Saturday, February 20, 2010


Illness tackled me for the last couple weeks. In my better moments, I amused myself by doing a little research for my Putty Grampa books.
  • I have a 16-stanza poem that my great-great grandfather wrote about his life as a shanty boy.
  • I have a piece of wallpaper from a family farmhouse.
  • I have my father's fleeting memory of a red leather chair in that farmhouse and of his mother describing a forest fire while aboard a train.
  • I have my father's memories of attending square dances with Henry Ford where his grandfather played the hammered dulcimer.
  • We still have that dulcimer, and another that was played in logging camps.
  • We have a handful of old pictures.
My dad's memory going very far back is wispy.

So I turned to And found some very cool stuff, such as my great-grandfather's draft card, a picture of my great-great-great grandfather and his wife. I found occupations and moves and discovered that my family often took in boarders. I found that I could coordinate my grandmother's memory with one of the great fires that devastated Michigan. I even found out why my great-great grandfather was called "the putty grampa." My dad didn't know.

I signed up for a free trial membership, but I'm having so much fun that I've gone ahead to pay month by month.

The latest census records available are from 1930. But it seems to me if you needed some prompts for an historical novel, you might pick up some ideas from this site. Choose a name, any name, and see where it leads you. Then change names and build a character.

P.S. To my mother and sister who may read this. Mum's the word. Dad's birthday is coming up.

What do you do to jog your creative juices?


  1. Wow, you can find all that online? I have several friends who are into tracing their family trees, but I always figured they were finding nothing but names and dates. Who knew all these goodies were lurking out there!

  2. I'm just getting started with this and barely scratching the surface, but I can see how it could be addicting. I don't remember how I stumbled on the draft card. Someone else who was also researching a branch of the family had posted pictures. The census records show all who lived in one household, their ages, relationship to the head, birth places of their parents, occupations. It's like opening up a whole new world. FUN!