Category Archives: Planning a novel

The True Story of Harriet Hopkins (1871) daughter of Jane Hopkins (Renier)

Harriet is the protagonist of RIDUNA.

Here’s her true story as far as we know it but in a nutshell:

Originally published by Pegasus Elliot McKenzie in 2009
Then Published in 2012 by Eventispress

Harriet Hopkins (known as Jane in Guernsey and subsequently) was my great grandmother. She lived on Alderney but moved to Guernsey between 1881 and 1890 and subsequently married my grandfather Thomas Jackson in 1890 on Guernsey. They moved to Woolston Southampton early in the new century.

Here’s where we first see Harriet in the 1871 census at 7 months:

NAME:Harriet Hopkins
AGE:7 Months
COUNTRY:Channel Islands
NEIGHBORS:View others on page
HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS:Name Age Elizabeth Taylor 60 John Taylor 52 Nicholas Renin 48 John Smith 29 Harriet Frost 27 Rachel Hopkins 22 Ann E Smith 22 Nicholas Renin 14 Harriet Hopkins 7 Months

John Taylor was Harriet’s step father and Elizabeth Taylor was her grandmother as in the previous post.

They lived in Braye Road, Alderney (1881 census) in a place called The Reading Rooms.

Harriet’s father was John Hopkins, but though my Dad was sure that Jane, the daughter of Elizabeth Taylor was Harriet’s mother, but from the census above it looks as if Rachel was her mother.

Although this 1881 census tells a different story. Maybe Dad was right.

After 1870 Jane (or Rachel) Hopkins mother married Mr (Capt) John Hopkins. (no record was found)

We do know that Harriet became an orphan when both of her parents were lost at sea, but

I will tell the story of John Hopkins in a subsequent post.

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Filed under Alderney, Channel Islands, Family History, Inspiration, Planning a novel

Elizabeth Renier ~ Born 1811 / Quesnel/ Taylor

Let’s start at Elizabeth, my Great Great Great Grandmother, the first relevant person in my family tree and a key character in RIDUNA.

Elizabeth Renier married Nicolas Quesnel on 15th May 1932 on the island of Alderney.

John Taylor became lodger in the household, which we are led to believe was called The Reading Rooms on Braye Road, a boarding house and public house. On the 1861 census on Alderney below this is clearly shown. We spent a lovely hour with Eileen Mignot, who used to be the keeper of all of Alderney’s paper records before everything went digital.

After Nicolas Quesnel passed away Elizabeth married John Taylor, who I imagine had been very supportive in running the public house and lodging house when Nicolas was ill. All of these characters feature in my novel.

On the next post I will bring Harriet, my protagonist, into the picture and it is there that truth begins to diverge from the fiction.

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Filed under Alderney, Channel Islands, Family History, Planning a novel, Research, Riduna

Genealogy and How it has Shaped my Writing

Part 1 Introduction

My parents were seriously researching our family history at the same time as I was researching for my first novel RIDUNA, inspired by the story Dad shared with me of my Great Grandmother Harriet. We were holidaying on the island of Alderney; a fitting place to tell us her story as he knew it:

Harriet sparked my imagination; an orphan living on the island of Alderney at eight years old, being brought up by her Grandmother and Step Grandfather until the age of fifteen years, when she became too much to handle. Sounds familiar? Anyway, she was shipped off to her aunt’s on the island of Guernsey.

Here’s Harriet’s true story as we knew it back in 2010.

Now we know more about the plight of Harriet’s parents, her actual story would make a good book too.

Over the next few weeks I will share how Mum and Dad carried out a painstaking search of our family history, which began its journey on the island of Alderney when Dad, Mum and I poured over acetate after acetate of records held at The Alderney Museum, guided by the later curator of the museum, Peter Arnold, the island potter back in about 2005.

As I wrote my first draft, my imaginary story of Harriet and her true story became intertwined; veering from truth to fiction and back again. You see, at the time of planning the novel, I did not know the end of the real story!

Next post ‘Harriet’ and her family history as we know it.

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Filed under Alderney, Channel Islands, Family History, Inspiration, Planning a novel, Uncategorized, Writing a novel