Author Archives: cindythomson

Old Family Bibles Seek Reunions

Old family Bible in a post by www.cindyswriting.com

From Flickr: Chuck Coker

You Mean We Have a Family Bible?

That’s what Billie Jean King said on an episode of PBS’s Finding Your Roots. I have a family Bible our church gave us as a wedding present, but no ancient family Bible that I know of. However, Bibles were used by our ancestors to record births, deaths, and marriages–just the kinds of details family historians are looking for. So chances are you have a family Bible. You just don’t know about it.

ourBiblepage

Where to Find Old Family Bibles

Ebay. It’s incredible how many old Bibles are out there. Another option is to keep your eyes open when you’re at antique and second-hand shops. But truly the chances of finding your family Bible are slim this way. Fortunately there are web sites and message boards seeking to reunite families with their Bibles. I admit I’ve never been lucky enough to find mine. I recently found a listing for a Myrick family Bible, but alas I could not make any connections with the names in the Bible or the location. But if you’d like to try, here’s the message board: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/ancestors/b-found.html

I haven’t tried this. It requires a membership but will alert you when something shows up with your surname: http://www.justajoy.com Anyone tried it?

Here is a collection of Family Bible web sites: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~familybibles/

Did your family attend a church? Check to see if a Bible was donated there. Chances are they’d be happy to give it to you.

Genealogy centers or historical societies often have surname files that contain photocopies of information from family Bibles.

It’s Not My Family Bible

The most likely scenario is that you’ll be shopping and come across an old family Bible that is not connected to you. If you feel compelled to reunite it with the proper family, buy it and list it on one of these sites. I have never done this, but I think I would if I could afford it. We have several old family Bibles at our church that were donated over the years. Eventually someone in those families is probably going to want them. I think we need to help each other out and patch those connections back the way they belong, don’t you?

Why Family Bibles are Helpful

I recently connected with a distant cousin online. I told her I had never been able to find when my 4x great grandfather died. He is not her line, but she had a family Bible with the date written in, most likely by his sister. Sometimes these records are the only ones that have the information we are looking for.

Tell me the story of your family Bible.

What Was Here Before?

Getting a Historical Perspective

History geeks like me are always thinking about what a place looked like a hundred or two hundred years ago. For example, ever since I heard that the area around Plain City, Ohio, had been a hunting ground for Indians because it was where the buffalo roamed, I think about that when I’m driving past on I70. It’s so flat there, and I can just imagine it.

I discovered a children’s book years ago when I went to hear the author speak at a library that gives perspective. Perhaps it’s just how writers think, I’m not sure. It’s called Who Came Down That Road by George Ella Lyon. It explores the fact that a road or path has probably been used by people and animals for centuries.

51vgWM6qnXLHistorical Novelists Are Rightful Daydreamers

We live in the past, yet we’re writing for today’s readers. Can you see how that can make us a little bit…conflicted? (You thought I was going to say crazy, didn’t you?) This is why many novelists have “Do Not Disturb the Writer” signs on their doors. It’s a delicate state of sanity requiring much concentration!

Nobody Gets in to See the Wizard Sign

Similar to the sign Jerry Jenkins has outside his office.

Why You Too Should Envision the Past

We’ve all heard the adage, those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat its mistakes–or some version of it. I believe it is usually attributed to Edmund Burke. But whoever said it was correct. We need to know what came before so we can move forward with wisdom and thoughtfulness.

So if you’re convinced, here’s a video I think you’ll enjoy. I have this kind of thing going on in my head every day. Let me know if this makes sense to you. 😉

Living in a Land of Immigrants

Immigrants--author Cindy Thomson

Scottish immigrants at Ellis Island

The Melting Pot

Once when I was at a bed and breakfast in Ireland sitting at a table with folks from other countries, a German photographer noted that while both America and Canada are populated by immigrants, America is different. He didn’t quite say what he meant by that because the conversation drifted to 9-11 and Obama and other subjects that non Americans seem to want to hear about from Americans. While I didn’t ponder further at the time about why Canadians and Americans are different (I’ve met many Canadians and don’t consider them THAT different from me, eh?) I did think about living in a land of immigrants. I wonder if that’s why genealogy is such a popular hobby. Everyone seems to want to get back to their “immigrant ancestor”–the one who came over.

