Genealogy Gems Book Club: Q & A with Genealogist Nathan Dylan Goodwin, Author of The Sterling Affair

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. 

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Click here to purchase your copy of The Sterling Affair

Genealogy Gems The Sterling Affair by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. Click image to order your copy.

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!

Lisa Louise Cooke: The Sterling Affair is your eighth novel in the Morton Farrier genealogical crime mystery series. When you first began writing the series did you imagine an eighth book?  And today can you imagine even more?

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!

The Sterling Affair - a genealogical crime mystery

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.

 

Novel Research - photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin

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 Dylan Goodwin Genealogy Gems Podcast

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!

Photography by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

A man of many talents – Photography by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Lisa Louise Cooke: I’ll be at RootsTech again this year. Will we see you there?

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:

  1. Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 features an Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin author of The Lost Ancestor.
  2. Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 179 features a discussion of The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
  3. Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin: Genealogy Gems Book Club – In this article from 2015 Nathan discusses the second book in the Morton Farrier series, The Lost Ancestor. 
  4. Listen to the full-length Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, as he discusses The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 125 (exclusive for Genealogy Gems Premium Members.)
  5. Listen to our interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin about his The Wicked Trade and The Suffragette’s Secret in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 159 (exclusive for Genealogy Gems Premium Members.

Catch up on the Morton Farrier

Learn more about the entire book series featuring Morton Farrier here in this Genealogy Gems Book Club article. 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 230

with Lisa Louise Cooke
June 2019

Listen now, click player below:

Download the episode (mp3)

In this episode:

  • The story of Roy Thran
  • Writing your story with author Karen Dustman
  • Lisa’s adventures in England

Download the show notes PDF

Please take our quick PODCAST SURVEY which will take less than 1 minute.  Thank you!

GEM: The Story of Roy Thran

Have you thought about telling the story of your personal history? Most of us have at some point, but it can seem easier to research the stories of our ancestors than to weave together our own. I’ve spoken to a lot of genealogists through the years and I often hear comments like “My story isn’t all that interesting or important.” But nothing could be farther from the truth.

When we don’t tell our own story, we not only take a big risk that the memory of our life will be lost down the generations, but we rob our family and our community of an important piece of their history.

Karen Dustman is the author of the book Writing a Memoir, from Stuck to Finished! She’s been helping folks capture and record their stories for several years in her community in the Sierra Nevada, which spans Central and Eastern California into Western Nevada. She’s known widely there as a local historian, writing on her blog and in the local newspaper about the history of the area.

  Writing a Memoir from Stuck to Finished! by Karen Dustman

It was actually Karen’s story of the history an old house in the Carson Valley that shed light on the fact that one of its inhabitants was at risk of being forgotten. And no one wants to be forgotten.

In this episode, we travel back to 1925 to a sparsely populated ranching community to hear the story of 10-year-old Roy Thran. We’ll hear about his life and death, and how his story tentatively made its way through the generations of the family in one simple box all the way to the hands of his great grand-niece Krista Jenkins.

It was Krista who connected the all-important dots, eventually culminating in a museum exhibit that is now telling an important part of the Carson Valley history and touching the lives of its residents. In addition to Karen Dustman, you’ll hear from Krista Jenkins herself and Carson Valley Museum trustee Frank Dressel. My hope is that Roy’s story will transform your thinking about sharing your own story.

PART ONE: The Missing Boy

Last Fall, Krista Jenkins stumbled upon an article featuring a house she knew well. It was the home her grandmother grew up in, a beautiful white two-story home nestled on a ranch in Gardnerville, about an hour south of her home in Reno, Nevada.

The blog post called The Tale of the Thran House – and an Old Trunk was written by Karen Dustman, a local area historian and author.

It featured the story of Dick and Marie Thran, German immigrants who came to the Carson Valley in the late 19th century, and the four children they raised there, including Krista’s grandmother, Marie.

What jumps out at many readers about the blog post is the photograph of the beautifully restored German steamer trunk complete with heavy black ornate hardware, very likely the trunk that Krista’s great-grandmother had traveled with from the old country. The trunk had been discovered by the current owners in an old shed on the property, dirty and filled with auto parts.

