You've heard me talk about family history for a few years now. I've talked about the wonders and promises of knowing our ancestors and sharing those stories and experiences with our families and that is not going to change. That is my passion, storytelling, but God wanted me to learn something else along this journey.
At the beginning of last year, I got a new calling within my ward. I was asked to be a temple and family history consultant. Once again I told the bishopric that I did not do genealogy. I was a storyteller and that was my place within family history. On both sides of my family, there are genealogists who have researched, documented, and traced our family lines back generation after generation. All those names and people that could be found have been found and I felt secure in the knowledge that I would continue to talk about family history from the position of a storyteller until I got a text late one night from a 15-year-old boy in our neighborhood:
The conversation continued and inside I am wondering (after the momentary panic) how I could effectively teach this when I don't really know myself? How can I share something that I don't truly understand? So for the sake of this class of boys, I put my head down offered a pleading prayer to the Lord and got to work. I called some friends, talked to my parents, and decided I would try to find a family member whose temple work had not be done and go to the temple. I had no idea how it would happen considering I had a full tree with lines dating back to 779 AD in one place but I had faith that God would not let me down.
One Monday morning with a genealogy expert sitting by my side, I asked question after question. My head was reeling from all the information I was getting and I felt certain that this task was too big, not possible. I was overwhelmed by everything there was to know and I should have started smaller.
She helped me looked through line after family line in FamilySearch and Puzzilla running into dead end after dead end. Two hours later I wondered how I could possibly help these boys when my own search had been so difficult and fruitless. Even Amy, the expert was impressed with how well our family lines were documented.
Then it happened, one more click on an ancestor, a cousin and I had a start.
Meet Indiana Turner. She is the niece of my 3rd great grandmother Paulina (I hope I got that right). Somewhere along the way her family and those of her siblings had been forgotten or perhaps they were waiting for me and for all they would teach me. So I began my search, who was Indiana? Did she ever marry? Did she have children? We started first looking for information with the people we already knew: her parents and siblings.
I looked for census records and birth records. I didn't realize how much I would love the records. I adored the handwriting, the professions, the small details in each record that tell more of the story. For that is what I was doing, find and telling Indiana's story. With the census records alone I found deaths, births, marriages, and changes in professions. For instance in this census from 1860, Indiana's father changed professions from the 1850 census from farmer to carpenter. The next columns indicate the value of real estate and personal estate respectively. Even her name had a story to tell.
This was the last census I could find Indiana Turner so I started looking for possible death records, marriage records, etc, but I was at a dead end for a few weeks. I was really looking and found that I would spend an hour here or an hour there. The records were so fascinating that I would pour over learning the history, searching places on google to see what it might have looked like in that time period. I could get lost in the records, but I was also no closer to finding more about Indiana. Then one day while I was sitting in a class I had an impression to perform a google search with Indiana's name and one of the first links was to the "Memoirs of Wayne County".
I wanted to jump out of my chair at my discovery, but it was rude enough that I was on my phone researching when I should have been listening. Not only did I find Indiana's husband, but their children and the author also included biographical information about both sides of the families. After some easy research in census records, etc, I was able to verify all the information and cite all my sources on FamilySearch.
I love being able to leave this trail, a proof of life for others to follow. I found that as I looked at other people in the tree I was disappointed when I couldn't go to a record to see where the dates or information came from. I was surprised at how much I love the original documents, although I'm not sure why as I am the storyteller and documents are part of that story. I save bits and pieces of our lives that I wish I had from my grandparents and great grandparents.
One thing I found as I was building these family units, is that I became confused by who was who and what records I had last searched. A simple notebook/planner that I had abandoned but I couldn't throw away because it had so many wonderful things in the front pages became my research book. As I wrote the different family names and little bits of information as I found them, this notebook became a treasure once more because the names became people with stories. I felt a connection to them and their lives became part of our lives as I would share what I had learned.
As I puzzled together family members and relationships I felt their help. I can't explain it, but I have a special relationship with Indiana that I never anticipated having with an ancestor that was born nearly 170 years ago. How I love her. I have thought of her often over the last year. My girls have been helping me go to the temple for her family and Samantha remarked that it was a sacred experience knowing the people whose work we helping with.
I am still the storyteller in our family, but now our story includes Indiana. It includes census records and sourcing. Our story is now intertwined with an understanding and the miracles only God can bring about in turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. My life is changed forever and some day I will weep more tears, as I have already wept countless times, as I embrace Indiana and thank her for helping me grow and love in this unexpected way.
If I can help anyone have a journey like this, please let me know how I can help. Who knows, you might even find a love for the records.