Monday, June 24, 2013

The Stuff of Which Stories Are Made

Deep inside the heavy leather bound books where marriages are recorded in county courthouses all over the United States lie a myriad of unfinished stories. Somehow, researching my family roots within the limited confines of one or two names, I've overlooked the budding mysteries.

This year, as the new editor for our genealogical society's yearly publication, it fell to me to visit the local courthouse and get copies of all the 'K' marriages--'J' was published last year--and transcribe them into an Excel document. The earliest date from the forties, and the latest from the early 1960s.

Ponder with me:
  • a heavy preponderance of unions in 1943 and 1944 and consider that the grooms were likely bound to Europe or the Pacific. Ask yourself how many of the brides received telegrams beginning, "We regret to inform you..."
  • the large number of 16-year-old girls who left behind their youth forever. Ask yourself how many of them--if any--had regrets too late.
  • the men in their late 60s and early 70s who married women close to their own age. Ask yourself how many married for love--how many for companionship--how many for convenience/
  • the women in their 20s and 30s who married much older men, usually after the war. Ask yourselves if they'd received those telegrams and had to provide somehow for themselves and their children.
Consider the following:
  • the man who apparently married twice within an 18-month span
  • the number of brides and grooms with the same surname, indicating perhaps a prior divorce and reconciliation
  • the licenses unreturned after the wedding to prove one had actually taken place. Did they just forget to bring it back--or did they change their minds?
  • the eager young couples of 18 and 19, perhaps giggling nervously as they gave their information to the clerk before rushing our of the courthouse with license in hand, eager for the adventure to begin
  • these same couples celebrating (we hope) their golden wedding anniversary
It's history.
It's real life.
It's the eternal story, and it's all there--the names of the characters, the setting, clues to the plot.
And now the writer must weave the strands into a tapestry of fiction, because that's the stuff of which stories are made.

1 comment:

K9friend said...

History is a great source of inspiration. I hope you plan to tackle some of those stories, Judy!

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