Only A Week Away
Of the nine Douglass siblings born in Palatine, New York, in the early 19th century, four sons moved to Jefferson County, New York State, and the other five siblings moved with their parents to Halton County, Ontario, Canada. The settings for the stories in Only A Week Away are the actual places and times when the family members in the stories lived there.
The siblings’ grandparents, Alexander Douglass and Christian Grant, were married in Ardclach Parish, Nairn County, Scotland, on July 31, 1751. Research that was commissioned by William Quine Douglass and completed by Pamela Stewart found two Alexander Douglass babies born almost exactly a year apart in Ardclach Parish. She was unable to determine from the Parish records which of the babies was the Alexander who married Christian Grant. They were both born in July, one in 1724 and one in 1725. Further research is needed.
The story, passed down by three different lines of this Douglass family, is that Alexander and Christian and their children sailed from Inverness, Scotland, and landed in Boston, Mass. about the time of the Boston Tea Party in 1773. One family historian suggested they came in 1763 instead of 1773, but there are records of children born to Alexander and Christian in Ardclach Parish as late as 1767, which makes the 1773 date more acceptable. No ship’s steerage records have been found as yet that include the family names.
All family reports agree that Alexander and Christian Douglass left Inverness with eight children and five of their children died at sea. One of the children to survive was John Douglass. At the time of their arrival in America, he was 21 and it is believed he fought in the Revolutionary War for the colonies against England. Following the War, he married and settled in Palatine, in the Mohawk River Valley of New York State. He had nine children and it is these children and their descendants which are the basis of my research and the primary characters for the stories that I write.
Finding A Niche
When I was looking for other books about real families around which fictional stories had been written, I had difficulty finding them. I could find many books on how to write your family history but I was attempting something different. In fact, some authors I read decried the fictionalizing of family history, stating emphatically that with good research one could learn much about one’s ancestors. I am sure that is true, but not knowing how many years I have to get the story written and having done enough research to know that the search could be long and consuming, I elected to tell stories that I hope will give the next generations of my family a sense of their ancestors. The people and places are real. The actions are fictional. If I am as true as I can be to the times and the settings, the actions that I make up could have happened.
A good story stays with one a long time, perhaps even a whole lifetime. We have lost some of our story-telling skills in our families. We spend hours watching TV or on our computers. My dream is that there might be one story in my book that an adult or a child, descendant of these Douglass pioneers, remembers well enough to tell to another member of their family. That is all that I ask. If in the process I write stories that have a feel of authenticity to them, that are fun to read, that bring to the reader a sense of the past, that is like putting the whipped cream and cherry on top of the dessert.
In my search for other books written in similar style, the best results came when I searched on the internet for “family history novel”. I did not find books listed as “family history novels” but that search brought up a few books written as novels about the author’s family.