The Book

Searching for Charles provides full transcriptions of the correspondence, on file in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, of a nineteenth-century English immigrant prairie pioneer. For nearly two decades, Charles Watts tried to persuade his brother Edward to leave London with his family and join Charles in the United States.

By the time Edward made the journey, he had been preceded by the brothers' step-nephew. In all, thirteen relatives followed Charles to America; some of their descendants continued farming in and around Bureau County, Illinois, into the twenty-first century.

Watts's articulate, eloquent, and impassioned letters provide remarkably vivid descriptions of his experiences, thoughts on world political events, hopes for the future, and the despair he felt over the years as he received news of the loss of one friend or family member after another. Readers of Charles Watts’s letters will feel as though they know the man and are present in his time and place.

Searching for Charles provides the background and context of these letters, describes his legacy in the form of his descendants and those of other family members who followed him, and documents the five-decade genealogical investigation by subsequent generations to piece together Watts’s story and to find his final resting place.

The Author

The child of an Air Force family, multiple award-winning author Stephen Watts was born in West Germany. He is a direct descendant of Charles Watts.

Stephen began organizing his family’s archive of genealogy files, tracing his lineage, and transcribing the Charles Watts correspondence in 1996. He has since found his family’s ancestral home, some of the descendants of Charles's other family members, and the final resting place of this ancestor.

Stephen grew up to serve in the Air Force himself. After nine years, he left to begin a three-decade career in the insurance industry before retiring in Georgia, where he lives with his ever-tolerant wife, Karin.

Watch a video/slide version of his podcast interview below.

The Interview

Click below for a video/slide version of the 30-minute Author Hour podcast.

The Awards

Royal Dragonfly Book Awards First Place in Two Categories, Honorable Mention in Two Categories (2023)

First Place in 1) History Nonfiction, 2) Letters, Journals, Diaries.
Honorable Mention in 1) Biography/Autobiography/Memoir, 2) New Author: Nonfiction.

Royal Dragonfly Book Awards First Place in Two Categories, Honorable Mention in Two Categories (2023)
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Firebird Book Awards First Place in Three Categories (2023)

Gold in 1) Biography/Historical, 2) History/United States, 3) New Nonfiction.

Firebird Book Awards First Place in Three Categories (2023)
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Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Book Awards Second Place (2023)

Silver in History.

Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Book Awards Second Place (2023)
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Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Awards Third Place (2023)

Bronze in Autobiography/Biography/Memoir.

Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Awards Third Place (2023)
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Illinois State Genealogical Society Special Recognition Award

Special Recognition Award for contributions toward honoring Illinois ancestors through the book Searching for Charles.

Illinois State Genealogical Society Special Recognition Award
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Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards Finalist in Two Categories (2023)

Finalist in 1) Nonfiction: History, 2) Nonfiction: True Story.

Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards Finalist in Two Categories (2023)
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Page Turner Awards Finalist (2023)

Finalist in Best Book.

Page Turner Awards Finalist (2023)
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Self-Publishing Review Book Awards Finalist (2022)

Finalist in uncategorized book competition.

Self-Publishing Review Book Awards Finalist (2022)
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Kindle Book Awards Semi-Finalist (2023)

Semi-Finalist in Non-Fiction.

Kindle Book Awards Semi-Finalist (2023)
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Nellie Bly Chanticleer International Book Awards Short List (2023)

Short Listed in Journalistic Non-Fiction.

Nellie Bly Chanticleer International Book Awards Short List (2023)
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The Readers

One of the most engaging historical narratives that I've encountered...The fascinating story of Charles Watts' journey as an English immigrant to the United States in the early 1800's and his amazing journey throughout all of the young country and into Canada...gives insights to the social, economic, political, technological and cultural developments during this time period.

The author has woven the letters into a captivating story of the times and of the social context in an evolving and changing America. Charles’ letters are interspersed with data such as cost of land, construction and agriculture and an analysis of that data to enumerate the differences between his old and new countries. Charles was astute in his observations of the politics and societal issues of the times.

For anyone who loves history, it will be the true story of what pioneers of that area and era experienced in the actual words of Charles Watts. The author's structure makes it easy to move in and out of different timelines, especially to be able to search for dates, place names, etc.

If you enjoy history, this is your chance to get immersed in what it was like to live during the earlier days of the US. Highly recommend this book!

The story of how everything came together for this book (Part 3) was fascinating. It demonstrated Watts's dedication, perseverance, and persistence to uncover and tell the story of his ancestors.

Well-written account using Charles’ letters as the source but also including a ton of research to provide a solid base. I appreciated the summaries provided before the actual letters. Enjoyable read bringing the personalities of those involved to life.

It is one thing to read the history of an area in a textbook or a novel - it’s quite another to see it through the eyes of someone who actually lived it.

I felt like I took a journey back in time.

The Reviews

Click the See All Reviews blue button below to see what the professionals thought.

History of U.S. Immigration – BookViral Book Reviews (bookviralreviews.com) April 18, 2023 The objective of any author should be to hold the reader’s interest. To want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning until the end, and this is what Searching for Charles: The Untold Legacy of …

Review: Searching for Charles by Stephen Watts | Self-Publishing Review (selfpublishingreview.com) May 20, 2023 Taking readers on a historic journey across the Atlantic and into the burgeoning American continent, Searching for Charles: The Untold Legacy of an Immigrant’s American Adventure by Stephen Watts is a stunning portrait of the past. In 1835, …

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Contact the Author

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