How Did We End up in America?

Well, I was born here, but only because my ancestors came over. There is some rumor about a bit of Cherokee blood, but mostly I believe I’m of Celtic descent. Really must do a DNA test sometime. Have you done one? (Please share in the comments.)

There are several reasons our ancestors might have come over, not to mention the different time periods when North America saw waves of immigrants. I’ve written a lot about Ellis Island immigrants because of the setting of my latest novels. My ancestors, however, came over earlier. One branch came from Ireland right before the Revolutionary War. There were several periods of Scots-Irish immigration in the 18th century. I wrote about that here. Of course many people can trace their Irish ancestors to the middle of the 19th century and the Potato Famine. I recently found another branch on my tree that came over

Immigrants--author Cindy Thomson

Irish famine cottage eviction

much, much earlier, in the 1680’s from Wales. Once you know when your ancestors came over, you can probably determine why just by looking at history. They didn’t come over on a fluke. They were driven by famine, crop failures, and political unrest. Some, like many Italian immigrants, came to seek their fortune and then go back home. (Some stayed on even though it wasn’t their initial intent.) Once you hear these stories, you’ll better appreciate how they paved a way for you.

Why Keeping the Culture Alive is so Important to Us

For Americans, it’s always been important to celebrate the culture from our mother country. Festivals and feast days, ethnic neighborhoods, food, dance, song, stories….

I have attended several Irish festivals to promote my books. Groups from Ireland, especially Northern Ireland and the Saint Patrick Centre–say they have nothing quite like this at home. They have attended these festivals and encouraged tourists to come visit them. It worked on me!

Dir of Saint Patrick Centre Tim Campbell with Author Cindy Thomson

With Tim Campbell, Director of the Saint Patrick Centre at Milwaukee Irish Festival in 2007.

Tim Campbell, Dir of Saint Patrick Centre with Author Cindy Thomson

With Tim Campbell at the Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, Co Down, in 2010.

Get Involved in Preserving Culture

There are so many clubs, cultural organizations, genealogical societies, and groups I haven’t even thought of where you can get in touch with your roots. I think that’s mainly an American thing. Correct me if I’m wrong. But our roots are shallow in this country, so I think it’s only natural that we seek our immigrant ancestors.

Celebrating Culture--author Cindy Thomson

San José Library via Flickr

What groups are you involved in?

If I Won…

awardAnd the Winner is…

Last weekend the annual ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference was held in St. Louis. If you write Christian fiction, you’re probably a member. If you read Christian fiction chances are some of your favorite authors were in attendance. It’s become the premier conference for Christian fiction. I’ve been several times (didn’t go this year) and the gala (which I keep calling the awards banquet because really that’s what it is) is an incredible celebration of Christian fiction.

ACFW Award Categories

The Genesis: Recognizing great unpublished fiction in various categories. (For a list of winners go here.)

Lifetime Achievement Award: This year awarded to novelist Robin Lee Hatcher.

Agent of the Year: This year my very own agent won, Chip MacGregor!

Editor of the Year: Vicki Crumpton, Revell

Mentor of the Year: Martha Rogers

Volunteer of the Year: Julie Klassen

The Carol Awards: Awarded to outstanding novels in various categories.

For the list of winners, go here.

If I Won

Books by Cindy Thomson

Books I’ve written or contributed to.

I’ve never been nominated. By the time I joined ACFW I was already published so not eligible for the Genesis. My novels have not been nominated or even entered. But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about what I might say should one of my books ever be considered for an honor like this. There is usually not time for an Academy Awards-type speech, so this might not even be possible. But…, just for grins, here’s my acceptance speech. (I would probably change it a million times, so consider this a first draft!)

