After a long day of genealogical research, what could be more satisfying than curling up with a good book about genealogical research?! Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s new book The Sterling Affair promises a satisfying return journey into the life of forensic genealogist Morton Farrier.
(This article includes affiliate links. If you decide to pick up a copy of this book, using our links for which we will be compensated by the book seller helps support our ability to bring author Q&A’s like this to your screen. Thank you!)
Click here to purchase your copy of The Sterling Affair
The Sterling Affair by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Goodwin sets the scene of his new book as follows:
“When an unannounced stranger comes calling at Morton Farrier’s front door, he finds himself faced with the most intriguing and confounding case of his career to-date as a forensic genealogist. He agrees to accept the contract to identify a man who had been secretly living under the name of his new client’s long-deceased brother.
Morton must use his range of resources and research skills to help him deconstruct this mysterious man’s life, ultimately leading him back into the murky world of 1950s international affairs of state.”
A Conversation with Author Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Don’t worry, we won’t be spoiling the exciting read you have ahead of you. Today I will be chatting with Nathan about his life as an author, his writing process, and how the main character, Morton Farrier, almost didn’t make it past the first book!
Nathan: I literally had no concept that there would be so many books in the series! At first, it was written as a one-off, then I started to have ideas for two or three more.
I think when I wrote book three, The Orange Lilies, I knew that the series had plenty more scope, especially as DNA-testing was just beginning for genealogists, opening up a whole new world of potential storylines! As to the future of the series, I’m currently plotting books nine and ten. I don’t see an end to the series just yet!
Click the book image to order your copy.
Lisa Louise Cooke: I heard you speak at THE Genealogy Show conference in Birmingham England in 2019. In that presentation you told the audience that you almost killed off Morton at the end of the first book. I imagine you’re glad now that he survived. What exactly happened back then?
Nathan: Killing Morton would have been the most stupid thing I could have done!
I started writing Hiding the Past (the first book in the series) as part of my studies for a Master’s Degree in creative writing and I think I’d been reading a novel at the time, which went along the lines of ‘if you’re reading this then I’m dead’. I thought this angle might work for the first draft of my story but thankfully, as the book progressed, I was able to see several plotlines, which could continue into further stories.
I knew from the outset that I wanted the main character, Morton Farrier, to have been adopted and be totally unaware of his biological family, so there was plenty of scope there to continue that subplot in future books.
Lisa Louise Cooke: How has the advent of DNA testing changed the course of your writing?
Nathan: DNA-testing has completely changed the course of my writing—in a good way, I like to think! There are now so many more possibilities for Morton to solve his cases in different ways.
Morton took an Ancestry DNA test back in 2014 when it had not yet even become possible in the UK. He did what I had to do, which was to order one in the US and have a friend ship it over, then post it back to the US for testing and analysis!
From that point onwards, DNA has played an ever-increasing role in helping Morton to solve his cases. In the most recent book, The Sterling Affair, Morton uses a variety of real tools and websites which are familiar to genealogists.
Lisa Louise Cooke: When you start a book like The Sterling Affair, do you already have it well mapped out, or are there surprises even for you along the way as to the path it will take?
Nathan: I usually spend at least three months conducting research for the books. This involves reading, visiting record offices, libraries, churches, etc. Basically, anything which Morton does in the book, I do first.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin
At the point when I actually start writing I probably have about 60% of the storyline mapped out. It’s a big cliché to say so, but for me the characters really do come to life and do things which I hadn’t anticipated. For the first few books I found it a little unnerving to be starting to write something that I didn’t know pretty well 100% what was going to happen, but now I trust myself and I know I’ll get to the end if I let the characters lead the way!
Lisa Louise Cooke: Where do you get your inspiration for the story lines in your books?
Nathan: My ideas come from a variety of sources, but never by actively searching for the next story; I just seem to stumble on a nugget of an idea, which I think could make for an interesting genealogical crime mystery and make a note of it! It can be a news story involving history or genealogy in some way, something I’ve picked up from a family history publication, or a Facebook group where people share their own genealogical mysteries.
Increasingly, the books have more real-life characters, plotlines and locations. For example, The Spyglass File, which is set on the frontline of Kent during the Battle of Britain, was loosely based on my grandmother’s story, whereby she gave birth to an illegitimate child in 1943, whom she put up for adoption whilst my grandfather was a POW in Thailand.
