I would like to write a book of historical fiction to tell the story of my ancestors through the generations. This would just be an attempt with additions of things that may not have happened to those people but happened in their lifetime, in their geographic location and what they may have thought about it based on their culture/religion/economic status.
What I do know is that they came from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and some from England. What I do know is when they were born (1500/1600s) in some of those countries and the next generations that came to America and when (late 1600s/1700s). I know many of the ancestors were part of the 30 years war in europe and one a religious figure who wrote poetry detailing his family’s struggle with persecution (their property was taken away, the father poet imprisoned).
In more recent centuries my ancestors were in Pennsylvania. Perhaps they started out in Philadelphia or New York where their ships came in. I know my great grandfathers brother worked in the textile mills in Philadelphia and my great great grandfather was a butcher who later bought a farm in the 1920s with his wife who was a house maid in Philadelphia when they met. His wife came from Austria in the early 1900s by ship with her illigimate son. She had a relationship with a higher class man and couldn’t marry.
Also in the early 1900s a couple of ancestors were two of just under 200 people who perished in an event hall fire from gas lantern projectors. Many of my ancestors were farmers, one was a harness maker, and some were brick masons. One was a farmer about whom I found and article that he later became supervisor of his township and then was admitted to the house for the insane and died there in his 60s. I imagine going to the town they lived in and seeing the buildings whose bricks my ancestors touched and set in place to build the buildings.
In the last two centuries more indirect relatives draw my attention and there are some good stories, or potential for good stories. Not grand parents, great, great, great etc. There is a photo of great great aunt Ellen who appears to have on platform shoe, one leg longer than the other. Then a picture of her in a nurses uniform. Then a picture of her and her and her husband out in the midwest with their young son, dog and a traveling tent that says “the day of the lord has…” My father said his great Uncle in later years went to the farmers market and handed out religious pamphlets. I found an article that mentions their son did some work on the moon landing mission equipment.
My cousin’s great aunt Sarah and her sister were seamstresses and had a costume shop. They were also animal lovers and had dogs, deer and a pet monkey. I remember being at their house as a child and picking blueberries from their blueberry bush and putting them in my skirt. I had a snap up one piece white with lavender stripe outfit with a skirt and shorts underneath. The berries stained the skirt and I was at their bathroom sink trying to get it out but couldn’t. It was my favorite outfit.
A local historian and artist remembers the Aunt Sarah’s husband who had a delivery truck business and drove him and other children to school in the truck. He was also in real estate, equipment rental and another local business bears his name though that may be because it is on land that was probably his at one time.
So, I said I would like to write a book. I feel I would need to do some research to figure out what life may have been like in certain places at certain times. I don’t have time for that. I mean, if I attempt it. It will take me years. I have spent a couple years just on the family tree.
I guess I have already started my research on life back in the day. I have been interested in red ware pottery made by the PA Germans as well as Native American artifacts. I have gone to a couple of lectures on the subject.
The family farm is being restored (by a married couple who bought it recently). It was our family farm from the 1920s to the late 1970s. So it wasn’t our family farm for its whole existence. My Nana and I were lucky enough to get a tour because we were up there snooping around outside with our cameras. We were told that they found Native American artifacts and dated the house to the 1700s, one of the earliest in the area. It may have been used as a trading post and is in a good location, in the path of spring and stream.
There are many stories that my Nana shared about the family farm. There are many stories that I could create based on research to write a book but now that I am recalling all of the true stories I see that I have pretty many of them to go on. I have found an interview with a distant cousin who remembers visiting the farm as a child and what the town was like when he was a kid. It had unpaved roads and had gas street lamps. Nana told me about the farm just behind my parents house where a family lived with their children, two of which were deaf. The farm house next to my parents house in from of the other farm was where the Yoder’s lived and they had a bakery. Nana lived up on the hill and would have to walk past the farm with the deaf children to get the bread. On her way home one day the deaf boy yelled to her to talk to her but she couldn’t understand him and she ran. She dropped the bread and her father wasn’t too happy about the pebbly bread when he saw it.
I looked up the census data on the families and sure enough the census listed the occupations of the family members (the father as a farmer, a son as a machine operator) and two of the children as “person dumb.” I imagine what life must have been like for the family. The reason I imagine it is because my parents live two houses down and my great grandmother lived up on the hill where my Nana grew up. The house of the deaf children always fascinated me when we drove past it. Alma lived there with her two deaf siblings for years after their parents passed and perhaps their other siblings had moved on long before. Out front was a water pump. They had no running water in the house and only aquired electrcity for a short time before they left the house.
The house was razed in 2009. Today only the barn, spring house and chicken house stand. A salvage company came and took out the floors and doors and things leaving a shell. When we went to check it out we took pictures because it looked really interesting, the light coming in from the lack of roof and floors created great shadows across the what was left of the rooms. I took the pictures and made patterns for paper pieced quilts though I only pieced couple of them out of 7 that I have planned. So how and I going to write a book?
A year or so ago I wrote a poem about the house. At least that is one thing I finished. It talks about what I saw when I went to visit the house and what I imagined. “A jar of peaches on the basement beams, preserved”. I imagined that “other artifacts buried” like arrowheads of Native Americans that passed through there before the house was even built. Native Americans whose children wore pigtails “like you”. Maybe “Indians and braided pigtails” is just pop culture, a generalization about a people. But what can I hope to write about but a story based ideas I create about people who, without anyone to remember and tell their story, are just people who are names on a census in a particular time. And mom will have to edit it for me.