Thursday, 11 June 2015

Keeping Family History Stories Alive through Fiction - Part I

Keeping Family History Stories Alive through Fiction
Part I
"Dr. Bill" Smith

Historical Fiction can work as a “cousin-finder”

I funny thing happened when I used some real family names in my historical fiction stories…

I found a cousin… several cousins, actually… well, some of them are “cousins-by-marriage” - but, that is beside the point. The point is: IT WORKED!! ;-)

I have written a number of series of historical fiction stories here: - 64 total stories, as I write this…


This “Weston Wagons West” set of stories follows three brothers (and their descendants), who came to America from England, in the 1600s, and settled in Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts, much as many of my actual ancestors did. The ‘twist’ to these stories is that they lived near and interacted regularly with my actual ancestors. By weaving the fictional stories of these Weston descendants with what I know from research of my real ancestors, I am able to tell their stories in fuller ways, and interesting ways, than just writing about the ancestors. This is especially true of these very early ones where only a few, barebones facts, are actually known and verified. It is fun, and now, also fruitful.

Some XXXXX (a family surname) cousins apparently “Googled” their surname and got one of my stories. The sharing on their Facebook group page was fascinating for me to read, as the author of the stories, before they actually contacted me and discovered this is my family as well as theirs. One cousin said: “Interesting historical fiction. What connection does the author have with the XXXXX?” Another replies: “Sorry, I didn't get that far. But I did find them in Illinois. I'll be checking on that.” Next, she posts a link to my author Facebook page (William Leverne Smith). Then adds, “ in the world did he choose this actual family????” followed by: “How did he know of them?” The first one adds: “That's what I want to know. I will probably contact the author and find out what he knows.” The other replies: “It seems as though he must be in the family somehow. He has names and places....of course you can get all that easily but why them? I'm anxious to know.”

She then posts my “Dr Bill Tells Ancestor Stories” blog with XXXXX stories in it, followed by the Google Books link to my “Kinnick Early US Family History” book, that has XXXXX family in it.  …

Later that day, I got both an IM on Facebook and an email note. We introduced ourselves, and now I am part of the XXXXX Facebook group, and we are enjoying sharing family stories.

This experience was just too much fun not to share with you all. I’m sure most of you have had similar experiences, but this was so interesting to be able to go back and actually see the process they used to find me, based only on my historical fiction stories using the XXXXX family name. P.S. There are literally hundreds of family surnames in my writing, so I simply used the XXXXX here to keep it simple, and, I hope, not distracting.

Have you had similar experiences? Have you written about them? I’d love to hear them!

How many new cousins might you find if you used historical fiction to keep alive your family history research?

See you next month! I love to read comments, so please leave one or more, including questions. 

Dr. Bill


"Dr. Bill" (Wm. L.) Smith can be found regularly at his genealogy blog, "Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories" <> or his family saga blog, "The Homeplace Saga," <>. He is an original contributor, as The Heritage Tourist, to the "In-Depth Genealogy" blog with a monthly column in the "Going In-Depth" digi-mag. He also writes a monthly post for the Worldwide Genealogy Blog.


  1. So far my blogging has not found cousin for me, but an online tree has... Won't quit blogging though because I love writing about their stories. Great Post.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Fran. Continued best wishes on your search! ;-)

  3. I've found several lost branches of cousins via blogging and 1 via my online tree. I'm sure I would unearth even more if I wrote a book of fiction using their names.

  4. How fun. I have been contacted a few times via the blog. Even solved a mystery/brick wall or two. Even solving one is worth the effort.

  5. Kristin, I very happy to hear success. I like writing the short stories, rather than a hole book. I'll say more about this in my next post.

  6. I agree, Carol, each find feels really good. Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love it. So good to hear what readers are thinking. ;-)


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