But for Krista Jenkins, what jumped out was what was missing from the story: a little boy named Roy, the 5th and surviving Thran child.

Author Karen Dustman explains how the two women connected.

Karen: “I had mentioned the names of the four surviving children of this couple who lived in this house. But this relative reached out to me and said, ‘Did you know that there was this other child that they had named Roy?’

I was really curious, so we got in touch. She told me not only about Roy and his life, but that she had this amazing box. The family had kept this little boy’s possessions all these years after he died, and she had become the custodian of this box. So, she asked if I wanted to see it and of course I wanted to see it!”

The box contained the young Roy Thran’s childhood, a time capsule of sorts filled with the books, toys, and trinkets representing his interests and activities. In a sense, it was a boy in a box.

The Boy in the Box Roy Thran Story

PART TWO: The Birth of Roy Thran

Roy Thran was born Wednesday, June 10, 1925.

The folks in the Carsen Valley of Nevada were flocking to the new Tom Mix movie North of Hudson Bay playing at the Rex theater in town.

Tom Mix movie - Roy Thran Story

And everyone was looking forward to the big Carsen Valley Day Dance to be held that Saturday night at the CVIC Hall in Minden. Everyone, that is, except Anna Sophia Marie Thran, simply known as Marie. (Photo below)

Anna Maria Sophia Dieckhoff

A native of Hannover, Germany, Marie was in the last weeks of her pregnancy and was happy to deliver before the hot summer weather was in full swing.

She had reason to be apprehensive about this birth for several reasons. A 48-year-old mother of four, she was on borrowed maternity time with this late arrival. Her last surviving child was born in 1901 and since then she had suffered the loss of three more children, including little Katie Frieda who lived just three months.

Marie’s husband Diedrich Herman Thran (photo below), known around town as Dick, was 14 years her senior. Also a Hannover native, according to the 1900 census, Dick had immigrated in 1881 and became a naturalized citizen.Diedrich Herman Richard Dick Thran

Dick saved the money he earned working for ranchers in the area and at the age of 30 returned to Germany to find himself a wife.

In 1895 he returned with seven other Germans and most importantly, the beautiful Anna Sophia Marie Dieckhoff, his fiancé, on his arm. Within the month they exchanged vows at the home of Dietrich’s brother Herman. That was back on another lovely June day, the 29th of June 1895 on which the hard-working Dick presented her with a lavish wedding gift: a beautiful horse and buggy.

Lying there in her bed in the enchanting white two-story home on Dressler Lane fashioned after the grand homes of their native land, Marie gave birth to their son in 1925.

Author and local Carsen Valley historian Karen Dustman: “Roy’s birth must have been quite a surprise for Marie, especially after losing three children in the intervening years. I’m guessing it was a very happy surprise this late in life, and he was certainly welcomed into the family. They had a christening ceremony for him at the local Lutheran church on June 21, 1925, so eleven days after he was born.”

Thran descendant Krista Jenkins: “Because Roy was a late baby, my great-grandmother coveted this little guy. It was the joy of their life at this point.”

Roy with his mother, Marie Thran, c summer 1927

Roy’s childhood 

Roy grew up like many sons in the Carsen Valley at that time, likely carrying some responsibilities around the ranch, but also living a fairly free-range life. Historian Karen Dustman explains:

“Roy was born and grew up in the late 1920s and early 1930s, so he would have been part of a wonderful rural farming community here. And of course, he would have lived in the beautiful Thran house on his parents’ dairy ranch. And both of his parents were German as we talked about from the old country, so I imagine they were a little bit strict. And I would imagine he would have had chores to do on the ranch. But as the baby of the family, I’m picturing him doing less than the other kids in terms of chores. He went to the elementary school in Minden nearby where he would have gotten to know all the other ranchers’ kids.”

In the Thran family a few handed-down stories confirm this.

Krista: “It was your typical ranching family in the early 1900s where everybody pitched in and worked. And little Roy came along, and he was handed down the little toys that somebody else had in the family. And from descriptions that we’ve been told as far as my generation, is that he was just a happy-go-lucky little kid, liked to pitch in and work, and just very kind of a jolly good little guy.

He got relatively good grades in school and was conscientious, and just kind of the love of my great-grandmother and grandfather’s life at that point.”

