Something unexpected happened today while I was doing some final research reading for my current novel in progress, set in the Tennessee Valley in 1787. In an effort to plot out the last few chapters of the story, while pouring over several reference books, I ran across the name of someone in my maternal family tree.

Thomas Amis (b. 1743/44), my seven times great uncle*, lived in the Tennessee Valley and took part in the history of that area during the time I’m writing about.

I didn’t know this when I first conceived the story. I didn’t know this until today, when the surname Amis caught my attention and I cross referenced the details given with those I have in my extended family tree, compiled by various relations. It was a match.

Apparently Thomas was one of the first merchants to arrive in the Tennessee Valley (then part of NC), having relocated himself and his family from east of the mountains in North Carolina. He owned a small store and tavern in what is today Hawkins Co. TN, and he attempted to run for a seat in the North Carolina Assembly in 1787, the year my novel commences. But for reasons I won’t go into now (to avoid story spoilers), the election was unsuccessful, the polling stations were close, and the Assembly declared both parties from the county not “entitled to a seat.”

It’s both thrilling and surprising to have found this unexpected link between my family and my novel in progress. This is the second time I’ve set out to tell a story and ended up brushing shoulders with my maternal family’s history. Though seeing as how they settled in the Virginia/Carolina area from the late 1600s, I suppose it was inevitable.

*I’ve been corrected about this detail by my mom, who has a better head for keeping straight all our family connections. Thomas Amis wasn’t my many times great uncle, but my cousin. My second cousin six times removed to be exact. Thanks mom!

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