Sunday, September 30, 2012

Forming Your Character's Distinctive Personality

Vintage Puzzle by Fel1x
Following the post on composite likeness,
I began giving some thought to the next step....Since I am writing about a person I've never met...a black male in a time not my own...in a world with differing social mores...I must find devices to piece together the complete man from a fourteen-year-old boy through the stages of manhood.

Composite Personality
Just as I had morphed the photos of four generations of Carter males to come up with a visual representation of my protagonist's physical appearance, I have overlaid the layers of our elders' comments with observations of living descendants for three generations of Carter men.

Layer 1: Hezekiah Carter (son; deceased)
In the summer of 2004 our family traveled from our home in New England to the Livingston Grand Reunion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Prior to the in-gathering of the descendants of Frank Livingston, we stopped over in Whiteville, North Carolina to visit with family from the Prince Livingston branch who were unable to attend the reunion.

Our first stop after visiting the Charles Spencer Livingston home place on Fruit Ridge Road was to interview the matriarch of our family's branch. Now Aunt Albertha holds another special place in our family because she is a double aunt. She was married to my husband's paternal Uncle Jesse Carter...and her youngest sister Lillie Stean had married Uncle Jesse's youngest half-brother, my husband's father...Chester Carter.

As my husband and I interviewed Aunt Albertha and Cousin Ruth about the Carter side of the family, our aunt recounted the day she met Hezekiah and Hannah Jane Carter...my husband's grandparents.

Hezekiah was also our protagonist's third born son of nine surviving children. Born in 1874, Isaac Carter was 35-years-old at his son's birth.
Hezekiah was a very kind, soft spoken man. And you could tell he loved his wife very much. He said he was glad that Jesse had me in his life because his first wife had been so much older...more like a mother figure.
The first wife is a mystery....

 Layer 2: Bert Carter (grandson, oldest son of the first wife; deceased)
Although we attended two George family reunions in North Harlowe, North Carolina, I met our cousin Napoleon online via Ancestry.com. In a correspondence thread back in February 2011 he said:
I used to visit Miss Hannah when I was small and I knew your Uncle Bert pretty well. And like most Carter men in our family...they had a temper...smile...I guess it skipped me...
Layer 3: Chester Carter (grandson, youngest surviving son of the second wife; deceased)
My mother was also so impressed with my father-in-law, stating that he was a fine, distinguished looking man. I will always remember him as a quiet, peaceful man who sacrificed for his family whom he loved dearly. Pushed far enough, however, his anger would flare...but only momentarily. He would take quick, decisive action, and then resume his normal state.

There is a story which he told me years ago when my husband and I were newlyweds, living in their home.... I was suffering from a lung infection caused by a severe allergy to cats. The doctor had told me that even if we got rid of the cat, it would take ten years of vacuuming to rid the carpets of the cat hair and dander unless they were torn up, the floors cleaned, and new carpeting laid down.
Years ago, he said, I was frying a pan of fish and had set it out to cool. I came back into the kitchen later only to find that the cat had eaten the fish! I got angry and Stean yelled, Why don't you just shoot the cat? I think I will, I said, and got my gun. I nearly lost my marriage over that cat, so you'll understand why we don't get rid of it....
Layer 4: Living Carter males (great grandsons)
Though diverse in interests and expression, each of one of the next generation of Carter males has several aspects of personality in common:

  • a deep and sincere faith in God
  • issues they feel passionately about
  • a deep sense of responsibility and love for family
  • a good sense of humor
  • an even-tempered outward disposition
  • enjoyment when interacting with people

Composite temperament for Isaac Carter's character
I see Isaac as a mixture of all these aspects of personality. The challenge will be in finding situations that occurred in his life to visually illustrate these inner facets of personality.

I can see now that I need to devise a check-list to ensure that I reach my scene objectives. For me, this is uncharted territory. . . .

Thursday, September 27, 2012

From Character Development to Composite Likeness

When we last looked at character development, we discussed the soul wounds that our protagonist--young Isaac Carter--had experienced up till his fourteenth year of age. The succession of losses in his life most likely left him with fears of abandonment and of financial hardship, taking the form of a mask of self-reliance. All of this sounds so academic and detached.

Now is the time to determine how these theoretical fears and compensation affected the behavior, thoughts and attitudes of Isaac as he matured.

Gaining insights by looking backward
The first step to filling in gaps in descriptive character detail, such as answering the question: What did the fourteen year old Isaac look like? is to examine what you have and work backward.

