As things were.

Xmas07_1
Hi, it’s Jo here.

First the great news. Lady Beware is finished, it’s in New York, my agent and editor love it, it’s off to be copy edited, and given that it’s a June book, it’ll probably boomerang back on me next week to go over that. Which is why I’m playing now.C1831w_lady_beware_front_cover_for_web

It’s my tradition to play with genealogy over Christmas. Of course that didn’t happen this winter, but for the past week I’ve been poking around, mostly in censuses, looking for pieces of the puzzle.

That’s what it is to me – a complicated jigsaw puzzle. There are unlikely to be any dramatic revelations or hints of royal blood on either side. The Beverleys go back to itinerant labourers in Yorkshire and the Beadles were dock and brickyard workers in Kent; the Dunns and Carrs were much the same in Ireland.

But I love censuses and the feel of peeping inside lives in the past. Of course this is also great for a writer of historical fiction. For most censuses, a person has to subscribe to search for records, but the Mormons has the 1881 censuses for the US, Canada, and and Wales up on their genealogy site. As a result, they’re free everywhere. (Some other sites are ancestry.com and findmypast.com.)

For years I’ve been meaning to look at a typical English village through this window, to see what’s there. This year, I decided to do it. I’m not posting the whole thing here as it turns out to be rather long. I’m giving my thoughts. If you want to read more plus the census details,
it’s on my website here.

But I offer this to those of you who are writing historical fiction set in the past in as a way to gain greater insight, especially for those of you writing about England from afar. Of course 1881 is long after any periods I use, but I doubt Burton Pidsea had changed that much in 100 years.

I knew nothing about Burton Pidsea. I simply searched the census for a John Brown born between 1790 and 1810, reckoning that would cut the numbers down. Burton Pidsea sounded promising, so I picked that one – a shoemaker.

On genuki.org.uk, I found this description of the place in the 1820s, at a time much closer to my fictional periods.
“BURTON PIDSEA, a parish in the wapentake of Holderness, and liberty of St. Peter’s; 4 miles E. of Hedon. A neat and pleasant village, the houses of which are well built, and afford an extensive prospect of the surrounding country. The church is a small building… patrons Dean and Chapter of York, with a lofty tower apparently of great antiquity. The incumbent is the Rev. Jonathan Dixon, vicar; here is likewise a Methodist chapel, built in 1820. Pop. 378.”
Go to the Genuki page.

I recommend genuki for researching historical locations in the UK. You can go here for a picture of the above mentioned church, which is typical of parish churches in villages around .
Picture of Church

This site has pictures of modern Burton Pidsea.

And this interesting site provides a google map. If you click on satellite, you’ll see the geography. It looks as if geodaisy will do this for any place, which is great.

There are many 19th century town and village directories on line, which also give an idea of a place, and also of the trades and professions of the time.
Here’s one.

What I learned from this.

That I didn’t pick the best village. This one is very agricultural and doesn’t have that many tradespeople. In this census, we find three shoemakers, four bricklayers, a joiner and wheelwright. (BTW, a carpenter builds houses, a joiner makes furniture.) Two more wheelwrights, two innkeepers, a grocer, a schoolmaster, two market carriers, a butcher, two tailors, a shepherd, two blacksmiths, three jobbing gardeners, a cowkeeper (which might mean a dairyman) a corn miller, a retired surgeon (did he do any doctoring if necessary?) a rector. The range of trades seems strange to me, with too many of some and none of others. The bricklaying family produced sons who spread out through Yorkshire.

The people who have servants are:
The rector, the large farmers (servants in addition to farm labourers), the wheelwrights, the grocer, the innkeeper and the butcher. (Two servants and a large family. Butchers were known for healthy families because they ate well. Today’s frowning on meat didn’t apply back then when it was a luxury for many.)

The retired surgeon and his widowed sister have one servant.

Emily Baxter, widow of a prosperous farmer, has a cook/housekeeper and a housemaid.

Mary Ann Ford, an annuitant has a female servant.

The large Wilkinson family (7 children and the possibility of more because the youngest is only 8 months) has three men designated as servants and two daughters as “servants at home.” As he’s listed as an agricultural labourer, the male servants seem unlikely. More likely to be lodgers. The two older girls could be kept at home to help their mother.

The widowed schoolteacher’s younger daughter is designated as housekeeper.

People weren’t as settled back then as we assume — as I assume, at least. The labourers in particular don’t often stay in one place. Less than half the households in the 1881 census had been there in 1861 in any form. (This might not be true of some of the married women. It’s hard to be sure of them unless they have an unusual name. Hyena? Who thought of that one?)

For example, Daniel Blanchard, one of the wheelwrights, was living in Sproatley in 1861.

William Poulter, an agricultural labourer, was born in Cambridgeshire, a long way from Burton Pidsea,. In 1861 he was 17 and living with his widowed mother in his place of birth, Ickleton, one of six children which she supported by taking in laundry. An 18-year-old daughter was working in a paper factory, and William was working as a labourer. Now, in 1881, he’s a recent widower (his youngest child is one year) with five children. Some families don’t seem to get a break, generation to generation.

A couple of other things. It looks as if most people married someone of about their own age, and many were still together at an older age, so they weren’t dying off to a dramatic extent. Some women have born many children, and some appear to have had children into their forties. I’m suspicious about the rector’s wife having a one-year-old at age 55, however. I suspect a transcription problem. I think she’s 35.

Note John Brown at the grand old age of 90. No, people didn’t die of in their thirties as we are sometimes told.

And finally, something I’ve noticed before. Despite our image of the extended family, older people did not live with their married children. Unmarried children frequently lived with their parents until they married, and if a married child lost their spouse a retired parent, especially the mother, would move in to help. But many, many people 60 and over live alone or as couples. Often their children would be in the same village and available to help, but I don’t find the multigenerational model in general use.

So, do any of these details surprise you?

Do you already use genealogical resources for finding out about the past, or even about a specific location you’re using in a book?

And have you ever heard of someone called Hyena before?

Jo

80 thoughts on “As things were.”

  1. I’ve done a little of this sort of thing, both working in a museum with hand-written (of course) census records and also researching areas determining where to stay on vacation…thus we discovered Piddlethrentide in Dorset, a town seemingly in the middle of nowhere with some of the best restaurants ever and a wonderful old church where we and about six really elderly parishoners worshipped. Your links are great to “see” the countryside when plane fare is out of reach.
    My husband did some geneological research at Iona on Cape Breton Island, trying to find out more about his Scots ancestors who eventually moved from C.B. to Maine. We couldn’t trace their Scottish town of origin, though, which was our ultimate destination. They were farmers and railroad men, and one of them had the unfortunate name of Lot. Better than Hyena!

    Reply
  2. I’ve done a little of this sort of thing, both working in a museum with hand-written (of course) census records and also researching areas determining where to stay on vacation…thus we discovered Piddlethrentide in Dorset, a town seemingly in the middle of nowhere with some of the best restaurants ever and a wonderful old church where we and about six really elderly parishoners worshipped. Your links are great to “see” the countryside when plane fare is out of reach.
    My husband did some geneological research at Iona on Cape Breton Island, trying to find out more about his Scots ancestors who eventually moved from C.B. to Maine. We couldn’t trace their Scottish town of origin, though, which was our ultimate destination. They were farmers and railroad men, and one of them had the unfortunate name of Lot. Better than Hyena!

    Reply
  3. I’ve done a little of this sort of thing, both working in a museum with hand-written (of course) census records and also researching areas determining where to stay on vacation…thus we discovered Piddlethrentide in Dorset, a town seemingly in the middle of nowhere with some of the best restaurants ever and a wonderful old church where we and about six really elderly parishoners worshipped. Your links are great to “see” the countryside when plane fare is out of reach.
    My husband did some geneological research at Iona on Cape Breton Island, trying to find out more about his Scots ancestors who eventually moved from C.B. to Maine. We couldn’t trace their Scottish town of origin, though, which was our ultimate destination. They were farmers and railroad men, and one of them had the unfortunate name of Lot. Better than Hyena!

    Reply
  4. I’ve done a little of this sort of thing, both working in a museum with hand-written (of course) census records and also researching areas determining where to stay on vacation…thus we discovered Piddlethrentide in Dorset, a town seemingly in the middle of nowhere with some of the best restaurants ever and a wonderful old church where we and about six really elderly parishoners worshipped. Your links are great to “see” the countryside when plane fare is out of reach.
    My husband did some geneological research at Iona on Cape Breton Island, trying to find out more about his Scots ancestors who eventually moved from C.B. to Maine. We couldn’t trace their Scottish town of origin, though, which was our ultimate destination. They were farmers and railroad men, and one of them had the unfortunate name of Lot. Better than Hyena!

