The Blood of My Mother Review
How One Woman Brought the Story of Her Ancestors to Life
The Blood of My Mother by Roccie Hill
(Bloodhound Books, 2023)
What happens when you take a writer, a genealogist, and a historical researcher and put them in a room together? What happens when they are the same person?
Roccie Hill began doing genealogy to find answers to questions about her family, and after a decade of this research, she was so fascinated by this work that she studied to become a professional genealogist. She found that searching for the truth about other people’s families was just as interesting as doing it for herself. Every single time she finds an original document about a member of a client’s family, she still gets that tingle of joy that genealogists all over the world experience.
In her spare time, Roccie continued to research the maternal line of her family but hit a brick wall when it came to Eliza, her great great grandmother who had immigrated to Texas with her family as part of Stephen Austin’s colony. Unable to discover where this ancestor died or where she was buried, or what happened to her during the Civil War, Roccie finally decided to write a novel about her, and in doing so, discovered much more than she had ever imagined.
How did she do it?
By the time she started this research, all the people in her family who might have known anything about Eliza were dead, so Roccie dug deeper, seeking out cousins and step-relatives who she never knew existed.
She knew she needed to be an expert in her subject, the history of people who lived under the five flags of early Texas, so she began to read everything, books and historical articles, graduate theses written by students at Texas universities about the area; she travelled there from California, corresponded with people in little towns in obscure counties, with church members, with librarians and historical societies, in an effort to unearth every piece of information, however small, that she could find.
Like so many of us, Roccie had two entirely different sides to her family: her paternal side with a diplomat grandfather from Massachusetts, and her maternal side with a bootlegger grandfather from the South. She was passionate about uncovering the details of these southern roots, captivated by the southern side of my family, in part because of the difficulty of that research due to the destruction of so many records during the Civil War.
Little by little, she discovered that her ancestors travelled in large groups of extended family members, moving west from Laurens County, South Carolina, through to Kentucky and Alabama, to Mississippi, and on to Texas (ultimately to California)./ They claimed land on the barrier islands of Texas. They had settled in the path of Santa Anna’s army as it scourged across Texas after the Alamo battle, and the men of the family fought in the decisive Battle of San Jacinto.
But Roccie was interested in more than learning of the history book events; she wanted to know what happened to Eliza, who was a young girl when her father and uncle went off to fight with Sam Houston at San Jacinto.
Thus, The Blood of My Mother was born. Every paragraph contained the result of hours of research: if the family took a ship, what kind of ship would it have been? If they had supper, what kind of food would they have eaten out on the frontier? What kind of animals would they have kept? What music would they sing? What did they use to make soap and how did they do it?
To write such a book, you need to investigate every detail: most of all, you need to be curious, and in that curiosity, Roccie discovered Eliza’s true world.
Writing this book actually changed the way Roccie does genealogy. The current professional trend in genealogical research is to provide facts: names, dates, primary and secondary source documents, and laborious citations to back up that information. If you’ve ever read a traditional genealogical report, you will know that the information in it is very dry.
However, what Roccie learned about her family and their place in American history only came alive to her when she began to research the details of the daily lives of her family members, how major events impacted them, and what their context was. Now, when she writes professional reports, she always includes the color and detail, and she believes that her clients’ understanding of their families is deeper because of it.
Notes: Roccie Hill is a member of the Tennessee Genealogical Society, Cahuilla Chapter, DAR, Cape Ann Chapter Colonial Dames of the XVII Century, NGS, APG, Board member of Virginia Genealogical Society, Board Member of the Genealogical Society of Hispanic America – Southern California. Her book can be purchased on Amazon.
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