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  • Writer's pictureSheila R. Lamb

Research and Road Trips

I love historical fiction. I love being transported to the past, to understand what life was like in a particular place and time through the eyes of a strong character or a gripping plot. I’ve always had a much better time studying history through novels, rather than textbooks.

I love writing historical fiction for the same reasons. I hope that one day my stories can also transport a reader to the past. My downfall is research. I adore it. Libraries, archives, old photographs and manuscripts make me clap my hands and say “goody!”

I’m working on the Famine trilogy, which begins by tracing one family’s journey from Ireland to New York.  Luckily, I’ve spent a few summers in Ireland. There, I was part of an archaeology field school that excavated a Famine village in County Mayo. I know how the cottages were constructed, how small they were ….how families of 6 or 8 or 10 would live their lives here, along with the cattle and other livestock. In the same structure. The outlines of the potato lazy beds still exist, small plots of about the size of my living room (11×11, if that). That patch of potatoes was intended to feed the entire family for months. When the blight hit, all the food for the common farmer was gone. Not to say their wasn’t food in the country – there was. It was being exported to the rest of Britain, and the world. Starvation ensued. Tanners and Quarrymen is manuscript #2 in the trilogy. The rural town north of the Bronx where my ancestors settled is now a well-to-do New York suburb. The original houses are gone. However, the Eastchester Historical Society opened their doors and allow me to peruse through their photos and documents. My ancestors worked as stonecutters in the marble quarries and as tanners – making gloves for the quarrymen. These laborers helped build the towns of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and West County.

I wanted to see what my family experienced, as much as possible. It was their labor and hard work that allows me the luxury of blogging, to play on Twitter, to consider going back to school for another degree. It’s as if one stone is built upon another. The least I can do is tell their story as best I can, as honestly as I can. To do that, I need to trace their journey and follow their struggle, one stone at a time.

#TannersandQuarrymen #Eastchester #research #genealogy #NewYork

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