    Reply
  5. Genealogy has become a very popular hobby recently in the UK, and resources to assist private research are improving all the time.
    If I wrote historical fiction, I should certainly use those resources, but I have never been particularly tempted to try it for purely family reasons. This is in part because I know most of the family tree back to the 1850s or so already, and the likelihood of anyone from outside one county being in it however far back I were to go is fairly slight. It is also because the process of research is difficult when there are too few surnames to work with and a tendency to be creative with spelling. The Welsh did not start using surnames at all till very late – 16th-17th century – and there is still only a relatively small list of such names, all based on forenames, from the days of patronymics. English ‘trade’ names, like ‘Smith’ just don’t exist in Welsh: you might call someone ‘Ifan y gof’ (Evan-the-smithy), to distinguish him from Ifan y Felin (Evan-the-mill), perhaps, but in spite of this, neither ‘Gof’ nor ‘Melin’ has ever become a surname in the way that ‘Smith’ and ‘Miller’ have. House- and farm-names were used in that way, too, more like nicknames than formal, legal names.
    So, anyone pursuing Welsh genealogies, be warned: you’ll keep finding lots of *different* people in the same small area at the same time with exactly the same name – oh, and a lot of the documents will be in Welsh, naturally. 😉
    🙂

    Reply
  6. Genealogy has become a very popular hobby recently in the UK, and resources to assist private research are improving all the time.
    If I wrote historical fiction, I should certainly use those resources, but I have never been particularly tempted to try it for purely family reasons. This is in part because I know most of the family tree back to the 1850s or so already, and the likelihood of anyone from outside one county being in it however far back I were to go is fairly slight. It is also because the process of research is difficult when there are too few surnames to work with and a tendency to be creative with spelling. The Welsh did not start using surnames at all till very late – 16th-17th century – and there is still only a relatively small list of such names, all based on forenames, from the days of patronymics. English ‘trade’ names, like ‘Smith’ just don’t exist in Welsh: you might call someone ‘Ifan y gof’ (Evan-the-smithy), to distinguish him from Ifan y Felin (Evan-the-mill), perhaps, but in spite of this, neither ‘Gof’ nor ‘Melin’ has ever become a surname in the way that ‘Smith’ and ‘Miller’ have. House- and farm-names were used in that way, too, more like nicknames than formal, legal names.
    So, anyone pursuing Welsh genealogies, be warned: you’ll keep finding lots of *different* people in the same small area at the same time with exactly the same name – oh, and a lot of the documents will be in Welsh, naturally. 😉
    🙂

    Reply
  7. Genealogy has become a very popular hobby recently in the UK, and resources to assist private research are improving all the time.
    If I wrote historical fiction, I should certainly use those resources, but I have never been particularly tempted to try it for purely family reasons. This is in part because I know most of the family tree back to the 1850s or so already, and the likelihood of anyone from outside one county being in it however far back I were to go is fairly slight. It is also because the process of research is difficult when there are too few surnames to work with and a tendency to be creative with spelling. The Welsh did not start using surnames at all till very late – 16th-17th century – and there is still only a relatively small list of such names, all based on forenames, from the days of patronymics. English ‘trade’ names, like ‘Smith’ just don’t exist in Welsh: you might call someone ‘Ifan y gof’ (Evan-the-smithy), to distinguish him from Ifan y Felin (Evan-the-mill), perhaps, but in spite of this, neither ‘Gof’ nor ‘Melin’ has ever become a surname in the way that ‘Smith’ and ‘Miller’ have. House- and farm-names were used in that way, too, more like nicknames than formal, legal names.
    So, anyone pursuing Welsh genealogies, be warned: you’ll keep finding lots of *different* people in the same small area at the same time with exactly the same name – oh, and a lot of the documents will be in Welsh, naturally. 😉
    🙂

    Reply
  8. Genealogy has become a very popular hobby recently in the UK, and resources to assist private research are improving all the time.
    If I wrote historical fiction, I should certainly use those resources, but I have never been particularly tempted to try it for purely family reasons. This is in part because I know most of the family tree back to the 1850s or so already, and the likelihood of anyone from outside one county being in it however far back I were to go is fairly slight. It is also because the process of research is difficult when there are too few surnames to work with and a tendency to be creative with spelling. The Welsh did not start using surnames at all till very late – 16th-17th century – and there is still only a relatively small list of such names, all based on forenames, from the days of patronymics. English ‘trade’ names, like ‘Smith’ just don’t exist in Welsh: you might call someone ‘Ifan y gof’ (Evan-the-smithy), to distinguish him from Ifan y Felin (Evan-the-mill), perhaps, but in spite of this, neither ‘Gof’ nor ‘Melin’ has ever become a surname in the way that ‘Smith’ and ‘Miller’ have. House- and farm-names were used in that way, too, more like nicknames than formal, legal names.
    So, anyone pursuing Welsh genealogies, be warned: you’ll keep finding lots of *different* people in the same small area at the same time with exactly the same name – oh, and a lot of the documents will be in Welsh, naturally. 😉
    🙂

    Reply
  9. Doing genealogy on my Albanian family is a challenge to say the least. We can track them back to, say, Ellis Island or other ports but info before the early 20th C gets iffy, and is often a matter of family stories passed down over generations. We are still trying to pin down the approximate time period of a famous ancestor, “One-Eyed Nick.”
    For my English characters and settings, though, there are many valuable resources. Genuki is usually where I start–and I tend to refer to it again and again. It is an excellent resource. One notices, however, that some counties have abundant information, others not so much.

    Reply
  10. Doing genealogy on my Albanian family is a challenge to say the least. We can track them back to, say, Ellis Island or other ports but info before the early 20th C gets iffy, and is often a matter of family stories passed down over generations. We are still trying to pin down the approximate time period of a famous ancestor, “One-Eyed Nick.”
    For my English characters and settings, though, there are many valuable resources. Genuki is usually where I start–and I tend to refer to it again and again. It is an excellent resource. One notices, however, that some counties have abundant information, others not so much.

    Reply
  11. Doing genealogy on my Albanian family is a challenge to say the least. We can track them back to, say, Ellis Island or other ports but info before the early 20th C gets iffy, and is often a matter of family stories passed down over generations. We are still trying to pin down the approximate time period of a famous ancestor, “One-Eyed Nick.”
    For my English characters and settings, though, there are many valuable resources. Genuki is usually where I start–and I tend to refer to it again and again. It is an excellent resource. One notices, however, that some counties have abundant information, others not so much.

    Reply
  12. Doing genealogy on my Albanian family is a challenge to say the least. We can track them back to, say, Ellis Island or other ports but info before the early 20th C gets iffy, and is often a matter of family stories passed down over generations. We are still trying to pin down the approximate time period of a famous ancestor, “One-Eyed Nick.”
    For my English characters and settings, though, there are many valuable resources. Genuki is usually where I start–and I tend to refer to it again and again. It is an excellent resource. One notices, however, that some counties have abundant information, others not so much.

    Reply
  13. Thank you, Jo, for the wonderful links. For me to feel comfortable ‘in my writer’s skin’, I need to ‘visit’ the places where I put my characters. And I love the picture of the church. There’s a St. Paul’s church in Forest Hills, Maryland that looks very much like it. Ya know, the more I delve into British history the more I discover my roots within that history. I’ve been reading Christopher Hubbert’s RED COATS AND REBELS: The American Revolution Through British Eyes. Very enlightening especially for someone who has lived on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border her entire life.
    Here’s a question. When writing historical romance, where do you draw the line between historical fact and a reader’s fantasy? For example, the size of the Wilkinson family and the non use of the multigenerational model (factual history) really surprises me. Not because I have any facts to throw up against it. I don’t. But it just doesn’t fit within my fantasy about what I’ve always believed about ‘that time’. In truth, I would have a hard time suspending my non-factual (howbeit tightly held belief) and enjoying a story around what is probably a very fascinating household. How does a writer combat this?
    Another question: Have you (or any other wenches) ever written a historical romance where the main character is loosely based upon the life of a real (preferably historical) person? (Think inspired by a true story or inspired by actual events) If you have, where did you draw the line between fact and your character?
    As for Hyena, it definitely tops what I thought was the worst name I’d ever heard, which was Toy. The poor girl (who looked just like a living Barbie doll) fought every day to live that one down. I really feel sorry for Hyena. One can only hope, for the Hyena’s sake, the recorded spelling of her name was an error.
    Nina

