Drawing Writing Inspiration from Family History with Elizabeth St.John

ElizabethNicola here. Today I welcome historical author Elizabeth St.John to the Word Wenches. I first met Elizabeth at the Historical Novel Conference in Oxford a few years ago. I confess to stalking her a little (in a completely non-sinister way!) because I knew she had a family connection to Lydiard Park, the glorious 18th century stately home in Swindon near where I live, and I was desperate to meet her and chat about Lydiard and its history. It’s been a huge pleasure to get to know Elizabeth and discover her writing. Her books are set in the 17th century, in an intensely turbulent period of English history, and they are intricate, immersive and beautifully-written. I’ve just started reading Written In Their Stars and I am hooked. Elizabeth evokes a rich historical world that draws you in from the very start of the book. Here she is to tell us more about her writing.

Elizabeth, welcome to the Word Wench Blog! Please tell us about your personal connection to the family you are writing about.

The St.John family in The Lydiard Chronicles share a common great-grandmother with me: Margaret Beauchamp, who was also Polyptych Open with Trees (003) grandmother to Henry VII. The seventeenth century family thought she was a very useful ancestor to increase their standing in society, and didn’t hesitate to use their “royal connection” to further their position. Sir John St.John, the First Baronet, was particularly enthralled, and thus commissioned the Polyptych in 1615, which stands in St. Mary’s Church at Lydiard Park. It’s an extraordinary monument, full of beautiful portraits which inspired my work—plus a gorgeous family tree, complete with Margaret at the top.

The first two books in the Lydiard Chronicle series are The Lady of the Tower and By Love Divided. How do they set the scene for Written in their Stars?

Lucy Apsley (003)When I first started writing the Chronicles, I wanted to create a series similar to Narnia—where stories could intersect, move through generations, and be read as individual novels as well as a saga. All of the stories are inspired by true accounts of the family which I discovered in diaries, letters and court documents. My first novel, The Lady of the Tower, follows the fate of Lucy St.John, who “was the most beautiful of all the sisters, at which they were somewhat jealous of her”, as said in her daughter’s diary. Lucy’s story twists and turns through her life in the Tower of London during the years when James I and Charles I are on the throne, and tells of the patronage, corruption and betrayals from the people she loves. By Love Divided is the story of Lucy’s children, Luce and Allen, who choose to fight on opposite sides of the Civil War, and follows the terrible choices they have to make for their beliefs. At its core, below the bleakness and brutality, it’s a story of the power of love conquering all. Written in their Stars, which again is drawn from Luce’s diaries, continues the family story and introduces a new character: cousin Nan Wilmot, the wife of Henry Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. This takes place during England’s commonwealth years and follows the restoration of Charles II to the throne, and also highlights the influence my family members had in changing England’s political landscape.

Please tell us more about Written in their Stars.

I’d love to share my blurb—I think it summarizes the story without giving away some of the spoilers that really raise the family Written in Their Stars eBook Cover New Color (003)stakes.

London, 1649.  Horrified eyewitnesses to King Charles’s bloody execution, Royalists Nan Wilmot and Frances Apsley plot to return the king’s exiled son to England’s throne, while their radical cousin Luce, the wife of king-killer John Hutchinson, rejoices in the new republic’s triumph. Nan exploits her high-ranking position as Countess of Rochester to manipulate England’s great divide, flouting Cromwell and establishing a Royalist spy network; while Frances and her husband Allen join the destitute prince in Paris’s Louvre Palace to support his restoration. As the women work from the shadows to topple Cromwell’s regime, their husbands fight openly for the throne on England’s bloody battlefields.

But will the return of the king be a victory—or destroy them all? Separated by loyalty and bound by love, Luce, Nan and Frances hold the fate of England—and their family—in their hands.

 Do you find the writing experience different when you are telling the story of your own ancestors as opposed to other historical figures?

 That’s a great question. I do have to say I feel an emotional connection that transcends the centuries, and that certainly influences my writing. When I read their words, touch letters they have written, look at their portraits and walk within their homes, I cannot help but move into their world, knowing we share DNA! As a historical fiction writer, I feel a great responsibility to interpret events from original source documents, and to not rely on secondary retelling of events. So, when my ancestors encounter or become historical figures themselves (Sir Allen Apsley’s great friendship with Sir Walter Raleigh, for instance) I think there is a deeper empathy I can bring to historical figures through the connection with my own family and research.

Please tell us about your research for the series.

The SIx St.John Sisters (003) I have been extremely fortunate that significant primary research about the St. John family exists, and I’ve spent many happy hours in the National Archives and the British Library poring over original wills, letters and court documents. For all of my books, I have had generous support from the descendants of the characters—the current Earl and Countess Bathurst at Cirencester Park have been wonderful in welcoming me into their home and making available research time with their extraordinary collection of portraits, for instance. For The Lady of the Tower, I was able to work with Historic Royal Palaces and be invited in “behind the scenes” within the Queens House at the Tower of London, which is an unforgettable experience. And while researching Written in their Stars, the Bursar at Ditchley Park, which was the home of Nan Wilmot, gave me unlimited access to the house and park to enjoy the family portraits and explore the grounds.

My original interest, though, was sparked by the rich archives of The Friends of Lydiard Park, the charitable foundation which was formed over fifty years ago to secure and promote the St.John and connected family research at Lydiard House. Over the years, the trustees of the Friends have been incredibly generous in making their time available for endless questions, the documents available for deep scrutiny, and unlimited access to the House and its contents to simply just sit and absorb.

There are some extraordinary historical characters who people the pages of your novels. Do you have a particular favourite?

 Several! I’d have to say the “two Barbaras”: Barbara St.John Villiers, Lucy St.John’s sister and antagonist in The Lady of the Tower; BarbaraVilliers and Barbara Villers, Lady Castlemaine (pictured), her granddaughter and an influential supporting character in Written in their Stars.  And Nan—Anne St.John Wilmot, wife of Henry Wilmot, the first Earl of Rochester, and mother of John Wilmot. She elbowed her way to the forefront of Written in their Stars as spymistress to King Charles, and never left.