But it’s really the box of Roy’s possessions that tell us a more complete story of his childhood.

“He had those classic metal toy trucks to play with and watercolor paints. We know that he played Tiddledy Winks with his friends, and marbles. One of the other things that he had as an item in his box was a homemade sling shot that somebody had carved out of a fork branch, so I can picture him out there trying to hit things with the sling shot.

Roy Thran Box Toy Car

We know that he played baseball, and someone had hand-carved a wooden baseball bat for him, if you can imagine. It wasn’t even perfectly round. It had these flat sides on the baseball bat so you can imagine it must have been really hard to hit the ball in a straight line.

Roy Thran bat and sling shot

And then one of his sweetest possessions that I really like is he had a stuffed toy rabbit that he must have carried around as a toddler. And it looks like one of those homemade things. Women back then used to buy a printed pattern that was on cotton cloth, and they’d cut it out and stuff it. The moms would sew around the edges and put stuffing inside. And this was a really stained and well-worn toy, so I just picture him carrying around this little stuffed rabbit as a child.”

Roy was also enamored with the great aviators of the day. He joined the Jimmy Allen Flying Club for kids, which came with an official acceptance letter, a bronze pin featuring “flying cadet” wings, and a silver pilot’s bracelet.

Jimmie Allen Flying Ace 1930

Jimmie Allen Book

In the box was also a treasured pint-sized version of the aviator cap that Charles Lindbergh wore on his history-making solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.

The Premonition

One day in 1935, ten-year-old Roy entered the kitchen where his mother was working. But this was no ordinary day.

Roy Thran at school 1931

Krista: “Well, the story in the family is that my great grandmother was in the kitchen with my grandmother (her daughter), and little Roy walked in and my great-grandmother kind of shrieked a little bit, and written across his forehead was something in the order of ‘I won’t be here much longer.’”

Sometime after this unusual event, early on the afternoon of August 6, 1935 Roy headed over to his friend Henry Cordes’ home to pick up some Sunday school papers that he had left in the car. While visiting, Roy and Henry’s older brother, twelve-year-old Roy Cordes decided to head out on horseback for a ride. Around 4:00 they stopped to eat lunch and then, even though by all accounts from the family Roy hated water, they decided to make their way to the dam on the Carson River to go swimming.

According to Roy Cordes’s account of the event to the local newspaper, “After undressing Roy Cordes admonished his chum to be careful because the water near the dam was deep. The words were hardly out of his mouth when his chum stepped into deep water and disappeared. Neither of the boys could swim, but young Cordes made a heroic attempt to save his companion and came within an ace of losing his own life as he frantically grabbed for his chum.”

Record Courier Roy Thran Drowning headline

Realizing that he was helpless to save his friend, young Cordes hurriedly dressed, mounted his horse and rode at top speed into the home of his father and notified him of the tragic event. Mr. Cordes drove to the Thran ranch, telling the parents of the boy what had happened.

Krista: “Subsequently my Uncle, which would be Roy’s brother Carl, jumped in and he’s the one who found Roy’s body. And they pulled it out on the bank and tried CPR for quite a while, and it wasn’t working. So, he passed away there. But Roy’s brother Carl is the one who drug him out.”

(Image below: Roy Thran’s death certificate)

roy thran death certificate

PART THREE: A Life in a Box

After Roy’s tragic death, Roy’s mother Marie carefully collected not only his prized possessions like the aviator’s cap, but also some of the last things he would have personally used like his school slate and a small collection of books. They were placed in a box, and by all family accounts, Roy wasn’t spoken of again. That is, until years and generations later.

Krista: “When my Grandmother Marie’s brother died, who was Carl, who was also the brother of Roy, he died in the early 80s I believe, my grandmother was in the family house, and they were cleaning out the belongings in this house. And that was where she was raised, and of course Carl was also, and Roy. (Photo: Roy’s sister and Krista’s grandmother Marie Thran Cordes)

Roy Thran's Sister Marie

In the back portion of my great-grandmother’s closet was this box. My mom was there along with my aunt. And my grandmother came out of this closet area, and we don’t know why, gave this box to my mother with the instructions ‘make sure Krista gets this box.’ And so, they went on about their business. My mom, whenever we got together shortly after that, my mom said, ‘Oh, I have something for you from Grandma.’ So, it was this box, and we started going through it. And at that time, I didn’t know that little Roy had ever existed.”

