Paisley Abbey in Glasgow, Scotland
Paisley Abbey in Glasgow, Scotland

Paisley Abbey in Glasgow, Scotland.

Recently my family and I were able to travel around historic Scotland researching our ancestral ties to this beautiful country. One of the amazing places we visited was Paisley Abbey where our ancestors, the Lords Cathcart I & II, were interred. We searched and searched all over the huge church for their tombs. But we needed to know some crucial information.

Traveling Historic Scotland can flip your assumptions 180 degrees.

The interior view of Paisley Abbey's new altar area

The interior view of Paisley Abbey’s new altar area.

Paisley Abbey was built over time in the 12th century. Major benefactors included the Cathcart family. Over the centuries, major benefactors and important people in society were very often buried nearest the altar inside churches. The less important a person in society, the farther from the altar. knowing this, we searched every brick and tomb. We searched all the carvings and stones.

The volunteer guide pointed out Cathcart Aisle and a small alcove behind the choir. We found more recent (1800s) Cathcarts that would be very distant cousins. But no sign of the lords’ gravesites.

 

Then, our guide mentioned that the  huge cathedral had a different design than its original. 

The historic altar had been destroyed as the Paisley Abbey, several times from war and a huge architectural mistake when one of the roof rebuilds crashed down from poor workmanship. Over time, the altar was moved as the abbey was expanded and rebuilt.

But one wall, the Old Wall, still exists.

Cathcart Memorials at Paisley Abbey in the Old Wall

Cathcart Memorials at Paisley Abbey in the Old Wall.

The guide pointed out the difference in the height and narrowness as potentially guards against Viking raids versus the new walls with windows at a more normal height. Then he mentioned the original wall, hidden mostly behind a long line of screens that told the story of the abbey. He pointed out where the original altar likely stood. People commonly interred in the thick walls of historic Scotland’s cathedrals over the centuries.

We’d been searching in the wrong place the entire time because we didn’t know the altar moved!

The ancient Cathcart tomb is a large stone carved in Latin, pretty high up below very narrow windows on the original monastery wall. We all admired the beautiful stained glass, more recently placed, but still gorgeous in the ancient church. Then…

We found them! A long brass plaque beneath the carved words, different centuries and yet the root of our Cathcart roots. Just one branch on our family tree. But I am so happy to have found them and a little more information to share with future generations.

All that time scouring every nook and cranny in the choir, altar, walls, and floor. Often we chase all around the answer, not realizing it’s the wrong spot because of an assumption based on the way things look right now. What a great example those few hours gave me! When I’m methodically searching and not finding, I learned from historic Scotland to ask God to point me in the right direction regardless of my assumptions.

Angela Breidenbach and her daughter pay their respects to ancestors at Paisley Abbey

Angela Breidenbach and her daughter pay their respects to ancestors at Paisley Abbey.

 

Author and genealogist, Angela Breidenbach

Author and genealogist, Angela Breidenbach

Angela Breidenbach uses the research from her travels in her historical novels.

She’s a genealogist and the president of the Christian Authors Network.

You can find her at AngelaBreidenbach.com and on social media with @AngBreidenbach including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter.

Try one of Angela’s historical novels that include genealogical research like:

 The Captive Brides Collection telling the story of Scottish immigrants who endured indenture to come to the Colonies as the American Revolution is birthed.

Captive Brides Historical Romance Collection

Captive Brides Romance Collection featuring CAN author Angela Breidenbach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CAN members Linda Kozar, Lena Nelson Dooley, and Angela Breidenbach host shows on the Along Came A Writer Network.

Along Came A Writer Network 

2017/2016

Chat Noir Mystery and Suspense, with host Linda Kozar on the Along Came A Writer Network

The Lena Nelson Dooley Show, with host Lena Nelson Dooley on the Along Came A Writer Network

Historically Speaking, with host Angela Breidenbach on the Along Came A Writer Network

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Maureen pic from booksigningIt is poignantly fitting that National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month occurs in the same month as one of our most memorable holidays – Thanksgiving Day. Alzheimer’s is a disease that robs people of their memories. Thanksgiving Day is an occasion when people gather to celebrate, give thanks, and weave conversation from past to present to future memories. Photos, videos, and audio recordings will be made during the festivities. And some of these will make their way sometime in the future into the lap of someone who once participated and remembered, but now needs to be gently coaxed to even recognize the people, frozen in time, smiling up at them from a photo album.

As authors, we use our memories all the time. Even if the stories we write have nothing to do with what we’ve experienced in the past, we call upon certain elements of our lives to flesh out and inform our work. And it is here that my CAN blog for this month focuses. How do you capture things and people, places and events as you experience them? How do you recall them? Are they now as they were then? Or, has time colored them differently or your experience from then to now given you fresh perspective.

One example of the fragility of memory came, for me, rather unexpectedly (and humorously). Years ago, when sack lunches were PB&J and chips, there were those cupcakes. Ah, you know what I mean. Those chocolate cake, chocolate frosting-with-a-swirl-of white cupcakes that made sitting through boring classes worthwhile.

When news came months ago that those cupcakes would disappear from store shelves, many were devastated. But, they returned – to great fanfare and acclaim. So it was that I found myself scouting store shelves for those cakey, sweet treats of “yesteryear.” And, I found them!  But were they the same as before? Alas, no.

Or, perhaps they were the same, but I had changed. Adult now, and very conscious of eating healthfully, instead of ripping open the package and digging in, the first thing I did was locate the label – calories, sugars, carbs…yup. Then, I secured a napkin and contemplated a fork, not eager to make a mess on the placemats I’d just laundered. Only then did I nibble on the cake. The taste was there, and the delicious combination of frosting, creamy center, and cake. But I have to say that my inner grown up had squelched a bit of the inner child by approaching the grand moment as I did.

We might do the same thing when we re-read our journals, revisit old pictures, or try to get a sense of an historic venue or person. That is, what we remember might change a little, twist and bend a little, because we are approaching the memory not with the eyes of fresh experience, but with the years – and events – that have washed like waves on the sand. Something is bound to have faded or disappeared, but something new is in its place.

In a work of fiction, part of individualizing characters means understanding their present and their past – and what memories they carry with them that influence and inspire them. Another layer to this is to understand whether they remember things exactly as they happened, or do they skew them a bit because of who they are in the present?  Differences in memory can certainly flame conflict, especially if a character insists that someone did something or something happened one way, when it actually happened another.

The things a character remembers can tell much about who he or she is. Do they remember colors over shapes? Character over mannerisms?  Do they forget eye color, but remember how someone smiles or waves?

For many, the holidays, particularly Christmas, are rich with inspiration. Throughout these next few weeks, when you put on a writer’s “cap” and marvel at how many new elements you have to put into your work, think a bit, too, about how you will remember, and what you feel is most important, in your heart, to never forget.

Blessings and a very happy Thanksgiving!

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

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