    Reply
  14. Thank you, Jo, for the wonderful links. For me to feel comfortable ‘in my writer’s skin’, I need to ‘visit’ the places where I put my characters. And I love the picture of the church. There’s a St. Paul’s church in Forest Hills, Maryland that looks very much like it. Ya know, the more I delve into British history the more I discover my roots within that history. I’ve been reading Christopher Hubbert’s RED COATS AND REBELS: The American Revolution Through British Eyes. Very enlightening especially for someone who has lived on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border her entire life.
    Here’s a question. When writing historical romance, where do you draw the line between historical fact and a reader’s fantasy? For example, the size of the Wilkinson family and the non use of the multigenerational model (factual history) really surprises me. Not because I have any facts to throw up against it. I don’t. But it just doesn’t fit within my fantasy about what I’ve always believed about ‘that time’. In truth, I would have a hard time suspending my non-factual (howbeit tightly held belief) and enjoying a story around what is probably a very fascinating household. How does a writer combat this?
    Another question: Have you (or any other wenches) ever written a historical romance where the main character is loosely based upon the life of a real (preferably historical) person? (Think inspired by a true story or inspired by actual events) If you have, where did you draw the line between fact and your character?
    As for Hyena, it definitely tops what I thought was the worst name I’d ever heard, which was Toy. The poor girl (who looked just like a living Barbie doll) fought every day to live that one down. I really feel sorry for Hyena. One can only hope, for the Hyena’s sake, the recorded spelling of her name was an error.
    Nina

    Reply
  15. Thank you, Jo, for the wonderful links. For me to feel comfortable ‘in my writer’s skin’, I need to ‘visit’ the places where I put my characters. And I love the picture of the church. There’s a St. Paul’s church in Forest Hills, Maryland that looks very much like it. Ya know, the more I delve into British history the more I discover my roots within that history. I’ve been reading Christopher Hubbert’s RED COATS AND REBELS: The American Revolution Through British Eyes. Very enlightening especially for someone who has lived on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border her entire life.
    Here’s a question. When writing historical romance, where do you draw the line between historical fact and a reader’s fantasy? For example, the size of the Wilkinson family and the non use of the multigenerational model (factual history) really surprises me. Not because I have any facts to throw up against it. I don’t. But it just doesn’t fit within my fantasy about what I’ve always believed about ‘that time’. In truth, I would have a hard time suspending my non-factual (howbeit tightly held belief) and enjoying a story around what is probably a very fascinating household. How does a writer combat this?
    Another question: Have you (or any other wenches) ever written a historical romance where the main character is loosely based upon the life of a real (preferably historical) person? (Think inspired by a true story or inspired by actual events) If you have, where did you draw the line between fact and your character?
    As for Hyena, it definitely tops what I thought was the worst name I’d ever heard, which was Toy. The poor girl (who looked just like a living Barbie doll) fought every day to live that one down. I really feel sorry for Hyena. One can only hope, for the Hyena’s sake, the recorded spelling of her name was an error.
    Nina

    Reply
  16. Thank you, Jo, for the wonderful links. For me to feel comfortable ‘in my writer’s skin’, I need to ‘visit’ the places where I put my characters. And I love the picture of the church. There’s a St. Paul’s church in Forest Hills, Maryland that looks very much like it. Ya know, the more I delve into British history the more I discover my roots within that history. I’ve been reading Christopher Hubbert’s RED COATS AND REBELS: The American Revolution Through British Eyes. Very enlightening especially for someone who has lived on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border her entire life.
    Here’s a question. When writing historical romance, where do you draw the line between historical fact and a reader’s fantasy? For example, the size of the Wilkinson family and the non use of the multigenerational model (factual history) really surprises me. Not because I have any facts to throw up against it. I don’t. But it just doesn’t fit within my fantasy about what I’ve always believed about ‘that time’. In truth, I would have a hard time suspending my non-factual (howbeit tightly held belief) and enjoying a story around what is probably a very fascinating household. How does a writer combat this?
    Another question: Have you (or any other wenches) ever written a historical romance where the main character is loosely based upon the life of a real (preferably historical) person? (Think inspired by a true story or inspired by actual events) If you have, where did you draw the line between fact and your character?
    As for Hyena, it definitely tops what I thought was the worst name I’d ever heard, which was Toy. The poor girl (who looked just like a living Barbie doll) fought every day to live that one down. I really feel sorry for Hyena. One can only hope, for the Hyena’s sake, the recorded spelling of her name was an error.
    Nina

    Reply
  17. Fascinating post.
    I discovered genuki while researching villages in Cornwall. It’s fabulous for loads of info. I settled on St. Buryan. I even found sites for the church, local stone circles, and sacred wells. Oddly enough, the layout of everything fit perfectly with what I’d already written!
    Can’t wait for Lady Beware. 🙂

    Reply
  18. Fascinating post.
    I discovered genuki while researching villages in Cornwall. It’s fabulous for loads of info. I settled on St. Buryan. I even found sites for the church, local stone circles, and sacred wells. Oddly enough, the layout of everything fit perfectly with what I’d already written!
    Can’t wait for Lady Beware. 🙂

    Reply
  19. Fascinating post.
    I discovered genuki while researching villages in Cornwall. It’s fabulous for loads of info. I settled on St. Buryan. I even found sites for the church, local stone circles, and sacred wells. Oddly enough, the layout of everything fit perfectly with what I’d already written!
    Can’t wait for Lady Beware. 🙂

    Reply
  20. Fascinating post.
    I discovered genuki while researching villages in Cornwall. It’s fabulous for loads of info. I settled on St. Buryan. I even found sites for the church, local stone circles, and sacred wells. Oddly enough, the layout of everything fit perfectly with what I’d already written!
    Can’t wait for Lady Beware. 🙂

    Reply
  21. everyone on both my husband’s and my side of the family keep giving us geneological material which I solemnly file in a shoebox or album and never look at again. My parents were both orphans, so I didn’t even know my grandparents, which probably stifles my interest. My cousin says we’re descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine, so I’ll go with that.
    When I research villages in a particular era, it’s a little tougher than just pulling one out of a hat. Usually, I need them for a specific time, place, and purpose, and I can never pin down the exact things I want or need. So I usually end up pulling the same stunt I do on the contemps–I blend together what I find into a village I make up. If I’m going to make things up, I might as well do it all the way!
    great post, Jo. Now, if you’ll find equally great websites in France that I can use…

    Reply
  22. everyone on both my husband’s and my side of the family keep giving us geneological material which I solemnly file in a shoebox or album and never look at again. My parents were both orphans, so I didn’t even know my grandparents, which probably stifles my interest. My cousin says we’re descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine, so I’ll go with that.
    When I research villages in a particular era, it’s a little tougher than just pulling one out of a hat. Usually, I need them for a specific time, place, and purpose, and I can never pin down the exact things I want or need. So I usually end up pulling the same stunt I do on the contemps–I blend together what I find into a village I make up. If I’m going to make things up, I might as well do it all the way!
    great post, Jo. Now, if you’ll find equally great websites in France that I can use…

    Reply
  23. everyone on both my husband’s and my side of the family keep giving us geneological material which I solemnly file in a shoebox or album and never look at again. My parents were both orphans, so I didn’t even know my grandparents, which probably stifles my interest. My cousin says we’re descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine, so I’ll go with that.
    When I research villages in a particular era, it’s a little tougher than just pulling one out of a hat. Usually, I need them for a specific time, place, and purpose, and I can never pin down the exact things I want or need. So I usually end up pulling the same stunt I do on the contemps–I blend together what I find into a village I make up. If I’m going to make things up, I might as well do it all the way!
    great post, Jo. Now, if you’ll find equally great websites in France that I can use…

    Reply
  24. everyone on both my husband’s and my side of the family keep giving us geneological material which I solemnly file in a shoebox or album and never look at again. My parents were both orphans, so I didn’t even know my grandparents, which probably stifles my interest. My cousin says we’re descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine, so I’ll go with that.
    When I research villages in a particular era, it’s a little tougher than just pulling one out of a hat. Usually, I need them for a specific time, place, and purpose, and I can never pin down the exact things I want or need. So I usually end up pulling the same stunt I do on the contemps–I blend together what I find into a village I make up. If I’m going to make things up, I might as well do it all the way!
    great post, Jo. Now, if you’ll find equally great websites in France that I can use…

