Sunday, January 3, 2016

Joy and Rejoicing

We are back home in Syracuse, Utah, safe and sound despite the snow and icy roads that we cautiously maneuvered through Wyoming.
Crossing Wyoming in our Rav, grateful for the 4-wheel drive

 Leaving Indiana was hard, emotionally.  We have made so many friends there, and we left part of our hearts with the congregations in Terre Haute and Crawfordsville, with our Addiction Recovery group, and with the men to whom we ministered at the penitentiary.  Ann and I are better for having had such grand opportunities to serve and be served.
Our Last Temple Trip to Indianapolis

We have had cause to reflect on our missionary service, to what end we were called.  Of course our specific responsibility was to preserve records.  And we did!  We captured 872,767 images that will eventually be online for the whole world to view.  The digitized documents are now safely tucked away with 3.5 billion other records in the granite vaults built into the foothills east of Salt Lake City.  Our images document the lives of 10,272 unique individuals who died in Vigo and Montgomery counties.
The Last Click--#872,767

The younger missionaries spend their days inviting folks to come closer to Christ by accepting the message of the restored Gospel.  I have come to appreciate that we have ministered in exactly that same way, opening up the way for thousands of our departed brothers and sisters to make the same covenants in preparation for their eternal exaltation.
Closing up shop, praying that the Lord will send another couple soon.

That exaltation hinges, though, on their descendants doing the research to find our images and the other vital records necessary for the saving ordinances to be performed in their behalf. I can now better understand the meaning of Malachi 4:6 "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers."
Stuffing the Rav to the roof--a miracle that we got in as much as we did.

Some of our stuff we couldn't stuff--It will find a home with other missionaries.

We had many experiences in our little warehouse closet of receiving guidance from unseen sources--spiritual promptings that facilitated our effectively capturing the images and correctly identifying them.  I don't doubt that the same spirit will "turn" the hearts of the descendants of our 10,000 "contacts," leading them to the images.  What a bond of love that will make between generations!
A Warm (in spirit) Welcome Home

Now that we are home we plan on cementing those same kind of bonds between us and our posterity.  As I've prayed to know where I can find joy and fulfillment in life, it has been impressed upon my mind that joy will come to me as I "turn my heart" in both directions.  Hence, we'll be devoting time to our families and grandchildren, and to our own family history research and the associated temple ordinance work.
A gathering of the family to hear us "report" our experiences.

And more family gatherings over the holidays--a half-dozen parties :)

We have hobbies we intend on pursuing.  Ann has found that she likes photography.  I'm looking forward to more painting.  We both want to read more.  She's been practicing the piano, and I am eager to get back to organ playing.  I'll cook, she'll embroider.  We'll find friends for games, movies, dinners, and hopefully some deeper emotional relationships.  I've already got some early-morning running buddies, and Ann's connecting for lunch dates with friends.
Carols with some great-nephews.  I'll keep up my horn playing.

Above all, though, we know that the fullness of joy is only found in continued consecration to the Kingdom of God.  We were set apart today as Primary teachers (4-year olds) and in music--Ann as a ward organist and me as music chairman.  The first choir practice is next week at our home.  So life goes on, and there will always be a corner of the Lord's Vineyard where He needs us to labor.  Like we wrote two years ago in our application for missionary work, "We'll go where you want us to go."
Our first visit to the "new" Ogden Temple
We started this blog as a way of staying in touch with all of you.  This will be our last post.  We've appreciated your positive comments, encouragement, and support through these 18 months.  Please continue to contact us by phone or email.

Many of the pixels that make up the big picture of our life are the ones that you have contributed, and we'll enjoy focusing in from time to time on each one of them.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Low Man on the Totem Pole

Before I begin my "serious" posting, I wanted to share some not-so-serious thoughts.  Over the last seventeen months, we have read thousands of names.  The majority are very common: William, Jane, Mary, John, Richard.  But we have found some beautiful and unusual names also.  We were surprised at how many times the name Cynthia was used 150 years ago.  To add a little humor to our work, we sometimes have fun with names.  For example, we saw the name of Visa.  It's a beautiful name.  What if she married Mr. Card?  Another example, Mr. Bopp was a local merchant in Terre Haute.  Perhaps he would name his daughter Beatrice, or Bea for short. Another surprisingly common name was Cinderella, maybe a version of Cynthia.  Would she have enough love to marry Mr. Ball or Mr. Prince?  This has been a fun exercise to help break up the tedious work.