You have a long and vivid family history to draw upon. What is it about the 17th century that particularly inspires you? Could you foresee writing about another era in your family history?

 We do have a long recorded history, dating back to the 12th century, and there are many extraordinary stories to be told. Lucy’s story captured my imagination and dropped me firmly in the 17th century, which to be honest, I was not that familiar with. Now, it’s a passion to introduce readers to perhaps the most under-exposed and exciting period of English history. As for other eras, I would love to explore the medieval St. Johns. They had lands and castles spanning England and Wales and were advisors to monarchs across the centuries. I’m sure there are some secrets to uncover there!

You are also Ambassador for the Friends of Lydiard Park, which is an independent charity that supports the conservation and Lydiard christmasenhancement of Lydiard House and Park. Please tell us more about that.

I’m thrilled to represent The Friends of Lydiard Park across the world, for we have members from pretty much all corners of the globe. Founded in 2005, it is the successor to the Friends of Lydiard Tregoz, whose 40 years of published research raised awareness and appreciation of this unique historic estate. The Friends were instrumental in Lydiard's major landscape restoration project (2004-2007) and today play an active and important role in the protection, promotion, conservation and interpretation of the House and Park, as well as St. Mary's Church Lydiard Tregoze.

We have some exciting developments planned for 2020, including developing local “living history” initiatives, and an extensive archival project that will facilitate access to centuries’ worth of research. More information can be found on the Friends’ website at www.friendsoflydiardpark.org.uk.

By love dividedThank you so much for sharing your passion for history with us today, Elizabeth! Elizabeth is offering an e-book set of The Lydiard Chronicles to one lucky commenter who posts on the blog between now and midnight Thursday. Her question is"If you were going to write about one of your ancestors, who would you choose and why?"

Bio: Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An award-winning author, historian and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them – in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story…

Links:

Amazon Author Page: www.tinyurl.com/AmazonElizStJohn

The Lady of the Tower: www.tinyurl.com/TLCLOT

By Love Divided: www.tinyurl.com/TLCBLD

Written in their Stars: www.tinyurl.com/TLCWIT

Website: www.ElizabethJStJohn.com

Follow me on Twitter @ElizStJohn

Facebook: Elizabeth J StJohn

Buy Links:

Kobo, Apple, Nook:   https://books2read.com/u/mZBDw5  

Amazon:  https://geni.us/MyBookWITS

80 thoughts on “Drawing Writing Inspiration from Family History with Elizabeth St.John”

  1. I would write about William Spencer (Not related to the Earls of Spencer of Althorp…thank goodness!) He was in the second round of the settlers of Jamestown. He and his family came over in 1611. I’d love to write about that period, it’s hardships and challenges. I’d want to explore his relationship with Alice Lightfoot and perhaps follow the line down through their daughter Elizabeth Spencer Sheppard who married Major Robert Spencer. Tidewater Virginia is an interesting location and showing how much change occurred within years of the first settlement would be fascinating to study.

    Reply
  2. I would write about William Spencer (Not related to the Earls of Spencer of Althorp…thank goodness!) He was in the second round of the settlers of Jamestown. He and his family came over in 1611. I’d love to write about that period, it’s hardships and challenges. I’d want to explore his relationship with Alice Lightfoot and perhaps follow the line down through their daughter Elizabeth Spencer Sheppard who married Major Robert Spencer. Tidewater Virginia is an interesting location and showing how much change occurred within years of the first settlement would be fascinating to study.

    Reply
  3. I would write about William Spencer (Not related to the Earls of Spencer of Althorp…thank goodness!) He was in the second round of the settlers of Jamestown. He and his family came over in 1611. I’d love to write about that period, it’s hardships and challenges. I’d want to explore his relationship with Alice Lightfoot and perhaps follow the line down through their daughter Elizabeth Spencer Sheppard who married Major Robert Spencer. Tidewater Virginia is an interesting location and showing how much change occurred within years of the first settlement would be fascinating to study.

    Reply
  4. I would write about William Spencer (Not related to the Earls of Spencer of Althorp…thank goodness!) He was in the second round of the settlers of Jamestown. He and his family came over in 1611. I’d love to write about that period, it’s hardships and challenges. I’d want to explore his relationship with Alice Lightfoot and perhaps follow the line down through their daughter Elizabeth Spencer Sheppard who married Major Robert Spencer. Tidewater Virginia is an interesting location and showing how much change occurred within years of the first settlement would be fascinating to study.

    Reply
  5. I would write about William Spencer (Not related to the Earls of Spencer of Althorp…thank goodness!) He was in the second round of the settlers of Jamestown. He and his family came over in 1611. I’d love to write about that period, it’s hardships and challenges. I’d want to explore his relationship with Alice Lightfoot and perhaps follow the line down through their daughter Elizabeth Spencer Sheppard who married Major Robert Spencer. Tidewater Virginia is an interesting location and showing how much change occurred within years of the first settlement would be fascinating to study.

    Reply
  6. What ancestor would I write about? Probablly the ones I know the least about.. My mother’s paternal grandfather found in the “Florida Wars” (against the Seminole) under General Jackson. As my ancestor was a supply sargeant, I doubt he and the general ever met. I know this fact about this man because his land in Missouri was granted to him for this service, and I have the Beaureau of Land Management papers that tell about his service.
    Family stories say he married an Irish girl who came from County Cork to the U. S. through New Orleans. The family said her name was Mary Murphy. The only census I found for this couple shows the wife as Bridget Murphy, but does say she came from Ireland. So here we have Mary Bridget Murphy or Bridget Mary Murhphy married to William Tully Dorrance from Connecticut. And that is almost the sum total of my knowledge.
    Still, I suspect the Florida wars would yield a lot of information for the making of a good novel. (If only I could write fiction!)

