Monday, October 17, 2011

The emotions of victory!

I won the SLIG blogging contest!

Since learning the news via a tweet (interesting in itself since I'm not a huge twitter fan and only have about 3 people set up to tweet on my phone) my emotions have been a rollercoaster.

Of course I'm elated! If I had the time, I'd make a paper countdown chain. (Since I don't, watch for a counter on the blog to come soon.)

There have also been feelings of winner's remorse (is that a real thing? Like survivor's remorse, only milder... I wish so-an-so could have won. This other person really could have used it too...I hope this other person finds a way to come too....)

There's a lot of gratitude and humbleness as well. I'm grateful to UGA for sponsoring the contest in the first place. I mean really, how GREAT is that!!!

But I also know that the contest was still just chance. Other than putting forth the effort to enter, there was nothing I did, or even could have done, to assist myself in winning. Granted, there were not that many that entered, so odds were good, nevertheless, I'm not that lucky. When something like this happens to me, its usually in relation to Family History, and its usually because some dead ancestor is meddling in my life. (Not that I have any problem with it, in fact I welcome them to meddle in other parts of my life too.)

But that leads me to wonder who exactly wants me to find them, or who wants me to get to know them better this time. At which point I begin to wonder if I really signed up for the right course or not. I think I did. I felt good about it after I wrote the entry blog.

But that leads me to feel really overwhelmed.

First of all, I'll confess, I'm a rather disorganized genealogist. It's something I keep working on, but I never seem to make much progress. But now I have to get at least somewhat organized before January so I know what I already have on the lines I'm hoping to get help on. Not to mention, get what organization I do have up to a point where I can show what I have to someone else. YIKES!

I also want to make sure I have exhausted all I know how to do on those lines so I can best make use of the help while its available.

But with work, school, kids, church, and everything else that makes up my daily life, not to mention the holiday season quickly approaching....Now is when I could really use some "luck."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Coming Jan 23-27, 2012, The Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) is once again presenting its SLIG Conference (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy). (For more information, be sure to visit their webpage HERE)

For years, I've been hearing about how wonderful this conference is. People come in from all over the world to attend. It's set up so you choose a specific "track" and spend the week focusing on one area, and learning from best researchers for that locale. It's like boot camp for genealogists, or so I've been told.

Additionally, classes are taught in the evening and open to all for a mere $10 each.

It's a great opportunity, and a great value. Nonetheless, the registration fees are a bit steep for my limited budget, so I've never been able to go.

But this year, UGA has introduced a blogging contest and the random winner will earn a tuition waiver.

Not only is SLIG a great educational opportunity for me, but let's be honest, the change in routine would provide a much needed vacation for me. (Much needed, how about desperately needed!) (Yes it is that bad that a week at a conference, 30 miles from my home, with nights still spent at home would be a vacation for me.)

So the question is not really whether or not I want to go, but which of the wonderful 12 tracks I'd choose if I were able to go.

1: American Research and Records: Focus on Families

The first track is American Research and Records-an "intermediate level course...on 19th-21st century U.S. sources and the methodology for using them." I always like classes that discuss lesser-used records, as much for the inspiration and reminders of what to search as for the instruction on them. But for most of the time period discussed, my family were all in Utah, an area I'm already pretty familiar with. Again, record-types are good, and hubby's family wasn't here yet. But it's also so generic that I'm not sure which project I'd pick for my project-time/apply-what-you-learned research time.

2: Advanced New England Research

The second track is actually full already, so I probably couldn't go to it anyway, but its on Advanced New England Research, with Josh Taylor heading up the instruction. And it covers 1620-1850, with a focus on 1620-1781. I LOVE Josh's classes! (he's also teaching some classes in the first track). As I mentioned in an earlier post, My husband has been talking lately about needing to get to work on his Family History, which was all the motivation I needed to start diving into his family again. He has several New England roots, and its not an area I've ever paid attention to before, despite having some lines there too. The time period is perfect for what I'd need as well. The "Advanced" is a bit intimidating since I haven't researched in the area before but I think I could manage it, given my overall experience.

3: Welsh Research

The third track is Welsh Research, headed up by Darris Williams, another favorite instructor of mine. I do have some Welsh roots, but they've always been a low priority for me (right down there with my NE ancestors). I'm not sure I'm ready to move them up the line right now, but I couldn't think of a better excuse. There is no time period given. But one of the classes is on Civil Registration, which of course (Murphy's Law) didn't start until after my family emigrated, so I wonder how many other of the classes may be out of my time range.

4: Swedish Research

My Swedish roots were some some of the last to immigrate. Consequently, any cultural traditions or stories that have managed to survive the generations have come from this line, and have peaked my interest. I've started diving into this area a couple times, even trying to teach myself Swedish at one point, but I've never gotten very far so I could really use the help. The question would be whether or not I could handle the foreign language research in my present and chronic sleep-deprived, mentally-exhausted state.

