Monday, December 10, 2012

The Legacy of Family

(Note from Elaine: So happy to be a part of Author Culture and looking forward to getting to know everyone here. As you will discern from my post today, I am all about family and fiction filled with history and faith. You can also now tell that I love alliteration. ;-) Thanks for allowing me to join Author Culture!) 

It was a simple excerpt from my family’s genealogy book that grabbed my attention: “Mr. Prince at fifteen years of age entered the Armory at Springfield, Mass., as an apprentice, and worked his way up to the position of inspector.”

The Armory at Springfield? What is that? 

Thus began my journey to uncover part of my family’s history that eventually unfolded to become my novel, The Legacy of Deer Run.

I knew from childhood that one of my ancestors (Daniel Prince) had been a British soldier (the enemy!) during the American Revolution. But instead of conquering the Patriot insurgents, his heart was conquered by a young colonial farmwoman named Mary. He stayed and became an American. I based my first novel, The Road to Deer Run, on their story.

Mary gave birth to twin sons in 1784 and that’s where the Mr. Prince, the Armory worker, came to my attention in the above-mentioned genealogy book. That Mr. Prince (one of the twins) was also named Daniel (Jr.) and his story is the romantic tale depicted in my recent release, The Legacy of Deer Run.

Researching the details for this book was a labor of love. It was also hard work!

Now living in the Midwest, I had to travel back to Massachusetts (my home state) for a week in the fall of 2011 and gather such facts as how muskets were made at the Armory. This is not information readily available online! The historian, Richard Colton, was most helpful in answering all my detailed questions. He patiently showed me drawings, maps, and other details that filled in the story to bring it to life for my readers.

As I gathered the facts, the fictional story began to take root in my author’s mind. I was ready to write the story of my third great-grandfather, Daniel Prince, Jr.

I think the highlight of researching this family history has been sharing it with my mom. Her name was Lucy Prince and she carried the name from generations before. But her own family story was lost to her when her birth father died in a tragic work-related accident. Her mother re-married and, unfortunately, never spoke to my mom about her birth father.

Uncovering this family history for my mom was like handing her a gift—a piece of her lost heritage. That is one of those gifts you can never put a price on.

The framed picture in the photo is of the Prince twins, Daniel and James, when they were in their 80’s. Although they look quite stern, a clipping in the Springfield newspaper—for they were quite famous as the oldest twins in America—describes them at the photo shoot as acting like boys! They both lived to be in their 90’s.

Their great-grand daughter, Lucy, apparently takes after them. She is 98. ☺

(There will be a book giveaway for my novel, The Legacy of Deer Run. I will draw one name from those that comment. Please leave your e-mail addy.)
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