    Reply
  7. What ancestor would I write about? Probablly the ones I know the least about.. My mother’s paternal grandfather found in the “Florida Wars” (against the Seminole) under General Jackson. As my ancestor was a supply sargeant, I doubt he and the general ever met. I know this fact about this man because his land in Missouri was granted to him for this service, and I have the Beaureau of Land Management papers that tell about his service.
    Family stories say he married an Irish girl who came from County Cork to the U. S. through New Orleans. The family said her name was Mary Murphy. The only census I found for this couple shows the wife as Bridget Murphy, but does say she came from Ireland. So here we have Mary Bridget Murphy or Bridget Mary Murhphy married to William Tully Dorrance from Connecticut. And that is almost the sum total of my knowledge.
    Still, I suspect the Florida wars would yield a lot of information for the making of a good novel. (If only I could write fiction!)

    Reply
  8. What ancestor would I write about? Probablly the ones I know the least about.. My mother’s paternal grandfather found in the “Florida Wars” (against the Seminole) under General Jackson. As my ancestor was a supply sargeant, I doubt he and the general ever met. I know this fact about this man because his land in Missouri was granted to him for this service, and I have the Beaureau of Land Management papers that tell about his service.
    Family stories say he married an Irish girl who came from County Cork to the U. S. through New Orleans. The family said her name was Mary Murphy. The only census I found for this couple shows the wife as Bridget Murphy, but does say she came from Ireland. So here we have Mary Bridget Murphy or Bridget Mary Murhphy married to William Tully Dorrance from Connecticut. And that is almost the sum total of my knowledge.
    Still, I suspect the Florida wars would yield a lot of information for the making of a good novel. (If only I could write fiction!)

    Reply
  9. What ancestor would I write about? Probablly the ones I know the least about.. My mother’s paternal grandfather found in the “Florida Wars” (against the Seminole) under General Jackson. As my ancestor was a supply sargeant, I doubt he and the general ever met. I know this fact about this man because his land in Missouri was granted to him for this service, and I have the Beaureau of Land Management papers that tell about his service.
    Family stories say he married an Irish girl who came from County Cork to the U. S. through New Orleans. The family said her name was Mary Murphy. The only census I found for this couple shows the wife as Bridget Murphy, but does say she came from Ireland. So here we have Mary Bridget Murphy or Bridget Mary Murhphy married to William Tully Dorrance from Connecticut. And that is almost the sum total of my knowledge.
    Still, I suspect the Florida wars would yield a lot of information for the making of a good novel. (If only I could write fiction!)

    Reply
  10. What ancestor would I write about? Probablly the ones I know the least about.. My mother’s paternal grandfather found in the “Florida Wars” (against the Seminole) under General Jackson. As my ancestor was a supply sargeant, I doubt he and the general ever met. I know this fact about this man because his land in Missouri was granted to him for this service, and I have the Beaureau of Land Management papers that tell about his service.
    Family stories say he married an Irish girl who came from County Cork to the U. S. through New Orleans. The family said her name was Mary Murphy. The only census I found for this couple shows the wife as Bridget Murphy, but does say she came from Ireland. So here we have Mary Bridget Murphy or Bridget Mary Murhphy married to William Tully Dorrance from Connecticut. And that is almost the sum total of my knowledge.
    Still, I suspect the Florida wars would yield a lot of information for the making of a good novel. (If only I could write fiction!)

    Reply
  11. How fascinating, Nicola and Elizabeth! And what rich, marvelous material you have for writing historical novels. (I’m feeling a pang of New World Envy for the incredible original documents you have available.)
    I also envy your interesting ancestors. THe best I can come up with is being a collateral descendant of Richard Henry Dana. A bit from his Wikipedia bio:
    +++Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family, who gained renown as the author of the classic
    American memoir TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves and freedmen.++

    Reply
  12. How fascinating, Nicola and Elizabeth! And what rich, marvelous material you have for writing historical novels. (I’m feeling a pang of New World Envy for the incredible original documents you have available.)
    I also envy your interesting ancestors. THe best I can come up with is being a collateral descendant of Richard Henry Dana. A bit from his Wikipedia bio:
    +++Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family, who gained renown as the author of the classic
    American memoir TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves and freedmen.++

    Reply
  13. How fascinating, Nicola and Elizabeth! And what rich, marvelous material you have for writing historical novels. (I’m feeling a pang of New World Envy for the incredible original documents you have available.)
    I also envy your interesting ancestors. THe best I can come up with is being a collateral descendant of Richard Henry Dana. A bit from his Wikipedia bio:
    +++Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family, who gained renown as the author of the classic
    American memoir TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves and freedmen.++

    Reply
  14. How fascinating, Nicola and Elizabeth! And what rich, marvelous material you have for writing historical novels. (I’m feeling a pang of New World Envy for the incredible original documents you have available.)
    I also envy your interesting ancestors. THe best I can come up with is being a collateral descendant of Richard Henry Dana. A bit from his Wikipedia bio:
    +++Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family, who gained renown as the author of the classic
    American memoir TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves and freedmen.++

    Reply
  15. How fascinating, Nicola and Elizabeth! And what rich, marvelous material you have for writing historical novels. (I’m feeling a pang of New World Envy for the incredible original documents you have available.)
    I also envy your interesting ancestors. THe best I can come up with is being a collateral descendant of Richard Henry Dana. A bit from his Wikipedia bio:
    +++Richard Henry Dana Jr. (August 1, 1815 – January 6, 1882) was an American lawyer and politician from Massachusetts, a descendant of an eminent colonial family, who gained renown as the author of the classic
    American memoir TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST. Both as a writer and as a lawyer, he was a champion of the downtrodden, from seamen to fugitive slaves and freedmen.++

