The story behind my book Fortitude began back in 1977 as I beheld in awe the television miniseries called Roots based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. I was twenty at the time and that miniseries had a profound impact on my life. It created in me a deep desire to know my family’s history. I didn’t know where to start and frankly had no time to devote to the task. But the seed was planted.
Fast forward to 1990s.
That seed planted in the late 1970s was now growing into a tree eagerly desiring fruit (knowledge) of my family’s history. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunities of interviewing my father and grandfather as they had both passed away by this time. Thankfully, I was able to preserve the last hundred years of my family’s history through interviews and letter exchanges with my aging aunts, uncles and cousins.
Don’t wait until it’s too late like I did. Interview your older relatives, capture their stories and more importantly the stories passed down to them. With the passing of each of generation, treasured family history is lost forever. Even if you have no plans to write a book, you may change your mind in the future. At a minimum, pass these stories to your children who may someday document your family’s story that will be preserved for future generations.
So how did I capture my family history occurring prior to the twentieth century? I began research in earnest in the early 1990s prior to the onset of the internet. Whenever my travels took me to Washington, D.C., I would stop at the National Archives. Spending hours and hours behind a microfilm reader wasn’t the most exciting thing to do in Washington D.C., but my enthusiasm could not be contained whenever I discovered that one tiny “nugget” of information to help piece the puzzle of an ancestor’s story together.
Some of my most cherished memories of family history research came from visiting small New England towns, meeting with local historians and visiting cemeteries. While growing up, my two boys would oftentimes refer to these trips as “hunting for dead Spauldings”. My early Spaulding ancestors lived in the New England states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Some of my best discoveries came from town history records of the sixteenth century. There’s nothing like seeing with your eyes and grasping in your hands an original handwritten town record from the early 1700s with your ancestors name recorded on it.
So I continued this on again, off again process of gathering family history data for thirty-plus years as I was raising my children with my wife and working. Admittingly, the research is time consuming and challenging as life doesn’t hit the pause button for this worthwhile effort. But, I pressed on and over the years continued to store the data I collected in boxes waiting for the season to cultivate it.
Fast forward to 2020.
In 2020, I retired and dusted off those boxes of family history data with a passion to do something with it. I’ll admit that name and date genealogy by itself isn’t all that exciting. But, when you fold in an ancestor’s story with the history they were eyewitnesses to, then you have something special. I’ve been a lifelong student of history and with my retirement the time was ripe to put two and two together.
So, I began to write.
The Birth of a Book
With the writing, a style and theme quickly began to develop. One by one, I took each of my direct ancestor’s birth, marriage, children and death data and sowed it together with the historical events of the day and their personal stories I was able to unearth. I wasn’t aware of the emerging genre of a family history narrative, but that’s exactly what I was writing.
At first I thought my work would only be of interest to Spaulding family members, both close and distant. However, as the story of Fortitude unfolded and I shared it with neighbors, friends and former coworkers, I realized that people love non-fiction. People love history. People love real life stories. So my thought process expanded and I decided to publish a book.
Since publishers weren’t knocking on my door offering me millions to write this book, I had to quickly determine options. Fortunately, there are a number of companies ready to help the fledgling self-publisher. I landed with Gatekeeper Press who has been wonderful to work with. Once my manuscript was completed, the Gatekeeper Press editors did their magic. As the author, I was deeply involved in the process personally approving every recommended change. As of the posting of this Blog, my book is in the formatting process with the publisher in anticipation of a release in early 2022.
What’s Your Story?
If you are considering writing a family history narrative, I want to encourage you to give it a go. Do you know what historians cherish? First-person accounts of everyday life. Not just famous people, but average folks sharing their stories. You are living history right now. Leave your first-person accounts for future generations to absorb. Start with capturing your childhood memories. Tell the story about finding your career choice, getting married and raising your children. Your story and the story of those that came before you is a treasured historical record to pass on to the next generation. Don’t put this off like I regrettably did. Act now to capture the stories of your aging relatives. I promise you that sitting at the feet of a loved one and listening to them tell stories of the past will bring your great joy.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
Good luck on the journey to write your family history narrative!
Continuing the Story
The purpose of the Fortitude Blog – Continuing the Story is to carry on this evolving story of family history. If you think about it, a family history narrative never really has a beginning or an end. There are unending sources of ancient ancestors to unearth. New records are being surfaced every year to corroborate or to challenge the stories of the past. And, the enduring stories of future generations must be added to continue the story.
Stay tuned as I share new discoveries to shed light on the past and behold the future in the Fortitude Blog – Continuing the Story.