    Reply
  25. Yes, Loretta, I think Albania would be a challenge. Ireland can get pretty murky very quickly.
    Nina, I’ve never used a real person as the base for a character, but I love to read letters and diaries and such because information about real people of the time is the material I use to build characters who, I hope, might have lived back then.
    There’s a book called Love and War about Colonel de Lancey, who was Wellington’s Quartermaster General at Waterloo. Reading that led me to Major Hawkinville, in the Quartermaster General’s Department, because I wanted to use one of the ignored areas of the military complex.
    As for fact and fiction, I prefer to blur rather than alter. If there are things I think would make readers very uncomfortable I’ll try not to go there. At the first level, I choose not to write stories that deal with them. If they come up in some way I’ll try to write around them. I try very hard not to lie because to me lying and fiction are different things.
    For most things, I believe that most readers of historical romance have open and flexible minds, so I try to present something in a way that makes it accessible.
    But in addition, because I’m English some things I consider normal probably throw US readers and I don’t even realize. Probably a subject for another blog, but I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”
    Jo

    Reply
  26. Yes, Loretta, I think Albania would be a challenge. Ireland can get pretty murky very quickly.
    Nina, I’ve never used a real person as the base for a character, but I love to read letters and diaries and such because information about real people of the time is the material I use to build characters who, I hope, might have lived back then.
    There’s a book called Love and War about Colonel de Lancey, who was Wellington’s Quartermaster General at Waterloo. Reading that led me to Major Hawkinville, in the Quartermaster General’s Department, because I wanted to use one of the ignored areas of the military complex.
    As for fact and fiction, I prefer to blur rather than alter. If there are things I think would make readers very uncomfortable I’ll try not to go there. At the first level, I choose not to write stories that deal with them. If they come up in some way I’ll try to write around them. I try very hard not to lie because to me lying and fiction are different things.
    For most things, I believe that most readers of historical romance have open and flexible minds, so I try to present something in a way that makes it accessible.
    But in addition, because I’m English some things I consider normal probably throw US readers and I don’t even realize. Probably a subject for another blog, but I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”
    Jo

    Reply
  27. Yes, Loretta, I think Albania would be a challenge. Ireland can get pretty murky very quickly.
    Nina, I’ve never used a real person as the base for a character, but I love to read letters and diaries and such because information about real people of the time is the material I use to build characters who, I hope, might have lived back then.
    There’s a book called Love and War about Colonel de Lancey, who was Wellington’s Quartermaster General at Waterloo. Reading that led me to Major Hawkinville, in the Quartermaster General’s Department, because I wanted to use one of the ignored areas of the military complex.
    As for fact and fiction, I prefer to blur rather than alter. If there are things I think would make readers very uncomfortable I’ll try not to go there. At the first level, I choose not to write stories that deal with them. If they come up in some way I’ll try to write around them. I try very hard not to lie because to me lying and fiction are different things.
    For most things, I believe that most readers of historical romance have open and flexible minds, so I try to present something in a way that makes it accessible.
    But in addition, because I’m English some things I consider normal probably throw US readers and I don’t even realize. Probably a subject for another blog, but I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”
    Jo

    Reply
  28. Yes, Loretta, I think Albania would be a challenge. Ireland can get pretty murky very quickly.
    Nina, I’ve never used a real person as the base for a character, but I love to read letters and diaries and such because information about real people of the time is the material I use to build characters who, I hope, might have lived back then.
    There’s a book called Love and War about Colonel de Lancey, who was Wellington’s Quartermaster General at Waterloo. Reading that led me to Major Hawkinville, in the Quartermaster General’s Department, because I wanted to use one of the ignored areas of the military complex.
    As for fact and fiction, I prefer to blur rather than alter. If there are things I think would make readers very uncomfortable I’ll try not to go there. At the first level, I choose not to write stories that deal with them. If they come up in some way I’ll try to write around them. I try very hard not to lie because to me lying and fiction are different things.
    For most things, I believe that most readers of historical romance have open and flexible minds, so I try to present something in a way that makes it accessible.
    But in addition, because I’m English some things I consider normal probably throw US readers and I don’t even realize. Probably a subject for another blog, but I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”
    Jo

    Reply
  29. Jo said: ‘I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”‘
    LOL! Hey, I doubt if that happens any more often than details in an American-set *contemporary* that have amazed me and other British readers!
    😀 😀
    To be fair, the past of our *own* culture can seem unbelievable at times, too. It is hard for most people now to understand and accept how normal and acceptable gross social inequality, often on the most flimsy grounds, was to all our ancestors. I think I have mentioned before how bizarre it seems to me that many devout Christians (both British and American) in the 18th century saw nothing improper or morally questionable in owning slaves.

    Reply
  30. Jo said: ‘I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”‘
    LOL! Hey, I doubt if that happens any more often than details in an American-set *contemporary* that have amazed me and other British readers!
    😀 😀
    To be fair, the past of our *own* culture can seem unbelievable at times, too. It is hard for most people now to understand and accept how normal and acceptable gross social inequality, often on the most flimsy grounds, was to all our ancestors. I think I have mentioned before how bizarre it seems to me that many devout Christians (both British and American) in the 18th century saw nothing improper or morally questionable in owning slaves.

    Reply
  31. Jo said: ‘I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”‘
    LOL! Hey, I doubt if that happens any more often than details in an American-set *contemporary* that have amazed me and other British readers!
    😀 😀
    To be fair, the past of our *own* culture can seem unbelievable at times, too. It is hard for most people now to understand and accept how normal and acceptable gross social inequality, often on the most flimsy grounds, was to all our ancestors. I think I have mentioned before how bizarre it seems to me that many devout Christians (both British and American) in the 18th century saw nothing improper or morally questionable in owning slaves.

    Reply
  32. Jo said: ‘I wonder, what sort of details in an English-set historical have made you startle and think, “Can that be right?”‘
    LOL! Hey, I doubt if that happens any more often than details in an American-set *contemporary* that have amazed me and other British readers!
    😀 😀
    To be fair, the past of our *own* culture can seem unbelievable at times, too. It is hard for most people now to understand and accept how normal and acceptable gross social inequality, often on the most flimsy grounds, was to all our ancestors. I think I have mentioned before how bizarre it seems to me that many devout Christians (both British and American) in the 18th century saw nothing improper or morally questionable in owning slaves.

    Reply
  33. genuki is my favorite research website. The only problem is that I’ll go there looking for some specific thing–a church for my characters to marry in, an appropriate last name for a character from a particular county–and end up spending hours on some link with pictures of parish churches in Gloucestersire or villages in Shropshire.
    Nina, I knew a woman named Toy, too. Who would’ve thought there’d be more than one? I’d never inflict something so fluffy and undignified on a daughter of mine!

    Reply
  34. genuki is my favorite research website. The only problem is that I’ll go there looking for some specific thing–a church for my characters to marry in, an appropriate last name for a character from a particular county–and end up spending hours on some link with pictures of parish churches in Gloucestersire or villages in Shropshire.
    Nina, I knew a woman named Toy, too. Who would’ve thought there’d be more than one? I’d never inflict something so fluffy and undignified on a daughter of mine!

    Reply
  35. genuki is my favorite research website. The only problem is that I’ll go there looking for some specific thing–a church for my characters to marry in, an appropriate last name for a character from a particular county–and end up spending hours on some link with pictures of parish churches in Gloucestersire or villages in Shropshire.
    Nina, I knew a woman named Toy, too. Who would’ve thought there’d be more than one? I’d never inflict something so fluffy and undignified on a daughter of mine!

    Reply
  36. genuki is my favorite research website. The only problem is that I’ll go there looking for some specific thing–a church for my characters to marry in, an appropriate last name for a character from a particular county–and end up spending hours on some link with pictures of parish churches in Gloucestersire or villages in Shropshire.
    Nina, I knew a woman named Toy, too. Who would’ve thought there’d be more than one? I’d never inflict something so fluffy and undignified on a daughter of mine!

