Heritage Threaded Through Stories

Welsh Woman in Traditional Attire, late 1800s. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_woman_in_national_dress_knitting_(Jones)_NLW3366995.jpg

It blows my mind to think about how wonderfully we are created.

I love to hear people talk about who they are and where they come from. As it turns out, I’m someone of a mongrel when it comes to origins of bloodline!

Do you know what heritages flow through your veins?

The nationalities flowing through my internal pipes include Danish, English, Welsh, Irish, German, Swedish, and Scottish. If you think about this, my ancestors came from England, Wales, Scotland, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden. One of my great-grandmothers claimed to be Cherokee, this has yet to be proven, and comes from the Cordill surname in Tennessee.

All that said, I am a proud American. A woman. A mother. A grandmother. A daughter of God.

I am someone who is on a path to valuing lineage. Something I had not really appreciated until I began writing. Although I don’t find myself spending time on Ancestry dot com (I leave that to my mother), I enjoy combing through the bits of research my mom has compiled.

Most of my books so far contain my husband’s lineage. He is indigenous, a Colville Tribal member of Sinixt, San Poil, and Okanogan, and is also French, hence Peone, which means migrant worker. Between us both, our children hold a myriad of origins, although they too are members of the Colville Tribe.

For my recent book, Lillian’s Legacy, I ventured over deep waters to my side of the family and found myself in Wales. At least through the internet. I’ve always loved our family name, Maddox. The Welsh spelling is Madog or Madoc as there is no “x” in the Welsh alphabet.

So, I gave the Maddox surname to my main character’s mentor in the upcoming release of my young adult adventure story, Lillian’s Legacy. As I dug into female Welsh names, Mali popped out and caught my interest. (Molly is the English variation.) A strong name for a Welsh female doctor in the Victorian Era, don’t you think?

Original research for Lillian’s Legacy took me to Ruthins, Wales. These folks tend to speak a Powyseg—a mid-northern to northeast Wales dialect. As it turns out, Wales is split into four sections, each having its own Welsh dialect.

This was familiar for me living on the Colville Confederated Tribal reservation and studying the Sinixt language. There are twelve bands that comprise the reserve who originally all spoke different dialects. I figured I was in good company.

After researching the Powyseg dialect and gathering needed words for authentic dialog, I was well on my way to fashioning a Welsh-speaking character who would guide my main character, Lillian Gardner, in the ways of medicine.

Funny thing is, as I wrote the book, a little voice in the back of my head nagged me. I ignored it, as I sometimes do when I am certain I’m right. It seems when I ignore that soft, little voice, the outcome is never the desired one. Never!

As I wrote, the niggle faded but never really left.

Once the manuscript’s first draft was complete, the voice boomed, rattling my brain. It said, “Find someone in Wales to check for language accuracy.” I, of course, argued with the voice. But after a time, it won out.

I had no idea where to start, which is probably why I disregarded the voice in the first place. I Googled a few ideas, but nothing seemed to suit. So, I did what every good American does and turned to Facebook. There had to be someone in my pool of friends who knew someone, who knew someone…

I have to laugh because when I do listen to that voice, things turn out as they should.

It didn’t take long for a friend who also lives in the same town as me to respond and personal message me that her father worked in Wales and still resides in the United Kingdom. I about fell out of my chair.

Could it really be that simple?

Yes, it could and was. Within minutes I had John Willian’s email. From Wales, no less! I giggled. Then giggled some more.

I got busy and drafted an email with all the needed information and pushed send. It felt like Christmas morning. I looked forward to his confirmation of my research so I could simply continue pressing on toward publication.

Come to find out, John had been living in southwest Wales. You may think, what’s the big deal? Well, let me tell you, authenticity is the big deal. It felt like I had opened a Christmas present and didn’t get what I had my heart set on—quite appreciative, but not what I had been expecting. What now? Do I find someone else? There were a few others who had responded to my initial query.

Then it occurred to me, all I needed to do was change the location my character had come from and the limited words I had already translated into the manuscript. This was really not as big a deal as I had first made it out to be. Whew!

John Williams was delighted to give me all the information I needed, including the name of a woman who resides in Wales, southwest of course, and helped me with the new translations.

Doctor Mali Maddox now comes from Myddfai, Wales, which is in the northeast of Carmarthenshire near Llandovery. She is a woman I have come to love and appreciate. Maddox, or Madoc, means charitable or benevolent, and that is what Doctor Maddox exudes as she guides her young study in medicinal measures.

Lillian’s Legacy will be out either late summer or early fall. Until then, I will be posting more about Welsh customs and traditions and giving sneak peeks of fun scenes, including the cover.

Stay tuned…

What’s threaded through your heritage?

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  1. Laura Emerson says:

    Hi Carmen,

    Wow, what a great story, the story behind the story. I’m in my early 70s and learned a long time ago to always listen to that still, small voice which has saved me from having to backtrack many times. My California siblings and I knew nothing about our father’s family in Louisiana as he ran away in his late teens and always said they were no good. Thanks to the Ancestry website, I was able to connect with both his mother’s and father’s families – and they are wonderful, kind people. I’ve been able to visit them a few times and just being in the same room with them makes my DNA tingle.

    Thank you for another interesting post.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      How exciting! What a thrill to get to know your family.

  2. Jean sutton says:

    Oh Carmen, you have touched my heart. Using our family name of Maddox means so much to me.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Mom, Maddox is such a wonderfully strong name. It has been fun.

  3. I think tracing one’s family history must be fascinating. I personally have not done it, but talking to people who have discovered their roots I realize it has opened many doors. Thanks for this inspiring piece, Carmen.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Mary, my mom was really into for many years and has put together a few notebooks that have included family photos of what she’s discovered. She spent many hours on it and did a wonderful job. Thank you for stopping in! Good to hear from you.