STEP ONE: While we have no personal artifacts to guide us, we must first look at what we DO have. Below is a list I compiled of all of Isaac Carter's documentation to date:

  1. 1850 U.S. Census (9, living with parents & family)
  2. 1860 U.S. Census (19, apprenticed to William Temple)
  3. 1864 USCT Military Service Record
  4. 1867 County Marriage Record
  5. 1870 U.S. Census (29, married, farm laborer, 1 child)
  6. 1880 U.S. Census (39, married, field hand, 5 children)
  7. Civil War Pension File
  8. 1900 U.S. Census (59, married, pensioner, 8 children)
  9. 1910 U.S. Census (70, married, house painter, 1 child)
  10. 1918 Death Certificate

Of all these documents, the only ones which offer a physical description are the military service record (left) and the pension file.

This gives us the description of Isaac at ages 24, and then again at 48.


STEP TWO:
As I began to imagine a fourteen year old boy, I remembered our son at that age. He was very slight for his age due to the effects Chron's Disease. At his annual physical exam, the family physician would plot his height and weight on a growth chart.

With this in mind, I found the form needed at the CDC.

By plotting the height for Isaac at age 24 on this chart, I followed the corresponding growth curve downward to align with the vertical axis at 14 years. I concluded that Isaac would have been approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall, which is about the same height our son was at that age.

STEP THREE:
Next, I scanned photos for our son, my husband, my father-in-law and my father-in-law's uncle to see if I could morph them together to get an idea of what young Issac may have looked like. Below is the composite formed at MorphThing.


Now I have a more vivid image, which actually resembles our son with the lips and jawline of my husband's oldest brother. Heredity is an interesting thing! 

The next step will be to formulate a composite personality based on what I know of the past three generations of Carter males, and what I have heard through oral tradition about the previous two generations of Carters.




Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Old Newbern Courthouse


One of the biggest frustrations for me as a researcher/writer is coming to a screeching halt at the appearance of a giant pothole in the middle of the road. It's not quite the same as coming to a dead end. There's more information to fill in the path...somewhere...but where...and when? 

Just as I was really getting somewhere with character development, I received an email which opened up a whole new avenue of exploration in regards to the old Newbern Courthouse.

New Bern, Newbern or New Berne?
Allow me to begin with just a brief note on historic spellings for our city. Victor T. Jones Jr., the Special Collections Librarian in the Kellenberger Room at New Bern-Craven County Public Library, says in a recent Facebook communication:
Officially they started writing New Bern as two words in the 1890s. Before the Civil War, it was mostly written as one word (Newbern), though there are some examples of it as two. During the Civil War occupation is when the "e" was added to Bern (New Berne). In the late 1890s and early 1900s there was a big debate in town about whether it was one word or two, with the e or without. It was finally settled with the the way it is currently spelled, two words without the e.
Since the time period I am focusing on is the 1850s, I will be using the antebellum spelling, Newbern.

Back to the Courthouse...
In our story, the old Newbern Couthouse is the focal point of our first scene, where the four youngest Carter children appear to be bound out as apprentices to the household of William Temple.

I have studied historical accounts and maps of the city, but not till I received copies of the following photos...all that remains of the memory of the old Newbern Courthouse...did I begin to recreate the scene from the children's point of view (POV). I had actually received the photos back in mid-May; but, a more recent email provided the stimulus to try to identify the style of the court house beyond the ruins below:

Ruins of the Craven County Court House,
destroyed by fire January 15, 1861.
The Court House stood in the intersection
of Broad and Middle streets. This view
was taken from Broad Street looking west.
The old Market House is visible
beyond the ruins.
The photos answered a question I had earlier based on a the map I had previously view which placed the court house in the intersection of Broad and Middle Streets.

In the intersection, as opposed to at the intersection, was the correct phrasing; although, it was highly unimaginable for me. How could a court house be placed in an intersection, especially one lined with trees which would have made the roadway about it quite narrow?

From these photos we can see all that remained was the corner of the building.
Ruins of the Craven County Court House.
View taken on Middle Street looking north.
A New Bern Album, by John B. Green, III
(1985), p. 26.

It appears to have been a three story structure, with perhaps three sets of windows on each floor.

This was the second court house in Newbern. The original one was to be built in 1761 by orders of Richard Spaight, Esq., Joseph Leech and John Fonville, Commissioners. It was ordered "that a Court House for the said county [Craven], not exceeding sixty feet long and forty feet wide in the clear be build on the public lots in the town of Newbern ...on the intersection of Broad street where a Court house is already begun" (Rambles about Town: Pollock Street from Queen to Middle, October 8, 1882).