Celebrating when we finished capturing Box 300

And now on to more substantial thoughts.  "Totem poles serve as important illustrations of family lineage and the cultural heritage of native peoples... [and] symbolize characters and events of a myth or relate the experiences of known ancestors or living people."  (Wikipedia) One of the tallest totem poles is over 173 feet high.  The largest has been measured over 6 feet in diameter.  I am fascinated by totem poles.  They could possibly have a place in family history research.

The entrance to the Vigo County Historical Museum

The vertical order of images on a pole is thought to be significant.  If an image or depiction is on the bottom, or "low man on the totem pole," it gives the impression that the higher figures were more important or prestigious.  The higher, the better, I guess.  But on the other hand, some of the totems are arranged in reverse hierarchy with the most important representations on the bottom.  As in art, an eye level view focuses on what or who is most significant.

Resting place of Chauncey Rose.

In past blogs we have introduced you to some very prominent men in the early history of Vigo County: Levi Warren, Josephus Collett, and Chauncey Rose.  In some views, their stories would be carved on the top of the totem pole.  While their contributions are interesting and noteworthy, there are hundreds of ordinary people on the lower tier of the pole who deserve honor and remembrance.

About a month ago we captured a two sided document that tugged at our heart.  It was a request to the Circuit Court from parents for reimbursement of living expenses for their young adopted daughter.   Here's what the application states:

Sir: We respectfully ask you to make us an allowance for the support and maintenance of your said Ward.  She is now past 6 years old.  Her mother who was a young girl, came to Terre Haute and the child was born here and the mother died within 24 hours after the birth of the child.  Mrs. Donaway saw the mother just before the birth and the mother made her promise to take the child and care for it if she died, and she agreed to do so.  The mother was never conscious after the birth and Mrs. Donaway took the child home and took care of it as her own.  It was a beautiful girl baby.  When about 3 years of age we applied to the Circuit Court and had the child duly adopted and have ever since loved it and cared of it as a favorite daughter, having no other children...  Benjamin Donaway and Lottie J Donaway.

We are grateful for temples that bring families together.

Our purpose as FamilySearch missionaries is to get these kind of documents into the hands of a great grandson or niece to do additional research.  Who was the young mother, perhaps only 14 or 15 years old herself?  Why did she come to Terre Haute?  What was her name?  Who was the father?  Where was she buried? This young mother deserves to be remembered.  Benjamin and Lottie have a story to tell as well.  They all need a place on the totem pole.  

If I could carve my ancestry back several generations on a totem pole, what would I say about my legacy? 

Sarah Ann Andrews Arave

Sarah Ann Andrews Arave was born in 1869.  In her personal history, people recall her "enchanting singing voice...she was called upon to sing at nearly every dance.  She knew many songs and enjoyed singing, whether it was a tune at Muncy's or a lullaby to one of her children."

Elva Aroline Arave Bennett

My grandmother, Elva Aroline Arave Bennett was born in 1901.  I remember sitting by her in church most Sundays and wanting to sing alto harmony like her.  Some of my best memories are accompanying her and my grandfather as they sang duets together.

Zelma May Bennett Singleton

My mother, Zelma May Bennett Singleton was born in 1922.  It was on her insistence that each of her daughters learn to play the piano.  I can still hear her voice as she would sing "Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey" while toting a baby on her knee.

My totem pole.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has said: "In different hours, a man represents each of several of his ancestors, as if there were seven or eight of us rolled up in each man's skin, -- seven or eight ancestors at least, and they constitute the variety of notes for that new piece of music which his life is."

What's carved on your totem pole?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Indiana Sunsets

The sunsets have been beautiful these last few weeks.  Time of year?  Typical of Indiana?  Or could it be that I'm taking more time to notice?

The Lord's Palette of Color taken last week from our back door.

I am feeling a little nostalgic, and the sunsets have taken on a larger, symbolic meaning for me.  This will be my last blog post from Indiana.  Now, don't think I'm getting "trunky" or anything.  I'm committed to working hard right through Dec. 18th, our official release date.  You'll still get a post from Ann in 3 weeks, and I'll close off this chapter of our lives with a final post from Utah on Dec. 20th.  But we are starting to notice a few "this is the last time we'll . . ." events.