In such a short period of time, one leaf on the family tree had grown dangerously close to being forgotten. And Krista learned very quickly how important it was to gather the stories of her elders.

Krista: “We started going through all of his belongings, and we kind of pieced together this story, and that’s when we kind of started figuring out ‘Oh my God!’ My mom remembered because she was told the story as a little girl growing up that these were Roy’s belongings.

You know, as time went on, the funny thing, and maybe this is what happened in these prior generations, is nobody really talked about Roy. In fact, I just read an article that my grandmother was interviewed in a long time ago, and she spoke of growing up and working on the ranch and such, and she didn’t even mention Roy. So it’s just maybe that generation was, you know, ‘He passed away,’ and they just parked him. Or again, speculation, maybe that was such a traumatic event for the family that they just decided to park it. That could be a generational thing that long ago. But it’s not like, you know, ‘Talk about Roy!’ It was just never really brought up.”

(Click here to read the article about Marie Thran Cordes.)

Over the years Krista kept the box and gathered the remaining family stories about Roy, really restoring him to the family tree. So, on the day that she came across Karen Dustman’s article about the Thran house, she seized the opportunity to restore him to the community’s history.

Karen: “She was wanting to know if I’d be willing to write a story about Roy and his box. And also, whether our local museum would be interested in maybe doing an exhibit of his things. So, we arranged to meet up at the museum with the museum curator, and thankfully Gail is wonderful. She was as excited and thrilled as I was about the box. And I said I would of course love to do a follow up story about Roy and his box. Gail welcomed the idea of an exhibit at the museum and made the arrangements and space for it to happen.”

Taking items on loan rather than as a donation was a rare occurrence for the Carson Valley Museum. But Museum Curator Gail Allen felt it was worth a closer look, and Douglas County Historical Society Trustee Frank Dressel whole-heartedly agreed.

Frank Dressel: “Krista brought the box in and they kind of analyzed the different things, the different artifacts of Roy’s, as far as with his childhood, the stuff that was in the box that they found in the attic. It’s a local story. It’s a great story. The box has all kinds of treasures as far as this life of Roy Thran.”

Krista: “And as I started bringing stuff out of this box, everybody was enamored. They were just like “Oh, my God!” And it just sort of fell into place.”

Frank: “And they weren’t ready to donate it to the museum. And the big thing about the museum is that we don’t like to take things on loan because of the responsibility and everything else. But with this being a local exhibit, what we decided to do was to have it on exhibit at the museum for a year.”

Karen: “Krista and her aunt Lois Thran worked together to assemble the exhibit and physically put it in place. There was also a curator who was really, really helpful and she involved an exhibit’s coordinator to help get the display cases arranged and do what he could. But really it was the two family members who put the display together and did a beautiful job. They have two tall glass cases devoted just to his exhibit, which is really a tremendous amount of space. And it’s this little snapshot in time of just amazing things. The people who have come to look at it have just been so impressed with the exhibit. They did a beautiful job of it.”

Krista: “My aunt, who’s my mother’s sister, her name is Lois Thran, she had a florist business for a long time. In fact, it’s still in the family. Her granddaughter is running it now.  And so, my aunt is just really good at putting things together. I mean, I can put stuff on a shelf, but my aunt kind of has that ability to design. My mom lives in Reno, and I asked my aunt, and she’s like ‘Yeah, I’ll help you!’ So, we put stuff there, and she’d go behind and she’d rearrange it, and she’d look at it and rearrange it. So, we didn’t just put stuff on a shelf. My aunt just kept moving things around and moving things around, and it just had some continuity. And that’s why we kind of drug her along. That and the fact that this was her uncle, really, and she got to participate in his story too.”

Roy’s story was quickly becoming the family’s – and the community’s – story. His childhood possessions are transforming how people think about the importance of the story of every life, even one that spanned only a decade.

The exhibit drives home the idea that everyone’s story is important, and really connected to everyone else’s story. You can just hear the enthusiasm in Frank Dressel’s voice as he describes and connects with the items that were so precious to Roy Thran.

