The Importance of Story in Genealogy by Heather Day Gilbert

God's Daughter--a Viking historical novelOne Viking woman. One God. One legendary journey to North America.

In the tenth century, when pagan holy women rule the Viking lands, Gudrid turns her back on her training as a seeress to embrace Christianity. Clinging to her faith, she joins her husband, Finn, on a voyage to North America.

But even as Gudrid faces down murderous crewmen, raging sickness, and hostile natives, she realizes her greatest enemy is herself–and the secrets she hides might just tear her marriage apart.

Almost five centuries before Columbus, Viking women sailed to North America with their husbands. God’s Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga, offers an expansive yet intimate look into the world of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir–daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, and the first documented European woman to have a child in North America.

Today I’m delighted to have my friend Heather Day Gilbert at the helm to tell us about the family story tradition that helped inspire her debut novel, God’s Daughter, Book One in the Vikings of the New World Saga. Stories, like people, have roots. Welcome, Heather!

The Importance of Story in Genealogy

Genealogy links us to our ancestors, but it only goes as far as we’re willing to research it, right? It’s the actual stories of our relatives that won’t soon be forgotten. We might be able to trace our bloodline up the way a bit, but even more exciting is learning how our relatives lived.

I know my alleged relation to Eirik the Red fueled my desire to read everything about him I could get my hands on…to learn more about Thorvald, his son who died in North America from a native arrow. My maiden name would have been Thorvaldsen if my Great-Grandpa hadn’t changed it when he came over from Norway.

My research of Eirik’s family turned up some interesting characters–one of the most interesting to me was Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir, Eirik’s daughter-in-law. She sailed with her husband to the New World, giving birth to the first recorded European baby on these shores. Gudrid is the main character in my recently released Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter.

If my Grandma Day hadn’t repeatedly told me about my Viking ancestry, would I have followed this route in my writing? Probably not. The funny thing is that my Grandma wasn’t the one related to the Vikings–it was my Grandpa, who died when I was five. She kept that love of family alive through her stories.

One of the stories she told was how my Great-Grandpa, from the upper-class (or even royalty?) in Norway, fell for my Great-Grandma, a Sami reindeer herder from Sweden. Supposedly he was all set to get married to someone of his class, and Great-Grandma showed up as a servant at some sort of party…and he promptly dropped his fiancee for her!

The Vikings also shared stories and passed them down–it’s how we got the Icelandic sagas, the stories I based my novel around. You can never know how accurate such stories are, but when archaeology or other discoveries back those stories up, you feel vindicated in believing them.

Just ask my kids about Vikings. They’ll groan, but they can tell you why Mom made them study them so much in homeschool–because they’re related. I wish I had more stories from my heritage to share–perhaps from the Cherokee (so hard to find documentation!), or from the Dutch or German side. I tell them how their Daddy is part Welsh, part English, and a little Shawnee.

In the end, I think the story traditions are just as important as tracing our bloodlines. Those stories create visual pictures in our children’s minds, pictures they can pass on to their children. Makes me want to share even more with them about my growing-up years…though I don’t have anything quite as dramatic as reindeer herding or plundering on my resume.

About the Author

Heather Day Gilbert, AuthorHeather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator.

You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Look for her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, on Amazon and Smashwords here.

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