I had a delightful surprise yesterday. Authors love to hear from readers, of course, especially when they have nice things to say. But I’ve never had a phone call from a family member of one of the people I’ve written about. Even better, the caller had lovely compliments for my book The Road to Frogmore and wanted to offer access to family records I did not even know existed.
The caller was a lateral descendent of Miss Ellen Murray, the life-long partner of Laura Towne. She is the great-great-grandniece of Ellen and has spent years studying Frogmore, the Penn School, and the events on St. Helena Island. How did she find me? She’s not an internet person, so she didn’t just go online. Apparently a friend who was traveling in South Carolina discovered the book and told her about it. She asked for a copy for Christmas, and had just now finished reading it. She sent her husband to the library to see what he could find out, and he evidently turned up my website, which gave her my contact information. So reaching out was not easy – it took a lot of effort.
But what a fun time we had on the phone. We chatted almost non-stop for an hour, and I was so fascinated that I didn’t even mind turning off the Dog Show. She possesses diaries written by her various grandmothers going back several generations, and they include Ellen’s sister, who visited St. Helena both during the Civil War and after.
Our information exchange was valuable on both sides. She corrected my spelling of a name that I had gotten consistently wrong. I informed her of the existence of a copy of Laura’s diary she did not know about. And we discovered some contradictory information – her sources say one thing, while mine say another. I was so intrigued that I was up early this morning to dig back through my sources. Already I think I’ve found a plausible explanation for the discrepancy, but we shall have to talk again. I can hardly wait for our next conversation.