Nathan’s Grandmother – Photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
The Sterling Affair is based on nefarious goings-on during the 1950s and involves real undercover MI6 operations and real spies. The idea for this story came from the National Archives newsletter, which mentioned the release of some previously closed MI6 records. This got me thinking about someone trying to conceal their real identity and Morton having to use his skills to work out who he might be!
Lisa Louise Cooke: For those new to your books, they will see that this is the eighth novel in the series and wonder if it’s too late to join in. Can the book be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel?
Nathan: I always say that the books can be read as a stand-alone, but you would be missing out on Morton’s backstory. However, with The Sterling Affair there is not too much given away about his own past, so, of all of the stories, this is the most readable out of sequence!
Lisa Louise Cooke: When you’re not writing about Morton Farrier, what is your favorite way to spend free time?
Nathan: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘free time’!? Obviously, I spend a lot of time on genealogy. I’ve been researching my own family for thirty years now and I feel very fortunate to be able to combine my two loves of writing and genealogy. Aside from that, I enjoy reading, running, skiing, theatre and spending time with my family, friends and dog.
Lisa Louise Cooke: You’re a man of many talents. Do you have other “wishlist” projects you yearn to do in addition to writing?
Nathan: I enjoy photography and would like to develop that at some point in the future and I really would like to take a watercolour painting class at some point. I just need some of that free time you mentioned!
A man of many talents – Photography by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Nathan: I shall have a booth at RootsTech SLC this year signing books and also at THE Genealogy Show in Birmingham once again. So people can come and say hello and let me know what they think of my stories. I love chatting with my readers!
Hear More from Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Read and hear more from genealogical author Nathan Dylan Goodwin in the following exclusive Genealogy Gems content:
Once again, this week’s newest genealogical records to come online don’t disappoint. As I compiled this list for you this week, I jumped with joy as I discovered records that confirm the stories of my youth.
Like many families, mine is complicated. After my paternal grandparents divorced in 1956, my grandmother married her ex-husband’s brother in 1958.
Uncle Elzie and Grandmother Pauline Moore
Elzie Moore was not only my great uncle, but my step-grandfather (if there is such a thing.) As a child all I knew was that I was lucky to have what amounted to three grandfathers, although we respectfully called him “Uncle Elzie”.
This photo very much represents how I remember him:
Pauline and Elzie Moore Thanksgiving 1974
He was devoted to my grandmother and ready to help whenever needed.
But well before I was born, he was ready to help his country when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941.
Elzie Moore in 1941.
He didn’t talk much about it, but I remember the day I was sitting on his lap examining his face. I asked him about the prominent scar on the side of his chin. He laughingly told me a variety of wild hair-brained stories as to how he got it. He then simply and quietly told me he had been shot during the war. That was that.
The story was later confirmed by my dad, who went on to explain that was just one of several wounds Uncle Elzie sustained through a heroic career.
And now, so many decades later, the details from the records themselves appear on my screen. In the WWII Hospital Admission Card Files released this month by Ancestry, I discovered not one but three different admission records.
The first was the admission record for that chin injury. He was admitted to the hospital in July of 1944 for a facial wound by a “bullet, missile” sustained in battle. He was discharged in September 1944 and sent back to the front line.
WWI Hospital Admission Records at Ancestry.com
The next record was an admission in November 1944 (although there appears to be a discrepancy in the transcription because the discharge date is listed as May 1944.) This time his injuries were shells and fragments to the thigh, buttock and hip in battle.
When working with these records it’s important to closely examine the service number listed. The third record had also matched “Elzie Moore” which you wouldn’t think was a common name. However, closer inspection revealed a different service number – he was not the same man.
Check the service number to confirm you have the right person.
Though the man himself rarely spoke of his service, the genealogy gems I found today in the records speak volumes. I’m grateful to have more of the story behind the “Purple Heart” inscription that appears on his grave marker.
Elzie Cecil Moore grave marker
I hope this week’s list below brings you new genealogy gems!
“The Household Examination Books are the primary source for researching the lives of individuals and families throughout the Parishes of Sweden, from the late 1600’s until modern times. The books were created and kept by the Swedish Lutheran Church which was tasked with keeping the official records of the Swedish population until 1991.
Each book or series of books represents a 3-10 year period of time within a parish. Every year until 1894 the Parish Priest would visit each home and test each individual’s knowledge of the catechism. They would also collect information about birth dates, marriages, deaths, where people had moved to or from, etc. Each year the priest would come back and update the information of the previous year, noting changes within the population of the home. After 1894 the examinations were less focused on doctrinal knowledge and more focused on enumerating the Swedish population.”