    Reply
  16. I would write about my maternal grandmother, Guiseppa. From all accounts she was an extraordinary woman who had very little formal education but dictated business letters to her husband from her practical good sense and directness in describing what she wanted, even if she couldn’t read or write well enough.
    My maternal grandfather, Orazio, had access to an education but was too lazy to pursue it. He was the baby of his family and very spoiled.
    Guiseppa bore nine children. Eight survived only because the midwife thought something was wrong with a daughter she gave birth to and smothered it.
    My grandmother had an unhappy marriage. Orazio was violent. He didn’t like her giving so much money to the church.
    She didn’t live long. She died at 55 from kidney failure. It was 1934, and there was no dialysis.
    From everything she endured, Guiseppa pushed her children to get the most out of their lives. Her oldest son, Joseph, received his PhD in Mathematics from Seaton Hall University and later taught there. I believe he received the title of honorary president of the university.
    She sacrificed the time of her other children for Joseph, pushing her first daughter, Mary, to continue to sit for hours embroidering costumes she made for stage actresses during the 1920s and to tell the other children to stay quiet, so he could study.
    Joseph told Mary to hurry in decorating costumes by threading needles to get them ready. He cared more about his studies than his sister’s time to relax. Mary had polio at age three but was able to move her leg enough to walk slowly. Since sitting was easier, the work continued. Anything to help Joseph.
    Guiseppa asked for clothing from her children to send to her family in Italy. My mother remembered having to give her a favorite blouse because she asked her for it saying she had worn it long enough.
    Guiseppa loved her children but found sex with Orazio a dirty experience. He was unfaithful, and after Guiseppa’s death, took his money, $5,000, a lot of money in the 1930s, married his girlfriend and moved to Los Angeles. He still had two younger children who were minors. The older children took him to court to get financial support for them.
    I would write about Guiseppa because she kept going, no matter what, for the sake of her children and to survive the best she could.

    Reply
  17. I would write about my maternal grandmother, Guiseppa. From all accounts she was an extraordinary woman who had very little formal education but dictated business letters to her husband from her practical good sense and directness in describing what she wanted, even if she couldn’t read or write well enough.
    My maternal grandfather, Orazio, had access to an education but was too lazy to pursue it. He was the baby of his family and very spoiled.
    Guiseppa bore nine children. Eight survived only because the midwife thought something was wrong with a daughter she gave birth to and smothered it.
    My grandmother had an unhappy marriage. Orazio was violent. He didn’t like her giving so much money to the church.
    She didn’t live long. She died at 55 from kidney failure. It was 1934, and there was no dialysis.
    From everything she endured, Guiseppa pushed her children to get the most out of their lives. Her oldest son, Joseph, received his PhD in Mathematics from Seaton Hall University and later taught there. I believe he received the title of honorary president of the university.
    She sacrificed the time of her other children for Joseph, pushing her first daughter, Mary, to continue to sit for hours embroidering costumes she made for stage actresses during the 1920s and to tell the other children to stay quiet, so he could study.
    Joseph told Mary to hurry in decorating costumes by threading needles to get them ready. He cared more about his studies than his sister’s time to relax. Mary had polio at age three but was able to move her leg enough to walk slowly. Since sitting was easier, the work continued. Anything to help Joseph.
    Guiseppa asked for clothing from her children to send to her family in Italy. My mother remembered having to give her a favorite blouse because she asked her for it saying she had worn it long enough.
    Guiseppa loved her children but found sex with Orazio a dirty experience. He was unfaithful, and after Guiseppa’s death, took his money, $5,000, a lot of money in the 1930s, married his girlfriend and moved to Los Angeles. He still had two younger children who were minors. The older children took him to court to get financial support for them.
    I would write about Guiseppa because she kept going, no matter what, for the sake of her children and to survive the best she could.

    Reply
  18. I would write about my maternal grandmother, Guiseppa. From all accounts she was an extraordinary woman who had very little formal education but dictated business letters to her husband from her practical good sense and directness in describing what she wanted, even if she couldn’t read or write well enough.
    My maternal grandfather, Orazio, had access to an education but was too lazy to pursue it. He was the baby of his family and very spoiled.
    Guiseppa bore nine children. Eight survived only because the midwife thought something was wrong with a daughter she gave birth to and smothered it.
    My grandmother had an unhappy marriage. Orazio was violent. He didn’t like her giving so much money to the church.
    She didn’t live long. She died at 55 from kidney failure. It was 1934, and there was no dialysis.
    From everything she endured, Guiseppa pushed her children to get the most out of their lives. Her oldest son, Joseph, received his PhD in Mathematics from Seaton Hall University and later taught there. I believe he received the title of honorary president of the university.
    She sacrificed the time of her other children for Joseph, pushing her first daughter, Mary, to continue to sit for hours embroidering costumes she made for stage actresses during the 1920s and to tell the other children to stay quiet, so he could study.
    Joseph told Mary to hurry in decorating costumes by threading needles to get them ready. He cared more about his studies than his sister’s time to relax. Mary had polio at age three but was able to move her leg enough to walk slowly. Since sitting was easier, the work continued. Anything to help Joseph.
    Guiseppa asked for clothing from her children to send to her family in Italy. My mother remembered having to give her a favorite blouse because she asked her for it saying she had worn it long enough.
    Guiseppa loved her children but found sex with Orazio a dirty experience. He was unfaithful, and after Guiseppa’s death, took his money, $5,000, a lot of money in the 1930s, married his girlfriend and moved to Los Angeles. He still had two younger children who were minors. The older children took him to court to get financial support for them.
    I would write about Guiseppa because she kept going, no matter what, for the sake of her children and to survive the best she could.

    Reply
  19. I would write about my maternal grandmother, Guiseppa. From all accounts she was an extraordinary woman who had very little formal education but dictated business letters to her husband from her practical good sense and directness in describing what she wanted, even if she couldn’t read or write well enough.
    My maternal grandfather, Orazio, had access to an education but was too lazy to pursue it. He was the baby of his family and very spoiled.
    Guiseppa bore nine children. Eight survived only because the midwife thought something was wrong with a daughter she gave birth to and smothered it.
    My grandmother had an unhappy marriage. Orazio was violent. He didn’t like her giving so much money to the church.
    She didn’t live long. She died at 55 from kidney failure. It was 1934, and there was no dialysis.
    From everything she endured, Guiseppa pushed her children to get the most out of their lives. Her oldest son, Joseph, received his PhD in Mathematics from Seaton Hall University and later taught there. I believe he received the title of honorary president of the university.
    She sacrificed the time of her other children for Joseph, pushing her first daughter, Mary, to continue to sit for hours embroidering costumes she made for stage actresses during the 1920s and to tell the other children to stay quiet, so he could study.
    Joseph told Mary to hurry in decorating costumes by threading needles to get them ready. He cared more about his studies than his sister’s time to relax. Mary had polio at age three but was able to move her leg enough to walk slowly. Since sitting was easier, the work continued. Anything to help Joseph.
    Guiseppa asked for clothing from her children to send to her family in Italy. My mother remembered having to give her a favorite blouse because she asked her for it saying she had worn it long enough.
    Guiseppa loved her children but found sex with Orazio a dirty experience. He was unfaithful, and after Guiseppa’s death, took his money, $5,000, a lot of money in the 1930s, married his girlfriend and moved to Los Angeles. He still had two younger children who were minors. The older children took him to court to get financial support for them.
    I would write about Guiseppa because she kept going, no matter what, for the sake of her children and to survive the best she could.

