About the Blog

About Kathleen Ernst’s  Sites and Stories Blog:

Interpreters at historic sites tell stories.  Authors tell stories.  Sometimes the two intersect.

I grew up in Maryland, surrounded by books.  My mother was a librarian, and my father and sisters all avid readers.  Before going on vacation, my mom would bring home historical fiction about whatever area or historic site we planned to visit.  We visited lots of historic sites and museums while I was growing up.  Obviously all of that made an impression on me.

Way back when, I majored in forestry and environmental education at West Virginia University, with a lot of creative writing and history tossed in.  The mix perplexed my advisor, but made sense to me.  I love books that have a strong sense of place.  When I think about history, or historical fiction, I like to consider people within their natural environment.  When I’m doing research for a new novel, the first thing I do is search for relevant historic sites.

I created this blog as a gathering place for thoughts about historic sites and outdoor museums, interpretation, fiction… whatever might fall within those loose parameters.   I hope you visit often!

11 Responses to “About the Blog”

  1. Eileen Musser Says:


    In your research on Antietam how did you find information on civilians in the area? My dad tells me that great great grandfather Helfrick was killed at Antietam, but i don’t know if he was a soldier or a civilian. Our family has been in the Brethren in Christ Church which has historical ties to the Dunkers, so it is possible that he had attended services.

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Hello Eileen,

      I spent a lot of years piecing together little scraps of information from a variety of sources in order to write Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign. The name Helfrick doesn’t ring a bell. Do you live near Western Maryland? You could likely find information at either the Antietam National Battlefield itself, or at the Western Maryland Room of the Washington County Library in Hagerstown. I’ve been working on new projects for a while now, so I’m not sure what new sources of information might have turned up since my book came out, but experts in either place can probably point you in the right direction. Good luck with your search!

  2. Sue Curran Says:

    Kathleen, I can’t wait to read the latest about New Glarus. As you know, it’s just a short drive from me and we visit often. Also, thanks for the shoutout to Cheese Days. See you on the 27th at BFM.

  3. Eileen Musser Says:

    Much to my surprise some of the records that I have seen since I asked about civil war records make me think that my ancestor may have been in the army but deserted. It doesn’t seem to be uncommon for young men to have walked away after signing up.
    If the family knew he had enlisted but he didn’t come home they may have assumed (or decided to adopt the story) that he was killed.

  4. Kathleen Ernst Says:

    What a fascinating story! It’s things like that found when I do research that often prompt me to write novels. Some tantalizing tidbit comes to light, but since I’ll never know all the details…I end up filling in the blanks myself. Thanks for checking back and letting me know what you found.

  5. Susan Shirey Says:

    I just finished The Heirloom Murders and Heritage of Darkness – both excellent books!!

    I am struck by the similarities in our personal interests and histories (with the big exception of your writing tatent – something I unfortunately lack).

    * I grew up in Western PA, not far from West Virginia and Maryland, where you once lived.

    * I fell in love with Old World Wisconsin, which I first visited about the time you started working there. I returned often, especially when my children were young. Those visits helped inspire my younger daughter to be a history major and to work as an interpreter for the MN Historical Society this summer.

    * I am in love with Wisconsin in general (my home for 20+ years) – a love that your books make obvious you share. In my case, I also fell in love with and married a Wisconsonite of 100% German descent. I had to laugh out loud at Chloe’s comment to Roelke on p. 160 of The Heirloom Murders – “Could you be any more German?”

    Thank you so much for your Chloe Ellefson mysteries. I can’t wait to read more!

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Hi Susan,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to connect! I’m very glad you’re enjoying the Chloe series, and–my goodness, we do seem to be on a parallel track, (although my husband Scott is not of German descent). I wonder if I ever spoke to you as an interpreter in those early years…fun to ponder! Yay for your daughter’s career choice, too. My own parents instilled a love of books and historic places, and obviously it’s made a big difference in my life. The next Chloe book is set in part at the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, and I’ve enjoyed digging through the files there. Anyway, I love writing the Chloe books, and hope to continue indefinitely. There are so many wonderful places and topics to explore. If you haven’t visited my website, kathleenernst.com, you will find lots of behind-the-scenes info and resources about each book in the Chloe series. Happy reading!

  6. Erin Says:

    Hi, I’m Erin and I love your fun and creative blog! I read most of your books and even just LOVE them! I hope you continue writing, because it’s hard to find educational books that are fun to read. I look forward to reading more of your blog! 🙂

  7. barb Says:

    I’ve purchased the book and loved it. If I win, I will give it to my friend.

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