Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dorcas The Explorer

As a writer, I have sinned. This is my confession.

I am working on a deadline and for the past forty-eight hours I have been consumed with something other than writing. Lord, I have met my Waterloo, and Ancestry.com be its name. I'm uncertain how I was led astray. I just know that once I was sucked into the black hole of nothing-else-will-get-done-ness that is Ancestry.com, I was held there by a powerful force field and unable to return to my Work-In-Progress. This was way worse than my Daily Mail addiction. Personal hygiene was ignored. I didn't leave the house. No meals were prepared. At one point my husband came into my office and asked if he needed to get a second job to support my Ancestry.com habit. Yes, it was getting ugly, and yet, I was not deterred.

My father died when I was 24. I don't know much about his family, and now, unfortunately, there really is no one around to ask. (Let this be a lesson to you. Ask!) I do have a hand-written family tree that his older brother prepared in 1990s. Armed with that information, some of which was unclear and incomplete, on a crumpled sheet of paper, I logged onto Ancestry.com and entered a whole new world.

That's where I met Dorcas. She is my great-great-great-great-great grandmother. In the summer of 1761, her parents bought passage for themselves and their four children on the good ship "Hopewell." They ventured into the unknown from Londonderry, Ireland to Halifax, Nova Scotia. (It should be noted here that I don't like driving from Santa Clarita to Santa Monica without my GPS – I can't imagine the bravery of this little family.)

Dorcas was four years old at the time. She was the only one of her siblings to survive the transatlantic crossing.

She and her parents settled in Glenholme, Nova Scotia. It's a mark on the map so small that it isn't there any more, and so remote that Google maps doesn't provide any street views of the area. In my mind's eye it's cold, isolated, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful. It was there in Glenholme that Dorcas grew up, fell in love and married the son of a local farmer. A tall drink of water, I'm guessing, by the name of Alexander Vance.

And the rest, so they say, is my history.

I'm back to the grindstone today. I know that's what Dorcas would've wanted it that way. Becoming an author isn't easy. I feel like I'm sailing in uncharted waters every day. But now that I know that I've got a bit of Dorcas the Explorer in my blood, I will persevere. I will survive. And I won't be afraid.