    Reply
  20. I would write about my maternal grandmother, Guiseppa. From all accounts she was an extraordinary woman who had very little formal education but dictated business letters to her husband from her practical good sense and directness in describing what she wanted, even if she couldn’t read or write well enough.
    My maternal grandfather, Orazio, had access to an education but was too lazy to pursue it. He was the baby of his family and very spoiled.
    Guiseppa bore nine children. Eight survived only because the midwife thought something was wrong with a daughter she gave birth to and smothered it.
    My grandmother had an unhappy marriage. Orazio was violent. He didn’t like her giving so much money to the church.
    She didn’t live long. She died at 55 from kidney failure. It was 1934, and there was no dialysis.
    From everything she endured, Guiseppa pushed her children to get the most out of their lives. Her oldest son, Joseph, received his PhD in Mathematics from Seaton Hall University and later taught there. I believe he received the title of honorary president of the university.
    She sacrificed the time of her other children for Joseph, pushing her first daughter, Mary, to continue to sit for hours embroidering costumes she made for stage actresses during the 1920s and to tell the other children to stay quiet, so he could study.
    Joseph told Mary to hurry in decorating costumes by threading needles to get them ready. He cared more about his studies than his sister’s time to relax. Mary had polio at age three but was able to move her leg enough to walk slowly. Since sitting was easier, the work continued. Anything to help Joseph.
    Guiseppa asked for clothing from her children to send to her family in Italy. My mother remembered having to give her a favorite blouse because she asked her for it saying she had worn it long enough.
    Guiseppa loved her children but found sex with Orazio a dirty experience. He was unfaithful, and after Guiseppa’s death, took his money, $5,000, a lot of money in the 1930s, married his girlfriend and moved to Los Angeles. He still had two younger children who were minors. The older children took him to court to get financial support for them.
    I would write about Guiseppa because she kept going, no matter what, for the sake of her children and to survive the best she could.

    Reply
  21. That sounds like a fascinating bit of genealogy to explore, Pamela. I admire the tenacity of the settlers very much. It must have been a tough life and a really interesting period of history to research.

    Reply
  22. That sounds like a fascinating bit of genealogy to explore, Pamela. I admire the tenacity of the settlers very much. It must have been a tough life and a really interesting period of history to research.

    Reply
  23. That sounds like a fascinating bit of genealogy to explore, Pamela. I admire the tenacity of the settlers very much. It must have been a tough life and a really interesting period of history to research.

    Reply
  24. That sounds like a fascinating bit of genealogy to explore, Pamela. I admire the tenacity of the settlers very much. It must have been a tough life and a really interesting period of history to research.

    Reply
  25. That sounds like a fascinating bit of genealogy to explore, Pamela. I admire the tenacity of the settlers very much. It must have been a tough life and a really interesting period of history to research.

    Reply
  26. Sue, that sounds like a really interesting family story to research, either for a novel or for non-fiction! I love the way we discover all sorts of twists and turns with family history, and so often there’s a grain of truth – or more – in the stories that have been passed down!

    Reply
  27. Sue, that sounds like a really interesting family story to research, either for a novel or for non-fiction! I love the way we discover all sorts of twists and turns with family history, and so often there’s a grain of truth – or more – in the stories that have been passed down!

    Reply
  28. Sue, that sounds like a really interesting family story to research, either for a novel or for non-fiction! I love the way we discover all sorts of twists and turns with family history, and so often there’s a grain of truth – or more – in the stories that have been passed down!

    Reply
  29. Sue, that sounds like a really interesting family story to research, either for a novel or for non-fiction! I love the way we discover all sorts of twists and turns with family history, and so often there’s a grain of truth – or more – in the stories that have been passed down!

    Reply
  30. Sue, that sounds like a really interesting family story to research, either for a novel or for non-fiction! I love the way we discover all sorts of twists and turns with family history, and so often there’s a grain of truth – or more – in the stories that have been passed down!

    Reply
  31. Patricia, Guiseppa sounds to have been an extraordinary woman and a real inspiration. I love how we uncover these stories of strong women in our families; so often they are the ones who hold everything together and work to achieve a better life for their children and descendents. She sounds to have been a wonderful person to have in your family tree.

    Reply
  32. Patricia, Guiseppa sounds to have been an extraordinary woman and a real inspiration. I love how we uncover these stories of strong women in our families; so often they are the ones who hold everything together and work to achieve a better life for their children and descendents. She sounds to have been a wonderful person to have in your family tree.

    Reply
  33. Patricia, Guiseppa sounds to have been an extraordinary woman and a real inspiration. I love how we uncover these stories of strong women in our families; so often they are the ones who hold everything together and work to achieve a better life for their children and descendents. She sounds to have been a wonderful person to have in your family tree.

    Reply
  34. Patricia, Guiseppa sounds to have been an extraordinary woman and a real inspiration. I love how we uncover these stories of strong women in our families; so often they are the ones who hold everything together and work to achieve a better life for their children and descendents. She sounds to have been a wonderful person to have in your family tree.

    Reply
  35. Patricia, Guiseppa sounds to have been an extraordinary woman and a real inspiration. I love how we uncover these stories of strong women in our families; so often they are the ones who hold everything together and work to achieve a better life for their children and descendents. She sounds to have been a wonderful person to have in your family tree.