The British Newspaper Archive
“This week we are delighted to welcome 71,598 additional pages to The Archive, as well as five brand new titles. Two of these titles, the Wakefield Express and the South Notts Echo, originate in England, while the other three, the Leinster Reporter, the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald, and the Times of India are spread out across Ireland, Wales and India respectively.”
Years added: 1897-1925, 1927-1928
Caernarvon & Denbigh Herald
Years added: 1850-1872, 1874-1877, 1897
Times of India
Years added: 1861-1865, 1867-1888
Years added: 1879, 1892, 1897-1898, 1902, 1911, 1918
South Notts Echo
Years added: 1919-1923, 1927-1939
What Have You Found this Week?
Did you find some genealogy gems in any of these new records? We’d love to hear your story. Please leave a comment below.
And if you enjoyed this article we’d be grateful if you shared it on Facebook and other social media to help other family historians. You’ll find convenient sharing buttons at the top of this article. Thank you!
New genealogical records continue to pour on line. This week we’re highlighting the latest from FamilySearch and MyHeritage. We’re crossing our fingers that the records you’ve been waiting for are among them. Happy searching!
FamilySearch New Records
SALT LAKE CITY, UT—FamilySearch.org added over 8 million new, free,historical records from WWII Draft Registration Cards(1940-1947) and Lincolnshire, England, Parish Registers (1538-1990). The military records are from California, Kansas, Montana, Oregon and Texas. More indexed records were added from Australia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.
Historical Books – Index of Authors and People Mentioned, 1811–2003
Description: An index of persons mentioned in various English-language public domain books as well as the names of authors of these publications. This collection of 494 million records is an index of persons mentioned in various English-language public domain books as well as the names of authors of these publications. The number of digitized books is over 3 million. The following searchable information can be found in most records in the index: the title and the year of publication, name of the author(s), birth and death year of the author(s), the names of all the individuals mentioned in the publication, the publisher, and the subject(s) of the publication.
Number of Records: 494,096,291 records in 3,024,213 books
Authors of Scholarly Articles
Description: Names of authors of millions of scholarly articles. This collection of 272 million records includes the names of authors of millions of scholarly articles. Authors’ names are collected from over 50,000 journals and open-access repositories from all over the world. Records typically include the given name and surname of authors and co-authors, the article’s title and date, the name of the journal, and the name of its publisher. For some of the articles, a link is provided to view the article online.
Number of Records: 272,046,994 records
Texas Marriages and Divorces
Description: An index of marriage license applications from all counties in the state of Texas for the years 1966 to 2016. This collection was updated and now contains 26 million records.
Number of Records: 26,591,435 records
France, Military Death Index, 1914–1961
Description: An index of death records of individuals who died fighting in the French armed forces, members of foreign armed forces who died fighting in France, and civilians who were killed in France.
This free collection of 5 million records is an index of death records of individuals who died fighting in the French armed forces, members of foreign armed forces who died fighting in France, and civilians who were killed in France. The majority of the records pertain to the First World War, although there are also records from the Second World War, the Franco-Prussian War, and various other conflicts that occurred in France or that involved the French armed forces. Records may contain the following searchable information: first and last name of the individual, date and place of birth, date and place of death, burial place, and the first and last names of the individual’s parents and spouse.
The following information may also be found in most records: rank and regiment, company, conflict, military decorations, additional notes on locations, and the individual’s family situation.
Number of Records: 5,332,260 records
Germany, Hesse Marriage Index, 1849–1931
Description: An index of marriage records from several communities that are within the state of Hesse in Germany.
This collection of 4.77 million records includes marriage records from several communities within the state of Hesse in Germany. Marriages were usually recorded in the bride’s place of residence. When the information is available a record will include the groom’s given name and surname, age or birthdate, birthplace, residence, occupation, marriage date, and information about the groom’s parents. A record will also include the bride’s given name and surname or maiden name, age or birthdate, birthplace, residence, occupation, and information about the bride’s parents.
Starting in 1874, the state mandated that new local civil registry offices be responsible for creating civil registers of birth, marriage, and death records in the former Prussian provinces, among them many communities in Hesse.
Number of Records: 4,770,560 records
Germany, Hesse Birth Index, 1874–1911
Description: An index of birth records from several communities that are within the state of Hesse in Germany.
This collection of 3.78 million records includes birth records from several communities within the state of Hesse in Germany. When the information is available a record will include the child’s given name, the date of a birth, and sex. Information about the mother includes given name, maiden name, last name, address, and spouse. Information is also provided about the informant. An informant was often the father of the child or a midwife.
