Fun things to research

Fun things to research

Now that I am in a more stable situation (still no income, but at least I have a place to myself), I’m leisurely pursuing ideas of places I want to research. I had started a novel about 5 to 10 years ago, that I want to get back to… researching it, at least. Yes I WILL get to writing it eventually, but I may need to start back at the beginning. The novel itself started in the beginning days of St. Augustine, Florida… and then I took it to the Outer Banks of North Carolina a century and a half later. Martin and Catalina(Katherine) are in St. St. Augustine, their great-great-granddaughter Harriet is in the Outer Banks. Catalina started out as a ward of Mary Tudor (best known in history as Bloody Mary), who is married to Martin (gladly) by order of Queen Mary in Mary’s last days. They leave England when Elizabeth becomes Queen, but not because Martin dislikes the new Queen. He was a secret Protestant, and chooses to spy out the Spanish Colonies for Elizabeth. Catalina herself has reasons to want to live in obscurity. She has Tourettes Syndrome: a condition not diagnosed or named until the 19th century, but known by its symptoms much earlier.  It makes life uncomfortable, to say the least.   I’m still working on their story. Also working on how their descendant Harriet’s part of the family will end up in the Outer Banks: it’s do-able, the contact was not frequent, but it did exist.

I adore the Outer Banks. I also love St. Augustine (hate Florida, but love St. Augustine), so any excuse to research and visit in either region is worth it:-). I have sort of missed Catalina and young Harriet, so it’s time to get back to both of them. By the way: Harriet has inherited Catalina’s Tourette’s Syndrome. It is an inherited condition. Why did I inflict them with Tourette’s? Because I have it, and I wanted to explore how it would affect women in previous centuries. I have incredibly ignorant people shun or mock me even in this the 21st century because of my condition, even when there is much more knowledge about this neurological condition. I have always wondered about the lives of people who had the condition in past centuries. Eighty to Ninety percent of the people with my condition are males who pass it down through the female; no, not my family. We got it passed down to the female… and it’s some question as to which side passed it to me.

Well, if I have to have the condition, at least I can make it work to my advantage… it gives me an excuse to use my imagination. If I ever get this novel written and published, maybe some poor girl will take courage from it. In the meantime, I plan to soak up all the time in the Outer Banks that I can. I was able to spend ten years exploring St. Augustine, while living there. Not planning to move to the Outer Banks, but I certainly intend to visit it as often as I can!

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Hessians in Bucks County: a.k.a. will I FINALLY finish a romance??

Hessians in Bucks County: a.k.a. will I FINALLY finish a romance??

I’m back to that stage of wanting to write, but scared I won’t finish.  Actually, I haven’t even started it. I’m just working on the preliminaries right now. I could bog down on any number of preliminary steps.  I’m just getting the basic story line in my mind. I’m starting the historical research on the area I want to write about, and the time period I want to feature.  I picked the area that I grew up in: mostly because it’s an area I loved, and is rich in the period of history I’m concentrating on… I also thought that would make the research easy: ummmmm, “NO”, it doesn’t! 

My story is set in the Revolutionary war, and is based in Bucks County. Buildings that I thought existed back during the Revolutionary war? I’m finding quite a few weren’t there until 1790 or 1800. DANG!!  Next question: how many Germans lived in the region of Newtown (a town established at the exact same time as Philadelphia)?  Now: I was *pretty* sure I knew my area’s history; well, I do…. but not *quite* as well as I thought I did <rueful smile>.  In the process of this exploration, I discovered that Newtown was the county seat of Bucks County during the period of the Revolution; the county seat didn’t get moved to Doylestown until well after the Revolutionary war. Surprise, Surprise!! All the years I lived there (or just over the Delaware in central N.J.), I never realized that. One never stops learning… luckily.  And I still haven’t found out how many Germans lived in the Newtown/Churchville/Richboro area.

Next I’ll need to come up with a heroine and hero whose background stories are plausible.   They’re both going to be German… There were an amazing number of Germans in Pennsylvania during the 18th century.  I discovered, when I moved to Winston-Salem, that many of the Germans who had come to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s moved down to the Winston-Salem region in the 1750s — because (get this) they thought it was getting too crowded in Pennsylvania.  What did they consider crowded?!?!?.

My own family has roots going back to the Lancaster area (at the time, still part of Chester County), as early as 1710.  By the way: not all Germans who moved to Lancaster were (or are) Amish). One part of that branch of my family was Swiss Mennonite, but the rest were Lutheran, or some might have been Reformed. Another part of the family came the year that the U.S. Constitution was signed. This was on my father’s mother’s side of the family. My father’s father’s side didn’t come until 1892. 

One part of my mother’s family came in the mid-late 19th century from what was then the Grand Duchy of Hesse; another part came from Swabia (part of Bavaria). I just learned, while doing research for this story, that my father’s paternal Grandmother came from the same region as my mother’s father’s family.  I had learned a few years ago, from looking at the map of Germany, that my paternal grandfather’s half-brother (my great-granduncle on my dad’s side) lived in a town that was just a few miles north of the town where my mother’s grandfather came from.  Family trees can be VERY interesting! I seems I have Hessians (or Rhineland Palatinates) on both sides of my family.

Another piece of information that I discovered over the past few months, that actually started the seeds of this story, was that some Hessian mercenaries fighting with the British deserted to the colonists’ side. George Washington actually made an offer that any Hessian soldiers who came over to the colonists’ side would receive 50 acres of land.  The Germans knew a good deal when they saw one, and some decided that good farming land was worth the chance of getting shot for desertion (by the way: some British soldiers did the same).

Sometimes the Hessians who were captured and hired out as “prison labor” to the local farmers and tradesmen decided that they liked the freedom and peace that the Germans already living there enjoyed; therefore, they decided to stay in what became the United States.  My story is going to be based on one of these Hessian soldiers… not an actual historical person, but one who could have realistically made this choice. He’ll fall for a young woman whom he meets as he is switching his allegiances.  This is all the further I have gotten.  I have a name for the hero, but not yet for the heroine. I’m still working on the possible scenerios, depending upon what I uncover in my historical research.

By the way: don’t expect this to be “steamy”; even my very proper mother thought I was a prude when it came to reading romantic stories:-)! Just warning you now!

It won’t be overtly Christian, but since I’m a Christian, it will certainly find it’s way bubbling out through the story….  Of that I am sure!

Well, I just learned that I won’t need to find out how many Germans lived in the Churchville area in the 18th century. There was NO Churchville in the 18th century. Checking on the National Historic Register website for Churchville in Northampton Township, I find that Churchville did not exist as such. In the 18th century, it was a tiny village on the crossroads called Smoketown.  More details to follow, as I learn them myself. Oh, and Richboro was Richborough…

Just don’t hold your breath for me to finish this; I don’t want anyone to pass out waiting for me to actually finish a romantic story <rueful smile>…  or if I do, I never seem to find a way to get it published….