Being Thankful for Words

Like most people who stand up here, I never expected to win. Well, “I” really didn’t win anything. The award is for the book you saw blown up larger than life on the video screen. It’s the words inside the cover that somehow managed to speak to readers, sometimes in ways I never expected. It’s the characters who speak words that readers experienced as either something they would also say or something they need to hear. It’s the fictional dream that I first dreamt and then shared with my fellow authors and early readers. Their feedback turned my fictional dream into something I could then present to my agent and my editors, who dreamt it too, but not exactly in the form I presented to them. They added, changed, and developed it–keeping my original but making it better. What won today is the dream that each reader who opens the book grasps based on his or her own perceptions and experiences. That is not something I could create and make happen. It’s a book miracle that could only come from the hand of God. Not scripture, but story. Everyone has one, everyone can relate to one. I’m thankful for the words that came. Thank you for celebrating the power of story!

How Many Ways Are There to Celebrate Oz?

OSU Marching Band Melts Their Version of the Wicked Witch

It’s incredible to me how one story continues to captivate audiences and readers. The year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the movie The Wizard of Oz continues, and this makes me proud to be a resident of the Buckeye state! I thought it was wonderfully creative. What do you think?

A Wizard of Oz Parody?

Yep, creative!

A Kid’s Review of The Wizard of Oz

See? Kids still love it and who doesn’t have a favorite character?

4 Ways to Preserve Your Family Stories

Stories, Not Just History

Sure you need to keep your family tree charts and group sheets safe, but that’s not what I have on my mind today. I’m thinking about the stories, the things that are so easily lost and not attainable in public records. Have you ever said, “I wish I had asked my grandparents about their lives when they were still here with us?” I’ve heard it many times, and I’ve said it myself. So here are some tips for capturing those stories.

1. Make a Recording

Record the Stories

Grant

Never has it been more convenient to get those stories and tales recorded. Most people have cell phones with video capability. You can also download an app just for recording audio–you know, like those tape recorders we had in the old days! Here is one in iTunes and here are some for Android. I’m not endorsing any, so look around and find the best voice recorder for you.

Hearing the stories about someone’s youth in his/her own voice is a treasure. Be sure to download the file to your computer and back it up. Here’s a don’t-do-what-I-did tip: Make sure you know where your cell phone’s speaker is and don’t cover it up with your thumb. I only got bits of this conversation (pictured below) between my mother and her sister. It was classic. Glad others were recording at the same time!

Cindy Thomson's family reunion May 2013

Remember to record your own stories. Tell everyone at your next family gathering what you plan to do and just have fun. Chances are you’d be talking about these things anyway, so get them recorded. Just make sure everyone’s aware of what you’re doing. You might want to edit too. Sometimes people say things they regret. Remember that Yogi Berra quote: I really didn’t say everything I said! Older people can be a product of the age they grew up in when there wasn’t as much political correctness, if you know what I mean.

2. Don’t Forget to Take Pictures

Cindy Thomson's familyIt’s easy to forget when you’re gathered with folks and caught up in conversations. That’s why my cousin hired a photographer for our family reunion.

Also take pictures of pictures if you have no other way to copy a photo you come across. The more copies out there the more likely a photo will not be lost. Share on Facebook/Pinterest/Tumblr…then the image will be forever, right? Some social media sites like Pinterest allow you to make private boards if you’d rather. And don’t forget to get in the picture yourself. (Isn’t everyone taking selfies these days?) When my sister passed away I was sad to discover that she’d managed to stay out of the way of cameras for most of her life.

3. Go Ahead and Use Paper and Pencil

Cindy Thomson's Family Tree BookTechnology fails often, doesn’t it? Take some notes, put out a guestbook, encourage folks to write things down. Everything that I have in my dad’s handwriting makes me feel connected to him even though he’s been in Heaven for a few years now. We’ve definitely gotten away from letter writing in this society, but often people will write down their thoughts and emotions better than they would in person. Don’t miss that opportunity.

4. Get as Much as Possible on Your Computer

I know that seems to contradict what I’ve been saying, but it doesn’t really. You need both electronic copies and paper copies. What if there’s a fire? What if your computer crashes? Oh, yes, there’s the cloud, so definitely get your family treasures out on the cloud as well. Do it all. Just in case.

Author Kate Kerrigan's computer

Author Kate Kerrigan shares some of her family history using her laptop.

Family genealogists are probably using a program such as Ancestry.com or Family Tree Maker software, and they are wonderful for storing not only names and dates, but also photographs, scanned documents, videos and voice recordings. And sharing with other family members is quick and easy. If genealogy is not your thing, I hope there is a keeper of the records and stories in your family.

