I’m going to do a series of blogs about my favourite things and what defines me.
And, there isn’t much in my life that isn’t defined by history – I love learning about the past. Ironic really that I dropped history at school before taking any formal examinations in the subject. My study is full of history books and also the files, which contain the family history of my family, my husband’s family, my ex-husband’s family and those of various friends.
Inevitably family history has found its way into my novels, The Truth Lies Buried in particular, where my heroine has my ideal job working in an archives office and helping people trace their lineage.
I have traced family trees for years, have a rolling subscription to Ancestry and even taught the subject in adult education classes for a while.
In The Truth Lies Buried, my heroine, Jenny Simpson meets someone researching the ghost they believe is haunting their house. I’ve changed the details, of course, but yes, I did once meet someone doing exactly this.
These days a lot of research, but not all (a common mistake people make) can be done via the internet, but I have fond memories of having day trips to various record offices around the country to wade through dusty original documents and the triumphant feeling I got when I found the right will or baptismal entry.
I’m like a dog with a bone when I have a tricky link to make in a family tree. It can absorb me for hours and I love nothing more.
My latest passion is for the links that DNA analysis can throw up. I still haven’t fully explored this, but it gives a different dimension to my family history, necessitating tracing forwards through the generations to establish links with those who share the same blood. It’s exciting messaging people with these links to me. I’m sure that this will give me great pleasure in the years to come. At least I know I bought the right baby back from the hospital, as my son has recently had his DNA analysis completed too!
Genetics fascinate me. How far back do certain traits stretch, or certain facial features go? Do we inherit family memories that lead us to act in a certain manner or avoid certain things? If I had my time over, I might have become a historian or a geneticist.
I am the family face
flesh perishes, I live on
projecting trait and trace
through times to times anon
and leaping from place to place o’er oblivion
the years-heired feature than can
in curve and voice and eye
despise the human span of durance, that is I
the eternal thing in man
that heeds no call to die.
Meanwhile my love of history, family history and genetics will definitely feature in my future novels.