    Reply
  37. Hi Jo,
    I am Beyond Thrilled that Lady Beware is so close to being on the shelf–it is so hard to wait between your books (but actually, reading your blog entries helps soothe my impatience tremendously).
    My family has been in America so long that any real connection with England and Scotland is tenuous at best. We are related to the whaling Starbucks of Nantucket, and I’ve never been there, so it’s fun to see either the Starbucks or Nantucket used as a book backdrop (Carla Kelly’s “Miss Whittier Makes A List” is set there, I believe).
    After reading your post I am even more astonished than usual at your research skills, the time you spend, and your commitment to making the past come alive.
    Just saw your comment about slavery, AgTigress, and I couldn’t agree more. My own denomination (Presbyterian) split in two over the slavery issue in the 1800s with many devout folks on both sides of the issue, each side using Biblical texts as “proof” of their point of view–it’s mystifying and disturbing. It also reminds me (caution, sermon alert) that it’s important to have humility when we approach controversial moral issues of our own day–two hundred years from now, perhaps the light of historical consensus will deem some of our perspectives ignorant and morally bankrupt.
    One of my professors at seminary also talked about approaching historical people and their writings and views not judgmentally but with a “hermeneutic of generosity”–an assumption that historical writers were people of good will making an honest attempt to interpret their world in the best way they knew how.
    BTW, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” was an Englishman, John Newton, who captained a ship involved in the slave trade–transporting African slaves to America, etc. He came to realize the evil and depravity of slavery and the slave trade through this personal experience. He later became a minister (in Olney?)–and when he wrote “Amazing grace. . .that saved a wretch like me” he really meant “wretch.”
    (This started as a short post. Sigh.)
    Melinda

    Reply
  38. Hi Jo,
    I am Beyond Thrilled that Lady Beware is so close to being on the shelf–it is so hard to wait between your books (but actually, reading your blog entries helps soothe my impatience tremendously).
    My family has been in America so long that any real connection with England and Scotland is tenuous at best. We are related to the whaling Starbucks of Nantucket, and I’ve never been there, so it’s fun to see either the Starbucks or Nantucket used as a book backdrop (Carla Kelly’s “Miss Whittier Makes A List” is set there, I believe).
    After reading your post I am even more astonished than usual at your research skills, the time you spend, and your commitment to making the past come alive.
    Just saw your comment about slavery, AgTigress, and I couldn’t agree more. My own denomination (Presbyterian) split in two over the slavery issue in the 1800s with many devout folks on both sides of the issue, each side using Biblical texts as “proof” of their point of view–it’s mystifying and disturbing. It also reminds me (caution, sermon alert) that it’s important to have humility when we approach controversial moral issues of our own day–two hundred years from now, perhaps the light of historical consensus will deem some of our perspectives ignorant and morally bankrupt.
    One of my professors at seminary also talked about approaching historical people and their writings and views not judgmentally but with a “hermeneutic of generosity”–an assumption that historical writers were people of good will making an honest attempt to interpret their world in the best way they knew how.
    BTW, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” was an Englishman, John Newton, who captained a ship involved in the slave trade–transporting African slaves to America, etc. He came to realize the evil and depravity of slavery and the slave trade through this personal experience. He later became a minister (in Olney?)–and when he wrote “Amazing grace. . .that saved a wretch like me” he really meant “wretch.”
    (This started as a short post. Sigh.)
    Melinda

    Reply
  39. Hi Jo,
    I am Beyond Thrilled that Lady Beware is so close to being on the shelf–it is so hard to wait between your books (but actually, reading your blog entries helps soothe my impatience tremendously).
    My family has been in America so long that any real connection with England and Scotland is tenuous at best. We are related to the whaling Starbucks of Nantucket, and I’ve never been there, so it’s fun to see either the Starbucks or Nantucket used as a book backdrop (Carla Kelly’s “Miss Whittier Makes A List” is set there, I believe).
    After reading your post I am even more astonished than usual at your research skills, the time you spend, and your commitment to making the past come alive.
    Just saw your comment about slavery, AgTigress, and I couldn’t agree more. My own denomination (Presbyterian) split in two over the slavery issue in the 1800s with many devout folks on both sides of the issue, each side using Biblical texts as “proof” of their point of view–it’s mystifying and disturbing. It also reminds me (caution, sermon alert) that it’s important to have humility when we approach controversial moral issues of our own day–two hundred years from now, perhaps the light of historical consensus will deem some of our perspectives ignorant and morally bankrupt.
    One of my professors at seminary also talked about approaching historical people and their writings and views not judgmentally but with a “hermeneutic of generosity”–an assumption that historical writers were people of good will making an honest attempt to interpret their world in the best way they knew how.
    BTW, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” was an Englishman, John Newton, who captained a ship involved in the slave trade–transporting African slaves to America, etc. He came to realize the evil and depravity of slavery and the slave trade through this personal experience. He later became a minister (in Olney?)–and when he wrote “Amazing grace. . .that saved a wretch like me” he really meant “wretch.”
    (This started as a short post. Sigh.)
    Melinda

    Reply
  40. Hi Jo,
    I am Beyond Thrilled that Lady Beware is so close to being on the shelf–it is so hard to wait between your books (but actually, reading your blog entries helps soothe my impatience tremendously).
    My family has been in America so long that any real connection with England and Scotland is tenuous at best. We are related to the whaling Starbucks of Nantucket, and I’ve never been there, so it’s fun to see either the Starbucks or Nantucket used as a book backdrop (Carla Kelly’s “Miss Whittier Makes A List” is set there, I believe).
    After reading your post I am even more astonished than usual at your research skills, the time you spend, and your commitment to making the past come alive.
    Just saw your comment about slavery, AgTigress, and I couldn’t agree more. My own denomination (Presbyterian) split in two over the slavery issue in the 1800s with many devout folks on both sides of the issue, each side using Biblical texts as “proof” of their point of view–it’s mystifying and disturbing. It also reminds me (caution, sermon alert) that it’s important to have humility when we approach controversial moral issues of our own day–two hundred years from now, perhaps the light of historical consensus will deem some of our perspectives ignorant and morally bankrupt.
    One of my professors at seminary also talked about approaching historical people and their writings and views not judgmentally but with a “hermeneutic of generosity”–an assumption that historical writers were people of good will making an honest attempt to interpret their world in the best way they knew how.
    BTW, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” was an Englishman, John Newton, who captained a ship involved in the slave trade–transporting African slaves to America, etc. He came to realize the evil and depravity of slavery and the slave trade through this personal experience. He later became a minister (in Olney?)–and when he wrote “Amazing grace. . .that saved a wretch like me” he really meant “wretch.”
    (This started as a short post. Sigh.)
    Melinda

    Reply
  41. Thank you, Jo, for answering my questions. And for the book tip on Colonel de Lancey. David Howarth, in his book WATERLOO: Day of Battle, basically opens up with de Lancey, newly married, receiving orders from the Duke to mobilize his infamous army. 300 or so boring pages later, he ends with de Lancey dying in an unnamed farmhouse with his bride by his side. God, I cried. But I think I’ll be reading LOVE AND WAR, none the less. I am however, having trouble finding it. Who wrote it?
    As for the question of ‘normal’ throwing me… I don’t know if it is British vs. American way of thinking/perceiving so much as it is understanding the language. For example, to take someone ‘to book.’ I would say ‘call them in on the carpet.’ (which may or may not be ‘American’) Others… ‘to fetch her home’, ‘in fine feather’, or ‘putting their charges up.’ The first two I get, the last, I don’t.
    Here’s a dumb perhaps even politically incorrect question. (so I beg forgiveness now) Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?
    As for the ‘that can’t be right’ part of your question… with all due respect, I am continually amazed at the level of testosterone English males seem to sport. Or maybe it’s just the way they’re portrayed. But to get into a snit and call someone out (to a duel) over a slight rebuff… I don’t know, maybe I need to stop reading war journals.

    Reply
  42. Thank you, Jo, for answering my questions. And for the book tip on Colonel de Lancey. David Howarth, in his book WATERLOO: Day of Battle, basically opens up with de Lancey, newly married, receiving orders from the Duke to mobilize his infamous army. 300 or so boring pages later, he ends with de Lancey dying in an unnamed farmhouse with his bride by his side. God, I cried. But I think I’ll be reading LOVE AND WAR, none the less. I am however, having trouble finding it. Who wrote it?
    As for the question of ‘normal’ throwing me… I don’t know if it is British vs. American way of thinking/perceiving so much as it is understanding the language. For example, to take someone ‘to book.’ I would say ‘call them in on the carpet.’ (which may or may not be ‘American’) Others… ‘to fetch her home’, ‘in fine feather’, or ‘putting their charges up.’ The first two I get, the last, I don’t.
    Here’s a dumb perhaps even politically incorrect question. (so I beg forgiveness now) Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?
    As for the ‘that can’t be right’ part of your question… with all due respect, I am continually amazed at the level of testosterone English males seem to sport. Or maybe it’s just the way they’re portrayed. But to get into a snit and call someone out (to a duel) over a slight rebuff… I don’t know, maybe I need to stop reading war journals.

