J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “genealogy”

Post-Civil War Files Will Enhance Family Searches

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Recently, FamilySearch, a large genealogy organization, announced that it is in collaboration with several other organizations to digitally release records they collected through the Freedmen’s Bureau. They plan to have the records searchable by 2016. This is a fascinating and important step, allowing millions of Americans to discover their true ancestry. It will also give people the opportunity to connect with relatives they never knew existed.

The Freedmen’s Bureau obtained information about an estimated 4 million newly freed slaves, including their previous owners, marriage and family history, military service, banking practices, and hospital and property records. These records serve as a treasure trove for African Americans who have been unable to learn more about their ancestry for years. They will also allow all Americans to learn how the United States transformed once Reconstruction began.

“The records serve as a bridge to slavery and freedom,” said Hollis Gentry, of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will showcase the records when it opens next year. “You can look at some of the original documents that were created at the time when these people were living… We get a sense of their voice. We get a sense of their desires, their goals, their dreams, their hopes.”

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Why I Write About the Civil War

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Frequently, when I’m at book signings and speaking engagements, I am asked why I chose to write about the Civil War. To me, this is one of the most captivating times in U.S. history. I was never into history when I was in school, but over the years, I have developed an interest in certain aspects of world and American history, as well as genealogy. Perhaps this is part of becoming more mature, but curiosity has compelled me to search out my ancestors and find out just where, exactly, I came from.

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The same goes for writing about the War Between the States. I have always been interested in the Victorian era, especially after living in Colorado for 25 years and seeing the old mountain and mining towns that still exist. Some even have residents who live like people did in the late 1800’s. Of course, there’s Cripple Creek, Black Hawk, Central City, and Glenwood Springs, where Doc Holliday is buried. These places have always fascinated me, and they still do.

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While living in Colorado, I had the opportunity to visit Gettysburg. I had never seen a Civil War battlefield before, so when I did, you can imagine how awestruck I was. It impressed me so much that I was inspired to write my first novel, A Beckoning Hellfire. From there, the book expanded to a series. After I wrote three books in the Renegade Series, I went back and wrote the prequel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie.

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Now I am in the process of editing the third book in the series. I have also written a nonfiction book about Confederate warhorses. Unfortunately, the publisher for that book had to close up shop and file for bankruptcy during the same month that the book was supposed to be published. So needless to say, I am looking for a new publisher. (If you know of any, please send them my way!)

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While researching my first novel, I came upon some information about my husband’s family. After a genealogy search, we learned that his great-great grandfather was a Cherokee interpreter who fought under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. It just goes to show what you can discover when you start digging!

The Mystery Remains

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I have recently developed a profound interest in genealogy. Not just in general, but MY genealogy, to be specific. I guess this started while I was researching my Young Adult historical fiction about my hometown, Sioux City, and my great aunt. She and her husband ran a hotel downtown during Prohibition, and there are many colorful stories surrounding the place. Unfortunately, the hotel was razed in the 1960’s, but that doesn’t deter me from searching out interesting tidbits about my ancestors. It’s amazing what deep, dark secrets I’ve uncovered about my family!

My latest quandary is my great-great grandfather. He divorced Great-Great Grandma, a rare occurrence at the time, and after that, basically fell off the planet. The entire family lost contact and track of him. Some say he went to Texas, but most don’t have a clue. He is the key to my Irish ancestry, since his parents came over, but his story remains elusive for now.

After I wrote my first book about the Civil War titled A Beckoning Hellfire, my husband grew curious about his ancestors. He discovered that his great-great grandfather was a Confederate soldier who served as a Cherokee interpreter for Nathan Bedford Forrest. (Thanks to fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans member Lynn Herron for researching this!) A United Daughters of the Confederacy sister of mine recently posted that she discovered a Civil War ancestor who fought for the Union. She seemed appalled, but I think it is admirable, since men on both sides basically fought with the same valor and enthusiasm. In my opinion, there were no wrong sides in the War Between the States – just wrong governing that lead the country to such a disastrous result.

As I sit here watching a TV show about historic Scotland (my husband is a descendant), I long to find out more about my Irish clan. Maybe, someday, I’ll discover the truth.

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