Jane Slater’s new book The Mosher Family Tree is a story 150 years in the making. But it took retirement to get the wheels turning.

For four decades, Ms. Slater and her husband Herb operated Over South Antiques, a Menemsha mainstay. Ms. Slater closed the shop in 2016, following Herb’s passing.

“I decided it was time to retire,” she said. “But of course now I am bored to tears.”

The answer to her downtime was exploring her lifelong love of Vineyard history and genealogy. Ms. Slater was born in New York but moved to Chilmark with her mother and brother in 1939, at the age of seven. She recently turned 91, giving her over 80 years of Chilmark roots. For over 60 of those years she wrote the weekly Chilmark town column for the Vineyard Gazette.

“Growing up in Chilmark during WWII, there wasn’t much to do,” she said in a recent interview in her Menemsha home, located behind her former store. “So my mother told us stories about our family.”

The family stories included ones about Vineyard ancestors, such as James Mosher and Harriett Cottle, a stonecutter and farmer who moved to Chilmark and the local girl he married. Many of the flat-stone walls Mr. Mosher built still stand in Chilmark, as does the old Mosher family home transported to the Island from South Dartmouth.

Other stories about the Mosher side of the family involved a more distant locale thanks to James and Harriett’s son George, who took an extended whaling trip and never returned. This was around the time of the Civil War, when young George became a whaler not because he enjoyed it, but because that was the only work available for young Chilmark men, Ms. Slater explained.

George’s ship took an extended stay in Sydney, long enough for him to get his laundry done, fall in love, get married, and abandon the whaling life and the Vineyard.

Jane Slater's new book traces Mosher family history. — Ray Ewing

After his parents found out George did not, in fact, die on voyage, the two branches maintained intermittent contacts over the decades, but by Mrs. Slater’s time the link was all but severed. To reestablish it, she recruited a pilot friend to look up the Mosher name in the phone book on a stop at Sydney. What ensued was a circuitous series of connections leading Ms. Slater to connect with Kerin Mosher, an Australian cousin with her own love of genealogy.

“I didn’t even know my great grandfather’s name before I met Jane,” Ms. Mosher said in a recent phone interview.

After chatting over the phone, Mrs. Slater invited Ms. Mosher to the Island.

“This big world of past history came to me all at once,” Ms. Slater said.

On a visit to the U.S. in 2011 for her son’s college graduation, Ms. Mosher first visited the Vineyard. She was immediately taken by the Island’s architecture and was thrilled to see the old Mosher home still standing. During that trip, and on many subsequent ones, the two women began piecing together their shared genealogy, eventually resulting in The Mosher Family Tree. It has, thus far, been more popular on-Island than down-under.

“New England has always hung on to their past, while Australia is very straight-ahead,” Ms. Slater explained.

Ms. Mosher agreed. “That’s just the difference of the laid-back Australian attitude,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Slater has fully embraced her Australian heritage, becoming what Ms. Mosher dubbed an Aussieophile. During retirement Ms. Slater visited the Moshers in Melbourne, and a picture of her hand-feeding kangaroos appears in the book.

Ms. Mosher continues to make frequent visits to the Island.

“Jane is just part of the family now,” she said.

Back on the Vineyard, Ms. Slater stays active, exercising four days a week. She still lives in the house behind her old antique shop (now Creekville Antiques) and despite her newfound Australian family, she is a true Chilmarker.

“I know just about everybody here,” she said. “I feel like a part of old Chilmark.”