Sunday, March 24, 2024

My Ancestors Tell My Stories by Pat Simmons

Hands down, the best room in my house is the family room. It's spacious, inviting, and showcases dozens of dozens of my daughter's bowling trophies from high school to college. But that's not the conversation piece that beckons guests to come and take a closer look. It's the decor. 

Mugshots of kinfolks. A  snapshot of our past and present family members. Some I've never met but would have loved to share a cup of coffee or put on trial.  

As a Christian fiction author, the best way to honor my past is to cast them in starring roles in my contemporary romances, giving one or two characters my ancestors' names. Only an amateur genealogy sleuth would devise a plan to track down readers who might turn out to be family if they can connect the dots.

Genealogy research has played a significant role in my writing career. I have created a family saga about tenth-generation descendants of a royal African trial who are some of the best trackers in finding lost family by any means necessary. The Jamieson Legacy series is a fan favorite, with strong, confident black men of faith falling in love with beautiful black women of faith.  It's fourteen books and still growing. As long as I can uncover past records, there will be stories to tell.

Going through the 1860 Mississippi Morbidity Book dared me to ignore the small details that screamed, "Pay attention." The very detailed book listed the following information:

The last name, first name, years alive, months alive, days alive, cause of death, and county.

When I turned the page to the last name N, I wasn't prepared, nor could I have guessed that Negro was used as a surname for people with first names from A to Z. This is where I pause for a moment of silence to pay respects for all they endured unimaginable injustice in life and attempted erasure in death. But I found them!

One such story in the Jamieson Legacy is Guilty by Association, in which a young man from a single-family home disdains his father's surname. The theme is, "It's not a name that makes the man; it's the man who makes his own name." 

Another book in the same series is Contempt: Grandma BB's Shenanigans. Written in a dual timeline, I felt part of the story that unfolded during my childhood, when the Civil Rights era meant little to me. Now, I'm glad I did the research to learn more about American Black history in my own backyard.  Besides the historical events, Grandma BB takes center stage with her antics: Grandma BB, the unofficial matriarch of the Jamieson clan, is getting her house in order for the perfect homegoing celebration. After all, she’s eighty-something. She summons Parke Jamieson VI, his brothers, cousins, and their families to play a part in the practice funeral program—only if they follow her instructions to the letter.

Since the Jamiesons are at her house with bodyguards Chip and Dale, they might have an impromptu family game night. The evening is full of surprises, especially when an unexpected visitor shows up to steal the show. With more work that needs to be done, Grandma BB plans to put her funeral on hold and stick around for a couple more generations.

Finding my roots, as well as others. Doing research is my excuse for field trips to historic places in my city and other states.

I've been able to locate two slaveholders on my mother's side, possibly two men on my husband's side, and narrowed down one on my dad's side.

All my ancestors didn't leave a long paper trail, but I'm stepping in the faint footprints of those who have a story to tell me and the next generation. 


Pat holds a B.S. in mass communications from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, and has worked in radio, television, and print media for over twenty years. She is on the Christian Book Lovers Retreat (CBLR) board as a publicist. Visit her at

 Pre-order Book 3 in the Intercessors series, DAYS ARE COMING

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