After a yearlong hiatus spent undoing numerous inaccuracies in the family tree, research has literally been going through the roof for the past month! Cousin-collaborators are popping up all over the place, offering insights into the family's history that I never imagined! The story, and in fact the work itself, has truly taken on a life of its own. I will be spending the summer not only immersed in research, but also participating in a myriad of local and regional history festivals, reenactments, and the like.
I realize in a world where so many seem to be in need, it just doesn't make sense to think anyone would have a penny to spare for something so non-benevolent as a book, which is why I have decided NOT to ask for additional financial contributions. But you can still help make this dream come true by pre-purchasing a copy of the book, which you can do either in digital ($10), print-on-demand paperback ($15), signed first edition paperback ($25) or personalized first edition paperback ($50), formats. If you already have a copy coming, then you can help by sharing and asking your friends to 'Like' the book's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AmericaAFamilyPerspective. I am leaving the other incentives in place, but please be aware that I have a backlog of genealogical research already owed to previous contributors. (And man oh man, is that one hand tooled, leather-bound, hardcopy first edition going to be worth a mint after I win my Pulitzer!)
Thank you for your continued support. Next to building an ever bright and promising future with my Nancy, it is by far the most significant undertaking of my life.
When I set out on this adventure just about this time last year, I gave myself a (somewhat arbitrary) deadline of one year to complete this book. If I had a million dollars, I would pay people to handle my daily chores so I could do nothing but write. As it is, I am extremely fortunate to have a fair amount of time to devote to researching and writing, but not so much that I am anywhere near complete. I am trying desperately to use the winter months to devote as much time as possible to the project before Mother Nature returns with her outside chores. The good news is that I continue to make mind-boggling discoveries that will add much needed depth and relevance to the book. The bad news is that with each new discovery comes more leads to be researched, which continues to push the finished product ever farther into the distance. All this to say that I am nowhere near finished with the book and at this point cannot honestly predict when I can expect to be finished with the book. But I am just as enthused and committed as a year ago, and it remains my a-number-one priority. And I thank you for your continued interest and support!
It is impossible for me to express in this brief summary just how much the research for this book has meant to me. For instance, I now not only know why my mother was put up for adoption and what became of her birth parents, but I have traced her birth family to back before the Revolution. I have traced my dad's paternal family (about whom "“ due to "unfavorable circumstances" re: his conception - he knew next to nothing) to pre-Columbian English gentry. And not only do I qualify (dozens of times over) for Sons of Confederate Veterans and Sons of the American Revolution membership (the later once reserved - in my lower middle class brain - for only hoity toity), but also Descendants of Ancient Planters, which is for those whose ancestors arrived in Virginia prior to 1616.
I have held the 1872 family bible that once belonged to my paternal 2nd GGF and read one of his handwritten sermons. Next Saturday I will meet a heretofore unknown batch of cousins at a family reunion hosted by this 2nd GGF's last living grandson (who I met thru my research.) Tomorrow I hope to touch the headstone of a 5th GGM, which will be the oldest such discovery to date. In fact, not only do I now know who all 16 of my GGGP's were, but I have visited all of their graves.
Long story short, this tale of approximately 700 Americans I previously never even knew existed but who all boiled down to my parents, is proving to be more captivating that I ever imagined possible. They were here literally on day one. They fought in every war and on both sides of the Civil War. They were from the religious north, as well as the aristocratic old south. They were among the first white settlers to cross the Blue Ridge and were the first white settlers to cross into north Mississippi. Their ranks included those who fought the "savages" and those who pursued a more symbiotic relationship. There were slave owners and people who fought to end slavery. A maternal 2nd GGF lost a leg at Gettysburg (in Pickett's charge, no less), only to return home to north MS to start the first school for freed slave children. (I have actually read the journal of the surgeon who amputated his leg!) Basically, if it happened east of the Mississippi, they were there. They may not be listed among the more common rank of Founding Fathers but they were standing right beside them.
My ancestors ranged from Quakers to Klansmen. They came here seeking religious freedom, as military exiles, on prison ships, with land grants from the Crown, and as indentured seekers of fortune. They came from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, and Switzerland - with a just dash of ancient Hebrew ancestry for flavor. There is even strong indication of indigenous (aka Indian) blood, although the near complete void of records in this regard makes this impossible to prove conclusively.
America: A Family Perspective, is - in every sense of the word - the story of early 1600's to mid-1900's America. Shared not as rote facts or historical fiction, but from the very words and deeds of the people who lived it. For me, this project has become the most significant undertaking of my life. And I have connected with dozens of fellow Ancestry.com enthusiasts whose lineage in some way overlaps my own, all of whom have gladly consented to my referencing their work in the book.
Having a clearer understanding of the hardships our ancestors endured over the last 350 years has helped renew my faith that we may actually overcome those we now face - which I pray reveals itself as one of the primary underlying messages of the book.
Just wanted to update everyone on the status of the book project. As many of you know, I am finally ON sabbatical (to the extent real life allows) and fully engaged in writing. I have researched the three main families (dad's birth, mom's adopted, and mom's birth) to back before the Revolution and beyond. I am now in the process of narrowing down the list of those who will actually appear in the book, and downloading and compiling any information available on each. Please follow along on the book's Facebook page as I share the exciting discoveries!
Like most of you, I never really knew much about my family's
history "“ certainly nothing beyond vague childhood memories of a few Great Grandparents. Then twenty years ago, while
living in Boston, I began to fish
around for any genealogical tidbits related to my birth surname Hollingsworth. When I discovered that a man named Valentine helped found the state of Pennsylvania
with William Penn, I was hooked. I
decided right then and there that I would one day write a book about the narrative history of America
using my paternal lineage as the backbone for the story. Little did I know then that modern technology
would eventually not only prove that I am a direct descendent of this historic figure
about whom much has already been written, but that nearly every branch of my family tree "“ on both my mother's and father's side "“ can be
traced back to the earliest chapters of American history and beyond.
Now the desire to write their story "“ in tandem with a firsthand account of the development of America herself - has become more compelling than anything I have ever
experienced. This project has grown from
something I may get around to someday, to something that eclipses everything
else. It's as if all those
ancestors (570 so far) are chanting from on high "Write our story! Write our story! We lived it you lazy so-n-so, all you have to
do is write it!"
I have already completed the initial research on Ancestry.com, and have gone
far beyond discovering all sixteen Great Great Grandparents. It turns out that my people pioneered just about everywhere they went, whether it was being among the first Europeans to settle in Virginia, Pennsylvania, western Mississippi and southwest Tennessee, or among the first to build in Cooper Young - the neighborhood in midtown Memphis that we've called home for the last 100 years.
But now the real work begins. I have given myself one year to write America: A Family Perspective. Apart from devoting April, May, and June to restoring the Apple family
farm in Batesville, Arkansas,
(during which time I will also write, of course), I see myself spending 2013
doing little else. I have set a budget
for this project of $20,000. This
includes my own time (which would otherwise be spent scratching out a living),
travel for hands on research, editorial and research assistance, and production of the initial run of 500 copies.
Please know that I am extremely grateful that you are
interested enough in my beloved project to have even read this far. Now all I ask is that you peruse the
contribution levels with associated incentives, and consider tossing a few
dollars into the kitty. Unlike similar online fundraisers, with
my project you can make regular modest contributions, with the accumulated total
over the course of the year earning you that level's incentive.
Thank you in advance for whatever assistance you may be
willing or able to offer.
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