to use genealogy in your writing and how to make your writing about family accurate and lively.  Again, you are still invited to sign up.  It doesn’t cost much and there’ll be a lot of one-on-one attention.

Okay, on to today’s resource.  I batted about a few options and finally settled on . . . ta, da!  Maps!   Let me tell you, at the genealogical library where my husband works, they have county maps from England the size of dining room tables.  When you look at those, you can practically see individual houses.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much.  Of course, for a contemporary novel set on Earth, you can always use Google Earth or something similar to fill in the accurate terrain, but there are also historical maps that allow you to see what a place looked like at a certain point in time.  Imagine being able to fill out the landscape surrounding your village, either real or imagined, with the correct rivers, hills, and boundary lines.    Imagine knowing the names of all the little surrounding villages and what county or parish they were in during the time of your novel.   Maps can help you with this.

Too many times, we assume that just because a town is currently in a certain county or parish or even state, that it’s always been that way, when really that is just not true.   County and state lines have been very fluid through the years here in the United States and I cannot imagine that we are the exception in the world.  It is  probably a lot longer ago that parishes and shires moved around in England and Scotland, for example, but this would be something you would need to confirm yourself for your particular setting.  Let me give you just a brief example of some major changes that happened in my family line.  My ancestors settled in a small town on the edge of the Deseret Territory, which later became Utah.  But the town was in a rich mining area and over the years, as the Territory got whittled down, broken down into parts of Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Idaho, and even California, the United States government wanted to get a portion of those mining revenues.  Nevada was a state while Utah was only a territory, so they moved a big strip of Utah over the line and it became part of Nevada.  A lot of the citizens in that area didn’t want to be part of Nevada, so they moved eastward again, to St. George and Cedar City, so they could stay in Utah.   If I were ever to write a story set there past or present, these kinds of things would be very important to know.

There are a lot of historical maps available on-line for you to peruse.  Do some looking to see what is available for your particular time and your particular area.   Looking in a genealogical index for the area can guide you through the various political changes that were made so you can track which counties or other government demarcations would be accurate for your setting, then you can find maps that will help you describe your locales appropriately.

Well, I hope this series has been helpful in a small way to all of you who have taken the time to read it.   Thanks for coming back and offering comments.  I always appreciate it.

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About susannahsharp

I'm pursuing a life-long dream of writing now, something I am really enjoying. My first book should be out by Christmas. I want to blog about all things Irish; offering some book reviews for romantic, not smutty, books; and also things pertaining to reading and writing.
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