    Reply
  43. Thank you, Jo, for answering my questions. And for the book tip on Colonel de Lancey. David Howarth, in his book WATERLOO: Day of Battle, basically opens up with de Lancey, newly married, receiving orders from the Duke to mobilize his infamous army. 300 or so boring pages later, he ends with de Lancey dying in an unnamed farmhouse with his bride by his side. God, I cried. But I think I’ll be reading LOVE AND WAR, none the less. I am however, having trouble finding it. Who wrote it?
    As for the question of ‘normal’ throwing me… I don’t know if it is British vs. American way of thinking/perceiving so much as it is understanding the language. For example, to take someone ‘to book.’ I would say ‘call them in on the carpet.’ (which may or may not be ‘American’) Others… ‘to fetch her home’, ‘in fine feather’, or ‘putting their charges up.’ The first two I get, the last, I don’t.
    Here’s a dumb perhaps even politically incorrect question. (so I beg forgiveness now) Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?
    As for the ‘that can’t be right’ part of your question… with all due respect, I am continually amazed at the level of testosterone English males seem to sport. Or maybe it’s just the way they’re portrayed. But to get into a snit and call someone out (to a duel) over a slight rebuff… I don’t know, maybe I need to stop reading war journals.

    Reply
  44. Thank you, Jo, for answering my questions. And for the book tip on Colonel de Lancey. David Howarth, in his book WATERLOO: Day of Battle, basically opens up with de Lancey, newly married, receiving orders from the Duke to mobilize his infamous army. 300 or so boring pages later, he ends with de Lancey dying in an unnamed farmhouse with his bride by his side. God, I cried. But I think I’ll be reading LOVE AND WAR, none the less. I am however, having trouble finding it. Who wrote it?
    As for the question of ‘normal’ throwing me… I don’t know if it is British vs. American way of thinking/perceiving so much as it is understanding the language. For example, to take someone ‘to book.’ I would say ‘call them in on the carpet.’ (which may or may not be ‘American’) Others… ‘to fetch her home’, ‘in fine feather’, or ‘putting their charges up.’ The first two I get, the last, I don’t.
    Here’s a dumb perhaps even politically incorrect question. (so I beg forgiveness now) Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?
    As for the ‘that can’t be right’ part of your question… with all due respect, I am continually amazed at the level of testosterone English males seem to sport. Or maybe it’s just the way they’re portrayed. But to get into a snit and call someone out (to a duel) over a slight rebuff… I don’t know, maybe I need to stop reading war journals.

    Reply
  45. RevMelinda, the points you make are very important indeed, not only from the ‘morality’ viewpoint, but on the issue of trying to *understand* other human cultures, whether they are in the recent or remote past, or in the here-and-now, but other parts of the world.
    We have to try to set aside our own very deep cultural conditioning, and to disentangle truly universal human values, such as physical needs and the need to communicate and co-operate with others of our species – from changing mores. Many of the things we imagine to be self-evidently ‘right’ today may, indeed, be seen in a different light in decades and centuries to come.
    One can never achieve the necessary objectivity and detachment – but that’s no excuse for not trying!
    🙂

    Reply
  46. RevMelinda, the points you make are very important indeed, not only from the ‘morality’ viewpoint, but on the issue of trying to *understand* other human cultures, whether they are in the recent or remote past, or in the here-and-now, but other parts of the world.
    We have to try to set aside our own very deep cultural conditioning, and to disentangle truly universal human values, such as physical needs and the need to communicate and co-operate with others of our species – from changing mores. Many of the things we imagine to be self-evidently ‘right’ today may, indeed, be seen in a different light in decades and centuries to come.
    One can never achieve the necessary objectivity and detachment – but that’s no excuse for not trying!
    🙂

    Reply
  47. RevMelinda, the points you make are very important indeed, not only from the ‘morality’ viewpoint, but on the issue of trying to *understand* other human cultures, whether they are in the recent or remote past, or in the here-and-now, but other parts of the world.
    We have to try to set aside our own very deep cultural conditioning, and to disentangle truly universal human values, such as physical needs and the need to communicate and co-operate with others of our species – from changing mores. Many of the things we imagine to be self-evidently ‘right’ today may, indeed, be seen in a different light in decades and centuries to come.
    One can never achieve the necessary objectivity and detachment – but that’s no excuse for not trying!
    🙂

    Reply
  48. RevMelinda, the points you make are very important indeed, not only from the ‘morality’ viewpoint, but on the issue of trying to *understand* other human cultures, whether they are in the recent or remote past, or in the here-and-now, but other parts of the world.
    We have to try to set aside our own very deep cultural conditioning, and to disentangle truly universal human values, such as physical needs and the need to communicate and co-operate with others of our species – from changing mores. Many of the things we imagine to be self-evidently ‘right’ today may, indeed, be seen in a different light in decades and centuries to come.
    One can never achieve the necessary objectivity and detachment – but that’s no excuse for not trying!
    🙂

    Reply
  49. “Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?”
    Nina, I don’t think there is, but anyway, spoken British English has countless regional dialects, and it changes all the time, just like any other variety of English! I am conscious now, in my 60s, that people of the same sort of background and education as myself, but 40 years younger, speak a slightly different English from mine.
    It is fairly easy to put in things that are Americanisms/Britishisms; harder to make sure they are chronologically and socially correct; much harder again to exclude idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age. Probably the easiest thing is to get a British reader to check – though he/she won’t necessarily be sensitive to the idioms and vocabulary peculiar to a particular time or place, at least it should highlight and remove any blatant Americanisms.
    Sometimes I think editors rather than authors insert Americanisms into British dialogue – I know that Jayne Ann Krentz, in her Amanda Quick persona, has never written ‘gotten’ in the speech of a Regency character, but she has had her correct ‘got’ miscorrected to ‘gotten’ by an editor more than once!
    🙂

    Reply
  50. “Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?”
    Nina, I don’t think there is, but anyway, spoken British English has countless regional dialects, and it changes all the time, just like any other variety of English! I am conscious now, in my 60s, that people of the same sort of background and education as myself, but 40 years younger, speak a slightly different English from mine.
    It is fairly easy to put in things that are Americanisms/Britishisms; harder to make sure they are chronologically and socially correct; much harder again to exclude idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age. Probably the easiest thing is to get a British reader to check – though he/she won’t necessarily be sensitive to the idioms and vocabulary peculiar to a particular time or place, at least it should highlight and remove any blatant Americanisms.
    Sometimes I think editors rather than authors insert Americanisms into British dialogue – I know that Jayne Ann Krentz, in her Amanda Quick persona, has never written ‘gotten’ in the speech of a Regency character, but she has had her correct ‘got’ miscorrected to ‘gotten’ by an editor more than once!
    🙂

    Reply
  51. “Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?”
    Nina, I don’t think there is, but anyway, spoken British English has countless regional dialects, and it changes all the time, just like any other variety of English! I am conscious now, in my 60s, that people of the same sort of background and education as myself, but 40 years younger, speak a slightly different English from mine.
    It is fairly easy to put in things that are Americanisms/Britishisms; harder to make sure they are chronologically and socially correct; much harder again to exclude idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age. Probably the easiest thing is to get a British reader to check – though he/she won’t necessarily be sensitive to the idioms and vocabulary peculiar to a particular time or place, at least it should highlight and remove any blatant Americanisms.
    Sometimes I think editors rather than authors insert Americanisms into British dialogue – I know that Jayne Ann Krentz, in her Amanda Quick persona, has never written ‘gotten’ in the speech of a Regency character, but she has had her correct ‘got’ miscorrected to ‘gotten’ by an editor more than once!
    🙂

    Reply
  52. “Is there a book out there that will help a writer write ‘more English, less Americanized’ dialogue?”
    Nina, I don’t think there is, but anyway, spoken British English has countless regional dialects, and it changes all the time, just like any other variety of English! I am conscious now, in my 60s, that people of the same sort of background and education as myself, but 40 years younger, speak a slightly different English from mine.
    It is fairly easy to put in things that are Americanisms/Britishisms; harder to make sure they are chronologically and socially correct; much harder again to exclude idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age. Probably the easiest thing is to get a British reader to check – though he/she won’t necessarily be sensitive to the idioms and vocabulary peculiar to a particular time or place, at least it should highlight and remove any blatant Americanisms.
    Sometimes I think editors rather than authors insert Americanisms into British dialogue – I know that Jayne Ann Krentz, in her Amanda Quick persona, has never written ‘gotten’ in the speech of a Regency character, but she has had her correct ‘got’ miscorrected to ‘gotten’ by an editor more than once!
    🙂