Our first visit to an Indiana franchise--a good casual dinning experience

Working with probate records all day, we are very aware of another kind of sunset.  We preserve documents that deal with death--illness, accidents, old age, war, even some murders.  Not many had wills or planned ahead.  The sad ones left children as orphans or widows with less than $500 in the estate (not requiring a probate hearing).  I'm realizing I'm in those "twilight years" as I start to notice a few more aches, pains, and memory slips.  How prepared am I for my sunset?  One thing I am very sure of--there is a literal resurrection for all of us.  That final sunset will be immediately followed by an eternal Day.  My faith in that has been strengthened by our missionary service, feeling God's hand in our efforts to build his Kingdom.

The Collett monument at Highland Lawn Cemetery

This week we imaged a huge packet of documents for Josephus Collett.  Born in 1832, his sunset came in 1893, a sunset of vibrant and diverse hues.  Although he never married, he left quite a legacy.  We saw documents dealing with property and business dealings all over the country (even mining and railroad holdings in Utah).

A sunny afternoon at the park on our way home from church

I was impressed, though, that the bulk of his estate went to major endowments to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he served as the second president, and to the establishment of an orphanage on the Collett family farm.  In 1883 he gave 21 shaded acres to Terre Haute to establish Collett Park.  The LDS chapel is just two blocks south of this beautiful park.

I played in a band concert in Collett Park last month.

Being in the "sunset" of our mission here in Indiana I have reflected on what impact our time here might have made.  Crunching the numbers is enlightening:

  • We've captured over 875,000 images--that's a lot of camera-clicking!  Those that we did during our first 7 months in Montgomery County are already online at FamilySearch, and the Vigo County images will soon follow.
  • Those are documents for over 9,500 separate individuals.  Think of the many descendants of those early Hoosiers who can get better acquainted with their ancestors now--not only their vital statistics, but day-to-day details of what they owned, and with whom they did business.
  • Since February, when we started here in Terre Haute we have been supported by 74 volunteers, some of them coming faithfully every week.  That has totaled nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer time by community folks from the local genealogy society and by members of the two local wards of The LDS Church.

Br. John Lunceford--our most faithful volunteer

Numbers are also an indication of the impact Indiana has had on us:
  • We have worked in 2 different counties, feeling supported and appreciated by the county employees and officials.  
  • We have attended 3 different wards, getting to know and love so many faithful Saints.  They've taught us the gospel, shared in our mission, fed us, and allowed us to serve them.
  • We've lived in 3 different neighborhoods, growing attached to streets, surroundings, stores, and good neighbors.  Indiana is a beautiful state, full of kind, religious people.
  • We've worshiped in 4 different temples--north to Chicago, west to St. Louis, south to Louisville, and now just an hour east to Indianapolis.  In each temple we've felt the sacredness of the House of the Lord, and have grown to love the officiators, many of them remembering us from one month to the next.  
  • Our 2 "additional" callings, leading the Addiction Recovery Program and providing services at the federal penitentiary, have given us the rare opportunity to feel love for all of God's children, the deep love that comes from Christ himself through us to those we serve.

The new Indianapolis Temple at sunset

We're planning a little "thank you" gift to Indiana, a gift of music.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Ann and I will be presenting an evening of music, Saturday, Nov. 28, at "sunset" (7:00 pm) here in Terre Haute at the LDS chapel, 1845 North 6th 1/2 Street.  It will be a family-friendly program of horn and piano music--a little classical (not too heavy), some religious songs, and ending with some Christmas music to start the holiday season.  In true Hoosier style, we'll have a "pitch-in" (potluck to us Utahns) of refreshments afterward.

Silver and gold have we none; but such as we have give we thee

Indiana Sunsets--no matter how you look at them, literally or symbolically, they are colorful, unique, aesthetically rewarding, and spiritually uplifting.  Thank you, Indiana.

Looking forward to enjoying a few more Indiana sunsets,
this one was at Fowler Park just 10 minutes south of us.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


The neighbors are making our street look festive.

Halloween is just around the corner. Our calendar is marked for the big Trunk-N-Treat on October 23rd at the LDS church building. With the coming of this not-so-special holiday is the realization that Elder Packham and I only have two more months to serve on this mission. Many people have asked if we are excited to go home. My answer is the same every time, "Yes, no, yes, no". Yes, because we hardly recognize the grandchildren that are growing up without us at home. No, because the people we love in Indiana are going to grow up and old without us here. In that respect, we are absolutely, definitely, positively NOT getting "trunky" (restless, antsy; eager to leave or go home...possibly referring to "packing one's trunks"). In fact, we are stressed because there is so much work to be done...and so little time.