Number of Records: 3,784,938 records
This is the next installment in our U.S. newspaper collections. We have added 14.6 million pages from nine states: Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, and Tennessee. The newspapers in this update range in date from the late 19th/early 20th century to 2009.
Newspapers are an important resource for genealogy and family history research as they contain obituaries and other vital record substitutes such as birth, marriage, and death notices. Additionally, society pages and stories of local interest contain rich information on activities and events in the community and often provide details about the persons involved.
Before vital records were recorded by city, county, or state governments, local newspapers often published articles listing or detailing these events. Obituaries contain vital and biographical information on the deceased as well as his or her family and relatives.
Society pages began as a way to entice readers with gossip and news about the wealthy and famous but soon evolved to cover the goings-on of “average” citizens. An incredible array of information can be discovered in these society pages or sections from seemingly mundane notices and reports on events such as parties, job changes, hospital stays, and social visits by friends or relatives. These pages are a source of historical events that are unlikely to exist in any other record.
Coverage and completeness in this collection varies by title.
Description: This collection is a compendium of over 8 million newspaper pages from 25 newspaper titles published in various cities and towns in the state of Florida. Time frame: 1901 to 2009. Number of Records: 8,084,846 pages in 25 newspaper titles
Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Illinois. Time frame: 1840 until 2009. Number of Records: 83,452 pages in 14 newspaper titles
Description: This collection of 1.4 million newspaper pages is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Kansas. Time frame: 1869 to 2009. Number of Records: 1,473,037 pages in 39 newspaper titles
Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Minnesota. Time frame: 1902 until 2009. Number of Records: 92,171 pages in 26 newspaper titles
Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Montana. Time frame: 1890 until 2009. Number of Records: 155,210 pages in 94 newspaper titles
Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Oklahoma. Time frame: 1927 to 2009. Number of Records: 521,793 pages in 14 newspaper titles
Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Tennessee. Time frame: 1870 until 2009. Number of Records: 66,994 pages in 8 newspaper titles
Description: This collection of 1.2 million records is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Texas. Time frame: 1848 to 2009. Number of Records: 1,254,230 pages in 33 newspaper titles
Description: This collection of 2.8 million newspaper pages is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Wisconsin. Time frame: 1884 to 2009. Number of Records: 2,887,946 pages in 3 newspaper titles
Searching all of these collections in MyHeritage SuperSearch™ is free, but a Data or Complete subscription is required to view the full records, save them to your family tree, and fully access Record Matches. Our Record Matching technology will automatically find relevant historical records revealing new information about any ancestors who appear in these records.
The Federation of Genealogists annual conference will be held in Kansas City, Missouri on September 2 – 5, 2020. I’ll be there and I hope you will be too. Watch our #FGS2020 page here to learn more about my activities at #FGS2020.
If you’re planning to attend, now is the time to book your hotel reservation. Rooms can fill up very quickly.
Here are all the details from the press release from the folks at the Federation of Genealogical Societies.
HOTEL RESERVATIONS NOW OPEN FOR THE FGS 2020 CONFERENCE IN KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
*1/11/2020** – Austin, TX*.
FGS is pleased to announce that hotel reservations are now open for the 2020 Conference to be held in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Kansas City Marriott Downtown is now taking reservations for the 2020 FGS Family History Conference, “Blazing Trails in the Heart of America” The conference will be held September 2-5, 2020. This hotel is set in the heart of the downtown district and connects via walkway to the Kansas City Convention Center where the conference will be held.
FGS 2020 Conference room rates are available Saturday August 29, 2020 until Tuesday September 8, 2020 (subject to availability). Reservations must be made by August 3, 2020 to secure the conference rate.
Kansas City Marriott Downtown
200 West 12th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64105
Full details and links for FGS discounted reservations can be found on the FGS website here.
Screen shot of FGS conference website.
Conference hotels fill up quickly, so it is not too early to make reservations. We look forward to seeing you in Kansas City!
About the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)
The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) was founded in 1976 and empowers the genealogical and family history community, especially its societies and organizations, by advocating for the preservation and access of records and providing resources that enable genealogical organizations to succeed in pursuing their missions.
FGS helps genealogical societies and family history enthusiasts alike to strengthen and grow through online resources, *FGS FORUM *magazine, and through its annual national conference which provides four days of excellent learning opportunities for both societies and family history enthusiasts.
FGS launched the Preserve the Pensions project in 2010 to raise more than $3 million to digitize and make freely available the pension files from the War of 1812. Fundraising was completed for that project in 2016 and the digitization continues. FGS was also the driving force behind the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors project alongside the National Parks Service.
