Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Of Roots and Names

I’ve just come from two most unusual and memorable days. On Monday, along with my sister and her husband, my nephew and his three children, we visited the graves of sixteen ancestors and were graciously invited into two ancestral homes. Eight of the sixteen are third great-grandparents to my sister and me, which makes them fifth great-grands to my nephew’s children. One of the homes was built in 1860, and the stones in the basement walls were most surely laid by an ancestor, a stone mason, who was born during George Washington’s first term as President.

If Monday was a special day, Tuesday followed in its footsteps. On that day, we discovered the graves of a new set of great-great-grandparents that we hadn’t known were in the area. In fact, until a few weeks ago, we hadn’t even known their names. For genealogists, such a finding is a thrill, and this one was made even more special by the fact that Grandmother Maryette’s exquisite headstone carried the names of her parents, another generation that we didn’t have anything on.

With my interest in genealogy, I’ve ended up using a number of names from my family history for the characters in my Tangled Strands story. Agnes was my aunt’s name, and Porter is a major branch of our family. My maternal grandmother’s name works well in Fern Lake, Fernville, and Fern Haven. Betsey, mother of the stone mason mentioned above, is a fourth great-grandmother who died following the birth of her second child. And when I decided I needed to change “Sallie” because it was too close to another name in the story, I found a perfect exchange in “Mollie,” another great-great. Roxy, yet another, has a minor role in Tangled Strands but will have a major role in a later story called Silken Threads.

Given that every novel needs some unique touch that keeps it from looking like every other novel, I’ve thought a lot about whether genealogy could provide such a touch to Tangled Strands. However, since I didn’t include it from the beginning, I’m afraid it might feel tacked on (which it would be). If I ever sell TS and get to write the other books I envision in the series, I might be able to weave it effectively into that.

Speaking of names, we recently learned of some unusual names in our family tree. Ever hear of anyone named Consider Tiffany? Seriously—his first name was Consider and last name Tiffany. And we have two of them—a father and his son. We’ve done some speculating about what the ancestors might have had in mind in using “Consider” as a given name. If it had some other shade of meaning in those days, so far we haven’t a clue what it might be. I still have trouble picturing a person when my eyes rest on those words.

One thing for sure, I won’t be borrowing that name for a character in any of my stories. But I already have a good idea for how I can use Maryette .

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