Trunky?  No.  Like Treats? Yes.

I am not going to write about "trunks" today. Instead I want to describe the many wonderful people we have become acquainted with as missionaries. Let me tell you about them in a silly, trick-or-treat fashion.

The County employees are Smarties because they really know what they are doing.
Good friends are M & M's because we go places together.
The volunteers at the warehouse are All Day Suckers because they persevere in a hard day's work.
Fellow musicians are Tootsie Rolls, because they toot their French Horns.
Our brothers and sisters in the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) and at the US Penitentiary (USP) are Lifesavers because we have learned about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The ward members are Laffy Taffy because they bring us smiles and hugs.
The ancestors of Indiana are Almond Joys because we are happy to be involved in Family History.
The young Elders and Sisters are Starbursts because they never seem to run out of energy.

We love them all and consider them "treats" in our lives.  How did this happen?

As Record Preservation Specialists we have encountered a few problems.
The latest is the discovery of black, foreign particles in the documents
that causes coughing and sneezing.  "Who is that masked man?"

As we stated in an earlier blog, a standard mission call contains a statement that our areas of responsibility may change from time to time depending on the needs of the mission and at the discretion of the mission president.  As we initially accepted the assignment to be Record Preservation Specialists, we were oblivious to the many hats we would be wearing.  I guess, as long as a person is willing, the Lord can use your hands in unexpected ways.

Both Michael and I have especially discovered a great love for those in the ARP and USP work.  Because of confidentiality I can't disclose names or personal situations.  I don't dare take photos to post, but maybe an explanation of the ministry at the USP will be insightful.

Main entrance to the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

The USP is located only a few miles from our apartment.  When we arrive, we are kindly greeted by several Chaplains and escorted through tight security.  On Sunday mornings, a large Protestant service is held along with a smaller Catholic group and our LDS meeting.  We have about an hour to set up and get ready.  Three men attended our services the first week, four last week, and four this week.  All in all, we have met six men, three of whom are members of the Church.

We begin with an opening hymn.  Very few of the men know the tunes, but they are not ashamed of their singing voices.  They are willing to pray.  Even though their wording is different than mine, they are very sincere.  We are not allowed to take the sacrament to the prison, but we felt it was needful to have a portion of the meeting devoted to this sacred ordinance.  We sing a sacrament hymn and read a scripture, usually the sacrament prayers that are found in the Doctrine and Covenants.  Then we allow them a minute of pondering on our relationship with Jesus Christ.  

Meeting with the young Elders and Sisters in members' homes
usually involves a real treat.  In this case is was persimmon pudding.
Very tasty.

Last week we gave the men an assignment to come prepared to share a favorite scripture.  This morning, everyone that knew of the assignment was prepared.  One inmate had a different version of the Bible, but as he finished reading, I turned to my King James Version, found the verses in Timothy and showed him I had already underlined them.  We then had a discussion on the Restoration of the gospel and the Joseph Smith story.  Last week, we talked about Nephi, the power of prayer and trusting in God's perspective.  Next week we plan on discussing the Book of Mormon.  We end with our testimonies, another hymn, and prayer.   Our meeting lasts an hour.  

Michael has had many wonderful opportunities to mingle with
fellow musicians in community performances.

 It has been amazingly easy to look past their tattoos and outward appearances and see them as sons of God who are trying to make their way back.  I've reflected on this morning's service.  Maybe I shouldn't have said it, but I did. At the end of our meeting, I remarked that I had only known these men a few weeks, but that I had grown to love them as brothers.  I truly meant it.  I felt a portion of the Savior's love for them, and had to express it. 

I'm not trunky right now because I'm savoring the tasty treat of love.  Relationships, seeing people come closer to Christ and having them feel HIS love, that's a treat that can come into anyone's life.  President David O. McKay, one of our church's leaders has said:

“True Christianity is love in action. There is no better way to manifest love for God than to show an unselfish love for your fellow men. This is the spirit of missionary work” (Gospel Ideals [1954], 129). 

