Geneticist Bryan Sykes’ captivating book The Seven Daughters of Eve describes seven genetic clusters among Europeans, each headed by what he calls a clan mother. A swab of saliva submitted for DNA testing informs me that I descend from a line of mothers leading back twenty millennia to a cave-dwelling woman born in the Dordogne River Valley in southern France during the late Ice Age. Some geneticists call her Helena, because she is the mother of the H-haplogroup, considered to be the most widespread of all the mitochondrial lines. I became fascinated with Helena, who Sykes says was likely born in the Dordogne area of southern France, subsisting on bear and reindeer. Helena started me thinking for the first time about the thousands of mothers with Helena’s DNA who form a mitochondrial chain leading to me. I can only identify six by name: my mother, Jessie, then Bella, Marion, Janet, Margaret and, finally, her mother Margaret, who lived in Scotland in the late eighteenth century. Who are these six women and how did they live? What, if anything, do they have in common? What could I have inherited from them? That’s the focus of My Mother Mosaic.
I have been teaching weekly classes and lecturing at conferences for more than two decades. My subject? How to write a fascinating family history–one that turns the product of genealogy research into an engaging story and resurrects ancestors from being more than mere names on a piece of paper. I incorporated many of my ideas and techniques into the writing of The Parrett Migration, a family history I published in 2014. I have begun to compile what I have learned and taught about researching, writing, publishing, and marketing a family history into this book, which I hope to have published in 2016.