Friday, April 12, 2024

Governor Thomas Worthington Award: Best Ohio Biography

I was honored to learn that The Ohio Genealogical Society named my book, Thomas Kirk of Licking County, Ohio: A Genealogical Survey 1778-1846, the 2024 recipient of the Governor Thomas Worthington Award for best Ohio biography.

During the pandemic, I took a sabbatical from blogging to focus on writing and self-publishing a biography of my fifth great-grandfather Thomas Kirk. For years, he was my genealogy passion project that bordered on obsession. With laser focus and unrelenting determination, I dug into the genealogical paper trail hoping to rekindle his life's story. I encountered heartbreaking records loss at every turn that nearly snuffed out his flame, but the brick walls and roadblocks hardened my resolve and I wizened up, figuring out creative ways to sift his story from the ashes.

What followed was an arduous process of never-ending research, writing, editing, rewriting, and writing some more. When I began this project, I could not imagine how time intensive, expensive, and all-consuming the effort would be. As John Irving writes, "You've got to get obsessed and stay obsessed."

To achieve the vision I had for my magnum opus, I worked with a slate of freelancers to edit the manuscript, sketch illustrations for chapter headers, and design the book's dust jacket. Along the way, I learned so much about self-publishing. There are many things I would do differently if I had to begin again. But, at the end of the day, as copies of my book are now in the hands of Thomas' descendants across the country, I'm incredibly gratified to have accomplished my biggest family history endeavor to-date (and also relieved!).

I'm grateful for this honor and take pride that Thomas Kirk's story has been preserved for future generations. Thank you to the Ohio Genealogical Society!

About the book:
Arriving shortly after statehood, Thomas Kirk and his wife Sarah Bonar were early settlers of Licking County, Ohio. Beginning at the dawn of American history, this survey follows Thomas' life across nearly seventy years until he was accidentally killed.

Born in 1778 in the British Colony of Virginia during the reign of King George III, Thomas' early childhood unfolded amid the upheaval of the American Revolution. Through adulthood, his life spanned the administrations of eleven presidents from George Washington to James K. Polk. Thomas lived through pivotal moments, witnessing the transformation of the United States from thirteen fledgling colonies dissolving political bonds, the War of 1812 and the burning of the capital, and the expansion westward into the American wilderness. A lifelong farmer, he and Sarah raised eleven children to adulthood, coped with loss, and suffered hardship endemic to pioneer life. They forged a living out of the unforgiving backwoods and created an indelible legacy that endures.

Through an exploration of surviving records, family lore, and DNA, this book chronicles his life, sheds light on his ancestral origins, and preserves his story for generations to come.

The book is available at the FamilySearch library and other institutions of genealogical preservation (WorldCat).