The Genealogy Gems Podcast is the leading genealogy and family history show. Launched in 2007, the show is hosted by genealogy author, keynote presenter, and video producer Lisa Louise Cooke. The podcast can be found in all major podcasting directories, or download the exclusive Genealogy Gems Podcast app to listen to all the episodes and receive bonus content.
We are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Genealogy Gems app. We blazed a new trail back in 2010 when we launched the app – apps were still really new back then. I loved the idea of having a way to deliver exclusive bonus content to you as well as the audio, the show notes and best of all an easy way for you to contact me and the show.
It’s more popular than ever, and as far as I know we are still the only genealogy podcast app available. If you haven’t already downloaded it just search for Genealogy Gems in Google Play or Apple’s App Store, or get the right app for your phone or tablet here.
In this episode I have two interviews for you on very different subjects. First up will be a follow up to last month’s episode where we focused specifically on the New York Public Library Photographers’ Identities Catalog.
Well, in this episode we’re going to talk to the genealogy reference librarian at the New York Public Library, Andy McCarthy. And as you’ll hear, there are a massive amount of resource available there for genealogists everywhere.
Then we’ll switch gears to Scandinavian genealogy with David Fryxell, author of the new book The Family Tree Scandinavian Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Ancestors in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
Click here to visit the New York Public Library’s Online Catalog.
While they subscribe to many genealogy databases, they don’t host many. Use the catalog to determine what’s available, and what to ask for. See if what you’re looking for exists. Pay close attention to subject headings to identify resources.
#3 The Digital Collections
Click here to visit the Digital Collections at the New York Public Library.
City Directory Collection up to 1933.
Manhattan is the largest and is coming soon. This collection was only available previously on microfilm. It is a browse-only collection (not keyword searchable)
The 1940 Phone Directory is online.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map collection is digitized and online.
The Map Wharper which is a crowd-sourcing project providing for historic map overlays, and super zooming in views.
They also have a massive collection available in house of books, pamphlets, newspapers, etc. There are research and photo copying services available.
#4 Research Guides online
Click here to view the New York Public Library’s research guides.
Before you go:
Definitely reach out before you go.
Provide them with specific questions and they can help you identify what to focus on while you’re there.
Visit the Milstein home page. They also have many public classes. Check to see what will be available during your visit.
One of Andy’s Favorites Collections
The Photographic Views of NYC Collection. Arranged by cross streets
David is an award-winning author, editor, speaker and publishing consultant. He founded Family Tree Magazine, the nation’s leading genealogy publication. As a writing expert, he wrote the Nonfiction column for Writer’s Digest magazine for more than a decade and served as director of the famous Maui Writer’s Retreat. He has authored countless articles for Family Tree Magazine, and is also the author of additional books including Good Old Days, My Ass and MicroHistory: Ideas and inventions that made the modern world.
Author David Fryxell
Here’s a brief outline of my Q&A with David Fryxell on his new book and Scandinavian genealogy research:
To understand the ties between the Scandinavian countries, and why countries like Finland and Iceland aren’t included, we have to learn about the cultures and languages, right?
Scandinavian countries are really tied by language. And at one point all the countries were united. Borders change. The records reflect these various changes.
What’s the timeline of Scandinavian immigration?
The First Wave, 1825–1860
The Second Wave, 1865–1880
The Third Wave, 1880–1924
What value do you think DNA testing provides, and what should we keep in mind if we do test?
DNA results are most helpful to find other relatives who may be able to assist in your research.
Let’s say we know we’ve identified the ancestor who immigrated. What else do we need to know before we can jump the pond and start digging into Scandinavian records?
In the case of Scandinavian ancestors, you may not have to find the U.S. passenger records. They have excellent passenger departure records.
Tell us about the census in Scandinavia. Is it consistent among all three countries?
Norway and Denmark have good census records. You can find them at:
Monday, January 13th. Today is the anniversary of the first radio broadcast to the public. It took place 110 years ago in New York City, engineered by Lee deForest, a radio pioneer and inventor of the electron tube.
The 1910 broadcast wasn’t made from a purpose-built radio studio, but from the Metropolitan Opera house. DeForest broadcast the voices of Enrico Caruso and other opera singers. A small but impressed audience throughout the city gathered around special receivers to listen with headphones.
Today, 95 percent of American households have at least one radio.
One-hundred ten years after deForest’s lonely effort, some 5,400 radio stations employ about 92,000 people.