This final segment tells the “rest of the story” of my introduction to archival research.
by Teddy Jones
After immersing myself in those documents in the archive, I had gained additional knowledge of the group of intrepid women who were the real Sanctified Sisters. And beyond that, the questions formulated at the outset of my search for authentic voice were answered.
From reading the numerous documents, I learned that Mrs. McWhirter was a very bright woman who had little formal schooling. By contrast, my character mentioned she was a reader and that she was concerned about her child’s receiving an education. Her words confirmed her care with language. For example, “I, Corrine Johnson Good, take pen in hand to set down some of the story of the Good women of Williamson County, Texas. On this same date, four years ago, 1876, six women left Bell County and traveled to Austin for legal purposes. Each of us, on the following day, in six separate courtrooms, legally changed from our several surnames to the name Good.”
I knew that a difference between the two voices would be the extent to which spelling and grammar would be correct—Mrs. McWhirter used incorrect verb forms frequently and some misspellings showed consistently. My character didn’t make those errors. Otherwise, sentence structure, rather formal, and tone of my character and the person in the archives were quite similar. Clearly, the grandmother’s voice, that dictation I received, fit time, place and other character attributes. Archival research assured me of its authenticity and, in the process, taught me that messages from the past, resting in archives, can benefit fiction.
Briscoe Center for American History. "A Guide to the Woman's Commonwealth Archive, 1760-1991." Briscoe Center for American History. 2 January 2014 <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/01489/cah-01489.html>.
Schmidt, Laura Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2011 http://files.archivists.org/pubs/free/UsingArchivesFinal.pdf
Teddy Jones lives and writes in West Texas. Her first novel, Halfwide was published in September, 2012 and her second, Jackson’s Pond, Texas, from MidTown Publishing, in 2013. Well Tended, her third, also from MidTown, will be released in December, 2014. Her short fiction has been published in 94 Creations, RealSouth Magazine, and Persimmon Tree and was short-listed for finalist in the Faulkner-Wisdom competition in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and named finalist in 2014. Jackson’s Pond, Texas was a finalist for the 2014 Willa Award in contemporary fiction. She holds the MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. Find more on Teddy Jones at www.tjoneswrites.com.