Last week a reader asked me a question on Facebook. She asked: “What discoveries in your own family history influenced or inspired the novel?”
I was happy to get her question, and happy to answer it here on the blog. Family history is a central theme of The House at Rose Creek. And indeed, discoveries in my own family history played a large part in inspiring the story of Ian Wylie, Kate’s ancestor and the writer of the journal that Kate reads throughout the novel.
For those that haven’t read the book (yet), a brief summary: Ian Wylie is the great grandfather four times over of the novel’s main character, Kate Sinclair. Generations before Kate was even born, Ian wrote a journal of his experiences that Kate later finds in the attic of the family’s old farmhouse. In the journal, Ian writes of journeying to America, from Scotland, in hopes of meeting his father. Unfortunately when he arrives, all is not as he expected. (Telling you more would ruin the story so, you know, perhaps you could buy a copy to see what happens next. Ahem. Yes. Yes that was a shameless plug.)
Wylie is actually a family name in my own ancestry, on my mother’s side. In the mid 1800’s, James Armstrong Kinmont Wylie traveled to the United States from Scotland. Six years later, he booked passage for his wife Agnes, and their children. My great, great grandfather, Charles George Washington Walls Juniper Wylie (I know! Some name, huh?!) was the first of James and Agnes’ children to be born in the United States, which likely inspired them including “George Washington” as a part of his name.
When I thought about this story, I was moved by the great lengths that a father would go to in hopes of securing a better future for his family. James Wylie was separated from his family for six years. I’ll never know the particulars of his decision, but I feel comfortable in supposing that the separation was only endured because it had to be.
Though our ancestors lived long before us, in a different time, the human struggles of their existence were, in many ways, just like ours. They lived and loved and struggled and endured and hoped for their families just like we do. And that’s something worth remembering.
At first, the names on your family tree may only feel like faceless names and birth dates, but it IS possible to bring those names to life. Once you start digging and asking questions about who your ancestors were, though they may be slow at first, the connections will come. Towards the end of the novel, a volunteer at Rose Creek’s historical museum tells Kate that sometimes we get so busy looking forward, we forget to look back.
I believe there is value in looking back, in remembering who our ancestors were, and considering how they contributed to who we are today.