by Pamela S. Meyers
To celebrate my first posting to the Christian Fiction Historical Society, I’m giving away a signed copy of my most recent release, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which is my hometown. It’s a 1933 historical romance. Leave a comment to this post and win the book!!! A lot of the town's history is woven into the romance between Meg Alden and Jack Wallace who work for the town's weekly newspaper. Will Meg lose her heart to the man who stole her job?
Most of us have seen the television show, Do You Know Who You Are? when a celebrity is given opportunity to trace a portion of his or her family tree back to a unique ancestor they knew nothing about. Long before tracing family history became as popular as it is today, I set out on my own journey to find out who I am. In the process, I found Revolutionary War soldiers, a bootlegger, and a myth about an Alabama man on my maternal grandfather’s side who fought off an Indian raid.
But one of the best discoveries for me was finding out where my creative strengths come from.
I knew only a little about my paternal grandmother’s father, Oscar Bancroft, until I started digging through papers that had been handed down .
I kept digging further down that branch of my family tree and discovered that Oscar’s first cousin, George Bancroft, was a well-educated man who was Secretary of the Navy under President Van Buren. During that time he founded the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and Bancroft Hall still stands on that campus today. Not only that, I learned that George was a writer and wrote a history of the United States. That's him on the left.
|George Bancroft's Manuscript|
Out of curiosity I went to my local library and discovered they have a copy of the history book on the shelf! It's hard to describe the emotion I felt when I took his book off the shelf and read my ancestor’s words. I later purchased a copy of his biography through eBay. In the bio, I found a picture of his rough draft. Seeing that handwritten document made me grateful for computers and very emotional at the sense of connection I felt with him as a writer.
As an extra bonus, the skills I’ve learned doing family research have carried over into research for my historical novels. My new story, also set in my hometown, takes place in the 1870s, and I’m having real people who lived there back then interact with my fictional family. I have used online sources to trace the real familys’ lines. When I first started doing family research, I had to go to the library or other physical sites such as courthouses to gain a lot of information that is now available with a couple mouse clicks.
We may not have the experts the celebrities on the TV show have, or the means to travel to the countries of origin our ancestors came from, but we still have resources available that with a little time and patience, we can learn so much about our family origins and what life was like generations ago.
Here are three great websites to get you started:
The U.S. Gen Web Project has been at work for least a decade with a goal to link researchers to every county in the United States for genealogy research. You can go to any state and any county in the state for information and history on those areas.
Cindi’s List has a wealth of information and links to all things genealogy It’s been around a long time and keeping improving over time.
The Ancestry.Com website is a treasure trove. They have many scanned antique records where you can look up your ancestors and find their birth, marriage and death records and link with others who are also searching your family’s history. You may even find a long lost cousin! Also, you can order or download their software to start keeping track of your family tree on your computer.
Have you already searched your family tree? What interesting people have you found there?
Don’t forget to leave a comment with contact information for a chance to win a signed copy of Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago, an hour's drive away from her hometown which she visits often to dig into its historical legacy. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva,Wisconsin, released in April, 2013. She can often be found speaking at events around Lake Geneva or nosing in microfilms and historical records about Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.