Frank: “Well you know the big thing that caught me was the hand-written letter to a friend, looking forward to him visiting over the summer vacation and such. It’s just, that‘s how they communicated back then. And you can just tell how excited he was about his friend coming to visit for the summertime.

You know, the way kids are raised today with cell phones and everything like that, this boy didn’t have any of that back then. You know, it just shows the lifestyle here in the Carson Valley.”

Krista: “This is such a small community and you know life as we know it is changing on a daily basis. The old timers are leaving us, and it’s important, I think, that we don’t lose sight of history of our own families, or the history of the area that you’re living in.”

Karen: “I was really touched that the family wanted Roy’s story to be told and I was just really pleased that I was able to share his story and put that up on the blog. But the really big contribution was by the family coming forward and sharing his story. I just thought it was neat that this tragic event ultimately had a really positive outcome.”

Resources:

The Douglas County Historical Society,
1477 Old US 395 N Suite B
Gardnerville, NV 89410
http://historicnv.org

The free podcast is sponsored by:

 

GEM: Writing Family Stories with Author Karen Dustman

Karen Dustman

Why she wrote the book and what she hoped hope people would get out of it:
As a way to share her experience in sharing oral histories. After her mother’s unexpected death, she regretted not collecting more of her mother’s stories.
“It’s important, don’t wait. Get it done while you can” Karen Dustman

Everyone has great stories to tell. How do you help people find them?
Your family wants to the know the simple stories of how things happened, like how you met your spouse.

Involve a second person, someone who can ask you questions. Ask them what they would like to know about her life.

Why do you think stories are so healing?
You have a chance to look back and put things in perspective, which can be very freeing. As time passes the sweetness comes out. Remember, it’s not just one tragic event, but it’s a whole lifetime of events.

It can also be a way to take the monsters out of the closet. In Roy’s case, the family was able to go from sorrow and bitter grief (literally, all kept in a box!) to finding a way to celebrate and share his life. It was so good. Like they hadn’t known what to do with this sad tale, and now everyone finally could breathe a sigh of relief. They were able to come together and make the exhibit happen.

For 20 DOLLARS off, visit storyworth.com/gems when you subscribe!

What are some of the most common stumbling blocks that people face in telling their own stories?
Often it is “Where do I start telling my story?”

Find one single story you are excited about, hopefully a happy one, to get you started and make the scope a little smaller. Finish that one story and then keep on going.

There are also the practical issues: what if you don’t type well? What are the mechanical difficulties?

Karen recommends:

“It’s so important to capture those stories while we still have family who can tell them.”

Karen recommends that you “picture the words flowing freely for themselves and seeing it happening.”

In the first chapter of her book she discusses getting your mental game in gear. Realize it is possible. Rehearse it in your mind, and picture it happening and the words flowing freely. Imagine that you’re going to have a good time!

Reach out for help and encouragement. If you can share a little piece of your writing, you will get tremendous feedback from people, which can give you motivation.

“Do it now because there’s really no legacy you can leave that’s more important than that.” 

Why did you create Clairitage Press?
My mom was the motivating reason. I tell her story in my Memoir book — how my one real sadness is that I never got her full story, because she died suddenly and quite unexpectedly. But then I did find 12 handwritten pages later that she had left among her papers, talking about her life, which are so precious.

Here is her story on Karen’s blog, and a photo of her as a child. Interestingly, she was about age 7 in this photo and she was born in December 1927, so this would have been taken roughly about the time that Roy Thran died!

The author of 10 local history books and many family histories, Karen says “I’m all about preserving history and honoring family.”

Visit Karen Dustman at Clairitage.com > Blog

Click here to order a copy of Karen’s book Writing a Memoir from Stuck to Finished!

 

The free podcast is sponsored by:

Rootsmagic

GEM: Lisa’s Recent Adventures in England

This month I keynoted at a brand new genealogy conference called THE Genealogy Show. It was held at the NEC in Birmingham, England, the same location where the Who Do You Think You Are? Live conference was held before it folded.

