Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lost in the 1860s


I spent yesterday wandering the internets looking for images that would help me to hone in on and flesh out the story of the places and people I'm writing about...


I need to know what sort of dresses Pollie, the wife of the Confederate colonel, would have worn . . .

I need to know about scarlet fever in the mid 19th century . . .


And what little girls looked like back then . . .
And how country women might have dressed . . . there's so much, if I'm to make this story come to life. . .

I'll find out far more than I actually put down on the page. But I have to know it if these characters are going to be real. 

And since most of them are based on real people, I owe it to these folks to come as near to the truth as possible  -- 150 years (give or take) later.

When I emerge from my workroom to fix supper, it's a wrench because my mind is back in 1860 or thereabout. There's a faraway look in my eyes and I'm still wondering about the census of 1860 -- was Isah, listed as a mulatto, a servant or a slave? And why is Judith listed as the head of the household (F) in all but one census and in that one, with the same household members, the head of the household is listed as Judah (M)?

'Tis a puzzlement. . .




20 comments:

Juliet Batten said...

How lucky we are to have the internet to bring this research alive. It sounds a fascinating project, and I wish you well with it Vicki.

Merisi said...

The last image is perplexing: I am wondering whether this is a beehive or some antique solar-powered washtub.

Looking at the dresses of bygone eras, I always try to imagine how they were kept clean. I know the home-made fabrics and clothes were of better quality than one can buy nowadays, still, how often were they washed and what was the standard of cleanliness back then? I try to imagine a room filled with people on a hot day.

Brian Miller said...

now that is immersion....
cool to see a bit of your research.....

Frances said...

Vicki, your research sounds quite fascinating. A detective's talent and ability to time travel seem to be quite within your grasp.

xo

Suz said...

my daughter had scarlet fever and when she was better the skin on her fingers peeled...nasty
Love that you share this with us

Vicki Lane said...

Merisi -- it is, indeed, a bee hive made of a section of hollow log -- a bee gum, they call it. And, yes, I expect that the standard of cleanliness was quite different -- as it would have to have been.

I'm off today for some non-Internet research.

Carol Murdock said...

Was Judah a minor in an earlier census and then became HOH in a later census after reaching 18 ? I did find this in my own family research. The widow is shown as HOH in 1860 but a 19 year old son is shown as HOH in 1870. I love researching that era.

Diotima said...

Great photos, Vicki. Thanks for posting them. Fascinating stuff.

Vicki Lane said...

I'm pretty sure that this was a mistake on the part of the census taker -- there are plenty of them. And there is no Judah in the other censuses. Perhaps Judith was wearing trousers and having a bit of fun. She was HOH in every other census.

Edith Maxwell said...

I'm doing the same thing with 1888 in northeastern Massachusetts. Loving it!

NCmountainwoman said...

How exciting it must be to look into the past, knowing that you are going to write about those people. Can't wait for the book.

katy gilmore said...

Oh such fun to have a peek at your working ways! Have fun today away from the Internet!

Gwen said...

From my own family genealogy research, I have found the census takers, as well as those that transcribe the old handwriting on these forms, made plenty of mistakes. These included name misspellings, marking the wrong sex and even, on occasion, the wrong race. Also, the census takers didn't always interview a member of the household. If no one was around when they came by, they would ask a neighbor for the information and that information is sometimes inaccurate. I am assuming Isah was living in a southern state. In 1860, slaves were listed on a separate slave census and only by age and sex under the name of the owner. So, if Isah is listed in the regular census, by name, he was probably a free servant ( perhaps even, given his mulatto status, his free status and the times he lived, a relative of someone in the household?). I can't wait to read this book!

Jim Egerton said...

Thank you for sharing your research and internet wanderings. I can hardly wait for your book.

Gayle Pearson said...

Vicki, I hope your research proceeds smoothly & quickly-can't wait to read this book! :-)

Gayle Pearson said...

Vicki, I hope your research proceeds smoothly & quickly-can't wait to read this book! :-)

Jean Baardsen said...

I wrote a short story in late December, and it's growing into a novel. I'm practically living in that world, so I know what you mean about trying to reenter your normal life. I was signed up for a painting workshop this coming Saturday, and I just cancelled it because I don't want to leave my other world to concentrate on something else for a whole day. Obsessed, to put it mildly!

jennyfreckles said...

I think I'd get so distracted by the research that the book would never happen!

Lise said...

I can't wait to read this book! But I am enjoying learning about your research and thought process along the way. I bet it will make reading the resulting novel that much more intriguing:)

Mike Cavender said...

Vicki
I remember walking years ago through an old graveyard near Highlands. What was most sad was seeing so many graves of children who didn't survive the diseases that were so terrifying back in the time period you are writing about. Today those diseases are mostly prevented with one inoculation and not thought about again.

Good luck with your research and novel.