Historical people are fun to research–if you know how. It’s one thing to look them up on the census or visit their graves. Even reading about them in a biography gives only a one-dimensional view of them. It’s another thing altogether to get a sense of their manner of speaking, temperament, and habits.

Historical research since 1992

For 30 years, I’ve had a great time learning about historical people who lived 150 years ago–Susan B. Anthony, her brother Daniel, and his wife Annie. Though I’ve never met them, I have a strong sense of what interested them, where they spent time, and what kept them up at night.

Woman removing book from bookcase
My personal library contains many books on the Anthony family

A couple of times I’ve been especially satisfied when I’ve created a fictional interest and later found out it really did characterize them. This happened as I was writing about Annie in my first book when I portrayed her as loving to sing. After it was published, I found evidence that her family owned one of the first pianos on Martha’s Vineyard and that she performed songs at soirees with her friends.

Three of my favorite techniques

Watch this space for my upcoming three-part series on how to research historical people. In it, I’ll cover some of my favorite techniques, including: