Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Exploration of your Family Lines

Ross, James Clark. A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, during the Years 1839-43. London J. Murray, 1847.
When you start to investigate your family's history, you are really going on a voyage of discovery. Just like the early European explorers, you may only have a few sketchy reports about your family to carry with you into the unknown. Some of these stories may turn out to be factual, some may be pure fantasy. What is certain is that the real stories will be more remarkable than any you could have imagined.

One of the tragedies of those who strike out on their own voyage of discovery is that they fail to leave home. They are satisfied with a drive around the block and miss all the wonders they might have seen had they been more adventurous. I was recently helping a patron at the Brigham Young University Library who was just starting out on her own discoveries. Within a few minutes of searching online, I found a wonderful story about an aunt's experiences in Germany during World War II. The patron was completely unaware of this story and we learned that the aunt may be still living only a few miles away from Provo. In fact, the story was included in an entire book of such stories by a prominent BYU professor. Here was the book that I found.

Minert, Roger P. In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-Day Saints in World War II. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009.

Here is the question. Have you found similar stories about your own ancestors? Have you looked, or have you just assumed that such stories do not exist? The important detail in my example is the fact that this great-aunt was not a "direct-line" ancestor but this was the story, that involved all the family members, that had been preserved. Perhaps, you would not have guessed that this particular book was pertinent to your family or even to genealogy at all.

Here is another example. My wife's Great-great-grandfather was Edwin Pettit, b. 1834, d. 1924. My wife's family had told and retold a story about his experiences in joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and crossing the Plains to Utah. Those same stories were the subject of one of the chapters of the following book:

Madsen, Susan Arrington. I Walked to Zion: True Stories of Young Pioneers on the Mormon Trail. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994.

There is nothing, short of searching through this book, that would connect it to my wife's family. Sometimes in our voyages of exploration, we need to look in unexpected places. What these two examples have in common is that the ancestral participants were in the places, during the times that are the subject of the two history oriented books. In fact, concerning my wife's ancestor, Edwin Pettit, a search in the catalog shows some of the following books, some of which are specifically about him.

Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and Emma R Olsen. Reminiscences of Pioneer Childhood. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1994.
Youngberg, Florence C. “Edwin Pettit.” Conquerors of the West. 3 (1999): 2033–35.

Sometimes when you are making your own voyage of discovery you have to go off of the genealogical map and look at books and other records that are not necessarily classified or even identified with genealogy per se.

In looking at this for my own line, I found the following containing information about my own Grandfather, Harold Morgan, b. 1892, d. 1963.

Nicholas Groesbeck Morgan Papers. J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah Manuscripts Division.,540.

You never know what you might find when you start really looking and not just driving around the block.

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