07 March 2013

Historical fiction often involves a LOT of history and genealogy research!

source: http://onceuponahistoricaltime.blogspot.com/

I think many of us compartmentalize our genealogy and family history research into primary (and first hand) resources from what we might learn from historical fiction.  An awareness of the quality of a source is always paramount to the accuracy of our own research.

Yet, more and more, historical fiction is based on very in-depth research into the relevant history for the time period and often the genealogy of “real” individuals who lived in the area.  It is also based on original documents – the same ones that we use in our research.

I was reminded of this when the local newspaper published A Night in the 1700s which states ...

Will Ferrell’s effort to bring post-Revolutionary War era North Carolina to life mixes 20 years of research, a little fiction, prominent state historical figures and, well, a lot of sex...

Members of the fledgling republic lived in a much different time. But living by candlelight and without modern conveniences didn’t stop them from forging thoughtful arguments about the future of the country. “When it was dark, it was dark,” Ferrell noted. “Travel was really difficult. We were lacking so much, but we did have a lot of people who were thoughtful.”

His book tells the story of the time through the diary of a young North Carolina farmer. While there is much history covered in the book, some more carnal events spice up the pages...

Though I haven’t read Will Ferrell’s book, I have read a fair amount of historical fiction through time; just as I have watched fictionalized accounts of historic events at the movies and on tv.  Every time my husband and I watch such a movie we always then do a bit of research to see how much of it was truth vs hyperbole vs fiction. 

Guess what, just the fact that the movie (or book) got us to do this research means that it “hooked us” to know more about the history on which the story is built around.

This suggests that reading historical fiction revolving around the communities where your ancestors lived or distant members of your family just might give you some “new” clues about what life might have been like, events they may have experienced, individuals they may have known, etc.  And, most importantly, suggest where you might look next as you learn more about your family.

Is there a particular work of historical fiction which provided a clue that benefitted your own research?

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