So, while all of the authors that I cajole into getting interviewed on this blog are fantastic, this week’s author is even more exciting, because . . . we’re related! Yes, really! According to her, we are “fourth cousins once removed” because my father and she are fourth cousins. It gets better, though, continue to read the excerpt from Elaine L. Orr’s most recent correspondence to me:
“Our common ancestors are Paul Orr and Isabella Boyd who never left Ireland. At least she didn’t. I descend from their son William, you from their son George . . . We’re some kind of double cousins. I also descend from Elliott Hickman and Nancy Isbell, but through their daughter Artemissa. You are [descended] via their son Temple Elliott Hickman, I believe.”
So, without further ado, please welcome my cousin, Elaine L. Orr!
Willow Croft: As you state on your blog, the “Irish Roots” references your family genealogy, of which you’ve extensively researched, and published your findings in a book. (https://elaineorr.com/orr-family-history/). So, if you could go back in time, what family member would you most like to meet, and why?
Elaine L. Orr: That’s a tough question. It would probably be Sarah Frances Reynolds, daughter of Artemissa Hickman and Jonathan Reynolds. She was a great grandmother on my dad’s side. During the Civil War, Sarah Frances’ father was killed by Confederate Bushwhackers (deserters from the regular Confederate Army). Her mother (someone I’d also like to meet) packed up her kids and drove them in a wagon to Lawrence County, Missouri, where some of her siblings had settled.
Sarah kept a brief diary of the 475-mile trip. They crossed three rivers (the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Mississippi), the latter at Cairo, Illinois. As the oldest of nine (four of whom were seven or under when her father died), I figure she had a lot of responsibility for younger kids. I imagine her keeping track of them during river crossings.
Sarah had seven children of her own and helped raise a granddaughter after her own daughter died. Despite her size (perhaps four feet ten), she was said (by one of my aunts) to have been “a ball of fire.” She learned to quilt from her mother and taught all six of her daughters to do the same. I have a tattered quilt that my own grandmother made – a skill she learned from Sarah Frances.
Willow Croft: Which of the fictional/fictionalized locations in your (multiple!) cozy mystery/mystery series would you most want to live in?
Elaine L. Orr: I finally placed a series in my original home state of Maryland. It’s a family history mystery series, set in the Maryland mountains. I might like to live there, but I’m not big on driving on curvy roads in snow – and it snows a lot at those altitudes..
So, I’d probably pick the Jersey shore, where the Jolie Gentil books are set. However, I would want it to be a town similar to my fictional Ocean Alley, perhaps the real-life Ocean Grove. I love the ocean, especially when it’s stormy – though not during hurricane season.
Willow Croft: Keepers of historical archives can be a unique class unto themselves. What’s the oddest situation you found yourself in while conducting research into your family history (either in person, or online)? Alternatively, what’s the most unusual story you’ve come across in your research?
Elaine L. Orr: In addition to my immediate family’s history, I’m also the historian for the Orr Reunion Association of Mount Vernon, Missouri. Six families from Ireland stayed in touch after coming to America. Thanks to the Internet, I’ve learned about a lot of relatives who went to Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It’s given me a real appreciation for how thousands of people can grow from a few. We’ve also married into other race and ethnic groups, including Native Americans. It’s been neat to learn all that.
The oddest situation…Because I post family trees on ancestry, a lot of people contact me with questions. Two have been looking for parents! One had been adopted. The person she thought was her father had passed, so I couldn’t make the connection for her beyond what she had seen in my tree. I was kind of glad, because I had no idea if he ever knew he had a daughter.
The other wanted contact info for a first cousin. I said I would pass on the information (and did), but would not give her a living person’s email or phone. She did track the cousin down on her own. He let me know that, but I didn’t ask about their conclusion. I didn’t like being in the middle.
By far the ‘best’ story happened to a third-great aunt and her family. They just missed a steamer that was to take them from Ireland to the USA because they had not received a communication about a departure time change. They ended up on a sailing ship, which took much longer, and one family member died. However, the steamer was never heard from again. If they had made the first ship, they would have all died.
Willow Croft: If you have family artifacts in your possession, have you ever felt any of them to be haunted?
Elaine L. Orr: I had a teapot that belonged to my great grandmother (mom’s side). While I never thought of it as haunted, it was later stolen. I hope to heck it haunts whoever took it.
Willow Croft: If you had to pick one recipe or dish from any of your mystery series to eat for the rest of your life, which would you pick? Or, what’s the strangest recipe/foodstuffs you’ve come across in your family research?
Elaine L. Orr: Oh, heavens. It would probably be the boardwalk fries that Jolie and Scoobie eat – she with ketchup, he with vinegar. Obviously, I don’t have the recipe! In Final Cycle (a Logland series book), I include a chile recipe that is attributed to Nick, co-owner of a diner. However, I like the chile of a friend (Jodi Perko) so much, that I asked for her recipe. I made it at home; it’s great.
Recipes say a lot about the original cook. My Great Aunt Stell’s (Estella Cochran’s) fruitcake recipe has more ingredients than I would have thought possible, listed in precise amounts. My cousin Doug’s handwritten barbeque beans recipe has ingredients such as:
Various kinds of beans: pinto, lima, butter…whatever
Mustard (not much, just a dash)
The above two are linked with a note that says, “Balance these two.”
Bottom line, a recipe is yours once you make it, so you can improvise!
I don’t know about you, but I sure hope that purloined teapot is haunting whoever stole it, too. Check out Elaine L. Orr’s included bio (below) for more information about her mystery series and her other literary works, as well links to her websites! Hope you enjoyed the visit from my cousin . . . I sure did!
Elaine L. Orr writes family and local histories as well as four mystery series: the Jolie Gentil series at the Jersey shore, the River’s Edge series along Iowa’s Des Moines River, the Logland series in small-town Illinois, and the Family History mystery series in the Western Maryland Mountains. She also writes plays and novellas, including her favorite, Falling Into Place. Two of her books have been shortlisted for the Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Awards, and The Unscheduled Murder Trip received an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion in 2021. Elaine is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Indiana Writer’s Center.