Writing one’s family history so one’s family reads it? Now there’s a quandary.
Like most amateur genealogists I have boxes of family research and a fear that when I die they may as well bury the boxes of family history with me. Who would take the time to read through it?
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Then again I didn’t want to do one of those genealogy books full of only names, dates, and places. Boring! Most people won’t take the time to learn about their family heritage this way either.
A Family History Book Done the Right Way
Diane Swearingen, though, solved that problem for her husband’s family. Her book “The Smallest Tadpole’s War in the Land of Mysterious Waters ” is historical fiction based on the life of his great-grandfather Thomas Swearingen.
Even better, though, is how she told the story. It is told in a way that benefits those of us not in her family because Thomas Swearingen’s story is symbolic of the settlers who first came to the state of Florida seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families.
The story begins with a marriage, a big move, and an adoption. Its point of view is through the eyes of Thomas’s adopted son. It follows through the lifetime of Thomas which includes territorial Florida, the Civil War, and reconstruction. Most of the story is set in Wakulla County with brief encounters in Gadsden, Leon and Jefferson Counties, all in North Florida, where Florida grew the fastest during this era.
The story is well documented and a page-turner. Also, I could not put the book down. I wanted to know what was happening to the characters as much as what happened in these areas during this time period. I grew up one county over, and my family goes back several generations there, too.
The book is a quick read, and I believe suited perfectly for middle schoolers as well as adults. It is good family reading. Purchase a copy through Amazon using the link below.
The title itself, though long and tortuous is interesting. The smallest little tadpole is Florida, as described by a Civil War-era politician as being the ‘least important state swimming in the cesspool of secession’. It has double meaning because it is Thomas, too, who started out small himself, as a young man trying to make his way in life.
Mysterious waters is a translation of the name Wakulla, the county where most of the story took place. Wakulla County, located south of Tallahassee, is on the Gulf of Mexico.
Do yourself a favor? If you want to know a little more about Florida’s history, read this book. This family history story does a great job of describing Florida when Florida was a little backwater tadpole in our great nation.