Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Family in My Historical Books


 
                                                         Sarah J. McNeal, multi-genre author
 

Most of us feel that the American Civil War happened a very long time ago, but I realized how recently it truly took place when I rifled through my grandfather’s old trunk. As a matter of fact, my Grandfather, William Grant McNeal, was a post war baby. . . a post Civil War baby. He was born in 1866. I am still amazed by that. I am a post World War II baby. We should be worlds apart, but we weren’t.


                                           My Grandfather, William Grant McNeal

My dad was the youngest of three sons, Donald, John and James. Each of the boys was born at least 5 years apart. My grandparents presumably planned the distance between their children on purpose so they could afford to send each of them to college. I commend them for their responsible considerations. I remember my grandfather was very old when I was a little girl. He was 88 when he died, Pop was 41 and I was 6. He came to live with us the last few months of his life because my dad was worried about him living alone in the little red school house in Numidia, Pennsylvania where his three sons were raised. Pop hired a pilot named Windy Carr to take his small Cessna plane to fly home to Numidia to bring my grandfather to North Carolina. I remember him as quiet, intellectual and patient. He brought his trunk, filled with family history with him.
 

                                  My dad, James and his two brothers, Donald and John


Although I never met my great grandfather, also a William, my dad did have a chance to know him and told me a few things about him. Pop described him as having steely gray eyes and, like his own father, he was an academic with old world manners and sense of honor. My great grandfather fought in the Union Calvary in the Civil War. He was lucky enough to make it home, but as far as I know, he never spoke of the war. Instead, he focused on providing his children with an education…including his daughters. It warms my heart to learn that my great grandfather thought women were smart and needed to be educated and self-reliant. My grandfather and my father passed on that respect for women and their expectations that women should be educated and equal. Ya gotta love them for that. My two great aunts, Maggie and Irene, are legendary in our family for their independent thinking. Even my grandmother, Matilda McNeal, was an independent thinker and political activist for women’s right to vote.




                                            My Great Grandfather, William McNeal

Many people have met their great grandfathers. I wish I could have met mine. Still, I am awed by the fact that he fought in the Civil War and that fact makes the war not that far back in history for me.

One of my greatest joys in writing, is including bits of my family history into my stories. The Violin was a story about my Uncle John, Pop’s middle brother who died fly fishing with his friends when he was only twenty-one. I always thought it was so sad that he never had a chance to marry and have children. He played the violin and mandolin, traveled with an opera show from New York City all over the USA and Canada. He had an Indian motorcycle and, according to Pop who thought he raised the moon and stars into the sky, every woman in town was in love with him.



 

                                                  THE VIOLIN

BUY LINKS

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/sarahmcneal2

Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/The-Violin-ebook/dp/B006JE2RLG/
           Rebecca Vickery Publishing

http://rebeccajvickery.com/online-store.php

Creat Space (Print version):


 

I used Pop’s oldest brother, Donald, in For Love of Banjo. In the story, Banjo replaced Uncle Donald in a trench in France. Later, Donald show’s up at Banjo and Maggie’s ranch with an unforgettable gift. Uncle Donald in real life did fight in World War I, and I wanted to honor him for that.

 



                                               FOR LOVE of BANJO

BUY LINKS:

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/136814

Amazon.com:


Print:


Lulu :


 

I think it’s fantastic that I can include my family history in my writing and I believe many of us do incorporate people and our life experiences in our stories. That’s what makes them special. What family history have you included in your own work? How does it make you feel to see some of your family history in your published work?



 


My Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/sarahmcneal




 


27 comments:

  1. Sarah, what a touching post. I do use bits and pieces of family history. I love learning more about my family, and enjoy incorporating a few facts into my stories.

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  2. Caroline, we can't really help including our own history in our work, can we? It's part of who we are. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

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  3. Sarah, I always enjoy your posts. How lucky you are to have photos of your ancestors -- and to have so much information about them! Paying tribute to your ancestors in your fiction, and giving some of them the happy endings they never had a chance to pursue, is a beautiful way to honor those who helped make you who you are.

    The next time someone starts one of those never-ending craft discussions hinged on "write what you know," I'm just going to point to you and smile, okay? :-)

    HUGS, sweetie!!!!

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  4. What fascinating family history, Sarah - and I love that you've been able to include it in your books. Maybe one day I'll write about my great-great grandfather who was a sea captain - and was fired for being drunk in charge of his ship! In the meantime, I've 'invented' a lot of family history for my new novel, 'Irish Inheritance', which was fun to do.

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  5. Beautiful post and tribute, Sarah. I love family history and the legacy of that history. I guess the closest I have come to using family history is in Whisper in the Wind. The hero, Joedan Blake, is a Pinkerton detective, and my great-grandfather (born in 1858) was a Pinkerton, too. I love using names of ancestors for characters. One of my ancestors was named Reliance, and I gave that name to a character in The Sense of Honor. Congratulations on your books. I look forward to reading them. :))

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  6. Sarah, it's lovely that you use your ancestors in your books, preserving their memories for present and future children.

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  7. Kathleen, how very kind you are. Pop once told me I should be the family historian, but little did he know how I would tell the family stories through my work. I wish he could have lived to read his brother's story in The Violin. Thank you so much for coming by and leaving such a sweet comment.