5: Research in the Midwestern United States.

This is another one that interests me more because of my recent activity with my husband's lines. They were all over the map, but many of them spent a lot of time in the Midwest, and in several cases, this is where the brick-walls lie. This track is also full of wonderful teachers and really excites me.

6: Genealogy Software and Research Tools

Ok, this one doesn't excite me nearly as much, but since I've included every other class so-far, I hated to break the streak. It definitely seems to have some awesome classes included in it, such as using GenSmarts (which I've been in love with since it first came out, but am a few releases behind on), and Mobile Apps, which does me no good since I still have a dumb phone.

7: Principles of Effective Genealogical Librarianship

Another "not so much" one. Despite my boss's best efforts, and the fact that I work with books day-in and day-out, and enjoy doing so, and enjoy being in the library, I'm not a librarian. (Wait, why aren't I????). A lot of great classes, such as Newspaper Research Techniques, and various internet resources, and a Digitization Projects and Issues class that I'd love to be a fly on the wall for, But still... (This is the disadvantage to "tracks" I'd love to hop over for a a couple of these classes while enjoying another track for the ones that wouldn't apply)

8: Beyond the Library: Using Original Source Repositories

Pro: A field trip to the Utah State Archives! Con: Once they got me there, they probably wouldn't get me out. If ever I'm tempted to play hookey from life and grab some alone time for myself, this is where I dream of going. Well this and a tropical, semi-deserted island. But the Utah Archive is slightly more accessible. However, if I had the money to visit any other source repositories, I'd also be paying my way to SLIG. :) (Or visiting that tropical island...why couldn't my ancestors be from the Caribbean? Instead of the equally beautiful, but much colder lands of the British Isles and Scandinavia)

9: Advanced Genealogical Methods

What Genealogist couldn't use this, especially one at my intermediate skill level. That's probably the reason the class is full already.

10: Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum

Same as above, but this one is for even more advanced genealogists, so is probably above my level, but could be fun, if they manage to find room for more people, which they're working on.

11: Advanced Research Tools: Land Records

Another already full class that may be overwhelming but fabulous, and definitely something I need, especially since it includes internet resources for land records. You know I LOVE internet research!

12: Problem Solving

Help getting through brick-walls. YES! But which brick-wall would I pick?!?!?!

See why the decision is so difficult! And I didn't even list all the classes within each track for you. You really should hop over to the UGA or SLIG websites and learn more.

Out of the classes that still have room in them, I'm still kind of leaning towards Track 5, Midwestern States. Not only have my husband's ancestors in this area started calling out to me lately, but they are some of the closest brick-walls to us time-wise, so theoretically, they should be the easiest ones to break-through. It's also where there seems to be the most movement so I could definitely use the help tracking them.

Or if your budget is as strapped as mine, I'd definitely recommend you check into a UGA membership. Only $35 a year (with discounts for family, or extended memberships), which first of all saves you $50 on tuition to SLIG, but also provides you with a subscription to the UGA magazine "Crossroads" As well as access to training materials and members-only activities, among other things. Does it get any better than that?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Finding Martin

I often hear these inspiring stories of individuals engaged in genealogy and no doubt getting help from the other side and being led to the the documents, or headstones, etc. that they need to find or long to find.

I have never doubted those stories are true. I have often felt how thin the veil between this world and the next can be when engaged in family history work. I know that families are forever, and while we often think of death as a temporary separation, I believe they're still with us. We just get so caught up in the things of this world that we tend to ignore theirs. I have felt my ancestors with me at various times, But until recently, they've been less than helpful in my searching.

Soren Martinus Nelson is my husband's maternal great-grandfather, so I guess technically MY ancestors still aren't that helpful during research, but I didn't just marry the man, I married the family, so we'll call it good.

After dh and I got engaged, I had the opportunity to have some pedigree wall charts printed up for us, professionally, by FamilyChArtist. We even displayed them at our wedding and was even a little surprised by how many guests poured over them. But there's one couple on the chart, Martinus's parents, that tend to irritate the perfectionist I keep duct-taped up inside of me, because I only have death years for them. While they did die before vital records were mandated in their area, it was still the late 1800's, so you'd think there would be something around that would give a more specific date.

But I haven't found it yet.

I've done numerous searches, and have always come up empty. Then I get side-tracked, jump to another line, and put another layer of tape around the perfectionist.

But the tape came loose again the other day. So I started doing what I'd done a dozen times before, and just retrace my steps on the whole line, re-examining the records I had for my dh's mother, then grandparents, then...

I even created a timeline, which is when it finally hit me that Martinus didn't die until 1944, yet the last census record I had for him was 1910. By the 1920 census, dh's great-grandmother was the head of household. I hopped on-line and started searching for him in the 1930 and 1920 censuses, but again came up empty-handed. So was his death date wrong or where was he in 1920? I then searched again for the 1920 census record I already had, in the hopes that a newer copy may also be an improved copy.

