Because I love historical novels, particularly those set in Scotland, I decided to try my hand at writing one. At the time I made this decision, I was taking a Viking/Scotland class and remembered something my mother had told me years earlier.
It seems that, although all of us are of Norwegian descent, my maternal grandfather, who emigrated from Norway, had a Scottish name. This intrigued me, so I sent an email to the instructor and eventually learned his name had a Gaelic counterpart. Did this mean that I had long ago ancestors living in Scotland sometime after the year 900? Possibly, as the Vikings invaded Scotland, and other parts of Europe, from 800 to 1000 A.D.
I took as many classes about Scotland as I could and then, when HHRW announced a class about pirates, I eagerly signed up. That turned out to be a blessing. According to legend, there was a lady pirate by the name of Alfhild on one of the Viking pirate longboats. Unfortunately, historians never proved this, as the Vikings believed the written word to be evil and therefore did not have a written language.
Nonetheless, I was delighted with this information. Alfhild, as I happen to know, is a rare name even in Norway. It was also my mother's first name.
So, I began designing my book, starting with the landing of Viking pirates at Orkney and created a main character, Lars, the son of the captain and one who escapes the longboat and makes his new life in Orkney. I also added a lady pirate, though I didn't name her Alfhildl.
When a suggestion was made by an instructor, I tracked down a copy of The Orkneyinga Saga, a book written somewhere around 1258, and read it. It was there I discovered there was an earl by the name of Rongvold, which was my maternal grandfather's given name.
I'm not done researching. Who knows what will turn up next?
I'd love to know if any of you have uncovered interesting facts about your family while researching for a book, or, for tht matter, any unusul facts.
Joan K. Maze