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Local genealogist pens children’s tale inspired by family history

Carol Walsh published her book Jolly Boats on the River inspired by the life of her grandfather in Scotland.
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Carol Walsh has authored a children's book based on her family's ancestry. (Jesse Cole/Cochrane Eagle).

A local author has published her first book in memory of her grandfather and hopes the story will help keep her family history alive.

Carol Walsh recently published a children’s book called Jolly Boats on the River.

Walsh’s debut book is the story of a young girl named Lizzy who spends an afternoon with her grandfather watching rowers practice on the river.

It tells the story of Walsh’s real-life grandfather, a rowing champion in Scotland.

Walsh said she was inspired to write the book after learning more about her grandfather’s early life in the United Kingdom.

“I started doing genealogy after our daughter was born, but at that time, there wasn’t access to the internet, so I thought I was done,” Walsh said. “Years later, Ancestry.ca pops up and … my interest just kept developing.”

Walsh took a genealogy program from the University of Toronto specializing in Canadian records and became a certified genealogist.

“One of the things we’re taught is to write up little stories about your ancestors … I was typing this one up and I said, ‘This would be a good story for a children’s book.’”

Originally from Collingwood, Ont., Walsh and her family moved to Cochrane 13 years ago.

Her grandfather was born and raised in Scotland near the River Clyde by Glasgow.

Although he was unable to swim, Walsh said her grandfather was drawn to the water and quickly became a steersman for the local “jollyboats.”

These boats were similar to rowing skids we still use today. Walsh’s grandfather ended up helping his team of rowers earn the Scottish rowing championship before later immigrating to Canada.

With so much of a family’s history being lost to time, Walsh said she felt the book was a way to pass on those familial stories to another generation.

“There’s not a lot of stories available for kids about their own family heritage,” Walsh said. “In my family, a lot of my cousin’s children are having babies and there’s not been anything to hand down to them, whereas if they got a hold of the book … they can put it in their keepsakes.”

Walsh said the reaction to the book, which she self-published through Amazon, has been positive.

“I sold a book to a woman from Scotland and she was interested in it because of it being connected to her home country,” Walsh said. “She wanted to read it to her grandchildren.”

While the book is available on Amazon, Walsh said she’s hoping to sell the book locally to avoid the shipping costs for customers.

“We’re hoping to get a table at some of the farmer’s markets this year and sell them that way,” she said.

With one book under her belt, Walsh plans to put more of her genealogical research down on paper in the form of two adult-oriented books based on her grandfather's time in the navy and shipbuilding industry.