Genealogy Fiction

stack-of-books-1001655_1920Fiction genres are malleable. Books move in and out of popularity and often straddle several genres. Genealogy fiction is a sub-genre, usually combining murder mystery and crime with genealogical research. But what defines genealogy fiction? Must the protagonist be a genealogist to qualify?

My first foray into genealogy fiction was The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell. I liked it so much I immediately bought Blood Atonement and finished it within days. As a seasoned genealogist, I was hooked. Before long, I had graduated to Steve Robinson and his Jefferson Tayte mysteries and Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s forensic genealogist Morton Farrier. I am currently reading Goodwin’s The Suffragette’s Secret and very good it is too. Top of my genealogy fiction ‘to read’ list is Stephen Molyneau’s The Marriage Certificate and M J Lee’s The Irish Inheritance when time allows.

When I wrote Vote for Murder, it was inevitably going to have a genealogical theme being based on two of my ancestors, one a suffragette and one a convicted poisoner. The Fressingfield Witch is also based on my ancestry and was inspired by a public accusation of witchcraft made against a distant relative. The protagonist in Vote for Murder is an independent young suffragette who unravels a murder using a diary and family records. Private Investigator Lawrence Harpham uses parish and probate records to unmask the murderer in The Fressingfield Witch, but neither Lawrence nor suffragette, Louisa are genealogists. Are the books then worthy of the sub-genre classification of genealogy fiction? And does it matter that they are both set in Victorian times where the opportunity to use family history records was more limited? One never wants to disappoint an audience so getting the genre right is important. But I believe that both books nestle well into the genealogy fiction genre, even if they are not quite the same as their better-known counterparts.

The below is a list of well-known genealogy fiction writers. Some I have yet to read, but I heartily recommend the top three. Enjoy.

Dan Waddell – The Blood Detective & Blood Atonement

Steve Robinson – Any of his Jefferson Tayte offerings

Nathan Dylan Goodwin – Any Morton Farrier, forensic genealogist

M K Jones – The Genealogy Detectives

Geraldine Wall – File under Fear/Family/Fidelity

Stephen Molyneaux – The Marriage Certificate

M J Lee – The Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mysteries

John Nixon – Madeleine Porter Mysteries

Beryl Taylor – Therese

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Summer sale – Vote for Murder just 99p

My new book has been plotted, written and is now under going a rigorous edit.  Set in the 1890’s in an East Anglian village, it combines fact and fiction with a large dose of mystery and a generous sprinkling of genealogy.  This illustration gives a teaser of the back theme.

TFW (working title) will be published later on this year.  In the meantime, the kindle version of Vote for Murder is on sale in the UK at just 99p.  Suffragettes, secrets and sleuthing – what’s not to like…

Download Vote For Murder Amazon Kindle here

 

The Hard won right to vote

Vote ballotOn 2 Jul 1928, women over 30 were finally given the right to vote. This victory was hard won. One way or another, women had been campaigning for the right to vote since the early 1830’s with the first suffrage societies formed in the 1860’s.

Throughout that time, action was taken through peaceful lobbying. It was not until the turn of the century when the first women’s suffrage bill was defeated that the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was formed. Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters were active members of the WSPU and their frustration with the system lead them to violent protest. Their supporters were labelled with the derogatory term ‘suffragette’ by an unsympathetic media; a name they chose to embrace. Whether by the conviction of the suffragettes or the tenacity of the suffragists, women achieved the right to vote in the UK, partially in 1918 and fully in 1928.

Next week, we face the third of only 3 UK wide referendums. The referendum gives an opportunity for the entire electorate to vote on a specific issue, in this case whether we leave or remain in the EU. Referendums are rare and we may not see another for many years. However you vote, be mindful that the ability to exercise a choice was denied to many of our ancestors.  So take the opportunity to do what they could not. Come rain or shine, go out on Thursday and make your vote count.

When women got the vote

  • 1893 New Zealand
  • 1902 Australia
  • 1906 Finland
  • 1913 Norway
  • 1915 Denmark
  • 1917 Canada
  • 1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
  • 1919 Netherlands
  • 1920 United States
  • 1921 Sweden
  • 1928 Britain, Ireland
  • 1931 Spain
  • 1934 Turkey
  • 1944 France
  • 1945 Italy
  • 1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
  • 1949 China
  • 1950 India
  • 1954 Colombia
  • 1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
  • 1962 Algeria
  • 1963 Iran, Morocco
  • 1964 Libya
  • 1967 Ecuador
  • 1971 Switzerland
  • 1972 Bangladesh
  • 1974 Jordan
  • 1976 Portugal
  • 1989 Namibia
  • 1990 Western Samoa
  • 1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
  • 1994 South Africa
  • 2005 Kuwait
  • 2006 United Arab Emirates

Intellectual inferiority & other excuses…

Millicent FawcettIt is interesting to read reports of early attempts to promote the case for women’s suffrage.  In this extract from the Bury Free Press, July 1871, Millicent Garrett Fawcett argues against multiple reasons given by men (and anti-suffrage women) against emancipation. She counters all arguments rationally and eloquently, but forty years later the government of the day still refused to grant votes to women.