It was a success with hundreds of genealogists attending and Kirsty Gray and her board members including DearMYRTLE here in America are already planning the next conference for June 26 & 27 of 2020 in Birmingham

Mentioned in this Gem:

Nathan Dylan Goodwin Interviews and books

Nathan Dylan Goodwin and Lisa Louise Cooke

Michelle and Jennie
These two ladies were waiting for me at the entrance of my first session, Time Travel with Google Earth. (Also available on video with Premium membership.)

Podcast listeners in England 2019 The Genealogy Show

“My friend Jennie and I are addicted to your website, podcasts and all you teach. As we said [at] the show we are postgraduate Diploma Students at Strath and whenever we get stuck we say “what would Lisa do….” We are thrilled you came over to the UK and any chance we get we spread the word.”

Lorna Moloney
Owner of Merriman Research and producer and host of The Genealogy Radio show aired from Kilkee, Ireland on a weekly basis on Thursdays at 4 PM in Ireland and it’s available as a recorded podcast.

Lorna Moloney

Bill and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary at these lovely locations in England:

  • Blenheim Palace – Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
  • Chatsworth – Jane Austen’s inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s house in Pride and Prejudice.
  • Lyme Park – Used for the exterior shots of Mr. Darcy’s home, Pemberly, in the 1995 A&E Pride and Prejudice mini-series.
  • Sudbury Hall – Used for the interior shots of Pemberly.
  • Haddon Hall – Wonderful example of Tudor living. The Princess Bride and Pride and Prejudice filming location.
  • Kedleston Hall
  • Calke House –I’ll talk more about in the next Premium Podcast episode

We stayed at Dannah Farm Country House in Shottle, Derbyshire. Say “hi” to Joanne and Martin for me!

You can see photos and videos from my trip on my Instagram page.

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These UK Suffragette Records Tell Amazing Stories

UK suffragette records tell amazing stories about the women and men who fought the British government for women’s voting rights a century ago. Nathan Dylan Goodwin, the popular Genealogy Gems Book Club author, shares three of his favorite sources for discovering suffragette stories like the one that unfolds in his new short story, “The Suffragette’s Secret.”

Thanks to Genealogy Gems Book Club author Nathan Dylan Goodwin for contributing this guest blog post.

My new short story, “The Suffragette’s Secret,” features a fictional main character, Grace Emmerson, a suffragette living on the South Coast of England in Brighton. But many of the events and supporting characters described in the story are real. In the story, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier uses real historical documents while working in the modern day to uncover Grace’s suffragette past. Many of these historical records (over 55,000 of them) are now available online in the FindmyPast Suffragette Collection.

Morton and I would recommend spending some time browsing this fascinating collection from a pivotal moment in women’s history. Even if your own ancestors did not make the headlines, they may have been involved at a more local level. And the lives of both women and men in your family may have been affected by suffragette activity, whether or not they are mentioned by name in the records. So it is a collection definitely worth exploring.

UK suffragette records I love

1. Suffragette Amnesty register (HO 45/24665)

With the threat of war and its having become inevitable in August 1914, most of the dominant suffragette organizations, including the Women’s Social and Political Union suspended all militant activity. In response, the British government gave an amnesty to more than one thousand women (and some men) who had been arrested for the cause. Their amnesty records are part of the Findmypast Suffragette Collection and also searchable at Ancestry.com (if your subscription includes UK records).

Alongside the names of those arrested comes the date and court where the charge was originally brought – an excellent starting point for further research.

In “The Suffragette’s Secret,” I referenced the real-life case of Nellie Godfrey. In the Amnesty Register of 1914, her name and references appear thus in the image shown here (the links lead to Google Maps references of the Bow Street magistrate’s court):

Godfrey, Nellie
Bow Street 9/7/09 180.782
Bolton 8/12/1909 186.626
Bow Street 27/11/11 203.651

Taking the second reference as an example of where this record can lead, this shows that Nellie appeared on the 8th December 1909 before Bolton Magistrate’s Court. 

Searching for these criteria in Findmypast’s Suffragette Newspaper Collection brings up the following story: ‘Nellie Godfrey, of London, was charged at Bolton yesterday with throwing a missile at a motor car in which Mr [Winston] Churchill rode to his meeting on Tuesday night, and was fined 40s or seven days. Defendant went to prison. It was stated that the missile thrown was a piece of iron wrapped in a paper bearing the words “Thrown by a woman of England as a protest against the Government’s treatment of political prisoners.”’