    Reply
  53. I love posts like this. It’s why this is now my favorite blog, and the first one I go to most days. One reason I love historicals is because I love to think and learn about how people really lived day to day in earlier centuries.
    My family, on all sides, has been in the US for at least two centuries, so like Melinda’s family our Old World connection is tenuous. My paternal line – Cornett – came to the US when seven English brothers packed up and came across in the early 1700s. William Cornett fought in the Revolutionary War, then was given a land grant in what was then Virginia, now Kentucky. I’ve looked at the census for the early and late 1800s, as well as today, and Kentucky is always the state with the most Cornetts, by a long margin. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is that once you settled in the Appalachians it wasn’t easy to move elsewhere, or even get out to see other places. In the early 1800s, another William Cornett married twice; my father is descended from his first wife, my mother from the second. I would say that isn’t uncommon, in isolated areas, for married couples to have common ancestors generations back. And, of course, the stigma about marrying cousins is of relatively recent vintage (or so I understand!). After all, Sarah was Abraham’s half sister.
    I’ve done a little digging around in English geneaology and history websites for a story I am working on. Not gotten very far yet, but did look up what people lived in Northumberland on the coast, specifically Blyth. I love to use the maps, to get an idea of how far say, Dover, is from Blyth. I know the roads would have been radically different, but it gives me an idea. (And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.) I really like this site – http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk/ – which shows what English amounts from 1264 to 2005 are worth in today’s dollars. And this site with an annotated list of fiction written by women from 1775 to 1818 – http://locutus.ucr.edu/~cathy/womw.html. I want to know what knowledge was possible to know for the people in the time I’m writing about.
    I love the Internet. It makes so much knowledge so accessible. The realm of what it’s possible to easily know has shot to the stratosphere. The only problem now is time.

    Reply
  54. I love posts like this. It’s why this is now my favorite blog, and the first one I go to most days. One reason I love historicals is because I love to think and learn about how people really lived day to day in earlier centuries.
    My family, on all sides, has been in the US for at least two centuries, so like Melinda’s family our Old World connection is tenuous. My paternal line – Cornett – came to the US when seven English brothers packed up and came across in the early 1700s. William Cornett fought in the Revolutionary War, then was given a land grant in what was then Virginia, now Kentucky. I’ve looked at the census for the early and late 1800s, as well as today, and Kentucky is always the state with the most Cornetts, by a long margin. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is that once you settled in the Appalachians it wasn’t easy to move elsewhere, or even get out to see other places. In the early 1800s, another William Cornett married twice; my father is descended from his first wife, my mother from the second. I would say that isn’t uncommon, in isolated areas, for married couples to have common ancestors generations back. And, of course, the stigma about marrying cousins is of relatively recent vintage (or so I understand!). After all, Sarah was Abraham’s half sister.
    I’ve done a little digging around in English geneaology and history websites for a story I am working on. Not gotten very far yet, but did look up what people lived in Northumberland on the coast, specifically Blyth. I love to use the maps, to get an idea of how far say, Dover, is from Blyth. I know the roads would have been radically different, but it gives me an idea. (And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.) I really like this site – http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk/ – which shows what English amounts from 1264 to 2005 are worth in today’s dollars. And this site with an annotated list of fiction written by women from 1775 to 1818 – http://locutus.ucr.edu/~cathy/womw.html. I want to know what knowledge was possible to know for the people in the time I’m writing about.
    I love the Internet. It makes so much knowledge so accessible. The realm of what it’s possible to easily know has shot to the stratosphere. The only problem now is time.

    Reply
  55. I love posts like this. It’s why this is now my favorite blog, and the first one I go to most days. One reason I love historicals is because I love to think and learn about how people really lived day to day in earlier centuries.
    My family, on all sides, has been in the US for at least two centuries, so like Melinda’s family our Old World connection is tenuous. My paternal line – Cornett – came to the US when seven English brothers packed up and came across in the early 1700s. William Cornett fought in the Revolutionary War, then was given a land grant in what was then Virginia, now Kentucky. I’ve looked at the census for the early and late 1800s, as well as today, and Kentucky is always the state with the most Cornetts, by a long margin. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is that once you settled in the Appalachians it wasn’t easy to move elsewhere, or even get out to see other places. In the early 1800s, another William Cornett married twice; my father is descended from his first wife, my mother from the second. I would say that isn’t uncommon, in isolated areas, for married couples to have common ancestors generations back. And, of course, the stigma about marrying cousins is of relatively recent vintage (or so I understand!). After all, Sarah was Abraham’s half sister.
    I’ve done a little digging around in English geneaology and history websites for a story I am working on. Not gotten very far yet, but did look up what people lived in Northumberland on the coast, specifically Blyth. I love to use the maps, to get an idea of how far say, Dover, is from Blyth. I know the roads would have been radically different, but it gives me an idea. (And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.) I really like this site – http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk/ – which shows what English amounts from 1264 to 2005 are worth in today’s dollars. And this site with an annotated list of fiction written by women from 1775 to 1818 – http://locutus.ucr.edu/~cathy/womw.html. I want to know what knowledge was possible to know for the people in the time I’m writing about.
    I love the Internet. It makes so much knowledge so accessible. The realm of what it’s possible to easily know has shot to the stratosphere. The only problem now is time.

    Reply
  56. I love posts like this. It’s why this is now my favorite blog, and the first one I go to most days. One reason I love historicals is because I love to think and learn about how people really lived day to day in earlier centuries.
    My family, on all sides, has been in the US for at least two centuries, so like Melinda’s family our Old World connection is tenuous. My paternal line – Cornett – came to the US when seven English brothers packed up and came across in the early 1700s. William Cornett fought in the Revolutionary War, then was given a land grant in what was then Virginia, now Kentucky. I’ve looked at the census for the early and late 1800s, as well as today, and Kentucky is always the state with the most Cornetts, by a long margin. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is that once you settled in the Appalachians it wasn’t easy to move elsewhere, or even get out to see other places. In the early 1800s, another William Cornett married twice; my father is descended from his first wife, my mother from the second. I would say that isn’t uncommon, in isolated areas, for married couples to have common ancestors generations back. And, of course, the stigma about marrying cousins is of relatively recent vintage (or so I understand!). After all, Sarah was Abraham’s half sister.
    I’ve done a little digging around in English geneaology and history websites for a story I am working on. Not gotten very far yet, but did look up what people lived in Northumberland on the coast, specifically Blyth. I love to use the maps, to get an idea of how far say, Dover, is from Blyth. I know the roads would have been radically different, but it gives me an idea. (And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.) I really like this site – http://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk/ – which shows what English amounts from 1264 to 2005 are worth in today’s dollars. And this site with an annotated list of fiction written by women from 1775 to 1818 – http://locutus.ucr.edu/~cathy/womw.html. I want to know what knowledge was possible to know for the people in the time I’m writing about.
    I love the Internet. It makes so much knowledge so accessible. The realm of what it’s possible to easily know has shot to the stratosphere. The only problem now is time.

    Reply
  57. Ag, thank you for addressing my question. I never though about having a British reader vet my dialogue. I do watch a fair amount of BBC telly. I love the fluid cadence of the British accent. Very romantic, IMHO.
    And you are so right about the difficulty of “exclude[ing] idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age.” From where I live, I can travel 40 miles south and be told I have an accent or that I ‘talk funny.’ Actually, it’s the other person that has the accent and talks funny, but I never tell them that. *G*
    Nina, thinking a wenchling critique/reader group sounds most interesting.

    Reply
  58. Ag, thank you for addressing my question. I never though about having a British reader vet my dialogue. I do watch a fair amount of BBC telly. I love the fluid cadence of the British accent. Very romantic, IMHO.
    And you are so right about the difficulty of “exclude[ing] idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age.” From where I live, I can travel 40 miles south and be told I have an accent or that I ‘talk funny.’ Actually, it’s the other person that has the accent and talks funny, but I never tell them that. *G*
    Nina, thinking a wenchling critique/reader group sounds most interesting.

    Reply
  59. Ag, thank you for addressing my question. I never though about having a British reader vet my dialogue. I do watch a fair amount of BBC telly. I love the fluid cadence of the British accent. Very romantic, IMHO.
    And you are so right about the difficulty of “exclude[ing] idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age.” From where I live, I can travel 40 miles south and be told I have an accent or that I ‘talk funny.’ Actually, it’s the other person that has the accent and talks funny, but I never tell them that. *G*
    Nina, thinking a wenchling critique/reader group sounds most interesting.