Wrapping it Up

I know I’ve just thrown out a couple of ideas. I want everyone to know how easy and convenient it can be to preserve the stories of their ancestors and their own as well because EVERYONE SHOULD KEEP THE STORIES!

How are you keeping your family stories for future generations?

We’re Connected by Stories

Defining Our Attachment

“…it’s our stories that tell us who we are. Our parents’ and grandparents’ stories are unique to each of us, to which we have an irrefutable attachment.”

This quote came from this blog post. It speaks the truth, I believe.  This is the sum of why I started researching my roots. We are all searching, I believe, for a connection to each other and to God. Stories connect us. Even hearing the stories of someone not blood-related to you brings you closer to that person and that person’s struggles and triumphs.

How Stories are Collected

The post I linked to above is about a family business in Manhattan. There is another story about a family Clarke's photo by Cindy Thomsonbusiness that I have not stopped thinking about since I heard it. This one takes place on the other side of the pond, in the west of Ireland in a town called Ballina. The town, on the River Moy, is known for salmon. Clarke’s Salmon Smokery in downtown Ballina, which Jackie Clarke opened in 1945, is now run by his sons. The story about Jackie Clarke met my attention because I’ve visited Ballina and even eaten smoked salmon in one of the pubs there. (Truth be told my husband and I ate smoked salmon almost everywhere we went in Ireland and even had it in the airport before we flew home because you’re not allowed to take it with you!)

A Collector of History

Jackie Clarke, apparently, was a collector of items of historical significance. When he died in 2000 he left a floor of his house stuffed with items:

It is the most important private collection of Irish history material in public hands, comprising over 100,000 items spanning 400 years. It includes artefacts associated with Theobald Wolfe Tone; letters from Michael Collins, Douglas Hyde, Michael Davitt and O’Donovan Rossa. It also contains rare books, proclamations, posters, political cartoons, pamphlets, handbills, works by Sir John Lavery, maps, hunger strike material and personal items from Leaders of the 1916 Rising.–www.clarkecollection.ie

From the Jackie Clarke Collection

from http://www.clarkecollection.ie/Collection/

His wife donated the collection in 2005, and much of it is on display in a former bank building in town. This museum opened after my visit so I didn’t get to see it, but it started me thinking about the importance one man collecting history can have. How much of what he kept might have been lost had he not done it? I imagine a good bit. Lots of people keep mementoes, pictures, and items related to their own personal histories. But Jackie Clarke must have felt connected to his community and his country when he stowed away all the stuff he did. I can’t imagine why he didn’t share it in his lifetime. Apparently even his family didn’t know the extent of his collection. Perhaps he thought he was the only interested, but of course that wasn’t true.

My mother has stashed away items, particularly newspaper articles, when she felt they would be of historical significance in the future. She has nothing like the Clarke Collection, but she probably shares Jackie Clarke’s convictions. So much is digital now that there is little need to keep everything, but organizing it is still important so future generations can feel connected to their past. What do you think? Are you a collector?

The past connects us in important ways but only if we are able to hear the stories.

Pondering the Psalms

Studying the Book of Psalms

There is certainly more than one way, and I’m not saying I’m a Biblical scholar, but I have been thinking about the Psalms as I consider how to better my prayer life. Some time ago I picked up a small booklet by Thomas Merton, Praying the Psalms. A couple of lines I highlighted within:

PrayingthePsalms“The Psalms are not abstract treatises on the divine nature. In them we learn to know God not by analyzing various concepts of His divinity, but by praising and loving Him…being hymns of praise, they only reveal their full meaning to those who use them in order to praise God.”

 

“Nowhere can we be more certain that we are praying with the Holy Spirit than when we pray the Psalms.”

“How does one arrive at such an appreciation of the Psalms?”

“…acquire a habit of reciting them slowly and well…pausing to meditate on the lines which have the deepest meaning for him.”

