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Searching for Charles: The Untold Legacy of an Immigrant's American Adventure

Stephen Watts

2023 FAPA Award Winner

SPR Book Awards Finalist (2022)

What started as a project to archive a family’s genealogy files became an insightful window into the life of Charles Watts, one of the millions of Dickens-era working-class English emigrants who risked everything for the possibility of better opportunities in distant lands. Charles Watts left London and, after four years of adventure in America and Canada, became an Illinois prairie pioneer.

Searching for Charles is the chronological account of Watts’s experiences as told through his letters home—and the subsequent five-decade multigenerational search by his descendants. This book contains the only published, complete transcriptions of Watts’s letters. They cover a wide range of topics, including farming, European revolutions, Native Americans, a burgeoning family feud, and firsthand accounts of the rapidly expanding population of early nineteenth-century America, along with the opportunities provided by its explosive growth.

Searching for Charles is for readers interested in how the discoveries encountered during a half-century genealogical journey can unfold into a dramatic and surprising account of the hidden life of an unhistoric man.

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