When I was a bride in my twenties (many years ago), my husband and I stopped at a farm in Locust Grove, Iowa, on a cross-country trip to the East Coast. The farm was owned by Ken and Lois Parrett, distant cousins of mine I had never heard of until that day. They took me on a tour of the area and showed me land my ancestors once owned and cemeteries where they were buried. That visit turned out to be one of those turning points that send your life in a new trajectory. I wanted to know more about these Parretts, whose name I’d carried since my birth. Over the years, between raising children and being busy with a thousand other projects, I occasionally set aside research time to visit genealogy libraries and communicate with distant cousins and various record keepers. It wasn’t until the last decade that my research took on an added focus. I was intent on writing a book that brought my paternal family to life.
And so it happened: I published my family history in late May and, book by book, readers are becoming acquainted with the Parretts–a family that had largely had been lost to history.
The five generations of Parretts profiled in my history left few records behind. As I became better acquainted with the eras in which they lived–America’s colonial and frontier periods–I began to realize that they took part in significant events in American history, including the major migration periods that spread the country’s borders ever westward. That realization gave me the theme that drove my story–and its title, The Parrett Migration: Their Story is America’s Story.
It’s been interesting to hear comments from readers. They tell me, “My ancestors were involved in these events, too.” Or, “I could write a similar story about my people.” It’s true. I suspect nearly anyone who reads my book will see their family’s story in the Parrett story. (And they should write their own version, shaping it to their family’s particular circumstances.)
My book was a challenge on many levels. Could I bring to life seemingly obscure people and tell an interesting story about them? Could I incorporate the writing techniques I stress in my classes? (I felt nervous about that one, for I knew I had strict judges!) Could I do justice to five generations without being too superficial? Could I finish such a mammoth undertaking?
I did finish, so I overcame at least one challenge. The jury’s still out about the others. However it’s ultimately judged by readers, I hope the book will stand as a sincere effort to honor my family and preserve their story for future generations.