 

My Pictorial Study of the Psalms

I underlined more, but this gives you an idea of why I have decided to start my study (or more correctly my praying…Merton says focusing on what you can get out of the Psalms makes it about you and not about praising God) with a verse or two from each chapter paired with my photos from Ireland. Here is one:

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How to Follow my Journey in the Psalms

If you’d like to follow me on this exploration, like my page on Facebook and be sure to click “follow” in the upper righthand corner. If you don’t do that, even though you’ve “liked” my page, my posts probably won’t show up in your newsfeed. It’s just how Facebook works. The more you interact (like, share, comment) on my posts, however, the more likely Facebook is to include them in your newsfeed. But to ensure you get them just click “Follow.” Here is the link: http://www.facebook.com/cindyswriting

If you have anything to share about the Psalms and how they’ve affected you, please comment.

Collections of Beautiful Libraries

Finding the Coolest Libraries

Cindy Thomson's baseball library.

I like my library, but it hasn’t made any lists yet.

I thought about writing a post on the coolest libraries in the country, but the truth is, I haven’t been to them all. There are lots of other bloggers out there posting about cool libraries. Some of them even hold weddings!

So, I thought I’d just share some links with you rather than reinvent the wheel. I hope you’ll enjoy browsing. They all are heavy on the graphics so you can just sit and enjoy. Like I did.

The World’s Coolest Libraries

The Best Libraries in the World–the one in Mexico City looks like a warehouse to me, but those European ones are amazing! I have been to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and had a hard time leaving. So much to just gaze upon!

25 of the Most Beautiful College Libraries in the World–Trinity College shows up here again, as well as the one in Cambridge. I’m more drawn to the historical buildings, but there is some amazing architecture here. Lots of arch shapes. Is that to complement the linear shape of the books?

Cindy Thomson's home office library.

Maybe I need arches somewhere in my office.

Beautiful-Libraries.com–Local Public Libraries–The New York Public Library–main branch was another I had trouble leaving. I just wanted to stare and gaze up, you know? I went to the room where they keep maps and the ceiling was lower and maybe that’s why I was able to get some research done. Just walking the halls was amazing.

Beautiful Libraries Large and Small–a board on Pinterest

Libraries in America at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Let’s Go to the Library!

4591742865_db3f2630e1_zHow many times have we said it? Most of us can get to our local library within minutes and check out an armful of books and movies. We can ask a librarian to look something up for us, even while we’re at home on our computers. There is never a reason to be without a book. I love libraries. Just sitting inside on a rainy, cold day is comforting and inviting.

 

 

But our great grandparents did not have it so easy. The existence of neighborhood libraries  now is a testament to how far we’ve come in making literacy, education, knowledge, and reading enjoyment accessible to the masses.

640px-Andrew_Carnegie_in_National_Portrait_Gallery_IMG_4441

The Man Who Built the Libraries

Of course he didn’t build them all, but Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist built over 2,500 of them. He grew up with a love of books, borrowing them from personal libraries whenever he could. When he began building public libraries he started near where he lived, in Scotland and in Pittsburgh, PA. But he soon gave away money all over the country to those who would build his libraries for him. There were 104 public Carnegie libraries built in Ohio alone, plus eight academic libraries using grants given between 1899-1915.

Memorial Libraries

But Carnegie wasn’t the only one in the early twentieth century building libraries. All over the country there are memorial libraries that are still in use today, ranging in size from magnificent to quaint. These memorial libraries inspired me to have my character Annie Gallagher desire to build one for her father in Annie’s Stories.

Here are two I’ve visited:

VermontLibrary

This one is in Weston, Vermont. It’s called the Wilder Memorial Library. Absolutely stunning woodwork inside. There is barely room enough for a handful of people inside. It was named for the judge who lived there, John Wilder. He was also the postmaster, state representative, and senator. When he died his daughter donated the house for the purpose of a library. You could drive right by and not realize what a gem waits inside. I almost did. Below is the outside.

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You would not be able to miss the Wagnalls Memorial Library built in 1925 should you visit the small town of Lithopolis, Ohio. It is quite a bit larger than the Vermont one as you can see below:

 

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Photos from the library’s web site: http://www.wagnallslibrary.org/

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I had the opportunity to give a talk in a room at this library several years ago. I really need to go back for a tour, though. It’s gorgeous.

What memorial libraries or special libraries can you tell me about?