Box cover

October may be a great month to celebrate the fall holidays from Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day to some years, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to Halloween. But for me this year, Christmas came early, on October 19th when I received the gift of family.

#amwriting     #amediting     #writinglife     #amresearching     #historicalfiction

#geneology     #familytree     #familyhistory

Yesterday, my brother Mark and I headed to Rhode Island to meet our only first cousin on our Robinson side, Carolyn Anne Robinson, now known as Robin Griswold. While there are negative outcomes from the use of the DNA test in finding unknown half-siblings, or debunking family lore of greatness, we experienced a positive outcome. Add in Google search and, and voila – our first cousin whom we never met, was found. Due to an unfortunate, long-standing, cause-unknown rift between our fathers, Albert and Eliot Robinson, we never had any interaction through our entire lives, even though we have lived in Massachusetts / Rhode Island and our fathers lived seven miles apart from Needham to Newton.

I wrote to Carolyn and told her about my book and how I have based some of the story on the life of our mutual grandmother and would love to know if she had any memories or information about her since she was 15 years old when our grandmother died. She suggested we meet, as it was a relief to her to share a few family items. It just never seemed right they should end up in a box in my attic.  

A few family items???? Together we unboxed two cartons of photographs, including four of my grandmother. One which we believe would have been her 17-18 year old debutante photo, the same one I have of her as a young woman in her 20’s, her wedding portrait in 1912 and one with her mother and two sons (our fathers) as babies.

Elizabeth Peirce Elliott Robinson


More yellowed newspaper and mouse-chewed tissue paper layers later, we find pictures of my dad as a young boy, and pictures of our fathers. Eliot_Albert and Eliot

The treasure-finding excitement continued with discovering other photos of extended family members from the late 1800s/early 1900s, household receipts from 1917, monogrammed linen handkerchiefs, bridge tallies and table linens, and a letter my grandfather wrote to my dad at my dad’s fourth birthday. While I knew my grandparents separated when my dad was very young, I didn’t know it was before he turned four. The letter is written by an absent father to his child and may be one of the sweetest, and saddest, letters I’ve ever read.

With Thanksgiving season nearing, the leaves falling, the air turning colder and families starting to gather for the holidays, I can say I am truly thankful. Thankful for a second cousin who shared his info, thankful for the Internet, thankful for the gracious welcome Robin gave Mark and me, and thankful for her willingness to share our family history.

Janis and Robin

From these photos and memorabilia and Robin’s memories, I have more primary research resources to continue to build my story with detail and authenticity. I can’t wait to get back to my editing.


I invite you to follow my blog for further updates on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction. More information about my debut novel is available on my About page. You can sign up to follow from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I’ll email you an invitation.

I also post book recommendations and tips and ideas for book clubs. I’m on social media, too. On my Facebook page, I post deals I find on Kindle specials ($1.99, $2.99, etc.) for books I recommend. A great way to add to your e-library with minimal costs and share with your book club.


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14 thoughts on “Christmas in October

  1. So amazing that you made this connection and was able to find out so much information!! Yay! I do genealogy as well and will be traveling to Madrid to meet a cousin for the first time (we met others in his family on a trip to Dallas last October).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful! Robin had done the DNA test to see if she could find relatives in Scotland ahead of trip she’s planned. Although she didn’t find them, we found her. Although, it would be nice to find relatives still in England, Scotland and Ireland to visit 🙂


  2. A wonderful journey for you! How incredible it must have been to meet Robin and find more inspiration for your book. Thanks for sharing your family story with us. Such treasures!
    xo Romie

    Liked by 1 person

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