proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

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proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

Postby morlock » Sun Apr 13, 2008 11:35 pm

I have been attempting to write a novel for over ten years now. The main obstacle is getting answers to the questions about my characters. I can explain each one in fair detail, but I cannot make them historically acurate. (Especially the Nova Scotian.) It's *not* a lack of books! I have spent hundreds of dollars on books over the years but none are answering my questions about the people I've created. (They come from several points in history.) What I'm looking for is a dialogue with someone or some people who I can ask questions about every day lifestyles during a time and place in history so I can fill in the gaps (and possibly find questions I might have missed). I've looked online for all sorts of answers, including the library help option in realtime, but have come up entirely short after so many promises that the internet would allow me to find *anything* of this sort. I can't believe that other writers don't have this sort of problem but I am an isolated person, work part-time, with few friends and no automobile. Please help.
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Re: proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

Postby pattyn » Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:27 am

Zeta, have you tried Google to get names of people or organizations to call? http://www.google.com/search?q=nova+scotia+historical
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Re: proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

Postby morlock » Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:42 pm

Oh my goodness. Yes... Still, This is a wonderful mountain of information... the problem I'm having is it's a *mountain* and I'm not able to chisel through it. If I was I'd have the book published and flying by now... that's why I've been doing this for ten years. There's no way for me to narrow down the particulars. What I need is a person who could answer questions I have for the things I can't find. Please, please believe me, I've been trying to do this very thing on my own for ten years and all I know is the politics and the major news, but I know nothing about the lifestyles of the specific time periods. I've written to the historical societies and they didn't seem to understand but offered for pages from an attendance school list at so much money a page and which pages (meaning numbers) would I want? Well, that wasn't really any where to go. I feel like I need to find someone, or various people, who specialise or do archival work, but I don't know how to find them & approach them. Don't authors generally do this kind of thing? Don't they have people they call to check records? Thank you thank you thank you!
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Re: proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

Postby pattyn » Mon Apr 14, 2008 3:53 pm

I believe most authors make lots of calls until they find the people who know what they need to know, but there are research services advertised in the back of Writer and Writer's Digest magazines. And maybe you'll luck out and find that someone on this board has a fascination with Nova Scotia. I think I'd put that in the subject and move it to a section read by more than just us writers.
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Re: proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

Postby morlock » Mon Apr 14, 2008 5:13 pm

Okay, thank you! Where else should I post?
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Re: proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

Postby skannie » Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:34 pm

Hi Morlock Research does require a certain degree of patience, but you can make it much easier if you learn to skim through vast quantities of information to get directly to the specific bits you need, and the bits you seem to need right now are the contact details of historical experts. Apart from historical societies, the places you're likely to find them are on the websites of museums, heritage centres, libraries and university history departments. I'm sure you'll find some of those in Patty's Google search results list, and you can also do your own searches for each location you're interested in. Then don't even try to chisel straight through the mountain of information that Google turns up. Just skim through the list and pick a few sites that seem promising, then look for the contact information, which almost every website has. Many of them have a "Contact Us" page, which makes it easier. Some have contact details included somewhere in a general page. Others have complete staff or members' lists, which may also include information about their specialisations. There are also often links to other relevant sites where you can find more contacts. You can copy and paste the contact details into an office document to make a list for your own reference purposes. Then email or phone a number of those contacts until you find at least one or two that give helpful replies. Here are some examples that I managed to find in a few minutes. In fact much less time than it took to write this post. Contact page http://novascotiaheritage.ca/en/home/contact.aspx Page with link for emailing the president http://nsgna.ednet.ns.ca/rnshs/ General contact details plus a whole staff list with individual phone numbers http://museum.gov.ns.ca/info/nsmstaff.htm best wishes skannie
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Re: proper historical research is my biggest obstacle

Postby dani » Mon Apr 14, 2008 11:30 pm

How about a new wrinkle on this topic. One of my passions is genealogy, and you'd be surprised at what's out there. Here's a link from Cindy's List: http://tinyurl.com/6hr4jn. Some people are doing research on specific areas or counties, so if you dig deep enough, some of those may help. If you can land someone's journal, that would probably be the grand prize! :D My own goal has been to make my ancestry website as lively as possible, so I've been looking for similar info to what you're seeking. One of the problems is that most people just didn't write about their daily lives or keep journals like they do today. For example, when reading literature, it can be a good idea to record a passage and your reaction. Doing passage journals (I forget what they were called) was big in the 1800s among women, but they recorded nothing but the passages! In the states, they did a history of counties for the 1876 Centennial, and we've gleaned some insight into an ancestor's life from that. I also have one family line that was famous, so there's a ton of into about those ancestors, yet still more about property and inheritance than actual recording of life. Another issue is family secrets, which are legion, so people become circumspect by extension of those secrets. Specific events, such as the Civil War here, tend to generate stories. The Arcadian connection in NS may be helpful. As I've tried to gather family stories, a lot of them tend to be scattered incidents rather than a full personality of an individual. In exploring my Norwegian ancestry, I've learned about the conditions on various ships that our forebears came over on, mostly unpleasant. That's enough jabbering on this topic-hope it might be of some help. Best, dani :)
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