While waiting for a voice from Lithuania to respond to my blog questions, I took a detour this spring into genealogy and a new project: a novel set in a Quaker community in pioneer Iowa.
No, I am not a Quaker. However, a number of my early Scotch-Irish American ancestors were. Three of them were named Malachai, which makes genealogy research considerably more challenging. One of these men, so the family legend goes, was married to a Native American woman from North Carolina. I’m still working on that link.
Before I got too deep into the novel, I realized I needed to learn more about Quaker life. I am lucky that my 90-year-old cousin has handed down to me a fascinating collection of oral histories along with her life’s work on local genealogy. What is most interesting to me is finding out my Iowa Quaker relatives were station agents on the Underground Railroad. They were also accepting of and had close relationships with local Indian tribes.
Much has been written about the stalwart men who brought their families to places like Iowa to “settle.” Little, though, has been written from the point of view of the women who accompanied them. This realization became the nugget for my story, one I hope will weave together the voices of women – Native and Quaker – into a novel that spans generations. That’s the goal, at least.
In order to lace facts into story form, in order to build my credibility, I need a solid understanding of the times. Quaker time…