Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Historical Romance...Starts with Research?!

Where do I look for primary source information to research my historical works of fiction?

A primary what? A primary source. It's considered an actual document from someone who lived in the time period you are researching. Most genealogical research centers in your local library will have compiled histories obtained from primary sources for that locale. Other examples include the family Bible, the U.S. Federal Census, personal letters, wills, and probate records, which are court documents for things like guardianships, birth, death, and marriage records.

used w/ permission: www.freedigitialphotos.net

I love to research family history and have had a lot of practice doing it since I was thirteen and helped my mom with genealogy. But how do I find out about the more tedious details of daily living to help flesh out your understanding of historical time periods? How do I find more accurate details to help make your historical fiction more interesting and reflective of the time?

used w/ permission: www.freedigitalphotos.net

I stumbled upon a fantastic primary resource in an antique mall two years ago. I had read about pioneer homes of the 19th century having a volume of works for the purpose of having access to common medical treatments of the time. Much of frontier and rural America did not have ready access to a local physician, so this volume was heavily used by families and written in an easily understandable manner for common folk. I had only dreamed of finding one of these! 

I had already combed the internet but didn't know a title or author's name to use for the search. While antique shopping in Shipshewana, Indiana, I stumbled on a copy of Dr. Chase's Last Complete Work.  Aha! I found it! Tingling with excitement, I purchased my $35 copy copyrighted in 1903. It is a 3rd edition, a Memorial Edition compiling all the former works he'd ever published which date back to pre-Civil War.

This book contains everything! The contents page lists not only medical helps but also food for the sick, cooking recipes, and other information for the "departments" of toilet, dairy, domestic animals, agriculture, mechanical, and bee-keeping. For instance, on page 161, it lists the English Remedy for seasickness as noted in the British Medical Journal. It was basically the internet of the 19th century--it was the place you looked to find an answer to your questions. Eureka!

Now if you think that publishing is changing now, just think, this article states that Dr. Chase's publications were second in sales only to the Bible in 1864. The building pictured above is the publishing house in Ann Arbor, MI, that Dr. Chase built to publish his own works. Here is a link to an interesting article.http://www.aadl.org/gallery/buildings/hhaa084.gif.html

Though his original work was only a 16 page pamphlet, the Memorial edition I purchased is 865 pages long including a wonderful index. In my current manuscript, my heroine is a physician. I've had a great time using this source for my story! 

Can you imagine living in a time when the extent of your medical services was a 865 page book?
Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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  1. An antique MALL???? Can I move in with you???
    And no, I cannot imagine surviving in an era like that. Truthfully, between all my maladies, I'd be dead.

    1. Oh you'd LOVE the antique MALL!! It's awesome, two story even. :)

  2. I LOVE research, museums, books, libraries, I can't get enough. :)

    While I love writing about 19th century America, I'd make a rotten pioneer.

    1. I'd love a 19th century real life experience--then I'd want to come back home to my own century!


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