Thursday, July 23, 2015

When Historical Research Gets Fun

I'm in the midst of researching for my next story. It's the second in a three-book series (the first, Redemption's Path, is being shopped to editors as I type this!).

Redemption's Path was set between 1863 and 1918. This second story, which has a few of the same characters, is set between 1864 and 1890. The third story, which will also have one or two of the same characters, will be set between 1805 and 1890. I know. Unusual. But trust me, it all works. :)

The series is inspired by real people and real stories (my favorite kind!). One central figure in the series is a man named Chief Bird in Sky. He is loosely based off the great Chief Hole-in-the-Day, an Ojibwe (Chippewa) Chief who represented his people in Minnesota from 1847 until his assassination in 1868. Chief Hole-in-the-Day was a national figure. He captured the imagination of the United States and was a frequent guest in the White House. He was an extraordinary speaker, and had the ability to sway an audience in his favor. He was also a handsome man, full of confidence and pride.

Ojibwe Chief Hole-in-the-Day c.1865
I'm reading two amazing accounts of Chief Hole-in-the-Day, and the village of Crow Wing, where he lived with several wives.


On their own, these books might appear dry. However, to me, these books are ripe with information and accurate historical details, which I will use to make my fictional stories come alive! They are like treasure troves, with each page offering up precious jewels.

I'm specifically on a quest to learn more about Chief Hole-in-the-Day's white wife, Ellen McCarthy. While married to several Indian women, he took a trip to Washington, D.C., where he met and fell in love with Ellen, who became his only legal wife. The trouble is, I can't find much about her! I know she's out there somewhere, I just need to dig deeper.

The next research book I'll be devouring is Chippewa Customs by Frances Densmore (originally published in 1929).

I can't wait to see what riches I'll discover next!

Your Turn: If you're a reader, do you enjoy stories inspired by real people and events? Do you conduct your own research about the real people and events after you finish the story? If you're a writer, do you enjoy researching? Do you have any suggestions on how I might find more about Ellen McCarthy??

Gabrielle Meyer:
Find me on Facebook
Find me on Pinterest
Find me on Twitter
Find me on Amazon
Find me on Goodreads
Find me on My Website

14 comments:

  1. Oh, great fun, Gabrielle! Can't wait to hear more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Anne! It's been fun researching--and I can't wait to share more!! This story is itching to get out. :)

      Delete
  2. Suggestion: I'd look in the census. What years did she live?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great idea! I don't know anything about her, but her name. She may have married Chief Hole-in-the-Day as early as 1859, or as late as 1864. I'm not sure. I'll see what I can find. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Delete
  3. Very interesting. I love reading fiction based on real people and events in history, especially when it's backed up with good research like this. Good luck in your hunt for Ellen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kym! I love researching almost as much as I love writing. :) To pair them is bliss.

      Delete
  4. I adore research, but then again, you knew that. :) Have you checked the MNHS library for info on Ellen?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I do know how much you love it. :) I haven't done much more than google searches and reading the small amount I know about her in these two books. I do want to go to the research library at MNHS, because they have some papers by another lady who knew Ellen. Ahh...I love this!! :)

      Delete
  5. How fun!! I'm a history nut, so anything like this is absolutely fascinating to me!! I know the feeling about having to dig deeper, I'm working on a project that's beginning to drive me crazy since I can't seem to find what I'm looking for!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel your pain, Abby! I did find out a little more about Ellen tonight as I dug deeper. I have a feeling there isn't much out there about her, and what I'm finding contradicts itself a bit. Oh, well! The little I know has piqued my interest to keep trying!! Good luck in your own search. :)

      Delete
  6. Both.But sometimes I do like real events with fictional characters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, too, Kim. It's especially fun to place fictional characters in a real setting to see how they'll react.

      Delete
  7. I love reading fiction based on real people and events - I have done some research after reading about such people/events, however, not nearly as much as I would like, I just don't have the time. Your research is especially interesting to me as one of my ancestors (a white man) was captured by the Shawnee, made a war chief, fought for their land - he always loved the Shawnee, lived with them for years, and probably had a Shawnee wife. Do you have access to any genealogy sites - perhaps you could find Ellen there??

    ReplyDelete
  8. That definitely grabs your attention about his wife Ellen! I'd like to know if you find any knew info on her? That's sad about his assassination. Can you share some of that too? Jenny
    I enjoy stories that are based on real life people but I won't refuse a good book even if it's not! :)

    ReplyDelete

Hey friend! Please leave a comment, no lurking allowed ;)