Bingo! On my new copy of the 1920 I was able to discern that ggma was divorced. So he could still be alive. But where? So I searched for his son, and found him nearby, living with an M. Nelson - the same age as Martin. I found the same thing in 1930.

But divorced in 1920? Why? Just Who was this mystery guy?

Apparently I'd been asking the wrong question before. Because now when I did another Google Search, I discovered Martin in a book about his brother. Interesting enough, a book that the website I help administer, hosts.

The really interesting thing, for me anyway, is that I distinctively remember seeing this book before with work. And I remember feeling a strong pull to stop and read it, but resisting. The book had a simple cover, the brother's name is a common one, and he spelled the surname differently, so I didn't think there would be any real reason for me to read it.

Now I had one, I dove in. The read was a fascinating one, perfect for Hollywood. If it weren't so well sourced, I'd have a hard time believing its accuracy. (Of course, still working on verifying the sources). I'll save his story for another post. I'm still both overjoyed and humbly grateful for the divine help that led me to the story. The power that comes in doing Family History work never grows old to me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


In the interest of time and for the sake of at least getting ONE post on here, I thought I'd start by posting the eulogy I wrote for my Gpa's funeral. Sorry about the length, I promise this isn't indicative of what's to come.

Romulus Doyle Shields
(died Jan. 7, 2009)

Grandpa was born April 1, 1924 in Sugarville, Utah (which, for those of you not related to any Sugarville resident, is a small community near Delta) His parents were Rom and Cozy Shields. He was the 4th of what would later be 6 children. Grandpa attended school in Sugarville, Delta, Idaho and Salt Lake. After the war, he attended, and graduated from BYU.

Grandpa wore a lot of hats during his lifetime, and I don’t just mean the ball caps that he never left home w/o.

Starting in 1943, Grandpa wore the hat of a soldier after he was drafted into the Army during WWII. This hat had him serving in a wire communications group in the 364th Field Artillery Battalion of the 76th Division. During his service, he endured the bitter cold and the horror of the front lines during events such as the Battle of the Bulge, among others. His position in communications allowed him to be one of the first to hear, and consequently rejoice over the surrender of Germany. But like most soldiers, grandpa never got over the nightmares of battle, so never cared to discuss his experiences there, except to tell us about staying up for nights on end, and feeling blessed for the warmth of sleeping next to a cow, and how frozen he got without that ‘luxury’ particularly when riding in open trucks in -50* weather.

Grandpa said he’d never seen a sweeter sight than viewing the statue of liberty after his time in Europe. Consequently he was more than happy to return to civilian life. Which life soon found him working in the accounting department at U.S. Steel. Which is a hat he wore for 29 ½ years.

Another hat he wore, and cherished immensely, was that of a husband. He was married for time and all eternity to the love of his life, Iva Ann Nielsen on Sep 16, 1954 in the Salt Lake temple.

Shortly thereafter Grandpa proudly donned the hat of a dad when in the summer of ’55, he and Grandma welcomed Craig Doyle into the family, followed 2 years later, by Gleanne.

But of course we know his favorite hat of all was that of a grandpa, which he wore for the first time in ’79, when the real light of his life was born ;). Ok, so maybe he had a few more lights in his life than just me. Over the next 10 years the line to Grandpa’s cookie jar would grow exponentially with the addition of 4 more grandchildren to the family, Viola Nicole, Nathan Doyle, Andrew Vern, and CarolAnn. Grandpa always found time to support us in every church & school program, every choir concert, every ballgame, every academic competition, and whatever else we managed to get ourselves into, including countless hunting and fishing trips with the boys. He also managed to make regular visits to our homes to help with yard work and whatever else needed to be done. It’s no surprise with his willingness to do all of that, along with his big heart full of love, and his gentle spirit full of laughter it didn’t take long before he had a whole lot more youth, our friends in particular calling him ‘grandpa’. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that we all knew exactly which pocket he hid the candy in, no matter what coat or jacket he had with him.

Grandpa never seemed to mind the extra grandchildren, he teased them every bit as much as he teased us. I believe most of them managed to avoid being conscripted into the never ending water-war, but I’m sure one or two became innocent victims on occasion during one of the countless battles. In case any you dare to underestimate the extent of this war, allow me to testify right now, I have no doubt Grandpa is presently preparing the next round of artillery. And the next time any of us get caught in the rain unprepared or we inevitably have to walk through sprinklers to reach our destination, you can be assured that Grandpa had a hand in it. Unfortunately for us, Grandpa has always had the upperhand, We can’t win, we never could win, no matter how often grandma forced a temporary truce, and pulled out the pile of towels, but it was always fun to try to get at least a few good shots in on him.

