Friday, 12 November 2021

Joy Stonehouse – Investigating family history led to a series of novels


Like many people, Joy Stonehouse decided to investigate her family history, but unlike most she didn’t stop at a family tree, but developed her research into a series of historical novels.

Joy’s maternal ancestors were the Jordans, a prominent family in Reighton, East Yorkshire, from the 1500s. She became engrossed in the skeletal parish records of the early 1700’s, their births, marriages and deaths, and imagined what day-to-day life might have been like in a close-knit and, by modern standards, isolated community.

Parish records gave her names and dates, but many other sources provided key details of 1700s life in the area. The author Daniel Defoe documented the Great Storm that hit England in November, 1703, decimating orchards and wrecking ships. Only six years later came the Great Frost when villages like Reighton were cut off for months.

Joy found further information and inspiration in the many records of 18th century beliefs, customs, folklore and the home remedies on which healthcare of the time was based. When she delved into local court records, she found plenty of evidence of her ancestors’ various misdemeanours: one Jordan was a Customs Officer, offering possible links to smuggling that was rife at the time.

‘These are novels,’ she says, ‘not documentaries. There were too many gaps, too many anomalies to be able to write an accurate history, but I hope that I’ve captured the essence of life back in the 1700s with all its tragedies and triumphs.’

Witch-bottles and Windlestraws (A Story of Reighton, Yorkshire 1703 to 1709) introduces the community in which the Jordans were respected yeoman farmers. Joy fleshes out the births, marriages and deaths of the official records into human stories of courtship, betrayal, love and death.

New Arrivals in Reighton (A Story of Reighton, Yorkshire 1709 to 1714) is the second book; the new arrivals of the title being a beautiful young girl and her brother, a handsome young ploughman. They are instantly admired by some and distrusted by others. Their presence has profound and unexpected consequences on the Jordan family as courtships and rivalries are played out.

Whisper to the Bees (A Story of Reighton, Yorkshire 1714 to 1720) due out November 2021, continues the story. The only daughter of William and Mary Jordan continues to be a challenge, especially when she finds an ally in her younger brother. While the children are thrilled with the snow and ice of the exceptional winters, a major death in the family will change everything. Drinking, smuggling and clashes with the law test the Jordan family to the limit.

Joy is currently working on the fourth book that will take the Jordan family to 1735, showing a village devoid of the influence of the former vicar and his household of women, where young men indulge in women and cruel sports, and smuggling plays a greater part in everyone’s life. This book will chart shifts in the balance of power in the village, as Joy fleshes out the scant information in the official records from the courthouse in Beverley. As before, the weather will play a key role in the fortunes of the Jordans as they face some of the worst summers on record.

Joy has two children and lives with her partner in Hornsea on the Yorkshire coast. As well as researching local history, she spends time with her young grandchildren, often on the beach exploring the rock pools. She also enjoys swimming in the sea, canoeing on the River Hull/Driffield Canal, and looks forward to annual holidays on Greek islands.

Learn more about Joy and her writing HERE.

 

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