Category Archives: Fun

2017 JAMES-YOUNGER GANG – Diary of a Preview Tour

What Happened in Missouri began in Kentucky

Dan Pence at Spring Hill Cemetery, Harrodsburg, Ky.
Dan Pence, President of the James-Younger Gang, views the plot for the Confederate dead in Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.

TOUR DIARY – DAY ONE

April 19, 2017 – Dan Pence and Tom Nall, president and past president of the International James-Younger Gang Inc., will arrive at the 200-year-old Hemp House here in Danville today. Then for three days, we will tour Kentucky and preview historic sites in preparation for the speaking events and tours that are scheduled for the 2017 annual conference in Georgetown come September.

Dan Pence-Tom Nall-Harrodsburg cemetery
Dan Pence & Tom Nall, president & past president of the James-Younger Gang, tour the Confederate cemetery at Hoordsburg, Kentucky

Today, we will begin at Constitution Square. We will talk about the enduring relationship between John M. James, Frank & Jesse’s grandfather, with Judge Harry Innes, his clerk & later Justice Thomas Todd, & Benjamin Sebastian of the Spanish Conspiracy. We will also address what role John M. James may have had in the ten Danville Conventions and how the Spanish Conspiracy led to his ruin.

Next, we will retrace the ride of Frank James, the Younger & Pence brothers with William Clark Quantrill when they rode through Danville in 1864 on a mission to “visit” President Lincoln.

At the family plot of the close Confederate ally of Frank James, John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn. Dan Pence stands beside the tombstone of Black Jack’s grandmother, Sarah White Stull Hardin-Chinn. Her husband Christopher Columbus Chinn is the namesake of Kit Chinn who traveled the racetrack circuit with Frank James in his retirement years. Black Jack rests behind Dan Pence among two rows of his Chinn and Morgan families.

We will tour their escape route from Danville to Perryville and up to Sally Van Arsdall’s farm outside Harrodsburg. There, Maj. James Bridgewater, whose wife was a Pence, caught up with the band and attacked them in the middle of a cold January night. Four of the band was killed. Previously, the James-Younger Gang Journal published my account of this event, “Why, Maj. Bridgewater?”

We will then tour Oakland Church cemetery where Quantrill ordered their fallen men to be buried. We also will visit Spring Hill Cemetery in Harrodsburg, where Frank James and Black Jack Chinn exhumed their slain from Oakland Church Cemetery and re-interred them in the Confederate plot at Spring Hill around 1898.

Nearby the family plot of Black Jack Chinn, Dan Pence tours the family plot of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. In Harrodsburg, Frank James was the cashier of the Mercer County National Bank. Black Jack Chinn sat on its board of directors. Frank was twice elected Sheriff of Mercer County, and also was elected State Auditor. He halted construction of the new Kentucky State Capitol when the legislature failed to appropriate sufficient funding.

Returning to Danville, we will visit Bellevue Cemetery and the grave site of the grandparents of Clell Miller, Henry Logan Thurmond & Mary Kenley-Thurmond. Clell Miller was one of the James-Younger Gang. He was killed in the Northfield Bank robbery.

We will round off today’s tour in Danville with visits to Weisiger Park next to the Boyle County courthouse where Joseph McAlister James, aka Joseph McJames, operated the St. James Hotel. We also will stop by the parking lot on Third St. backing up to the Boyle County jail where Joseph McJames owned and operated James Hall, Danville’s first and original theater, and convention center.

In the coming two more days, we plan to tour in Woodford and Scott Counties.

DAY TWO  on TOUR 

Tombstone of Thomas Evans James, brother of Franklin Pierce “Frank” James. T.E. James operated the oldest dry goods firm in Harrodsburg – Hansford, James, & Co. His partner Smith Hansford rode with John Hunt Morgan, David Hunt James, & Richard Skinner James, both of whom were captured and sent to Camp Douglas Union Prison Camp in Chicago.

April 20, 2017 – Yesterday, after a full day of touring numerous historic sites relating to the pioneer settlement of John M. James in Kentucky and his pioneer families of Pence, Nalle, Vardiman, & Sallee, we ended our tour at Bellevue Cemetery in Danville.

Standing before the graves of Clell Miller’s grandparents, I received the ultimate compliment from Dan Pence. Turning to me, Dan said, “My grandfather would have loved to have known you.”

Tombstone Rev. Jesse Heah
Behind the tombstone of Thomas Evans James, Tom Nall spotted the tombstone of Rev. Jesse Head.  Rev. Head married President Abraham Lincoln’s parents, Thomas & Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

Dan’s grandfather is Samuel Anderson Pence, the author of I Knew Frank…I Wish I had Known Jesse. This book and its companion book Quantrill’s Guerillas 1861-1865 compiles Pence’s lifetime accumulation of history, stories, facts, and data relating to Pence’s personal relationship with the social communities and family of Frank & Jesse James. Dan edited and published his grandfather’s book posthumously. So much of Dan’s book is new and previously unpublished history. I have used this book often in my own research and writing.

Jesse Head plaque
Tombstone plaque for Rev. Jesse Head. “Rev. Jesse Head, Jan. 28, 1768-March 22, 1842. Preacher-Editor-Patriot. He married June 12, 1806, Thomas Lincoln & Nancy Hanks, parents of Abraham Lincoln. Jane Ramsey Head, April 10, 1768-August 30, 1851. Married Jesse Head January 9, 1789 and nobly shared with him the privations and triumphs of the life of a pioneer preacher.”
Jesse Head
Rev. Jesse Head 1768-1842 who married Abraham Lincoln’s parents

I was thrilled to think Dan thought so kindly about my research and writing. Dan’s generous compliment could not have thrilled me more.

Today, we continue our tour in Georgetown and Midway and the historic site related to the James family there.

DAY THREE on TOUR

April 21, 2017 – So far, very few complications have arisen regarding our programming for the September conference. Everything is working out well and in some cases better than first thought. This conference is going to be great!

However, while conducting our tour, revelations have occurred to us which surprised us. There really is no reason why the three of us, all raised in the upper Midwest, should find ourselves bound together by Jesse James. Yet, here we are.

Yesterday, Dan revealed his story “You have to go to Kentucky.”

Dan Pence-TomNall-Barbara Nall-Perryville Confederate Memorial
Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Perryville Battlefield and its memorial to the Confederate dead.

As a trained chemist, grown up In Michigan, Dan knew nothing of his connections to Jesse James. Not until Dan’s son brought home a book one day about Jesse James and Dan began to look at his grandfather’s box of memorabilia, did Dan begin to follow his path of spiritual discovery.

Dan Pence, Tom & Barbara Nall tour Logan’s Fort, a first stop for any migrant coming to Kentucky from Virginia in the early 1780s, including Frank and Jesse James’ grandfather, John M. James.

Following the neglected leads left to him, Dan began his journey. Dan’s door of discovery opened when a near stranger instructed him “You have to go to Kentucky. When Dan did, like me Dan discovered the unexpected.

In the Kentucky corporate offices of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Dan met with Bill Samuel. Bill showed Dan Bill’s own neglected box of family memorabilia. Among the artifacts in Bill’s box were photos of Dan’s grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather.

Ever since then Dan has been on his own personal tour to discover what meaning Jesse James holds for him. Even on this preview tour of historic sites in Kentucky and after publishings his grandfather’s books, Dan is still learning more.

James-Younger Gang-2017 Conference logo

The three of us boys from the upper Midwest agree. We are traveling a curious path of divinity. We fully expect more revelations to come. Come to Kentucky, and you can, too. Join us and tour with us at the 2017 annual conference of the James-Younger Gang.

35 Shades of the James Coat of Arms

Repeatedly, the mother of Frank and Jesse James seated her sons in front of the evening fire to drill them in their family heritage. With so little to tell, she only could have wished to have 35 shades of the James coat of arms to show her sons.

Zerelda Cole James
Zerelda Elizabeth Cole-James

Over and over, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole-James made a point of saying to her boys, “Never forget. You are descended from Royalty.” However, Zerelda never could say how that occurred. Nor could she provide her sons with any proof or evidence of what royal and to whom they were related. So, she referenced King James of England. A James coat of arms to display to her children might have helped.

Black Horse Inn
Black Horse Inn, Midway, Kentucky – Birthplace of Frank & Jesse James’ mother, Zerelda Elizabeth Cole

In her childhood, growing up in Woodford County, Kentucky, many wealthier neighbors of young Zerelda possessed a family coat of arms. The coat of arms they proudly presented or displayed was a relic, long held since family ancestors broke rank with the mother England in the American Revolution. Some possessed their coat of arms longer, for generations before. Such was not the case for the Cole family to whom young Zerelda was born.

However, as a teenager when Zerelda seized upon an upstart preacher named Robert Sallee James, she knew what everyone knew about his James family. The James descended from high stock. If Zerelda married that Georgetown College student with all his family connections and a bright career in ministry before him, she could escape her hardscrabble life as a servant girl in her family’s roadhouse ordinary. Zerelda could rise on the economic scale. And when she bore Robert children, her children would descend from royalty, too.

The Prophecy of the Two Bastards

The royal family history, which Zerelda presented to Frank and Jesse, was skeletal at best, and somewhat tarnished.  Jesse’s great-grandson, Judge James Randall Ross, wrote about the story that Zerelda repeatedly told in his book, I, Jesse James. Jim Ross grew up in the household of his grandfather, Jesse Edwards James Jr. He was privy to all the family stories his cousins never heard. Jesse Jr. made Jim promise to keep the story alive among his progeny. The story appears in Jim’s book in mother Zerelda’s words as “The Prophecy of the Two Bastards.”

James R. Ross
Judge James Randall Rosse, great-grandson of Jesse James, author of I, Jesse James
I, Jesse James-book
I, Jesse James by Judge James R. Ross

The prophecy always began with Ma’s description of those who had migrated to the Virginia colony in the early years…Many in the Virginia colony were running from something or somebody. Outcasts, robbers, bandit, bastards and the like were the backbone of the Virginia colony.

”Flowerdieu, Virginia in September 1622, Ma would say, was a place that harbored such people.”

…In September of that long ago year, two brothers William and John were arguing about William’s future…William had insisted on returning to his land [following an Indian raid] rather than staying in the stockade with his brother John…As John tried to convince William to stay, William pointed out that he must return to his land “Because it is my job, John. It is my heritage – our heritage given to us by our father.”

John replied, “Don’t be bitter about duty, William. We both agreed before we left England that we were giving up any rights we had there in exchange for the land and our start here in the new world. But it’s no use losing your life over your land.”

William answered with considerable bitterness. “Yes, a lot of ‘rights’ either of us had as bastards, except for causing the good King James a lot of snickers at court!”…”Oh, I know in his way he thought he was doing the right thing” he continued, “And damn it all that’s why I’m going to make it on my own land and sire my own family under the name of James! If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for my family.”

Background of a Bandit

Background of a Bandit-book
Background of a Bandit by Joan Beamis

In 1970, Joan Malley Beamis published the first genealogy of the Jesse James family, Background of a Bandit. Joan is a first cousin of Frank and Jesse, and a great-granddaughter of their uncle, Drury Woodson James. Joan discovered no royal coat of arms for her James family relatives to claim. Joan further ascertained that William James is the immigrant of the James family, and John was his son.

Nearly fifty years later, Investigation of Joan’s research files revealed her personal doubt about the genealogy she wrote and published. Joan wrote that, for lack of evidence, she still questioned whether William was the immigrant at all. Too many James families occupied the Virginia colony just before the Revolution. For all of them she deduced, the James family might have been in America for generations earlier. The family, too, might have been much larger than she alone could establish.

Stray Leaves

Twenty years of new research since reveals the immigrant John James, an arrival in America in the year 1620. Stray Leaves began publishing this genealogy in 1997, subjecting new research findings ever since to rigorous peer scrutiny on a worldwide basis. Today, the known, documented and established results of these conclusions support Joan’s doubt. They also disclaim Ma Zerelda’s family lore about King James.

Although the land the James family acquired in Colonial Virginia was granted through Alexander Spotswood from Charles II, a grandson of James I, King of England, no other kinship link to King James can be established.

However, through generations of royal courtiers, none bearing the James name, the lineage of Frank and Jesse James indeed can be traced back to their 19th great-grandfather King Edward II of Caernarvon, Wales and beyond. The boys also are descendants of the Plantagenet Kings Edward I, III, and IV, as well as King Henry VII of Pembrokeshire, Wales.

35 Shades of James Coat of Arms

coadbSeeking what coat of arms the Jesse James family might claim, Stray Leaves consulted the eminent coat of arms website, derived from the ancient and reliable records of Burke’s Peerage – coadb.com (Coat of Arms Database). There, on a page specifically devoted to the James surname, were found more than 35 shades of the James coat of arms.

Selecting which coat of arms might apply became an exercise in historical knowledge. Apparently, coats that reflect James of Irish origin were eliminated promptly. Next eliminated were those that reflect nothing relating to what is known of the documented history of the James family in America.  What remained are the two coats of arms that reflect Pembroke, Wales and Somerset, England.

From the study by Joan Beamis, she claimed that William James was an immigrant from Pembrokeshire, Wales. However, in the fifty years of additional research since, no link with Pembroke, Wales or any James family history can be established from Pembrokeshire.

Moreover, Terry Wells, the archivist of the Carmarthenshire Archive Service in Wales formerly has queried Stray Leaves regarding the origin of the claim that William James is the progenitor of the Jesse James family in America. In 2014, he wrote the following to Stray Leaves:

“The reason I was asking was that every so often someone turns up to research the ‘Welsh ancestry’ of the James family, but we have never found any evidence to support the theory at all, at least it is so for west Wales, I can’t answer for north Wales. But, I am not surprised, as in the wealth of supposed James family history to be found there is a dearth of evidence to support the supposed eighteenth-century ancestors.

“I had assumed that the idea had originated from Background of a Bandit. Interesting that the author later doubts both the Welsh connection and that she was an ancestor of the James family. Trusting to family lore is always a risky business.”

What remains to consider are these two coats of arms from Somerset in England.

coats of arms, Somerset 2 james-coat-arms-10-Somerset2

The black background common to both crests symbolizes grief and resistance, powerful emotions that continue to infuse James family members today. The fish that graces the crest represents bravery and steadfastness. Moreover, the fish also accounts for Christian faith, constituting a genuine, generous spirit. The fish also represents economy and science. In the one, the bull replicates bravery and generosity. Its horns replicate strength and fortitude with undertones of patience, humility, and sacrifice connected. The bull topping the crest may represent the landed gentry while the dolphin at the top may represent seafaring gentry, as well as swiftness, diligence, charity, and love. It is believed that John James the immigrant arrived in America from Wales as a captain with a ship of his own. The family’s founding of Somerset in Pulaski County, Kentucky evidences the James family’s continued strong tie to its ancient motherland.

From Longshanks to Courtiers

King Edward II of Caernarvon, Wales, and his father Edward I known as Longshanks, present crests of royal heritage.  Variations of the crest have been adopted by royal courtiers and extended family, all of whom appear in the ancestry of the James family.

Edward II coat of arms
Arms of Edward II
Queen Isabella-arms
Arms of Queen Isabella, wife of Edward II

 

 

 

 

 

Edward I Longshanks-arms
Arms of Edward I, Longshanks
Queen Eleanor-arms
Arms of Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, Longshanks

A Modern James Family Coat of Arms

If the James family adopted a coat of arms for use in the contemporary era, the coat would have to reflect the fundamental character, personality, behavior, and soul, which the James family typifies. That panoply of character now is documented and appears in the family’s official biography Jesse James Soul Liberty. A modern crest for the James would have to include escutcheons for education, faith, and service to community. Ironically, these are the modern equivalents of service once provided by kings and courtiers.

book
Education, learning teaching, knowledge
community symbol
Community, public service, equality, social justice
cross smbol
Faith, ministry, charity, compassion

The passage of several hundred years may have caused the use of a coat of arms to fade into past glory and romance. There remains, however, the modern equivalent. Being descended from royalty, as Ma Zerelda instructed her sons Frank and Jesse James, still carries the burden of social responsibility, protection, and defense for living a peaceful, productive, and beneficial life for both one’s self and community.

Hey, Jesse James family, you still do what is necessary, but what will you be wearing on your tee shirt now?

Behind That Book Cover of Jesse James

Go behind that book cover and read some chapter previews of Jesse James Soul Liberty. You know what they say. You can’t judge a book by its cover.

                          Click on the book jacket below to preview chapters.                          Purchase now HERE       

I’m not saying my book cover is bad. I intentionally made it look imperfect. This book cover, in fact, has drawn more attention than what readers expect to find inside the book. That’s because this image of Jesse James never has been published before. This book cover is intended to surprise and arrest, like what’s inside the book that also never has been published before. I’m inviting you to consider imperfection.

Do you recall other books about Jesse James, and what the pictures on those book jackets reveal? For the most part, nothing is revealed. When Jesse James appears on a book jacket, he appears mostly in relief, leaving you a vague image of the outlaw, and an even more vague image of what to expect inside the book. Not so, here. That’s one reason why you may want to read some chapter previews to find out for yourself what’s behind this book cover.

Here is why I chose this particular image for the book jacket.  Jesse appears matter-of-factly on this book jacket. Like the scarred tintype this image comes from, Jesse is a flawed character. He’s defective. Universally, Jesse James is unacceptable. Like his damaged tintype, he’s not useful to society in the manner society expects. If he is, in fact defective, what do his defects represent? There’s another reason for you to read the chapter previews behind this book cover.

This image holds the promise of what you will discover inside Jesse James Soul Liberty.  Inside, you will find the Jesse James that only Jesse’s own family can bring to you.  It’s an understanding of the outlaw, his reality behind his distortions, fallacies, and mythology, that no historian ever has been able to capture. Not in books. Not on TV. Not in the movies.

No historian of Jesse James ever has looked at the genetic makeup that made him an outlaw. Behind this book cover, though, individual members of the Jesse James family reveal to you in their own actions just what it takes to make the quintessential character, personality, behavior, and soul that is a James. They do this in generation after generation. For that, however, you’re going to have to get behind the book cover and delve more deeply beyond chapter previews alone.

What the James family shows you behind that book cover of Jesse James will have you looking again and again at what you think you know about Jesse James, and what exactly was the meaning of his actions and history.

You definitely can’t judge a book by its cover.

Serendipity Encounters at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference

Months ago, I answered the Call for Papers from Ohio Genealogical Society (OGS), intending to broaden the audience for my book Jesse James Soul Liberty. My proposal offered a presentation about the unique methodology adopted in my twelve years of researching and writing my genealogy and history of the Jesse James family. Illness stopped me once before from presenting my talk Jesse James’ Genealogy Is Not For Crackpots Any More to the Minnesota Genealogical Society. With OGS, I was expecting a second chance.

Ohio Genealogical Society, 2015 Conference
Ohio Genealogical Society, 2015

My expectation was thwarted. OGS was not excited about the genealogy of Jesse James. Fair enough. Not everyone is.

Looking for a backup, I defaulted to the two talks I finally did present at OGS – How to Write a Family History Everyone Wants to Read. I also produced a companion presentation – How to Publish, Sell, or Give Away a Family History Everyone Wants to Read. Still steadfast to promote my book, I also subscribed to an exhibit table at OGS, where I’d display the letters of the Jesse James family from the Joan Beamis Archive, as the James family wrote to one another, trying to identify and define their genealogy and family history.

Ohio Theater, Columbus, Ohio
Ohio Theater, Columbus, Ohio

Arriving at the luxurious Sheraton Hotel in Columbus, Ohio, I encountered my first serendipity. I literally had to drive around the block twice to make sure my eyes had not deceived me. Right around the corner from the Sheraton was the Ohio Theatre. Back in the late 1960s I appeared in that beautiful theatre for two years in a row while touring in the hit Broadway shows, Generation and Impossible Years. Thirty-five years later now, I was booked for two more appearances. However, this was not my only serendipity at OGS.

