Friday, September 14, 2012

Better Than Fiction Guest Post: Olivia Newport

It's my joy to welcome author Olivia Newport back today to share a story from her own family history that has inspired an entire soon-to-be-released novel!

Love in the Generations

The beaming woman in this picture is my sister. And what’s not to beam about? She is holding Eloise, her first grandchild, and Elsa, the second grandchild of our eldest brother. These two beauties were born about three weeks apart last summer.

The mothers of Eloise and Elsa are cousins and richly fond of each other, which is beautiful in itself. For their children to know each other is astounding to me. I don’t remember being with any of my parents’ cousins’ kids while I was growing up.

I find myself wondering if Eloise and Elsa will know each other thirty years from now. Their entry into the family line makes me wonder about some information I discovered around the time they were born.

In 1737, Jakob Beyeler arrived in Philadelphia, having sailed across the ocean with his family on the Charming Nancy, a ship that carried a couple of dozen of the first Amish families to hit North American soil. And, you guessed it, one of my family line traces to Jakob Beyeler.

Me? Related to the Amish?

Jakob arrived with a wife and five children. Under circumstances that we know little about, his wife soon died. So here was a man with five young children, a homestead in the wilderness, and no life partner to help him sort out how this could possibly be a successful arrangement. When I came upon information, I thought, Now there is a story waiting to be told.

Jakob married again fairly quickly, which was not unusual at the time. Really, it was a matter of survival. But what scant information is available seems to point to the fact that his second wife was not Amish. So now my question was, What would make a man who left everything he knew and crossed an ocean in order to freely practice his religion suddenly marry outside the strict faith?

Jakob and his new wife, Elizabeth, had five more children—quite quickly, actually. Their first son was my ancestor.

Now here’s the really curious thing. Elizabeth did not convert to the Amish faith, and she raised her five children in the general culture. However, Jakob’s older five children seem to have remained Amish. So once again I found myself thinking, Now there is a story waiting to be told.

I don’t have the details of why Jakob made a decision that surely must have led him out of the Amish faith. So I imagined a scenario. And as long as I was imagining, I brought Jakob and Elizabeth together in love, not just convenience.

My new book, Accidentally Amish, has a contemporary setting with an intertwining historical thread. Jakob’s story forms the backbone of the historical thread. I tell the story that took form in my mind between Jakob and Elizabeth and raise some questions for how their choices affected their descendents.

How long did Jakob’s Amish descendents and the general culture descendents stay connected?

In reality strands of extended family tend to go their separate ways more quickly than most of us realize. When people move thousands of miles apart for career opportunities or geographic preferences, genetic bonds begin diluting without anyone considering what the end result will be. Another generation will become the grandparents, and another generation will become the future. The second cousins rarely cross each other’s minds.

And now Elsa and Eloise are added to Jakob Beyeler’s family line, with their many other second cousins. I’m going to hang on to my hope that they will beat the odds and still know each other thirty years from now—perhaps even well—as they find love and become the mothers of yet another generation.

Olivia Newport’s novels twist through time finding where faith and passions meet. Her latest title, Accidentally Amish, releases on October 1, 2012. The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow, sequel to The Pursuit of Lucy Banning, releases on January 1, 2013.
**If you have an idea for a Friday "Better Than Fiction: Real Historical Romance Tales" Feature (historical moments/lives that show God's hand weaving lives and paths together through the ages. Can be the story of a couple, or simply an important historical moment testifying to God's love, perfect plan, and grace.), visit this post for criteria and submission details.  ~Amanda**
Tune in next Friday for a Better Than Fiction guest post from author Tricia Goyer!



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