Despite having one son and two grandsons, we always knew he really favored the girls ;) Which might be why all 4 of his great-grandchildren are girls. Sorry guys.

Grandpa loved life! If there were ever any doubt, we could try to count the number of times various individuals expected him not to live, and the number of times he proved them wrong. In later years, his caretakers often referred to him as the “Energizer Bunny” since he just kept going and going. I think it also had to do with Grandpa’s love of surprises. Grandpa always blamed his birthday for his sense of humor and love of surprises, saying he was just an ‘April’s Fool” So I’m sure despite his gratitude for them, that he’s laughing at the doctors and caretakers and the number of times he surprised them. But they’re not alone, during his army days, they gave him a life expectancy of about 7 seconds for his position, he managed to survive that as well. But the one that will really have him chuckling is when he meets the doctor that cared for him during the critical illness he suffered when he was just 10 years old. That doctor didn’t expect him to live either. Can you imagine Grandpa’s delight when he gets to tell him that he lived another 75 years.

He got such a kick just trying to scare us kids. Sometimes it was threatening to push us off things, even if it was just the 2 foot high footbridge across the street, or hiding behind the door as we came in, or if the door was locked, he’d sneak to it below the site of the windows then pop into the window with a funny face. I had to laugh as I saw a picture of grandpa, taken last summer, and noticed his hand was reached out in classic Grandpa form. I can never mimic the sound he would make, but it translated into a combination of “boo” and “I’m going to get you”

Like a refiner’s fire, we know that it is the trials we have in our lives help reveal our true character, and help shape who we become. Grandpa’s early illness, and miraculous recovery, was no exception. For one thing, he learned to hate doctors, and over the years developed his own methods of cure-alls, which seemed to work because he did manage to stay healthy until recent years. He swore by garlic pills to prevent illness, and should you get sick, the cure-alls were jalapeƱo peppers (the key was swallowing them whole, he claimed) and mentholatum vapors. Both remedies were enough to horrify me as a child. But while I have still not learned to appreciate hot peppers, it is my children who now hate the vapors of mentholatum which I turn to first.

His early illness erased all his childhood memories, as well as put him behind in his schooling, and caused him to struggle in many subjects for years to come. Grandpa was the oldest living son of a farmer. He knew how to work! I am sure it is this work ethic that helped him overcome those struggles. But it was also the struggles that taught him to appreciate the value of an education; Which is a lesson he NEVER let any of us forget. He always looked for, and found, ways to teach us daily, from sending us to buy Hershey bars and making us figure out the exact amount needed, including tax, and counting out the change, to figuring out how many candy bars we would need if we wanted x number of people to have y number of squares, or to a poor pre-schooler who learned her abc’s by typing them out on the typewriter after her grandpa thought it would be funny to teach her the alphabet backwards before she knew it forwards. I think I’m the only one he got away doing that to, the rest got to learn them forwards first. But he still liked to quiz each of us at random times to make sure we still knew the alphabet backwards and forwards, literally. I passed my last pop quiz just a few months back. As you would expect from an accountant, Grandpa’s strong point was always numbers. So he started us out early helping him reconcile books. But even today as I struggle to remember all my id numbers and usernames and passwords and…. I grow increasingly amazed at Grandpa’s ability to remember his Geneva co-workers by their id numbers. Even years after he retired, he could meet them in town, and still recite their id numbers.

Yes, grandpa wore the hat of a teacher, very well. His lessons went far beyond Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmitic. (one of his favorite sayings) Maybe it was growing up in the depression, but Grandpa always taught us to be grateful for what we had. He especially hated to waste food. "Eat what’s put before you!” was a saying we often heard. And he liked to make sure we gleaned all the fruit we could off something before we threw away the core, or the rind, or the pit. I was always amazed to watch him find more fruit on something I thought I’d gleaned off. His favorite meal was always a simple bowl of bread and milk. And Grandpa was ‘green’ long before being ‘green’ was cool. Always teaching us the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling, even if he didn’t put it that way. And around the house wasn’t enough. Many might remember the two very large Irish Setters Grandpa had when I was little, Oso and Aero, he always managed to find pop cans or other items which could be recycled when he would take them for their walks ‘on the hill” around the old jr. high track. And nothing was too small to recycle either, right on down to the tin foil from his favorite snacks…ding dongs, (back when they were wrapped in foil) and even his other favorite, Hershey kisses.

