About

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.

Author

The child of an Air Force family, 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.

Interview

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

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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B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree (2024)

Book Readers Appreciation Group (B.R.A.G.) Medallion Honoree in Non-Fiction.

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree (2024)
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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 Historical Society Certificate of Excellence (2024)

Certificate of Excellence in Scholarly Books.

Illinois State Historical Society Certificate of Excellence (2024)
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Illinois State Genealogical Society Special Recognition Award (2023)

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

Illinois State Genealogical Society Special Recognition Award (2023)
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Illinois Author: Library of Congress Illinois Center for the Book (2022)

Illinois Author designation in the Library of Congress affiliate Illinois Center for the Book.

Illinois Author: Library of Congress Illinois Center for the Book (2022)
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Nellie Bly Chanticleer International Book Awards Finalist (2023)

Finalist in Journalistic Non-Fiction.

Nellie Bly Chanticleer International Book Awards Finalist (2023)
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Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist (2024)

Category Finalist.

Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist (2024)
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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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Testimonials

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.

This is a wonderful book! There are 3 things necessary for a good book - 1. a good story, 2. a good storyteller, 3. a technically well-constructed book. Searching for Charles certainly checked off each of these requirements!

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!

With a combination of deep research and accessible writing, Searching for Charles engaged me from the opening page...It’s what I call a real page-turner. I have read fiction and watched films about the early prairie pioneers but I hadn’t fully appreciated the challenges they faced or the legacy they left and Stephen Watts’ meticulous research adds a compelling degree of social context.

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.

These unique letters offer the reader a fascinating window through which to better view, understand, and experience a portion of the life of an Everyman on the Illinois Prairie...It is a wonderful read and a unique preservation of significant historical materials.

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.

Reviews

Click the See All Reviews blue button below to read all eight reviews.

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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