    Reply
  36. No illustrious forebears here, though I did/do admire my mother’s mother who lived approx. 1885-1965 in a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. She was of German heritage, my grandfather of French Canadian–a combination that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. She bore 10 children (they wanted 12, but the doctor stopped them at 10), did all the office side of their construction business, and cycled through the presidency of every women’s group in town. My favorite story though, is from an uncle who recalled many afternoons when his father would call out, “Cora, I want you,” and upstairs they’d go! I don’t think there’s a book in there, but a film … maybe! (Actually, the film Cheaper by the Dozen could have been about their family, I always thought.)
    I also want to comment on Elizabeth’s fascinating interview. I see a new reading experience ahead for me! How wonderful to have such an interesting, well-documented family heritage to draw from. In particular, I’m drawn to the portrait of the St. John sisters. It’s worth double-clicking to view in more detail. Lined up like six peas in a pod, but oh, so different. Broodily delineated faces that tell their own stories, bodies dark and homogeneous, hands all misaligned–fascinating! I can see why the other five were jealous of Lucy, who I assume is the third from the left. Given the turbulent times, that portrait fairly reeks of intrigue.
    Lastly, I am salivating to read about Nan Wilmot, wife of Henry, Earl of Rochester. Johnny Depp was an overwhelming Rochester in The Libertine (described as “a stinker,” but one of my all-time favorite films), and I always wondered about Nan. I was going to describe her as long-suffering, but maybe she was just pragmatic and a good fit for an upside-down era. Can’t wait to find out!

    Reply
  37. No illustrious forebears here, though I did/do admire my mother’s mother who lived approx. 1885-1965 in a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. She was of German heritage, my grandfather of French Canadian–a combination that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. She bore 10 children (they wanted 12, but the doctor stopped them at 10), did all the office side of their construction business, and cycled through the presidency of every women’s group in town. My favorite story though, is from an uncle who recalled many afternoons when his father would call out, “Cora, I want you,” and upstairs they’d go! I don’t think there’s a book in there, but a film … maybe! (Actually, the film Cheaper by the Dozen could have been about their family, I always thought.)
    I also want to comment on Elizabeth’s fascinating interview. I see a new reading experience ahead for me! How wonderful to have such an interesting, well-documented family heritage to draw from. In particular, I’m drawn to the portrait of the St. John sisters. It’s worth double-clicking to view in more detail. Lined up like six peas in a pod, but oh, so different. Broodily delineated faces that tell their own stories, bodies dark and homogeneous, hands all misaligned–fascinating! I can see why the other five were jealous of Lucy, who I assume is the third from the left. Given the turbulent times, that portrait fairly reeks of intrigue.
    Lastly, I am salivating to read about Nan Wilmot, wife of Henry, Earl of Rochester. Johnny Depp was an overwhelming Rochester in The Libertine (described as “a stinker,” but one of my all-time favorite films), and I always wondered about Nan. I was going to describe her as long-suffering, but maybe she was just pragmatic and a good fit for an upside-down era. Can’t wait to find out!

    Reply
  38. No illustrious forebears here, though I did/do admire my mother’s mother who lived approx. 1885-1965 in a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. She was of German heritage, my grandfather of French Canadian–a combination that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. She bore 10 children (they wanted 12, but the doctor stopped them at 10), did all the office side of their construction business, and cycled through the presidency of every women’s group in town. My favorite story though, is from an uncle who recalled many afternoons when his father would call out, “Cora, I want you,” and upstairs they’d go! I don’t think there’s a book in there, but a film … maybe! (Actually, the film Cheaper by the Dozen could have been about their family, I always thought.)
    I also want to comment on Elizabeth’s fascinating interview. I see a new reading experience ahead for me! How wonderful to have such an interesting, well-documented family heritage to draw from. In particular, I’m drawn to the portrait of the St. John sisters. It’s worth double-clicking to view in more detail. Lined up like six peas in a pod, but oh, so different. Broodily delineated faces that tell their own stories, bodies dark and homogeneous, hands all misaligned–fascinating! I can see why the other five were jealous of Lucy, who I assume is the third from the left. Given the turbulent times, that portrait fairly reeks of intrigue.
    Lastly, I am salivating to read about Nan Wilmot, wife of Henry, Earl of Rochester. Johnny Depp was an overwhelming Rochester in The Libertine (described as “a stinker,” but one of my all-time favorite films), and I always wondered about Nan. I was going to describe her as long-suffering, but maybe she was just pragmatic and a good fit for an upside-down era. Can’t wait to find out!

    Reply
  39. No illustrious forebears here, though I did/do admire my mother’s mother who lived approx. 1885-1965 in a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. She was of German heritage, my grandfather of French Canadian–a combination that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. She bore 10 children (they wanted 12, but the doctor stopped them at 10), did all the office side of their construction business, and cycled through the presidency of every women’s group in town. My favorite story though, is from an uncle who recalled many afternoons when his father would call out, “Cora, I want you,” and upstairs they’d go! I don’t think there’s a book in there, but a film … maybe! (Actually, the film Cheaper by the Dozen could have been about their family, I always thought.)
    I also want to comment on Elizabeth’s fascinating interview. I see a new reading experience ahead for me! How wonderful to have such an interesting, well-documented family heritage to draw from. In particular, I’m drawn to the portrait of the St. John sisters. It’s worth double-clicking to view in more detail. Lined up like six peas in a pod, but oh, so different. Broodily delineated faces that tell their own stories, bodies dark and homogeneous, hands all misaligned–fascinating! I can see why the other five were jealous of Lucy, who I assume is the third from the left. Given the turbulent times, that portrait fairly reeks of intrigue.
    Lastly, I am salivating to read about Nan Wilmot, wife of Henry, Earl of Rochester. Johnny Depp was an overwhelming Rochester in The Libertine (described as “a stinker,” but one of my all-time favorite films), and I always wondered about Nan. I was going to describe her as long-suffering, but maybe she was just pragmatic and a good fit for an upside-down era. Can’t wait to find out!

