Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wrapping It Up

For decades, since I first read them, I had an idea. That idea was to share The Awakening Land trilogy with my family; and to develop a family history library of literature that was reminiscent of our family experience. The Luckett family is a fictional composite but their experiences, culture, and life represent our many families who moved into Ohio in the early days, shortly after the Northwest Territory was divided.
For Christmas of 2012 the family library idea kicked off, not with the early 19th century, but with Elizabeth Chadwick’s two historical novels: The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion. Unlike Conrad Richter’s Ohio trilogy these weren’t fictional characters but fictionalized accounts of real people on our family tree – Sir William Marshall and his Lady Isabel deClare who lived in the 12th and early 13th centuries.  These five books, plus the two genealogies I’ve put together make a seven volume start to that family history library for my children and grandchildren.
The 2013 experience also included blog posts that documented my Internet journey into Ohio. This is how the blog post started back on

June 1, 2013:

. . . and so it begins. Our pioneers in Ohio.


Here we are the day after Christmas. That is 54 blog posts and close to 40 books into the mail to the family – including my own self-published workbook.
As in any huge project, there were changes from the initial idea. I realized that sending all four books at Christmas would be overwhelming to readers busily involved with the holidays and the toys they’d just unwrapped. They needed more time to read and digest the books. The trilogy, individually published as The Trees, The Fields, and The Town, to my dismay had slipped out of publication and pulled from library shelves. It seems I was just in the nick of time. Our libraries are less and less repositories for literature of the ages and more and more shelf space for current best sellers. I had to scour the country via Amazon, Abebooks, and other sources to find all the copies I needed – each part of the story becoming more and more expensive. In fact, I’m sure my searching for so many of these hard to find books pushed up the price in the used book market.

By October I had all the copies of The Trees I needed. It was the easiest to find as it, at one time, was read in mid-western schools as part of the curriculum. Since they were early Christmas presents, they were wrapped in pretty paper and tied up with ribbon and off they went to their various homes. The Fields, more scarce in the marketplace, was wrapped and ready to send before Thanksgiving. The Town, for which Richter received the Pulitzer Prize, was the most costly. It is available in more recent publication but expensive and difficult to find in its original version. I’d heard that the story was compromised somewhat by being edited for a modern audience. I didn’t read multiple versions to test this out, but bought the older versions if I could come up with the asking price.

With The Town wrapped and ready to go in December that meant I had the daunting task of finishing, editing, printing, and packaging my Ohio book. After doing the Ohio and 18 county histories and designing and setting up the framework for the actual genealogy I realized it was humanly impossible to include all of the family information. The best I could do was add the information I’d gathered on the Cullins family – that pioneering group I was working when I started the Ohio project. So, the book morphed from a complete and bound book to a workbook-in-progress placed in a ring-binder.

Family Reunion - the workbooks together and ready to send.
Finishing up that huge project was one of the most intense, difficult, and rewarding I’ve attempted. I was happy with the result and hope that it will be, at least eventually, loved and appreciated by each family that received it. In the end it was exactly as it should be – a work in progress.  Over the months of 2014 I will be adding the pioneer families to each of the counties and sending them on to be added to their ring-binders.  In short order, the smaller ring-binder will have to be replaced with a larger version. You know those gifts people send – the wine of the month, the fruit of the month. This will be the family of the month! 
Group Hug!
During the year, in addition to these books and the blog, I read Helen Hooven Santmyer’s (1895-1986) Ohio Town, her autobiographical memoir of Xenia, Ohio. Although we had no family in Xenia it is representative of the development and growth of Ohio towns and is an amazing read that incorporates the memories of her grandmother, mother, and her generations.
2013 has been my Ohio year.

I hope one day to make it there!

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