I'm welcoming back my friend, Paula Martin, who has a new novel to share with us which is 'right up my street'. Paula and I have quite a few things in common like our professional backgrounds, our love of history, and in particular for this current blog post - our love of ancestry. For her latest story, Irish Inheritance, she's had to create a family tree with all the interesting ramifications that can throw up. Readers of both my contemporary ancestral mysteries- Monogamy Twist and Topaz Eyes - will likely have read how much I enjoyed doing that for my own writing, and I know Paula's had great fun creating hers as well.
I've not managed to read Irish Inheritance yet, but I've read other Paula Martin stories and thoroughly enjoyed them. I'm sure you will, too!
Over to Paula...
Inventing Family History
For my latest release, ‘Irish Inheritance’, I needed to invent some family history for my American hero and English heroine. They have jointly inherited a house on the west coast of Ireland, but neither of them has ever heard of the Irish woman who has bequeathed it to them. This leads them into an intriguing, and sometimes puzzling, journey into their individual family histories, until they eventually unravel the tale of a 19th century love affair.
Sorting out this family history was fascinating for me too! I’ve done quite a lot of research into my own family history, so at least I was aware of the resources that are available online.
What I didn’t know before I started was that only the 1901 and 1911 Irish censuses are available. The census records for 1861-1891 were pulped, by government order, during the 1st World War, and the earlier records from 1821 to 1851 were destroyed by a fire at the Public Record Office in 1922. This actually worked to my advantage, as it meant my characters couldn’t find out where their ancestors were living before 1901. The census records did help me, though, to see what names were popular in the early 20th century, and also to find out what streets and houses existed at that time in the Irish town of Clifden in County Galway.
Coincidentally, most of the USA 1890 census was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Building in Washington DC in 1921. Again, this proved very convenient for me – although it must be so frustrating for American researchers!
My own research came in useful, too, when my heroine asks someone to look up information about her great-grandmother, because the 1911 census does not shown the maiden name of a wife. The heroine needs to know this, and I could easily imagine her researcher trawling through the marriage records to find one that seemed to be the right one. I say ‘seemed’ because in family history research, we can’t always assume that something that looks right actually is the correct record.
Another ‘headache’ in creating an imaginary family tree was getting ages right. I couldn’t have someone getting married when they were 15, or a woman having a child when she was in her 70s!
When I needed one couple to die relatively young, I had to search for plausible reasons for this, which was where my knowledge of history came in useful. The Spanish flu epidemic at the end of World War 1 fitted the bill perfectly, and so did the evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940.
I really did enjoy inventing this family history, even though I must have drawn and re-drawn the ‘family tree’ a dozen or more times before I eventually decided it worked!
I know exactly how that felt because I had to re-draft my family trees many times, Paula, but if you're like I was it was so exhilarating when the final version was constructed and everything seemed to 'fit' perfectly! Thank you for such a great blog post, Paula.
Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons.
She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.
Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.
Blurb for ‘Irish Inheritance’
English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are considered 'family', they discover surprising links to the original owners of the house.
They soon unravel an intriguing tale of a 19th century love affair. At the same time, their mutual attraction grows, despite personal reasons for not wanting romantic involvements at this point in their lives.
A local property agent appears to have her own agenda concerning the house while other events pull Jenna and Guy back to separate lives in London and America. Friction builds over their decision about the house and its contents.
Will their Irish inheritance eventually drive them apart – or bring them together?
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/KtlU6Y
Thank you for popping in today, Paula, and best wishes with Irish Inheritance.