John D. Whitford also noted that "This old court house gave place to the brick one build on the same site about forty years afterwards, which was destroyed by fire just before the war. We have a photograph (above) of the walls with the houses then around them, taken immediately after the fire."

Of the second court house, Mr. Whitford states:
The clock on the cupola of the court house belonged to the town, was purchased in 1826, and no better was ever made and set up. The bell was the property of the county, and not only gave us the hours through the day and night, but it was also rung for all fire company meetings, political meetings, or any kind of town or county meetings, as well as give the alarm of fires.

While Victor had encouraged me to check the colonial architecture of the existing Chowan and Beaufort County court houses, I am now convinced that while the original courthouse may have had some of these colonial influences, this second courthouse did not. And this is how I came upon this conclusion:

Below you will find a collage I constructed of all the photos available on a Google Image search for the Old Chowan County Courthouse in Edenton, NC:

I was so excited about the detail I had discovered, especially the interior design.

The old Beaufort County Courthouse in Washington, North Carolina can be seen below:



While they both have a copula with a clock and bell, I decided to look for images of three-story southern courthouses built around the turn of the 19th century.

Jones County Courthouse, Trenton, NC
I am now somewhat convinced that the second Newbern Courthouse may have looked more like this courthouse built in nearby Jones County, North Carolina.

Whitford states that the original...
Court house is raised on brick arches so as to render the lower part a convenient market place, but the principal (sic) marketing is done with the people in their canoes and boats at the river side.
If the arches were carried over into the design of the second courthouse, perhaps it might look somewhat like the front of the U. S. Post Office and Courthouse in New Bern, seen below:
by eopederson45
Old Fairfax County Courthouse in Fairfax City, Virginia was built in 1799, close to the time the second Newbern Courthouse was erected. Notice the similarity in the use of brick arches in its design.

Courtroom Design
There are some similarities in courtroom design between Fairfax County Courthouse and those of Chowan County, North Carolina,  and James City (colonial Williamsburg) and Isle of Wight Counties in Virginia, which share the same layout.
Ultimately, what I will have to do is to use my imagination to combine elements of all of these settings to re-create the exterior and interior of the second Old Newbern Courthouse for this scene.



And now you can see how the giant pothole in the middle of the road got filled in with a little help from my friends.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Core Question #3: What personal lies hide YOUR character's vulnerability?

Lies, you say?
Courtesy of Linda Rowlands
Gravestone at Washburn Cemetery,
Scranton, Lackawanna, PA
Yes, lies. We all believe them, whether we realize they are untruths or not. For instance, when I was five years old my grandmother was killed by a drunk driver as she stepped foot onto the curb. For years I had remembered part of a conversation I overheard shortly after her funeral regarding her grave marker.  She was the first female child of David and Hannah (Rowlands) Jones to die, and she was buried in the Jones family plot.

The grave marker was engraved with the surname JONES. My grandmother's  married name, however, was NEWTON. It seemed that it had been proposed that her name be engraved on a separate stone with the surname facing the opposite direction. That is what my mother and I had always believed had happened. In fact, I thought that I had seen such a stone when we went to the cemetery for my grand aunt Hannah (Jones) Holden's interment.

In fact, no such stone ever existed. It wasn't until some years later that a cousin connection through Ancestry.com led me to this photo of the grave marker which verified that my grandmother's name had actually been engraved at the bottom of the family gravestone: Harriet S. Newton, 1906-1966. (Now if I could only find out what the initial "S." represents.) I had no idea that this was, in fact, a lie that I had believed because I did not have access to the truth and had only overheard a passing conversation and built a perceived reality around it.

What incidents of Isaac Carter's early life wounded him and caused him to believe a lie?
Wounds which distort our perceptions of reality do not have to be caused by severe traumas. They can result from issues such as the lack of strong, lasting friendships...betrayals...rigid parents who instill negativity which erodes their confidence and cripples their ability to perform...or a host of other events that many of us might take for granted, but which scare the child early in life.

While it's obvious that his youngest brother's seizure disorder, the death of his parents, his grandfather's declining health, the separation of the family resulting in the four youngest children being apprenticed to Master William Temple each would have been enough in itself to wound young Isaac, there must have been other incidents common to children in general, as well those created by living within the regional, racial and economic boundaries of that era, that could have exposed an area of vulnerability.