“Mrs Fawcett, who, on presenting herself, was loudly cheered, then proceeded with her lecture, which was a resume and refutation of the argument used by the opponents of women’s rights to the franchise in the House of Commons on the second reading of the Woman Suffrage Bill. 

These arguments she enumerated as follows:  That women were represented already, that to give them votes would be to give two votes to their nearest male relation, or to their favourite clergyman; that it would occasion domestic broils; that it would destroy family government, which was necessarily despotic; that women were intellectually inferior to, and physically weaker than men, and therefore ought not to have the franchise; that home was woman’s sphere, that women were superior to men, and would be deteriorated by contract with the ruder life of men; that the line must be drawn somewhere for if women got votes they would demand to be admitted to Parliament; that women did not want votes; that women were by nature conservative; that women could not be soldiers; that the deference and courtesy now shown to women would be lost; that women suffrage would be destructive of the foundation of society, and obliterate the distinctions of sex; that the Bible said nothing about it; that reason must prevail; that authority was against it. 

To each of these objections Mrs Fawcett replied seriatim, and concluded by contending that the suffrage was not only woman’s right, but that woman, man and society would be improved by her possessing it.  She was much cheered, and received the thanks of the meeting, as did Sir R Murchison for giving the use of the theatre.

Mistreatment of Suffragettes

Women’s suffrage was newsworthy and accounts of suffragette militant exploits were often reported nationally, usually negatively.  The cruel treatment of those suffragists engaged in acts of peaceful protest is often conveniently forgotten.  The two accounts below, taken from The Framlingham News, portray the shocking treatments suffragettes were subjected to in the course of their fight for the vote.

Framlingham Weekly News 10th Oct 1908 The Suffragette

Suffragettes Ill-treated

Mrs. Despard and Miss Margaret Sidley, who visited Maidstone in the Suffragist van on Wednesday evening, were subjected to brutal treatment.  They had announced an open-air meeting, and a crowd of 3,000 assembled.  The Suffragettes were received with showers of granite chippings with which the road was being repaired.  A stone struck Mrs. Despard on the forehead, inflicting a nasty abrasion.  She pluckily mounted a chair and faced the crowd, who pushed her off the chair and smashed it.  When the van arrived the suffragists abandoned the attempt to speak, and barricaded themselves within.

Deliberate attempts were then made to over-throw the van, which was pushed uphill and allowed to descend by its own momentum.  Only by the narrowest shave was disaster averted.  The windows of the vehicle were smashed, the tailboard was wrenched off, rotten eggs and other missiles were flung, the imprisoned ladies being kept in a state of terror.  At length the police intervened, and amid much booing the van was driven away.

Framlingham Weekly news 8th March 1913

In Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon Mrs. Flora Drummond and several other members of the women’s Social and Political Union were made the object of hostile attentions of a huge crowd and were persistently pelted with pieces of turf.

Members of the crowd sang, danced, waved sticks, cheered and hooted in turn, and the statements of the speakers were greeted with cries of “You ought to be tarred and feathered,” and other similar taunts.

One suffragette was struck in the eye and another in the mouth.  Mrs. Drummond’s hat was disturbed with a walking-stick, which became entangled in her hair.

Another speaker had a fierce tussle with a member of the audience who attempted to board the platform.  Later the same woman injured her wrist in a tug-of-war for possession of a spectator’s stick.

At the close a formidable rush was broken by the police escort.

On Sunday afternoon an attempt by suffragettes to hold a meeting on Wimbledon Common led to disorderly scenes.

After the speakers had vainly endeavoured for half an hour to obtain a hearing, amid the blowing of motor horns and the singing of popular songs, the crowd closed in on the platform, the suffragettes were dragged off and despite efforts of the police to protect them, three of the women were knocked down.

An exciting scene was witnessed in Oxford-street on Saturday afternoon, when two suffragists, who during the morning had been playing a piano in the West End, were attacked by a couple of men, and in the skirmish which ensued the piano organ was upset and considerably damaged.

The women, both of whom are London members of the Women’s Social and Political Union, were engaged in the week’s self-denial campaign, which opened that day, and were thus engaged with the object of gathering funds on behalf of their union.

In the face of such hostility, it is easy to imagine why some women felt they could not expect to advance their cause through peaceful demonstration.

Women’s Suffrage October 1915

When war broke out in 1914, all militant suffragette action ceased.  From that point, all focus was on the war effort.  The following extract is typical of the patriotism of both suffragists & suffragettes.

Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser 15 October 1915

The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies

(Non-Party and Non-Militant)

Contains over 602 Societies and 16 Federations

President:

Mrs. Fawcett L.L.D

President:

Countess Brassey

Hon. Treasurer

Miss Druce, Thornhill, Sevenoaks

At this crisis the N.U. has suspended political activities in order to utilise its large organisation for the relief of distress caused by war.  It desires to illustrate the truth that Suffragists desire duties rather than rights, and that their ideal is the service of humanity.