Sunday, May 18, 2014

Writing to Understand Our Ancestors

Today's NY Times has an interview with Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove, Brokeback Mountain, and many other fictional works set in the West.

One reason he writes novels about characters living in Texas in the 1880s is because he wants to understand his grandparents' experience moving from Missouri to settle the frontier of Texas at that time. "In the new land, Texas, they had no time for anything except work," he tells the interviewer. "Of course, they hadn't much time in Missouri either, but Missouri was violent, and Texas was empty. They knew violence, and I suppose that emptiness seemed to offer a better option."

We genealogy bloggers can relate to the impulse to write as a way of getting to know our ancestors from the inside. After all, don't we construct stories to make some sense of the facts we collect about our ancestors? Not all the stories turn out to be accurate, but it's a way of understanding who these ancestors were, what they wanted, what their lives were like, and how their experiences affected their descendants (including us). I'm interested to learn that family history plays such an important role in this celebrated author's professional life!


  1. Marian, You are right. Every fact I unearth, every paragraph I write brings me close to my ancestors.

    1. If only we could hear these stories directly from our ancestors! But since we can't I guess we have to write them and consider them "drafts" until we learn more (and we will!).