It is impossible to know just how these soul wounds may have affected young Isaac as he matured, but it would not be unreasonable to think that he may have developed a fear of abandonment to some degree. Many times these children mature into adults who become the mediator, one who wards off conflict, and tend to take on multiple roles within the family. They may lose themselves in some sort of industry, be it work, a hobby or other interest which serves as a distraction. They are known as the one no one has to worry about.

If this were the case, then Isaac's false front would be the mask of self-reliance which would hide an intense fear of depending on others. Once a deep attachment is formed, i.e. friends, marriage and children, he would inwardly worry excessively that the relationship might end in illness and eventual death. It might also take the form of a fear of financial hardship should he become incapable to provide for his family due to illness or death.

Now that we've gotten to the core of our protagonist, the next step is to determine how these motivators shape the plot of our story....

Core Question #2: What is YOUR character's greatest fear?

Some life application of the 3 Core Questions
Recently I presented the three core questions for character development to a Teen Sunday School class and asked them to answer these questions about themselves:

Image by STiX2000 on deviantART
  1. What is YOUR core need...your motivation in life...and what would you do if you could not attain it?
  2. What is YOUR greatest fear?
  3. What incidents in YOUR life have wounded you and caused you to believe a lie, or have shaded your perception of life events? 
These questions are a great tool for getting to the heart of our inner truth! I believe most people are caught up in a cycle of  Greek drama, weather comedy or tragedy, hiding their true selves to cover their vulnerability. Sometimes, however, by wearing a mask people begin to believe a lie about themselves or even about the people and world around them. 

Back to young Isaac Carter
I believe that the greatest fear is linked to the core need, and acts as a negative motivator in an individual's life. While Isaac's core need following the death of his parents was to watch over and protect his younger siblings and keep their family unit intact, it was broadened in adult life to protect and free his Negro brethren from a system of enslavement. 

His greatest fear was a negative motivator striving to produce a positive outcome...and that was...
...the fear of losing his family
and being alone in a hostile world...

The next step is to revisit Isaac's life events and apply the core need and greatest fear to them in order to determine the lie he came to believe about himself and the world in which he lived....




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Core Question #1: What was young Isaac Carter's core need?

First off, let me give a big shout out to C. S. Lakin, whose series The Heart Of Your Story on her blog, Live Write Thrive, has been a great source of direction in this phase of planning for the writing of my family history memoir! You can find her posts about character development and other topics here.

Next, I want you to know that determining young Isaac Carter's answers to the 3 Core Questions has been much more difficult than I thought it would be. In fact, I'm still figuring it out...and for that reason I am focusing today on just the first question:


As I've contemplated the events of young Issac's life in late 1853, I've realized that he must have experienced a life shift which changed him down to the very core.

His parents were both deceased sometime prior to September 1853...
...his grandfather was very ill for at least a year...
...his family was being split in two, and

this middle child then found himself 
in the position of being the oldest of four children 
being bound out to a white landowner 
who had been a good friend of the Carter family.

I am beginning to see that his core need at this phase in his life would be to keep his siblings together, to watch over and protect them. 

If we were to just go back a few years to October 1850, we would find Isaac at home with his parents and all of six siblings. His life would have been much different that that of more recent generations of young adolescent African Americans. He may have shared some of the same dreams and desires as many boys have today...but during planting and harvest time, he would have been found working in the fields right alongside the rest of his family. He would not of had to make the adjustment between elementary school and middle school because he would not have attended school as there were yet no school for free Negroes in North Harlowe, North Carolina. 

But even this life would have weighed lighter on his shoulders than the burden of becoming the father-figure to his younger siblings. 

And what if he could not attain it? 
On October 24, 1861 Isaac became of age and was freed soon after. In July of 1863 his sister Nancy married at the age of twenty. Annanias would have been eighteen years of age, and Zach, fifteen. By June 1871, Nancy reported in her Freedman Bank Record that her only surviving siblings were Isaac and Mary. So, with no record of either brother following the 1860 Census, is it presumed that they most likely died between 1860 and 1871.  Annanias would have been between the ages of 14-25, and Zach between the ages of 12-23. It is difficult to tell when Annanias may have died; however, Zach was the sickly child. For that reason I tend to believe that he may have died first. 

It's hard to tell if young Isaac was able to attain his core need or not. Part of me would love to believe that he did; but, when seeing that by 1871 Nancy had lost both her husband and all three of her children to death, my heart sinks and I am persuaded that they probably died before they received their freedom.