Mark Gideon
Mark Gideon

The first person to stop and talk with me at my exhibit table was Mark Gideon. Mark’s family farm sits outside of Northfield, Minnesota. I’d expect to meet Mark in Minnesota, but never in Ohio. There he was, telling me about the Gideon family’s experience following the Northfield robbery by the James-Younger gang. Jesse James had appeared at the fence of the Gideon farm. As fast as the Gideons spotted Jesse, he disappeared. Who would expect to hear that Jesse James story in Ohio?

Craig R. Scorr
Craig R. Scorr

Next, Craig R. Scott stopped by my table. Craig is president of Heritage Books, Inc., the largest seller of genealogical books in the nation. He lives in North Carolina. Craig was speaking at OGS about Researching Your Revolutionary War Ancestor and Beyond the Compiled Military Record. At my table, Craig was most interested in telling me about his Woodson ancestry. Craig has a double Woodson ancestry, one from Robert “Potato Hole” Woodson, plus another in a different Woodson line. The only Woodson I would expect to encounter in Ohio was one who descended from Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson. Those Woodson cousins have resided in Ohio since Jefferson died. Serendipity instead produced James-Woodson cousin, Craig R. Scott.

Pam, a Hite family relative
Pam, a Hite family relative

Serendipity then began to swirl. Pamela, whose last name escapes me now, stopped by to pick up a copy of my book. She has Hite cousins. Pamela informed me well about Russellville. Another book buyer told me their family in St. Louis knew the blacksmiths named Butcher who tended to the horses of Frank James.

Standing Turkey-Cunne Shote-Francis Parsons 1762-Gilcrease MuseumJodie L. Logan, president of the Huron Chapter of OGS, bought my book.  A day later, she had read parts of it already and informed me about Lillie James and Jodie’s Choctaw kinfolk from the Trail of Tears. She mentioned Cherokee warrior Oconostota, whom some believe may have been the son of Chief Moytoy. James family member Mark New is a descendant of Chief Moytoy. Jodie also claims kinship with Chief Standing Turkey. Reading about the Choctaw in my book, Jodie delivered me a note, joking, “Oh my! Certain I’m an outlaw.”

Rena Goss
Rena Goss

Jodie was not the only one reading my book at the OGS conference. Within hours of buying a copy, Rena Goss reported she already had read the first chapter. Rena thought Joan Beamis was quite an extraordinary woman. Rena talked at length about a bundle of letters she inherited, titled “Percy’s Letters,” which describe in rich detail the raunchy life in a Colorado frontier town. I told her, without reading the letters, I was ready to publish them.

Martha Gerdeman
Martha Gerdeman

Serendipity then closed in on me, big time. Martha Gerdeman, a professional genealogy researcher at Climbing Family Trees, in Dickson, Tennessee stopped by. We talked about the James families there, who will appear in Forks of the Road, Volume III of Jesse James Soul Liberty. The James in Tennessee always have known they were kin to Frank and Jesse James, though they’ve never known how. Volume III will show how. I was very excited to meet Martha, and plan to revisit with her my next time in Tennessee.

Rick Hollis & Eric F. James
Rick Hollis & Eric F. James

Then as my stay was winding down, Rick D. Hollis appeared from Clarkesville, Tennessee. We had communicated briefly many years ago after I researched there. Rick sat with me for a very long talk, as Rick waited for the banquet dinner and his induction into one more of the twenty lineage societies of which he is a member. Rick formerly was married to a James.

Like Martha Gerdeman, Rick also knew about the James in Tennessee and their claimed kinship to Frank and Jesse. I previewed for him, some of the information that will be in my forthcoming Volume III. Rick added many interesting details I had not known. He also invited me to visit him in Tennessee for more. I’ll definitely be taking him up on the offer as soon as Volume II is published this year.

Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge
Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge

Rick also is deputy president general of the General Society of the War of 1812. I filled in Rick about the James and Hite family who defeated the Native-Americans at Chillicothe, two generations before the Hite and James fought as the James Gang. I also alerted Rick to the religious and socio-political influence of the James family and their community in the War of 1812, and their defeat of Chief Tecumseh. Rick said he may have to book me for a talk about that.

