As a child growing up in Pipestone, Minnesota, in the 1930s, William Morgan marveled over his great-grandmother's salt-filled chimney lantern. Full of sea salt and mementos and drawings that commemorated her British home and her journey to America in 1855, this Victorian artifact became the inspiration both for Morgan's pilgrimage to find the original salt lantern and, after many journeys both external and internal, for this multifaceted family history.
Morgan began his research by visiting England and Scotland, then traveled to Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota searching for the buildings and landscapes related to his mother's ancestors. Tracing his father's family took him to Ireland, where he discovered the thatched-roof house in which his grandmother was born. By studying his family's houses, farm buildings, landforms, letters, and heirlooms, Bill Morgan tells the stories of his ancestors' lives. By adding fresh memories written by his sister and brothers as well as journals and other family documents, he builds upon these stories to create a full life of an American family.