In 1864 at the age of 25, Isaac joined the US Colored Troops in New Bern. If his brothers were alive they would have been ages 19 and 16 respectively. Something inside me believes that they were already deceased at that time, and that part of Isaac's desire to join the Union Army was to ensure the freedom of his people, and to make a better life for the next generation to come. And here his core need broadens not only to keep, watch over and protect his immediate family, but also for the generations to follow.


Friday, September 7, 2012

One Step BEFORE the 3 Core Questions...Birth Order

Yesterday I mentioned that I needed to answer the three core questions about each of my main characters before moving on. Well, when I sat down to work on it I realized there was something else I needed to consider.

Birth Order
My training in psychology always has me thinking in terms of family dynamic. What was the role each person played in the family? Back in the early 1980s when I studied Alfred Adler's theory of Birth Order and Personality, I began applying this information (along with the meaning and origin of names when selecting fictional characters' names) to my family groups to try to reconstruct a possible family dynamic.

In a brief examination of the birth order and ages of the children in Isaac Carter's household in 1853, I noticed an immediate pattern:

  1. Comfort (21)     }2 years between Comfort and William
  2. William (19)     }
  3. Mary Ann (15)  }4 years between William and Mary Ann
  4. ISAAC (14)      }1 year between Mary Ann and ISAAC
  5. Nancy (10)        }4 years between ISAAC and Nancy
  6. Annanias (8)     }2 years between Nancy and Annanias
  7. Zach (5)            }3 years between Annanias and Zach
Parents' Ages at Birth of Children
By maintaining the same numbering sequence as above for the children, we can construct a simple chart for the ages of the parents at each child's birth in order to gain some insight on how their ages might have contributed to the family dynamic:

M/A
F/A
16
27
18
29
22
33
25
36
28
39
30
41
33
44

By the time young Isaac was born, his mother was 25 years old with four children, ranging in ages newborn to seven years. 

Two Families in One
There are also two periods in the family's life: first, when the parents were both alive; and secondly, following their death and the children's separation from each other. Young Isaac's parents, Isaac and Rhoda Carter, died somewhere between October 8, 1850 and September 1853. Because of what we've learned about apprenticeship laws, we can safely assume that if his parents did not die together, his mother most likely would have died first...perhaps in childbirth, illness, or accident...followed by the father. It is estimated that it could take up to six months for an estate to be settled; however, no estate records for Isaac Carter have yet been discovered. 

Since William and Mary Ann were not yet of age when their parents died, I believe that they might have been living with another family member other than Kelsor & Sarah Braddock at the time of Kelsor's petition to the Craven County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions to place the younger children in the care of their family friend, William Temple. Even though they may have been living in the same residence as their sister, Comfort, who did not marry until July 1864, I do not believe that she received custody of them since she was a female, not gainfully employed to care for minor siblings; and also, no petition could be found bearing her name in regards to placement of the minor children.

So, while young Isaac was the middle child in his first family group, he became the functional oldest child in the second family group. At fourteen years of age, he then took on the responsibility of looking after his younger siblings...the youngest of whom was "taken to fits" (most likely some seizure disorder). 

How would a shift in functional birth order affect personality?
From the Adlerian Overview of Birth Order Characteristics chart (link above) you can see that middle children often feel sandwiched and may become even-tempered, a fighter for injustice, and may even find themselves operating as a mediator between two factions. Oldest children, on the other hand, often find themselves as the one to lead by example. The adult expectations upon them are usually high, and they often find themselves in roles of authority. When a child is a natural born first child, he often feels displaced by the birth of the second child and seeks the father's approval; however, in the case of a functional first child, this longing might not be as strong. Although, in a case like this where the father is deceased, the child might long for the father's presence to guide him, or to return him to his middle child state. In either case, the death of the father would most certainly have a marked affect on young Isaac.

What now?
By applying the natural tendencies of children's birth order, both natural born and functional, we can now assess changes in personality and behavior even into their adult life.

The next step might be to look at the affects of grief upon the children...and also that of separation of the younger siblings from the older. 

In the mean time...back to the 3 core questions...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Who are the Characters in YOUR Family History?

Ancestors as Characters
Have you ever thought of your ancestors in terms of Characters in your family history? I have to admit that when I first started out on this journey to write a family history memoir, I first had to narrow down which story I wanted to tell, and once I decided that, I had to begin thinking of our ancestors in terms of characters within the book. After all, when you pick up a book, what is it that grabs your attention and entices you to continue reading? For me it's getting to meet the protagonist within the first couple pages and witness his/her reactions to whatever it is going on in the midst of the action.

