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.


  1. WOW! I love those kinds of stories...minus all the icky stuff that I'm sorry you have to deal with!

    If you ever want anything checked out of SLCLS just let me know, my mom and I both have active cards there!


  2. Wonderful and inspiring. Thanks for sharing.