    Reply
  40. No illustrious forebears here, though I did/do admire my mother’s mother who lived approx. 1885-1965 in a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan. She was of German heritage, my grandfather of French Canadian–a combination that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. She bore 10 children (they wanted 12, but the doctor stopped them at 10), did all the office side of their construction business, and cycled through the presidency of every women’s group in town. My favorite story though, is from an uncle who recalled many afternoons when his father would call out, “Cora, I want you,” and upstairs they’d go! I don’t think there’s a book in there, but a film … maybe! (Actually, the film Cheaper by the Dozen could have been about their family, I always thought.)
    I also want to comment on Elizabeth’s fascinating interview. I see a new reading experience ahead for me! How wonderful to have such an interesting, well-documented family heritage to draw from. In particular, I’m drawn to the portrait of the St. John sisters. It’s worth double-clicking to view in more detail. Lined up like six peas in a pod, but oh, so different. Broodily delineated faces that tell their own stories, bodies dark and homogeneous, hands all misaligned–fascinating! I can see why the other five were jealous of Lucy, who I assume is the third from the left. Given the turbulent times, that portrait fairly reeks of intrigue.
    Lastly, I am salivating to read about Nan Wilmot, wife of Henry, Earl of Rochester. Johnny Depp was an overwhelming Rochester in The Libertine (described as “a stinker,” but one of my all-time favorite films), and I always wondered about Nan. I was going to describe her as long-suffering, but maybe she was just pragmatic and a good fit for an upside-down era. Can’t wait to find out!

    Reply
  41. Hi Mary! What a funny story about your grandparents! They sound indefatigable in several ways! I’ll let Elizabeth comment on the StJohn sisters and indeed on Nan as I’m sure she has got to know her well. I remember the film The Libertine and found it very dark.

    Reply
  42. Hi Mary! What a funny story about your grandparents! They sound indefatigable in several ways! I’ll let Elizabeth comment on the StJohn sisters and indeed on Nan as I’m sure she has got to know her well. I remember the film The Libertine and found it very dark.

    Reply
  43. Hi Mary! What a funny story about your grandparents! They sound indefatigable in several ways! I’ll let Elizabeth comment on the StJohn sisters and indeed on Nan as I’m sure she has got to know her well. I remember the film The Libertine and found it very dark.

    Reply
  44. Hi Mary! What a funny story about your grandparents! They sound indefatigable in several ways! I’ll let Elizabeth comment on the StJohn sisters and indeed on Nan as I’m sure she has got to know her well. I remember the film The Libertine and found it very dark.

    Reply
  45. Hi Mary! What a funny story about your grandparents! They sound indefatigable in several ways! I’ll let Elizabeth comment on the StJohn sisters and indeed on Nan as I’m sure she has got to know her well. I remember the film The Libertine and found it very dark.

    Reply
  46. The Lydiard family books sound fascinating and I must get hold of them. I must admit I’d never heard of Lydiard Park until now – is it ever open to the public?
    I love the Restoration and agree that it’s not much written about, compared to either the Tudor or the Georgian eras.

    Reply
  47. The Lydiard family books sound fascinating and I must get hold of them. I must admit I’d never heard of Lydiard Park until now – is it ever open to the public?
    I love the Restoration and agree that it’s not much written about, compared to either the Tudor or the Georgian eras.

    Reply
  48. The Lydiard family books sound fascinating and I must get hold of them. I must admit I’d never heard of Lydiard Park until now – is it ever open to the public?
    I love the Restoration and agree that it’s not much written about, compared to either the Tudor or the Georgian eras.

    Reply
  49. The Lydiard family books sound fascinating and I must get hold of them. I must admit I’d never heard of Lydiard Park until now – is it ever open to the public?
    I love the Restoration and agree that it’s not much written about, compared to either the Tudor or the Georgian eras.

    Reply
  50. The Lydiard family books sound fascinating and I must get hold of them. I must admit I’d never heard of Lydiard Park until now – is it ever open to the public?
    I love the Restoration and agree that it’s not much written about, compared to either the Tudor or the Georgian eras.

    Reply
  51. I think you would enjoy the books very much, Julia. We’re trying to spread the word about Lydiard Park as a place to visit. It’s open 11am – 4pm Wednesday – Sunday up until Christmas. The house looks lovely with its decorations up!

    Reply
  52. I think you would enjoy the books very much, Julia. We’re trying to spread the word about Lydiard Park as a place to visit. It’s open 11am – 4pm Wednesday – Sunday up until Christmas. The house looks lovely with its decorations up!

    Reply
  53. I think you would enjoy the books very much, Julia. We’re trying to spread the word about Lydiard Park as a place to visit. It’s open 11am – 4pm Wednesday – Sunday up until Christmas. The house looks lovely with its decorations up!

    Reply
  54. I think you would enjoy the books very much, Julia. We’re trying to spread the word about Lydiard Park as a place to visit. It’s open 11am – 4pm Wednesday – Sunday up until Christmas. The house looks lovely with its decorations up!

    Reply
  55. I think you would enjoy the books very much, Julia. We’re trying to spread the word about Lydiard Park as a place to visit. It’s open 11am – 4pm Wednesday – Sunday up until Christmas. The house looks lovely with its decorations up!

    Reply
  56. That’s a wonderful history to have. My ancestors are peasant Irish (as far back as I know), however, to me, my great grandmother was a wonderful person. She had a very tough life in a way you can never imagine. She kept a safe house during the Irish Civil War for the soldiers who fought on the side of the Treaty, she had a son fighting on this side and did countless things to help people in her own situation. I would love to have known her. A simple ordinary everyday person but to me she’s a hero!

    Reply
  57. That’s a wonderful history to have. My ancestors are peasant Irish (as far back as I know), however, to me, my great grandmother was a wonderful person. She had a very tough life in a way you can never imagine. She kept a safe house during the Irish Civil War for the soldiers who fought on the side of the Treaty, she had a son fighting on this side and did countless things to help people in her own situation. I would love to have known her. A simple ordinary everyday person but to me she’s a hero!