Grandpa was very observant, and taught us to be as well, he could always see little things in the road, and of course was always picking them up (or having us do it for him) and trying to find some use for it, or keeping it til he could find one. And sometimes it was amazing what he could find, especially what he would find ‘floating down the ditch’ in front of his house. We were always so amazed when he would find this big fish floating down the little ditch, and we wondered how it could possibly fit. A stray tomato or two seemed strange, but logical enough to a child, but when he’d come up with some other material good like a toy, that had been floating down the ditch-- that was just cool-- and we began to wonder if grandpa had a magical ditch someplace. But as we got older, and grandpa started finding whole grocery bags full of fresh vegetables just “floating in the ditch” and we knew that not only, was the ditch dry just moments before, but the sack was dry now, we knew there had to be more to the story. Took us a while, but we finally caught on. Just like it took mom and Craig a while to figure out why Grandpa could always predict what time they would arrive someplace when they traveled. So you know, he wasn’t psychic, he would just alter the speed to make sure he arrived when he said they would.

Before I get into some of the other lessons he taught us, I think I need to also add that Grandpa never took off the hat of student either. And occasionally it would fall to us to teach him some things. But we weren’t nearly as good of teachers as he was. It took us years to teach him that he could have his picture taken without putting his hand, or his ballcap in front of his face. But the one lesson Grandpa never could learn, no matter how hard we all tried to teach him, was how to open a wrapped gift, he always insisted that his grandchildren, and in later years, his great-grandchildren, help him open his gifts because he didn’t know how. We think this is one reason Grandma started wrapping all gifts in grocery sacks. And apparently grandpa had the same problem opening new shirts wrapped in plastic. Because he would get new shirts for Christmas, but by the next Christmas, they still hadn’t even been opened. He claimed that there was no reason for the new shirt, his others were perfectly good, they were worn in and comfortable, but since some of them had patches upon patches, we had to keep trying. One year, grandma decided just to wrap up the previous year’s shirt, to see if he would notice, (or if he’d get the hint). We all thought it was pretty funny. But when it still hadn’t been opened the next year…it became tradition. It’s a good thing he had such a sweet tooth. We knew we could get him a bag of candy rocks or bridgemix for a gift, and he’d figure out how to open those. Those were the ones that usually ended up in his coat pocket.

Yes, we learned a lot from Grandpa, like how to tie a tight bed roll. And he was the first to try and teach me to drive. And I guess we can forgive him for the lessons he never learned, since there were a few he never could teach us either. Like marbles, it was always more fun to look at the big box of marbles, or play our own games with them, that it was to play his game, and he never could seem to teach Nik or I to fish, no matter how many poles he ‘found’ for us or how many times he took us to the creek behind his house. And sadly, we never could figure out how to make his coin pouch work, so he had to keep opening it to show us. It was another of his ‘magic tricks’ not only could he make it magically open, but it was usually magically lighter when it went back into his pocket.

Grandpa played hard, but he worked hard as well, and that was another lesson Grandpa taught us all. From the time we could speak he would have us play secretary for him (since Grandpa avoided the phone like a plague, I know he had ulterior motives there), from the time we knew our letters, we were doing the filing, and when we learned our numbers, we would help with the books. But we needed physical work too, so he taught each us how to mow a lawn and handed over the responsibility in like, and for many years, he engaged us all in a job recycling the old newspapers at the Citizen office.

No one can dispute the power of a single song to evoke memories of a time or place, or person. Grandpa gave us a whole soundtrack to remember him by. The way he stood a little taller when the bagpipes came by, (Grandpa was ½ Scottish, so it was in his blood). The delight he found when he would take the grandkids to a Cougar football game and we would sing the fight song (He didn’t even seem to mind the hours we spent playing the corresponding lp over and over again, at his house, so we could learn it). Or the laughter from his renditions of “On top of Spaghetti” “Clementine” and “She’ll be coming ‘round the mountain”. Or the way he said “I love you” to the melodies of “a bushel and a peck” and “Let me call you sweetheart” And while I was on a recent roadtrip, I was sure I heard Grandpa’s voice singing along in the car with me when his old cowboy favorites “Back in the Saddle Again” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” came across my speakers. Yes, I admit. I apparently spent too many hours listening to those tapes with him while I was growing up because one day, the tapes disappeared. But after a 20 year respite, Somehow, those songs have found their way into my now digital collection.

Probably the most important lesson, however, that Grandpa taught us was the true meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For various reasons, he wasn’t always active, but He was a faithful home teacher, never missing a month. He spent countless hours loving and serving his family and his fellow men. Teaching us to find joy in life, and to realize that most things were not worth getting upset about, they wouldn’t matter in the eternities. But what would matter was the love that we shared, as families, and as friends. Grandpa knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that families are forever. He knew his departed loved ones lived on and he often reminded us how thin the veil can be. The great thing about eternal truths is that they are in-deed eternal. So Grandpa, we’ll See ya later alligator, we all wish you Happy Trails until we see you again at the Lemonade Springs in a while Crocodile.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tender Mercies for All Times

It always amazes me, how even in some of our darkest hours, the Lord chooses to send down his blessings to lift us up and lighten our load, if we just take time to notice them.