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  8. Paula, I can't wait to read about your ancestor the sea captain. That was a very interesting tidbit you threw out there in your comment. I'm looking forward to reading your book, Irish Inheritence. Stories about Ireland faxcinate me. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

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  9. Ashley, I'm getting ready to dive into your book, Whisper in the Wind. Good to learn one of the characters is a Pinkerton agent. Now that should be very interesting. I love that name, Reliance. Imagine the thought that went into naming him when he was born. Now people mostly name their kids after movie stars and names I can't pronounce. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

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  10. Ashantay, how wonderful to see you here. I really wish I knew more about the family history. Back then, I didn't realize how much I would want to learn about them. We take so much for granted when we're young. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting. I really appreciate it.

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  11. Sarah, you did a beautiful job of including your family in your stories. I, too, wish I had paid more attention when I was younger. My mom was the eldest in her family, with TEN little brothers and sisters younger than she was. She never had a childhood. Her dad's parents lived across the road and down a little from her home, and after her grandfather died, her grandmother didn't want to be alone, so many times, my mother would be the one to go spend the night with her. That's where she learned so much family history, and my great grandmother told her some wonderful tales of her growing up years, and coming to Oklahoma, homesteading in Indian Territory, losing a teenage son to cancer, and so on. I listened, but only halfheartedly--at that young age, I had "real life" on my mind. You are so lucky to have your grandfather's trunk with all the memorabilia in it. What a gift. I never knew any of my great grandfathers, my grandfathers were not "talkers." Great post, Sarah!

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  12. Sarah--what a wonderful tribute to your family to use some of them in stories. And you do it so well--I am impressed.
    I did not know any Great-grandparents, nor did my husband. I knew my grandparents, but he did not know any of his--
    I love how you used them, and honored their memories, too.

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  13. What an interesting blog, Sarah. Course, I love genealogy, so I can really relate to all your stories of your family. Oddly enough I haven't used any of my ancestors in my books. Probably because I don't know enough about them. I met my grandparents but none of my great-grandparents. Barely knew the grandparents. Good luck with your books.

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  14. Loved your post, Sarah. Lovely that you can pay tribute to your ancestors.
    I remember three of my great-grandparents. Finding them on the U.S. Census as children was a huge thrill.
    I'm going to use my mom and her best friend as models for two historical novellas I have planned.

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  15. Cheryl, I remember some of the stories you told about your family history. I guess TV,Smart Phones and other electronics are taking away time that used to be spent after supper with the family gathered around the table and old family stories were related. Unfortunately, even when we didn't have those things, I was more interested in my life and my friends than I was in those "old folks stories". Boy, if I could just go back and have a redo on that. Besides my grandfather's trunk, my dad made each of us a family albumof our family tree in pictures. That's where these pictures came from.
    Thank you for your complimentary words and for coming by, Cheryl.

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  16. Celia, I never met my great grandfather, either, but my dad did and told me about him.
    I love your stories about your parents that you post on your blogs. They are so interesting.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to come by and comment.

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  17. Charlene, I really appreciate that you came by to comment. My mother's name was Charlene.Thank you for coming by.

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  18. Carra, your mother will love that you are including her in your work. People really appreciate being remembered. My parents died before I was ever published so they didn't get a chance to see how I used the family history. I hate that part.
    All the best to you and thank you for commenting.

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  19. What a terrific, heartfelt post, Sarah. I got teary-eyed. I wish I could have met your forebears, too. How wonderful they can "live on" in some ways sin your work.

    My great-great grandfather marched with Sherman to the sea. I bought Sherman's book on the campaign while was in Atlanta. It's probably not light reading LOL but I thought it a neat souvenir. xo

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  20. I had a great resource from my great, great grandfather (who also participated in the Civil War). He kept a journal while he traveled across country on a wagon train in 1849. I used a lot of his first hand information in my Marriage Bargain story. It was like having him whispering in my ear as I wrote the story.

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  21. Tanya, when my oldest sister read The Violin, she cried. I finished it in the nick of time because she died the next year. I was glad that I could share that history with her. I took her ashes to our family monument where Uncle John and our grandparents are buried. It's near our grandfather's house.
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting.

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  22. Oh Tanya, one more thing, I hope when you read the book about Sherman, you feel what your great-great grandfather may have experienced on the march. Maybe you'll write a story about it sometime.

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  23. Paisley, how lucky you are to have an actual journal from your great-great grandfather. What an astounding find. I love that he traveled across the country with a wagon train and was also in the Civil War. I really wish one of my ancestors had kept a journal. I just had letters.
    I loved where you said you felt your great-great grandfather was whispering in your ear when you wrote Marriage Bargain. I have that book, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Now I'm intrigued. Thank you so much for commenting.

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  24. Paisley, how lucky you are to have an actual journal from your great-great grandfather. What an astounding find. I love that he traveled across the country with a wagon train and was also in the Civil War. I really wish one of my ancestors had kept a journal. I just had letters.
    I loved where you said you felt your great-great grandfather was whispering in your ear when you wrote Marriage Bargain. I have that book, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Now I'm intrigued. Thank you so much for commenting.

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  25. Paisley, how lucky you are to have an actual journal from your great-great grandfather. What an astounding find. I love that he traveled across the country with a wagon train and was also in the Civil War. I really wish one of my ancestors had kept a journal. I just had letters.
    I loved where you said you felt your great-great grandfather was whispering in your ear when you wrote Marriage Bargain. I have that book, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Now I'm intrigued. Thank you so much for commenting.

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  26. Sarah, I loved reading about your Pop, granddad and gr granddad. I admire you for writing books to honor them. I envy you your photos. They're wonderful!

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  27. Thank you for those compliments, Lyn. I was lucky to have ancestors who wanted to pass on the family history to the next generation. All the pictures were in an album my dad created that's like a family tree in pictures.

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