For most of these records, further information exists at the National Archives. Prefixing the reference number with HO (for Home Office) and typing it into the document search box (HO 186626) on the National Archives website brings up a link to a document which details Nellie’s arrest and time in prison. (Unfortunately, these records are not yet digitized, but can be ordered.)

 

2. Calendar of Prisoners

These records, about suffragette prisoners who were tried in the London courts between 1911 and 1914, feature some of the prominent names from the movement, including the famous Pankhursts (one of whom is shown in the Calendar of Prisoners image below):

 

One record found in Crim 9/58 is that of Emily Wilding Davison, shown here. She was killed when she threw herself under the king’s horse at Epsom on 8th June 1913. Among several interesting details found in a document pertaining to an earlier arrest in December 1911 are to be found the following facts:

Emily Wilding Davison, 36, a tutor, arrested for ‘unlawfully and maliciously placing in a Post Office letter box a dangerous substance likely to injure the same and its contents and attempt to commit like offence.’ She was jailed at Holloway for six months.

This type of militancy, placing dye or some other kind of corrosive liquid into a letter box in order to render the letters inside illegible, was common among suffragettes and an act often making the local newspapers, which can be read about as part of the Suffragette Collection.

Further records for Emily Wilding Davison exist in the FindmyPast Suffragette Collection, including HO 144/1150/210696, which details several of her actions and subsequent convictions.

 

3. Suffragettes’ Complaints against Police (MEPO 3/203)

During my research for “The Suffragette’s Secret,” I visited the National Archives and accessed the Suffragette’s Complaints against Police, which was then not available online. At 286 pages, “Complaints against Police” provides an illuminating account of how the police handled a large group of suffragettes who had converged on Downing Street, intent on gaining access to the Prime Minister’s (Herbert Asquith) residence. A sample appears here, to the right.

The file includes several accounts from the perspective of the police involved, in which they all strenuously deny any harsh treatment of the women whom they encountered there. In contradiction to this are the numerous and varied statements from men and women involved in the altercation in which physical abuse and violence by the policemen was described as wide-spread, as this statement from the file attests:

‘About 2.15 in Parliament Square PC A.R.82 struck a Women’s Social & Political Union member in the face. At about 2.30 between Parliament Square and Cannon Row, almost opposite Palace Chambers, PC R.R.21 twisted the arm of and shook furiously a lady he had arrested. She was not resisting arrest. During the raid in Downing Street yesterday evening PC 449B got his knee into the middle of one woman’s back and knocked her down. PC 456E afterwards banged the same woman’s head repeatedly against the railings. I can produce my witness at any inquiry.’

This Suffragette Collection from FindmyPast contains a wealth of information useful to genealogists, social historians and those interested in women’s history. Other records available include cabinet papers, the treatment and force-feeding of political prisoners and various actions and imprisonments of the women men and men involved in the fight to gain the ability to vote.

Nathan Dylan Goodwin is one of our favorite Genealogy Gems Book Club authors! He’s a must-read for anyone who loves a good mystery–especially when the solving is led by a skilled (and very likable) forensic genealogist. Nathan first joined the Genealogy Gems Podcast to talk about his book The Lost Ancestor, but he now has several Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist books out. The newest one is a 2-for-1 bonus: “The Suffragette’s Secret,” the short story, is published with his new full-length book, The Wicked Trade. Click on these titles to order them–or check out all his books (and other great titles) on the Genealogy Gems Book Club webpage.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Genealogy Mystery Series to Die For: Genealogy Gems Book Club

May is Mystery Month, so the Genealogy Gems Book Club is spotlighting a favorite genealogical mystery series writer: Nathan Dylan Goodwin. In his latest, forensic researcher Morton Farrier finally confronts his own past.

We first met British novelist Nathan Dylan Goodwin when we featured his novel The Lost Ancestor in the Genealogy Gems Book Club. The hero, Morton Farrier, is a forensic genealogist. He’s dogged, thorough and totally likeable. Morton now appears in an entire series about his research adventures–both his professional ones and his personal ones. We think they’re all worth reading! Enjoy them individually–or grab the value bundle on Kindle.