A few months ago, an especially tender mercy was poured out upon me during a darker time, but at the time, it was so tender I wasn't sure I wanted to share it in such a forum as this. But tonight, I received a follow-up mercy I guess you could say and I feel the need to share just how much our Heavenly Father loves each one of us.

For those who don't know, I have the opportunity of earning my living by assisting with the digitization of family history books, (and area history books). The whole reason we want to digitize them (and why the books even exist) is to help people go beyond just the names and dates of their ancestors and get into their lives and thus gain a better appreciation for and stronger connection with their ancestors.

The problem is that most of our ancestors don't have books written all about them. But maybe an ancestor is mentioned in an associate's journal, or in their friend's (autobiography). Few people want to even sit down and read about life in the area and time of their ancestor, let alone read every family history written about every other person in the area, in the hopes that one of them MIGHT mention their ancestor.

But by digitizing these books, not only are we making them accessible to people all over the world (at any time of the day or night), but most of the books will entirely searchable. We can let the computer do all that "reading" to find that "one" mention. (Handwritten books don't do well with automated searches, but everything else....)

Having done this for 40 hours a week, for over 4 years now, I've developed quite the thirst to know of my own ancestor's stories. When I have a few minutes, I of course search our site for family names, I've found a few titles, some of which I'd already seen before, but some were pretty cool "new" finds. But nothing really idk, "earth-shattering" exciting.

Nevertheless this hunger has continued to deepen in me. And so I have been on the story hunt. And I learned a while back that my hometown (who I also happen to have several ancestors numbered among the early settlers) had released a new multi-volume set of its town history. Needless to say, I have been itching to get my hands on a copy. So just before my birthday, I'd decided that I'd treat myself to one volume (yeah, still haven't gotten around to it yet.) but decided that I'd go to the PG library to look at the volumes first and decide which one I wanted to get first.

But with scheduling what it is, that trip was not nearly as easy as it should have been. But I'd finally scheduled the day and was all set to go, when the floor fell out from underneath me. Plans changed, I had a crisis to deal with, in a different locale, and one that was not only immediate and time-sucking but which left me an emotional wreck as well. I was antsy. I was angry. I was frustrated. I needed a diversion, a way to focus, a way to calm down. But I just couldn't seem to find the way to do it. Long story short, I ended up in the library looking for one topic, right across the aisle from a display calling attention to the Utah History books. Despite feeling bitter over the reminder of what I was supposed to be enjoying that afternoon, I decided to browse those shelves. Wasn't seeing much until I discovered this series of books on the bottom shelf. They were county histories written for the State's Centennial a few years ago.

I've been doing a lot of research in Milliard county lately, so I went to pick up that book, but then decided that since I'd missed out on researching my Utah county roots, I'd grab that one instead.

I kid you not the first page I opened to contained a picture that my ggg grandfather had taken. I've seen a number of his pictures before, both in family histories, and town histories. But they've always been owned by descendants or by the local university, and always the books only covered that time period and area. This book covered the whole history of the valley from before the settlers arrived, until the time the book was published in the 1990's. I mean how selective do you have to be of the material you put in a book like that? but there was a photo taken by my ancestor! Not only that, but it was owned by the State Archives! The State thinks my ancestor's pictures are significant enough to hang on to!

(Now added to the bucket list, a trip to the archives to see how many more of his photos they have.)

So then I started flipping pages to see if I could find other pictures of his. I didn't, but the very next page that fell open had another name I knew. This time it was an ancestor of Steven's step-mom. I've been helping her do some research as well. But then, if that wasn't cool enough, on that same page, was another ancestor of mine! (suffice it to say, I was sufficiently distracted now). Her ancestor settled Lehi, mine settled PG, yet there they both were on the SAME PAGE!

Well now, I figure my luck of having the book just fall open to the pages of interest has run out, so I just jump to the index and skim for a few other surnames, but I'm limited on time and none are jumping out at me. So I whip out my camera phone, capture the cover of the book so I can remember what it was and hopefully find a copy at our library, and then I grab for another book.

Again I start reaching for Millard county, but decide against it in favor of Tooele county, where my maternal gma's family came from/settled. But in the few minutes I had left before the library closed it wasn't her family I found.

Before my maternal gpa's family moved to Millard, they also lived in Tooele county. But I'd always had some confusion as to where, since most the previously compiled sources give conflicting places for the same event, and many of the names aren't places that even still exist. It's been on my to-do list to look into, but I've never gotten around to it. But again as I was thumbing, a heading matching one of the locations caught my eye. It gave a history of the area they lived in, namely how the place had changed names and why.

The answers I hadn't even managed to look for got dropped in my lap! I can't tell you how many hours I've spent searching and searching for the answers to other questions I've had, often in vain. Golden finds like that don't happen to me, they just don't, at least not before.

