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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Family History--A Treasure Box of Research Goodies

My 2003 Golden Heart manuscript FAIRHOPE lured me into genealogy research. Over lunch one day, I happened to mention to my aunt that I was writing a story set in Texas. My aunt informed me that my maternal great grandmother was from a little town in north central Texas called Bells. Shortly before Christmas, a photo of my great grandmother arrived from my aunt. Have you ever had that déjà vu feeling when you've looked at a photo of a long lost relative? The resemblance was enough to pique my curiosity and start me digging.

Since that time, I have developed a passion for family history and have found it to be a great resource for story ideas as well as information on various regions of the country. Many genealogy sites on the web have archives of old photos, old maps, historical information about the area, and letters. Old photos can give you invaluable information about period clothing, architecture, and cultural practices, all handy research items for the historical author, but also for contemporary stories with rich backstories. All of our characters have family stories and relatives with interesting quirks. Old letters are great a place to find family skeletons for your characters. Many of these letters have been transcribed and are available online. They also give you insight into the economy and mindset of the period. Check out Rebekah’s letter and see what I mean at

Old wills are another source of interesting historic detail that can be found online at genealogy sites. Many of these have been transcribed word for word. It's amazing how personalities and family conflicts are written between the lines. Let's face it, our stories need conflict. Wills are a way to find family issues true to the period. If you need to kill old Uncle Minty off in your story and don't know what disease to give him, death certificates are full of deadly illnesses with period names to insure Minty's quick demise.

Does the town you've decided to set your story in need interesting detail to bring it to life? One of my favorite sites for my family history is
Not every town has a site as detailed as the Bells site, but more are being added every day by generous family history buffs, so check back periodically for information. Many counties have email loops with generous members who are willing to share information. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Cemetery listings are a great resource for interesting names for your characters. There are genealogy sites worldwide with such listings. If you are looking for British surnames for your regency historical, check out this site I found on Google

If you search by state and county in the United States, you can find plenty of FREE information on the following link:

If you feel inclined to delve into your own family history and have a list of names, I suggest you start with the following site:

I'll have to warn you, however, this can be addictive if you have a fascination for history. Happy searching!


At 8:45 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

So far, I've been spared the addiction, but I can vouch for it. My husband started poking around his family tree, and discovered that his grandmother Fairbanks connected him to the Fairbanks for whom the city in Alaska was named. One thing led to another, and now he's a volunteer for the Fairbanks database, doing data entry from forms submitted by all the people who are or claim to be of that lineage.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Another great idea, Lorelle! I love family history, but you're right about getting addicted! I haven't immersed myself in my family history yet because of that. I love the old picture of your great grandmother. What fun.

Thanks for the tips!

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

It's like a treasure hunt in many ways. You keep digging until you find those elusive pieces of information.

I've done some, but it is so time-consuming that I haven't touched it in several years.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...


Thank you for this site, Lorelle! It is a treasure chest of information.

Even though I do not use my own genealogy, I do use lots of these ideas to fortify my Regency stories. I find first hand accounts to be invaluable and I love reading about the people who lived in "my" time period.

I get ideas for names from census listing and the Incomplete Peerage

How very exciting to find interesting ancestors, though!

Diane (who does have a Campbell in her lineage)

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Lorelle! I love genealogy research and dive into it whenever I can. It's like a huge treasure box. You never know what you'll find. And the puzzle of it can be so frustrating, but so fun when you find just the right piece. I've found cousins and friends, not to mention stories galore. It's a blast. Two other great resources are Cyndi's List and Rootsweb Both are fabulous places to start. Genforum is a blast too.

Okay, I'll stop now...Grins. Enjoy the search!

At 11:51 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Wow, Jeannie. You found cousins you had never met? Now you all have me very interested in looking up a few family names...

My mom is a Cole and she says Jesse James mother was a Cole or related somehow to the there could be some relation there. I'll have to check into it. :)

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

So, Diane...possibly related to Anna Campbell or the Campbell soup people...hmmm

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Great links, Lorelle! Thanks for sharing.

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Ah... I love the smell of burning spammer in the evening.

That little chore done, this was a way cool article. Lorelle, do you have a relative with the nickname Minty? I have one (long dead) whose real name was Hubert, pronounced "Who-bert." Do you love it? He raised hunting dogs and drove like a maniac, but as a passenger, he always had his hand on the door handle, as though he would jump out of the car at the least provocation.

I get all my genealogy from talks with my mom. We come from country folk on her side of the family, and it shows.

At 11:14 PM, Blogger Lorelle said...

Hey Esri!

I don't have a Minty in my family history so far. I actually found his name on a cemetery listing when I was plotting a romantic comedy. Minty Malone just seemed right for a nefarious bible salesman whose hastily buried wife comes back to haunt him 40 years later.

I do have a Cordie and Pinkie. I just the love the creative names from the past. My great grandmother's name is Lutie Kidd. She's pictured in the blog with her two sisters. When my aunt gave me the picture, we had no idea who the women were. I posted an inquiry on the Bells loop and found a cousin who had more photos and names to go with them. I even have a picture of my great grandmother when she was about 8 years old.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger Janet Mullany said...

Oooh, Lorelle, are those your ancestors?

I was inspired yesterday by your post to search the UK Census at, where I found my father's father in the 1901 census--I identified him by his profession (brass musical instrument maker). Very exciting!

At 12:59 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

What great tips! I confess I have raided my husband's family for names etc. He's very much into genealogy, and he frequents old cemeteries looking for ancestors. I'll have to try those websites.


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