Sunday, February 20, 2011

Genealogy check-in — Dinah English

I've been so busy with the book store (opening in a few weeks!) that I haven't spent much time with genealogy or writing. A few weeks ago I wrote two good pages of Joshua's story. (If you're new to this blog, I'm writing a historical novel about my Quaker ancestors in Ireland, to be as factual as possible, like Roots. Joshua is the final generation, the one who emigrates to America, and I've had a hard time imagining his story, which has a lot of genealogical holes in it.)

I tried two other mornings to write, and didn't get down a word. Maybe I need to get back in the habit of writing more often, but that's hard to do when juggling several part-time jobs, physical therapy and church events.

I did have one break-through, not through my own efforts, but from a fellow genealogist. He got my e-mail from a bulletin board (yes, genealogists still use online bulletin boards to find each other) and asked for some information about the English family. He gave me Dinah English's birth year, another piece of the English family puzzle.

Dinah's birth date was strangely missing from all of the Quaker records of Moate, County Westmeath, Ireland. For fictional purposes I had made her the oldest child of Thomas English. I use a lot of educated guesses in my novel; I figured, why would a younger child hide her age? My new informant confirms that she was indeed the oldest child.

I also had a theory in my head that she wouldn't admit to her age not because she was vain, but because she was born "too early"; her parents were only 18 when they got married in England (young by later Quaker standards), and I think it was common among 17th century people to have to get married, if you know what I mean. I didn't include that in the book (yet) because it might not be the case, and I'm not out to dishonor my ancestors, just tell their story. But the theory is possible. Thomas and Ann were married in 1630, and now I know that Dinah was born in 1630.

As a first-generation Quaker and the wife of the village landlord, I think Dinah was embarrassed and hid her birth date to protect her parents' reputation.

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