If all that wasn't enough, that section lead to another that not only mentioned an ancestor of my gpa, but told me something about him that in turn gave me additional insight into my gpa.

Sadly, I had to return the books. But when I left the library, the dark feelings were gone, I walked out a much lighter, humbler, grateful, and repentant individual, with a determination to spend more time with those books!

First chance I got, I headed to my local library and straight for the Utah history section. They didn't have those books. But they had a whole lot of other books that caught my eye. The catalog did show they had the Utah county book in their reference section at least, but I don't see my schedule allowing me to spend enough time at the library to read a 500+ pg book. I'm lucky to find enough time to select a book to take home. (Yeah, my toddler was with me on that trip, while I was reading titles on a shelf I had to also stop her from pulling books off the bottom shelves, and try to keep her from wandering off the aisle, and try to keep her from screeching just to hear herself screech and.....). I know I could request an inter-library loan, but I still feel like that wouldn't give me enough time in the book, given work and the kids and school. So I broke down and decided I'd check Amazon, just to see....

I decided to keep my search broad. I saw some history books I'd like to add that were upwards of $500!!!! Yikes!

Most of this county series avg $20-$50 (usually closer to the $50 which they'd totally be worth, BUT....) for a used copy, though many were up over $100 and $200.

The Utah county book also had several copies available in the $50-$200 range, but it also had some copies for sale for UNDER $10!!!!!!!

Yeah, big surprise: I bought it.

I know many of you probably think its silly. Probably brush it off as "luck", "a good deal" or just "bargain shopping/hunting" or whatever. But I know its more than that.

I know that even though I was too upset that day to really feel the spirit, that I was guided to find those books, that would lead me to my ancestors, not so that I could find some lost member or anything, but just so I wouldn't spend any more time in that dark place, but that I could feel the love and support of my family, on both sides of the veil.

And I know that as trivial as it may seem, that there was a Hand in me purchasing the book as well. Whether I need it as a reminder of those blessings, or maybe I'll need it to help my children experience those feelings one day, or maybe there is still someone else in there I need to either find, or get to know better. Only the Lord knows the reason. For now I'm content to count my blessings and then try to make my blessings count.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Viola Jones Taylor 1921-1981

I have an amazing mother. I could NOT live without her. In addition to joyfully providing daycare for my daughter(s) when needed (basically DAILY) she's there to listen to me vent my frustrations, bail me out of jams, calm me down and bear me up when I hit break down mode, and all-in-all just be one of my best friends.

And you've also seen me talk about my beloved Gma aka "Famous Grandma" who I have the blessing of living next door to.

But lately, I've been thinking a lot about my other Gma, My Gma Taylor.

My Dad's mom died when I was only 2 1/2 yrs old. So I don't really have any memories of her. Unless you count this vague recollection I have of the sound of her voice, which I don't know how much is my own creation and how much is really her. I just know that there have been times in my life when I've needed an extra angel, and its been that voice that I've heard, connected with an innate knowledge that it was her.

What I do have are stories of her, told to me (or overheard) from her sister, my dad, and his siblings. In all the stories I've heard over the last 30 years, I've never heard anything negative about her. So you can imagine how she could have become an idol in my eyes. The older I get, the more I know in my head that she couldn't have been perfect either, nonetheless, my appreciation for just how incredible she truly must have been only seems to grow with my age and wisdom.

Growing up, my sister and I yearned for our own rooms, and Dad would always remind us about how he shared a room with 3 of his brothers, and there was barely room to walk between the two sets of bunk beds. (It's true, we saw that with our own eyes.)

Now as my own kids have the same complaint, or whenever I start to feel the walls closing in on me in our 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 5 occupant apartment, its not my dad I think about, cramped in with his brothers, its Gma. Sure, she got the nice big room, mostly to herself (since Gpa often worked graves and liked the darker room/office next door), but she had 8 kids running underfoot. 8 kids in 2 bedrooms, and only 1 bathroom for the 10 of them. How in the world did she keep from going crazy!!!!!

I would love to ask her how in the world she found time to do all that she did. If 8 kids weren't enough to keep a mother busy, she worked outside the home to help provide. And somehow, she still managed to bake bread for the family each week, paint, crochet, create other crafty items, and bottle fruit.

So much fruit, in fact, that I remember mom and dad opening up bottles of her fruit for us to eat for dinner on hot summer nights for many years after Gma had died. And she did it all without modern luxuries such as wrinkle-free fabrics (ironing sheets...what were they thinking?)

Truly amazing!

But in addition to all that, She also had Gpa.

I love my Gpa.