    Reply
  58. That’s a wonderful history to have. My ancestors are peasant Irish (as far back as I know), however, to me, my great grandmother was a wonderful person. She had a very tough life in a way you can never imagine. She kept a safe house during the Irish Civil War for the soldiers who fought on the side of the Treaty, she had a son fighting on this side and did countless things to help people in her own situation. I would love to have known her. A simple ordinary everyday person but to me she’s a hero!

    Reply
  59. That’s a wonderful history to have. My ancestors are peasant Irish (as far back as I know), however, to me, my great grandmother was a wonderful person. She had a very tough life in a way you can never imagine. She kept a safe house during the Irish Civil War for the soldiers who fought on the side of the Treaty, she had a son fighting on this side and did countless things to help people in her own situation. I would love to have known her. A simple ordinary everyday person but to me she’s a hero!

    Reply
  60. That’s a wonderful history to have. My ancestors are peasant Irish (as far back as I know), however, to me, my great grandmother was a wonderful person. She had a very tough life in a way you can never imagine. She kept a safe house during the Irish Civil War for the soldiers who fought on the side of the Treaty, she had a son fighting on this side and did countless things to help people in her own situation. I would love to have known her. A simple ordinary everyday person but to me she’s a hero!

    Reply
  61. Teresa, I think so many “ordinary” people are, and have been, truly heroic throughout history, standing up for the causes that they believe in. Your great grandmother definitely sounds to be one of those!

    Reply
  62. Teresa, I think so many “ordinary” people are, and have been, truly heroic throughout history, standing up for the causes that they believe in. Your great grandmother definitely sounds to be one of those!

    Reply
  63. Teresa, I think so many “ordinary” people are, and have been, truly heroic throughout history, standing up for the causes that they believe in. Your great grandmother definitely sounds to be one of those!

    Reply
  64. Teresa, I think so many “ordinary” people are, and have been, truly heroic throughout history, standing up for the causes that they believe in. Your great grandmother definitely sounds to be one of those!

    Reply
  65. Teresa, I think so many “ordinary” people are, and have been, truly heroic throughout history, standing up for the causes that they believe in. Your great grandmother definitely sounds to be one of those!

    Reply
  66. Congratulations to Mary M who has won the set of Lydiard Chronicles by Elizabeth St.John! Mary, I have passed on your contact details to Elizabeth to arrange the prize. I am sure you will enjoy the books – I am engrossed in Written in their Stars at the moment and it is wonderful!

    Reply
  67. Congratulations to Mary M who has won the set of Lydiard Chronicles by Elizabeth St.John! Mary, I have passed on your contact details to Elizabeth to arrange the prize. I am sure you will enjoy the books – I am engrossed in Written in their Stars at the moment and it is wonderful!

    Reply
  68. Congratulations to Mary M who has won the set of Lydiard Chronicles by Elizabeth St.John! Mary, I have passed on your contact details to Elizabeth to arrange the prize. I am sure you will enjoy the books – I am engrossed in Written in their Stars at the moment and it is wonderful!

    Reply
  69. Congratulations to Mary M who has won the set of Lydiard Chronicles by Elizabeth St.John! Mary, I have passed on your contact details to Elizabeth to arrange the prize. I am sure you will enjoy the books – I am engrossed in Written in their Stars at the moment and it is wonderful!

    Reply
  70. Congratulations to Mary M who has won the set of Lydiard Chronicles by Elizabeth St.John! Mary, I have passed on your contact details to Elizabeth to arrange the prize. I am sure you will enjoy the books – I am engrossed in Written in their Stars at the moment and it is wonderful!

    Reply
  71. Just dropping by to say how much I enjoyed reading your fascinating posts. Some family records stretch back into many centuries, and others maybe only a few generations. I was fortunate that my father’s St.John family was so well documented; my mother, on the other hand, was an orphan from Ireland and escaped the great famine to move to England. One day I shall write her story too. As a historical fiction writer, we are always weaving together facts with our imagination, recreating conversations and motivations. I wish you all the best, and appreciate your own family stories, and you keeping their memories alive.
    Congrats on winning Mary! I will reach out to you directly with book details.

    Reply
  72. Just dropping by to say how much I enjoyed reading your fascinating posts. Some family records stretch back into many centuries, and others maybe only a few generations. I was fortunate that my father’s St.John family was so well documented; my mother, on the other hand, was an orphan from Ireland and escaped the great famine to move to England. One day I shall write her story too. As a historical fiction writer, we are always weaving together facts with our imagination, recreating conversations and motivations. I wish you all the best, and appreciate your own family stories, and you keeping their memories alive.
    Congrats on winning Mary! I will reach out to you directly with book details.

    Reply
  73. Just dropping by to say how much I enjoyed reading your fascinating posts. Some family records stretch back into many centuries, and others maybe only a few generations. I was fortunate that my father’s St.John family was so well documented; my mother, on the other hand, was an orphan from Ireland and escaped the great famine to move to England. One day I shall write her story too. As a historical fiction writer, we are always weaving together facts with our imagination, recreating conversations and motivations. I wish you all the best, and appreciate your own family stories, and you keeping their memories alive.
    Congrats on winning Mary! I will reach out to you directly with book details.

    Reply
  74. Just dropping by to say how much I enjoyed reading your fascinating posts. Some family records stretch back into many centuries, and others maybe only a few generations. I was fortunate that my father’s St.John family was so well documented; my mother, on the other hand, was an orphan from Ireland and escaped the great famine to move to England. One day I shall write her story too. As a historical fiction writer, we are always weaving together facts with our imagination, recreating conversations and motivations. I wish you all the best, and appreciate your own family stories, and you keeping their memories alive.
    Congrats on winning Mary! I will reach out to you directly with book details.

    Reply
  75. Just dropping by to say how much I enjoyed reading your fascinating posts. Some family records stretch back into many centuries, and others maybe only a few generations. I was fortunate that my father’s St.John family was so well documented; my mother, on the other hand, was an orphan from Ireland and escaped the great famine to move to England. One day I shall write her story too. As a historical fiction writer, we are always weaving together facts with our imagination, recreating conversations and motivations. I wish you all the best, and appreciate your own family stories, and you keeping their memories alive.
    Congrats on winning Mary! I will reach out to you directly with book details.

    Reply

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