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Stephen Watts

Born: Bitburg Air Base, West Germany
Connection to Illinois: Watts lived in Bloomington from 1995 to 2017. He received his BS in Industrial Technology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

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

  • Searching for Charles • Royal Dragonfly Book Awards 1st Place in 1) History Nonfiction, 2) Letters, Journals, Diaries; and Honorable Mentions in 1) Biography/Autobiography/Memoir, 2) New Author: Nonfiction (2023) • Firebird Book Awards 1st Place in 1) Biography/Historical, 2) History/US, 3) New Nonfiction (2023) • Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Book Awards 2nd Place in History (2023) • Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Book Awards 3rd Place in Autobiography/Biography/Memoir (2023) • Illinois State Genealogical Society Special Recognition Award (2023) • Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards Finalist in 1) Nonfiction: History, 2) Nonfiction: True Story (2023) • Page Turner Awards Finalist in Best Book (2023) • Self-Publishing Review Book Awards Overall Finalist (2022) • Kindle Book Awards Semi-Finalist in Non-Fiction (2023) • Nellie Bly Chanticleer International Book Awards Short List in Journalistic Non-Fiction (2023)

Primary Literary Genre(s): History; Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

Searching for Charles: The Untold Legacy of an Immigrant's American Adventure
ISBN: 154453194X OCLC:

Houndstooth Press 2022

What started as a project to archive a family’s genealogy files became an insightful window into the life of Illinois prairie pioneer 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. 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.