Gpa died just before my 9th birthday, my memories have the luxury of that innocent childhood filter on them. What I remember was that Gpa was STRONG. The grip of his handshake was legendary. And he loved to put his grandchildren on his lap and hold them. He had really bony legs, so it was really uncomfortable, and we were anxious to get down and play. But he'd hold us there, and at times get downright grumpy about it. I'd give about anything to go back and 'endure' that time to hear more of his stories. After you'd been on one leg for a while (and squirmed a lot), you'd just start thinking you were finally going to escape, but he'd just switch you to the other side, proclaiming that was his 'bad' leg. (Though I swear he was moving me to his bad leg, not the other way around).

I also knew that Gpa had seizures. I knew he took medicine for them. But I don't recall ever witnessing one.

I knew Gpa couldn't drive. Despite making a living as a mechanic, he didn't own a car. He got around on an adult-sized tricycle with a basket on the back that made me quite jealous.

Gpa lost his leg, not long after he and Gma were married, when a heavily-loaded freight train ran over it at the local steel plant. I never considered my gpa to be disabled. He got around just fine on his prosthetic. (never saw him run on it, but I think I contributed that to his age more than his ability, if I even thought about it at all.) After all, I was little, I couldn't drive either, my main source of 'independent' transportation was also a bike.

What I've realized more and more lately are all the gaps in the stories I've heard about Gma. The stories I've gotten from her sister largely cover her growing-up years, right on through Gma and Gpa's courtship, the roll-over they were in while they were dating, how she visited him often during the long months he was in the hospital. How she later went to Nevada to help another sibling for a few months, and she and Gpa would write back and forth. Gpa being the great wordsmith he was (which I wonder now how much was him and how much the injury/recovery) would write these "lengthy" letters something to the effect of:

Dear Vi,

Hope all is well


And then the stories kind of skip until the point when her children were old enough to remember/realize things.

I can fill in the timeline. I know Gpa was supposed to be reporting to the draftboard the week he lost his leg, and that it would have been about the time Gma was pregnant with their oldest. I knew their house was built somewhere in that timeframe. But that's about it.

I wonder now, how she would have coped with the loss of Gpa's leg. How hard that must of been on him, sure, but her too. She'd met, and fallen in love with, this handsome curly haired boy at a dance in the hall near her home. Did she ever mourn the loss of his leg and all that meant, or could have meant, for them, and her personally, or was she just too glad to even have him alive to think beyond that?

If she had mourned the loss, or ever resented the life she led, would she have ever let anyone know? Or would she have kept those feelings all locked up inside? Did she resent being the one that had to drive the family around, during a time when most women didn't drive?

Did she see Gpa as disabled? Or was she bothered by others who did?

As science discovers more and more about Traumatic Brain Injuries, it becomes more and more apparent that TBIs probably caused Gpa's seizures, and that his seizures probably weren't the only symptoms he experienced. The more I learn about TBIs, the more saintly Gma becomes in my mind, if that's possible.

But how did she handle that? Did she realize what caused Gpa to be the way he was? Did she long for that handsome curly haired boy? Or did he never leave her? Did she just see through everything else to that diamond? Or did she ever cry herself to sleep at night?

For better or worse, she stood by her husband for 39 years. From the time she met him, when she was still in High School, until the time she died, he was her sweetheart. That alone should speak volumes.

Friday, January 7, 2011

In Memory-Two Years

I needed to take a minute to post this one, for me.

It's been two years now since my Gpa Shields passed away. I won't bore you by repeating stories or pictures I've put up here before. If you really want to see, you can revisit old posts such as Mixed Blessings

Sometimes it feels like its been ages, other times it's impossible to believe that it's been so long. I go to Gma's house several times a day, and yet there are still times I find myself expecting to see him there, expecting to hear his laugh, and feel his strength. I wish I could hear more of his counsel, wish I could see him hold JJ and tease Steven, the way I know he would have before his health was so bad. In fact, I think he and Steven are a lot alike, they would have been really good friends I'm sure. I look forward to seeing the bond between them in the next life.

As much as I miss him, and wish he was here, I'm still happy he's free not only of the physical pain of mortality, but the emotional as well. I would've hated to see him have to witness Gma's chemo from this side of the veil. He approached every problem, every trial with laughter, but he would have had a hard time laughing through this one.

This song has been stuck in my head lately and seems quite fitting.

Sometimes a song can touch a nerve
That takes me back to you
When I pick up my old guitar
And I play your favorite tune
Every now and then, some little thing
I've buried comes bubblin' up
And once in a while, you feel close enough to touch

I miss you a little since you've been gone
A few little memories keep hangin' on
I miss you a little, I guess you could say
A little too much, a little too often
A little more every day

When I go by our old house
I pretend that you're still there
Waitin' for me on the porch
But there's just an empty chair
Wish I could see you just one more time
Before I drive away
So I could stop and go inside, and say

I miss you a little since you've been gone
A few little memories keep hangin' on
I miss you a little, I guess you could say
A little too much, a little too often
A little more every day
A little too much, a little too often
A little more every day