Friday, December 31, 2010

Doing the Research

Happy New Year!

It’s a long story, but after a book and a half published in the last two years and a contract for a new one in progress, yes, I’ve decided it’s time to start this Writing for Children blog again. Again. I will post on it regularly! More about the books another day – I just find this fascinating:

James Lucas was famous in the 1860’s for his eccentric behaviour as an English hermit. After his death, his life story was forgotten until a local historian and solicitor, Reginald Hine, wrote about him and other townsfolk in the 1930’s. Hine states that James had sisters Anna Maria, who died young; Emma, who married barrister Edward Walker; and Harriet, who married an Austrian Count and was never heard of again. How easy it would have been to perpetuate these facts in the account of family happenings that I’m writing from their brother George’s imagined point of view, which will hopefully end up as a book for ‘young adults’.

When a fellow Book Links Queensland member, Shirley Stubbs, kindly offered to use to check a couple of things for me, particularly the causes of their parents’ deaths, she found a lot more of interest. In census, wills and parish baptism records she discovered that James left 57,000 pounds – the present day equivalent of about $12million - and Emma and George got their shares. But what about Harriet? Had she really gone abroad and died? No. The census pages show that she remained living in England and had 5 children, one son married Emma’s daughter (his cousin) – and the pair of them lived in a house that their uncle George once occupied. So the family certainly knew that Harriet was still alive, and her whereabouts, in the lead up time and when the inheritance was due to be shared out. Yet when Harriet died in Brighton, her worldly wealth and effects totalled less than five pounds. So why was she cut off? Did the family deliberately hide her existence for some reason, or is the myth of her disappearance a figment of folklore or no research?

What a great start to the year - today I’ve found that one of Harriet’s great great grandchildren has a presence on Facebook! It will be wonderful to see if he replies to my friendship request and discover what he knows.

Moral – don’t believe all you read. Do the research yourself.

But at some time you have to stop researching and write...

Have a rewarding New Year, and I hope it’s a healthy one.

Peter Taylor