Okay. So, we've established that our protagonist is going to be Isaac Carter.
Actually, our protagonist will change over time as we move from generation to generation. But at the onset, our principle player will be young Isaac (14).

Now, who else is in this story? The next set of people I looked at were his siblings who were also apprenticed. They would be:

  • Nancy Matilda Carter (10)
  • Annanias Carter (8)
  • Zach Carter (5). (He is referred to sometimes as Zacchaeus and at other times as Zachariah, hence the nickname, Zach.)
From there I began to think of who else would appear in the first scene. William Temple, their master, would be there. And depending on where I started the first scene, perhaps the boatman, Stephen Priestly, would be present. 

Once they arrived in New Bern, there would be those at the friend's home or rooming house where they lodged. 

At the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, there would be the Clerk of Court (J.G. Stanly) and the Judge (Justice of the Peace, William Blackledge). And also would be the other persons appearing in court that day.

There would be mention of the children's family: Kelsor and Rhoda Braddock, their grandparents; and, their older siblings...and what about their deceased parents?

So, just from this initial bit of brainstorming, I've come up with the following cast of ancestral characters:
  1. Isaac Carter (14), protagonist
  2. Nancy Carter (10), sister
  3. Annanias Carter (8), brother
  4. Zach Carter (5), brother
  5. William Temple, master
  6. Stephen Priestly, boatman
  7. People at the lodging in Newbern
  8. Samuel W. Chadwick, Sheriff
  9. Judge William Blackledge, Justice of the Peace
  10. J. G. Stanly, Clerk of Court
  11. courtroom spectators
  12. Kelsor and Rhoda Braddock, grandparents
  13. Comfort Carter (21), sister
  14. William Carter (19), brother
  15. Mary Ann Carter (15), sister
  16. Isaac Carter, father (deceased)
  17. Rhoda (Braddock) Carter, mother (deceased)
  18. people in the Temple household
From here I must answer three question about each character:
What is his/her core need?
What is his/her greatest fear?
and
What is the character's inward and outward personae?

It might take some time before I complete the answers to these questions for the main characters in the book, but join me here next time when I share with you the answers to these questions for our protagonist, young Isaac Carter, and take a look at the next step in Writing the Family History Memoir.

Writing The Family History Memoir

What is a family history memoir?
There seems to be some discrepancy today of what genre our book might fall into: family history?  memoir? historical narrative? or some combination of the above....

Ahnentafel with modified register
 for Isaac Carter
For our purposes here we will agree that a family history is usually a narrative telling of one family, often including female collateral lines. It's scope often begins with the first immigrant in America and continues to the present; however, sometimes it may extend beyond the emigration story to life in the nation of origin. The narrative itself is a compilation of facts extracted from oral tradition and documentary sources, and may contain assumptions and conclusions drawn by the researcher/author. Many family histories conclude with the actual genealogy in an Ahnentafel chart. Here you'll see the first page of our Isaac Carter's ahnentafel with a modified register, which means that the report also includes an index for each child's lineage. An example of an exhaustive family history which I own is the NEWTON GENEALOGY: Being a record of the descendants of RICHARD NEWTON of Sudbury and Marlborough, Massachusetts, 1638, compiled by Ermina Newton Lenoard (1915).

Memoir is usually thought of in terms of a prominent person's reflections on their past, or perhaps of their child's reflection of their famous parent or grandparent's past leading up to their own self-discovery. An example of this genre is found in one of my favorite reads from last year, Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew, by Suzanne Berne (2010).

Family history memoir refers to a descendant researcher's shared discovery of their family history and includes insights and conclusions drawn along the way. It is a personal journey shared with the reader. Most books in this genre limit the scope to just a few generations of interest, usually the author's parents, grandparents and sometimes even great grandparents. Oh Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century, by John Paul Godges (2010), is a daring example of a family history memoir which I enjoyed reading this past year.

The historical narrative attempts to show the reader how they lived by placing our ancestors within the context of place, period and society. 1861: The Civil War Awakening, by Adam Goodheart (2011), is a wonderful analysis of the start of the Civil War which transports the reader to the scenes of events and to the thoughts and actions of their prominent players.

Where do I begin?
This book takes place in eastern North Carolina and extends from the antebellum period to the time of the great migration. I will be writing about three generations of my husband's paternal family, beginning with his great grandfather, Isaac Carter and ending with my husband's father. 

I hope you'll stop back in days to come as I share with you the journey of Writing The Family History Memoir.