Next year, Rick Hollis becomes president of The Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge. We then discussed the meeting of the grandfathers of the James and Younger brothers at Valley Forge, again two generations before the two families came together again as the James Gang. Since we both were sitting there in Ohio, I also had to tell Rick about the James family who were captured when John Hunt Morgan crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky to meet his defeat in Ohio.

Genealogy always leads the family historian, who then must follow. I know this too well. Never does the family historian lead the genealogy.  Doing so, a family historian sometimes experiences revelations of a spiritual nature. The hand of some “other” at times directs the family historian. Occasionally the slap of spirituality is so forceful, the notice to alter course is impossible to ignore. My slap of serendipity at the 2015 annual conference of the Ohio Genealogical Society tells me, time is now to get crackin’ on Forks of the Road, Volume III of Jesse James Soul Liberty.

Hot to Trot for How to Write Family History

Writing my presentations for the upcoming annual conference of the Ohio Genealogical Society has me super-charged.

Program presentations by Eric F. James for the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015
Program presentations by Eric F. James for the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015

It makes no sense at all though if I show up in front of my audience all hot to trot only to find that my audience needs a warm-up.

I hate losing ten minutes of precious presentation time, or lose content from either of my two talks:  “From Bodice Ripper to Jack the Ripper, How To Write a Family History Everyone Wants to Read,” and “How to Publish, Sell, or Give Away a Family History Everyone Wants to Read.”  I want my audience jazzed from the moment they walk into the conference room.

Program for talks by Eric F. James at the Ohio  Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015
Program for talks by Eric F. James at the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference 2015

My solution is to grab their interest with the following video that will arrest their attention the moment they walk in the door.

As the audience takes their seats, this video already is at work relaxing the house and setting the tone for my talk. If everything  goes as expected, the video is building anticipation, excitement, and readiness for my moment to appear. In fact, I can play the same video after my talk, and have them dancing out the door.

Next, I just have to find a way of keeping the attention of anyone who takes a potty break.

Viewers of this video may recognize some of its images. They were used first in banners appearing on the Facebook page for my book Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I. My own book cover appeared in the box “My Book Here.”

Since I change Facebook banners often, I had plenty of banners from which to choose. The ones I selected for use in this video chiefly reflect upon the content contained in my talks.

So…Who Am I?

A lifelong friend asked me to describe myself. As an author, historian, and genealogist I’m used to describing others. I believe I do it well. To describe one’s self, though, is not so easy. My “self” can get in the way. The problem was to get my “self” out of the way.

Connie Otto
Connie Otto, Actress, 1969

My friend, Connie Otto, and I have known each other for almost fifty years. We met as actors, doing a Broadway show road tour. When Otto left show business to become a Jungian psychologist and holistic health professional, she adopted her professional name of Chaitania. I’ve been privileged to be among the few she allows to still call her Otto.

In all our time, I’ve also come to respect Chaitania. I’ve learned It is Chaitania who pulls me out of my comfort zone in a way no close friend who loves you can. After I married a second time, Chaitania and her husband came to visit. Within the first twenty-four hours, Chaitania asked me directly, “What are you doing with this woman?” I responded, “I want to be married again.” Chaitania replied, “But you’re a good person.” That was all to our conversation. Chaitania’s skills left me to assess what was said.

Chaitania now has a blog, where she does the same thing for others as she’s done so long for me. She’s installed a new section on her blog Chaitania under the menu link “Amazing People.” That’s when Chaitania asked me to describe myself. Among all the people she has known, I am privileged to be her first subject. Otto is the one who asked me to describe myself, but I also recognized that this is Chaitania’s blog.

Chaitania Hein
Chaitania on her blog today

You cannot snow job a lifelong friend, and you dare not even try with a Jungian holistic psychologist who knows more secrets of the universe than you alone can imagine.

In answer to the request to describe myself, I wrote, “So…Who Am I?” For Chaitania, I believe my “self” has been written away. For my dear friend Otto, she will still recognize me.

You can read “So…Who Am I” HERE.