Here’s the lowdown on the full series or Morton Farrier mysteries, in order:

Hiding the Past. In this debut novel, we meet British genealogist Morton Farrier. He’s tenacious and thorough, qualities that make him an excellent investigator–but put him in danger when he starts investigating the mysterious identity of Peter Coldrick. Despite the clear danger to himself and his tough-and-adorable fiance Juliet (a police officer), Morton won’t back off. Meanwhile, he learns a startling truth about his own roots.the lost ancestor genealogy gems book club

The Lost AncestorMorton is hired to find out what happened to his client’s great-aunt Mary, who disappeared without a trace a century ago while working as a maid at a grand English estate (gotta love the Downtown Abbey-style drama!). This is the book we featured in the Genealogy Gems Book Club, which Nathan talked about in the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 (free excerpt) and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast #124 (subscriber-only).

The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier novellaMorton confronts a long-standing mystery in his own family–one that leads him just a little closer to the truth about his personal origins. This Christmas-time tale flashes back to Christmas 1914: World War I, to a turning point in his relatives’ lives. Don’t miss it!

The America Ground. A no-man’s piece of land–formed from the sea as Hasting Harbor silted in–became home to a lawless neighborhood where a woman was killed more than 180 years ago. It falls to Morton Farrier to uncover her story. Distracted by the unfolding mystery of his own parentage, he doesn’t realize the danger he’s unwittingly stumbled into until it’s almost too late.

The Spyglass File: A Morton Farrier novellaA client’s unknown past leads Morton to a young woman’s secret mission during World War II. Her name ends up in the mysterious Spyglass File, a subject so dangerous that Morton has bad guys after him as soon as he starts prying. He may or may not get kidnapped right before he’s supposed to marry the lovely Juliette. Meanwhile, Morton anguishes over the continuing mystery of his own roots.

The Missing Man. Morton Farrier can’t wait any longer: he must unravel the mystery of his own past. Who is his American father and why did he disappear from his mother’s life, despite letters evidencing his devotion? What, if any, role did a devastating house fire play in his disappearance? Morton and Juliet head to the east coast in the United States to confront surviving relatives, learn what they can about Harley Jacklin and help Morton come to terms with whatever he discovers.

Nathan joined us for a great conversation on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #124. Click here to learn more about joining Genealogy Gems Premium website membership or click here to hear a free excerpt in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180).

What does Nathan Dylan Goodwin read?

On his must-read list of genealogical fiction are two we’ve mentioned on the Genealogy Gems Book Club page:

The Marriage Certificate by Stephen Molyneux. Peter, a genealogy buff, buys a marriage certificate on display at an antiques gallery. He begins researching the couple with an idea of returning the certificate to them. Eventually he uncovers several secrets, one with some money attached to it, but others are also chasing this money. Surprise twists bring the story into the present day and Peter has a chance to become a hero.

genealogy gems book clubThe Forgotten Garden, a novel by Kate Morton. Recommended by a Gems fan. The premise was inspired by Kate’s own family history: “A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, ‘Nell’ sets out to trace her real identity.”

genealogy book club family history readingKeep up with great reading recommendations like these ones! Follow the Genealogy Gems Book Club. Click here to see what else we’ve recommended.

Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin: Genealogy Gems Book Club

Nathan Goodwin logo

As part of our Genealogy Gems Book Club, author Nathan Dylan Goodwin joined us on the Genealogy Gems podcast to talk about the newest book in The Forensic Genealogist series: The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist series Book 2).

In our interview, Nathan talks about how his intrepid genealogist hero, Morton Farrier, tracks down years-old family mysteries while dodging threats and evil glares of his nemesis librarian at the local archive. He explains more about the Downton Abbey-type setting  for The Lost Ancestor’s ancestral tale. And he comments on the challenges of trying to come up with genealogical mysteries that have such consequence for the present that they inspire a backlash of modern crime.

You can listen to a meaty interview excerpt in the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast. The full-length interview (click here) is available in the Genealogy Gems Premium podcast. (Click here to learn about Premium access to an enormous members-only digital archive of Premium podcast episodes and full-length video classes on Lisa’s most popular topics.) Want to read the book? Click here to purchase it, and you’ll support the free Genealogy Gems podcast. (Thank you!)

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