    Reply
  60. Ag, thank you for addressing my question. I never though about having a British reader vet my dialogue. I do watch a fair amount of BBC telly. I love the fluid cadence of the British accent. Very romantic, IMHO.
    And you are so right about the difficulty of “exclude[ing] idioms that betray one’s own nationality and age.” From where I live, I can travel 40 miles south and be told I have an accent or that I ‘talk funny.’ Actually, it’s the other person that has the accent and talks funny, but I never tell them that. *G*
    Nina, thinking a wenchling critique/reader group sounds most interesting.

    Reply
  61. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    Don’t be misled by time/distance relationships, though! That distance could take easily two or three times as long to traverse, even by car, today, as it would in the USA.
    😉

    Reply
  62. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    Don’t be misled by time/distance relationships, though! That distance could take easily two or three times as long to traverse, even by car, today, as it would in the USA.
    😉

    Reply
  63. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    Don’t be misled by time/distance relationships, though! That distance could take easily two or three times as long to traverse, even by car, today, as it would in the USA.
    😉

    Reply
  64. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    Don’t be misled by time/distance relationships, though! That distance could take easily two or three times as long to traverse, even by car, today, as it would in the USA.
    😉

    Reply
  65. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    When I was traveling in Ireland, I went on an archeological tour of the Dingle Peninsula. While we were touring an ancient monastery, some 1500 years old, with drystone beehive cells, the guide mentioned that there was more to the site, but it had never been excavated. When I expressed my surprise at this, the guide said, “There’s just so much here. You have to understand the difference between Ireland and America–in America, a hundred years is a long time, while in Ireland a hundred miles is a long distance.” I think the same would apply to the rest of the British Isles.
    I’ve never done genealogical research, but some of my relatives have. Like Susanna’s, most of my family has been here awhile, except for one set of great-grandparents who immigrated from Sweden. My grandfather spoke fluent Swedish, but my grandmother wouldn’t let him teach my mother and her siblings, because her children were *Americans*. Talk about how times change! Anyway, I’m a bit of a mutt, but probably more than half Scots-Irish, with some English, French Huguenot, Creek, and who knows what else scrambled in. Thanks to my husband’s side, my daughter can also claim Welsh, German, and Cherokee ancestry (and membership in the Cherokee Nation).

    Reply
  66. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    When I was traveling in Ireland, I went on an archeological tour of the Dingle Peninsula. While we were touring an ancient monastery, some 1500 years old, with drystone beehive cells, the guide mentioned that there was more to the site, but it had never been excavated. When I expressed my surprise at this, the guide said, “There’s just so much here. You have to understand the difference between Ireland and America–in America, a hundred years is a long time, while in Ireland a hundred miles is a long distance.” I think the same would apply to the rest of the British Isles.
    I’ve never done genealogical research, but some of my relatives have. Like Susanna’s, most of my family has been here awhile, except for one set of great-grandparents who immigrated from Sweden. My grandfather spoke fluent Swedish, but my grandmother wouldn’t let him teach my mother and her siblings, because her children were *Americans*. Talk about how times change! Anyway, I’m a bit of a mutt, but probably more than half Scots-Irish, with some English, French Huguenot, Creek, and who knows what else scrambled in. Thanks to my husband’s side, my daughter can also claim Welsh, German, and Cherokee ancestry (and membership in the Cherokee Nation).

    Reply
  67. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    When I was traveling in Ireland, I went on an archeological tour of the Dingle Peninsula. While we were touring an ancient monastery, some 1500 years old, with drystone beehive cells, the guide mentioned that there was more to the site, but it had never been excavated. When I expressed my surprise at this, the guide said, “There’s just so much here. You have to understand the difference between Ireland and America–in America, a hundred years is a long time, while in Ireland a hundred miles is a long distance.” I think the same would apply to the rest of the British Isles.
    I’ve never done genealogical research, but some of my relatives have. Like Susanna’s, most of my family has been here awhile, except for one set of great-grandparents who immigrated from Sweden. My grandfather spoke fluent Swedish, but my grandmother wouldn’t let him teach my mother and her siblings, because her children were *Americans*. Talk about how times change! Anyway, I’m a bit of a mutt, but probably more than half Scots-Irish, with some English, French Huguenot, Creek, and who knows what else scrambled in. Thanks to my husband’s side, my daughter can also claim Welsh, German, and Cherokee ancestry (and membership in the Cherokee Nation).

    Reply
  68. “And it shocked me to realize that the entire country north to south is the distance I drive in a day to see my parents.”
    When I was traveling in Ireland, I went on an archeological tour of the Dingle Peninsula. While we were touring an ancient monastery, some 1500 years old, with drystone beehive cells, the guide mentioned that there was more to the site, but it had never been excavated. When I expressed my surprise at this, the guide said, “There’s just so much here. You have to understand the difference between Ireland and America–in America, a hundred years is a long time, while in Ireland a hundred miles is a long distance.” I think the same would apply to the rest of the British Isles.
    I’ve never done genealogical research, but some of my relatives have. Like Susanna’s, most of my family has been here awhile, except for one set of great-grandparents who immigrated from Sweden. My grandfather spoke fluent Swedish, but my grandmother wouldn’t let him teach my mother and her siblings, because her children were *Americans*. Talk about how times change! Anyway, I’m a bit of a mutt, but probably more than half Scots-Irish, with some English, French Huguenot, Creek, and who knows what else scrambled in. Thanks to my husband’s side, my daughter can also claim Welsh, German, and Cherokee ancestry (and membership in the Cherokee Nation).

    Reply
  69. I am all about the family research, especially as my clan has the most wonderfully tawdry tales to tell and a penchant for leaving scraps of themselves behind in various record depositories. (Odds of finding a civil war era letter or a revolutionary war one? Excellent, if you’re me)
    And it was very interesting to meet my distant Cornwall relations, to stand in the French church where were were excommunicated (haven’t been to the Irish one yet, need to find it first) and stand on a hill in Germany thinking about a man and a woman, living less than a day’s good travel away, crossing oceans and miles and ending up in the same place once again.
    Hustory changes it when you connect it to people in your family, when you see the dynamics you grew up in set in motion fifty, a hundred, sometimes even a few hundred years before you were born. I apologize (or say you’re welcome) to my descendants right now!

    Reply
  70. I am all about the family research, especially as my clan has the most wonderfully tawdry tales to tell and a penchant for leaving scraps of themselves behind in various record depositories. (Odds of finding a civil war era letter or a revolutionary war one? Excellent, if you’re me)
    And it was very interesting to meet my distant Cornwall relations, to stand in the French church where were were excommunicated (haven’t been to the Irish one yet, need to find it first) and stand on a hill in Germany thinking about a man and a woman, living less than a day’s good travel away, crossing oceans and miles and ending up in the same place once again.
    Hustory changes it when you connect it to people in your family, when you see the dynamics you grew up in set in motion fifty, a hundred, sometimes even a few hundred years before you were born. I apologize (or say you’re welcome) to my descendants right now!

    Reply
  71. I am all about the family research, especially as my clan has the most wonderfully tawdry tales to tell and a penchant for leaving scraps of themselves behind in various record depositories. (Odds of finding a civil war era letter or a revolutionary war one? Excellent, if you’re me)
    And it was very interesting to meet my distant Cornwall relations, to stand in the French church where were were excommunicated (haven’t been to the Irish one yet, need to find it first) and stand on a hill in Germany thinking about a man and a woman, living less than a day’s good travel away, crossing oceans and miles and ending up in the same place once again.
    Hustory changes it when you connect it to people in your family, when you see the dynamics you grew up in set in motion fifty, a hundred, sometimes even a few hundred years before you were born. I apologize (or say you’re welcome) to my descendants right now!

    Reply
  72. I am all about the family research, especially as my clan has the most wonderfully tawdry tales to tell and a penchant for leaving scraps of themselves behind in various record depositories. (Odds of finding a civil war era letter or a revolutionary war one? Excellent, if you’re me)
    And it was very interesting to meet my distant Cornwall relations, to stand in the French church where were were excommunicated (haven’t been to the Irish one yet, need to find it first) and stand on a hill in Germany thinking about a man and a woman, living less than a day’s good travel away, crossing oceans and miles and ending up in the same place once again.
    Hustory changes it when you connect it to people in your family, when you see the dynamics you grew up in set in motion fifty, a hundred, sometimes even a few hundred years before you were born. I apologize (or say you’re welcome) to my descendants right now!

    Reply

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