A recent convert's ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood

In two months, when I do get home, I hope I can remember the lessons learned as a missionary: to reach out to those outside of my comfortable, little world.  There's a real possibility I can meet amazing souls.  There's no trick about's the truth.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Challenge of Change

We're imaging documents from the 1890's now.  By our next post we'll have "turned the century."  Many more of our documents are on printed forms rather than scraps of paper.  We're starting to see more typed information with the invention of the typewriter in the 1860's and its becoming more common in business and government.  "Modernization" and a raise in standard of living are evident in every aspect of people's lives.

Our probate records show receipts for imported goods from Europe, piano lessons, and sewing machines.  We've yet to see a decline in horse shoeing and veterinary services, though, since horsepower is still quite literal in the 1890's.

Change comes, and with it come both positive and negative consequences.  The beautiful cursive handwriting by the earlier clerks is now a rare treat to find in the 1890's.  

Truly works of art--the clerks' documents of the mid 1800's

The high-quality "rag" paper that made our earlier documents easy to handle has now been replaced by cheaper wood-pulp paper that, because of the acid in it, often crumbles in our hands when we try to unfold it.

Cropped the best we could using the manual cropping templates of the "old" software
Auto-cropped by the updated software--no input from us at all.

I have had cause to reflect on change and improvement this past couple of weeks, because we have been "updated."  The software that FamilySearch develops and maintains for doing our imaging has a new feature--auto crop.  It was hinted at over a year ago--the solution to many of our challenges with probate documents of infinitely variable sizes and shapes.  Until its arrival two weeks ago, we had to determine, on the fly, how to best crop each document so that it was captured in its entirety without adding extensive unneeded "black" around the image causing it to be more pixels than necessary.  We had become quite proficient at creating and using a battery of cropping templates that we controlled with a "stick" of extra computer keys.

Our stick of extra computer keys.  Now we only need a few of them.

We prided ourselves in developing those skills and producing efficient and complete images.  Now, with the new software, the most challenging part of our day has become child's play.

One of our loyal Terre Haute missionaries, test driving the new "cropper."

Our hard-earned skills are obsolete, like the 1870 clerk's beautiful penmanship.  He was no longer praised for his art but was faced with learning to type on the newfangled QWERTY.  Don't misunderstand.  The change in our case is definitely an improvement.  We have so much more latitude in how we place the document down to be captured, and there is very little chance of an image not being perfectly cropped.  Instead of our being faced with the option of 10 to 15 cropping templates, we have only 5, and those are more for our convenience than for an actual need.  It really is a modern miracle.  We see the potential of maintaining a daily output of 1800 to 2000 images and they'll be more consistently and tightly cropped than we could ever have done before.

One change I'm grateful for--a new all-you-can-eat Japanese buffet in town.

Yet, I am mourning the passing of our "generation."  New missionaries won't even know about the skills that we, for a year, depended on.  This feeling of obsolescence is not a new feeling for me.  Do I do calculations with a slide rule even though I spent a semester in high school learning how?  Do I put pen to staff paper when I compose these days, now that computer notation software is available?  I don't have to "dial" a phone any more.  I don't have to listen for the bell to ding that signaled the end of a line of text and my need reach up and "return" the carriage.  The list goes on forever of my skills that advancements have made obsolete, the "lost arts" that used to be every-day occurrences.

We're grateful for improvements in medicine--Ann is a 7-year survivor of breast cancer.

What have I come to better understand?  That the real skill I will always need, and that I must improve at every day, is the ability to change.  I need to be resilient.  I need to be quick to adapt to my changing environment.  What worked for me yesterday may not produce the best results tomorrow.

The Lord has blessed Indiana with its own temple--a sign of growth in the church.

As a missionary I call that skill to change and improve "repentance."  Over time it is my hope and faith that it will bring about my redemption and sanctification--my being brought into a unity with God.  I am striving to acquire His skill set in every aspect of my being.  A couplet from a hymn comes to mind:

Change and decay in all around I see;
O, Thou who changest not, abide with me! 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Secret Ingredient

Lately, I have heard references to an article printed in the New York Times dated March 15, 2013 entitled The Stories That Bind Us, by Bruce Feiler.  He started his article by sharing a memory from a family reunion a few years ago.  One crisis after another occurred, as can be expected in a large gathering of relatives.  The aging father was subdued, thinking the family was falling apart.  "No, Dad, it's not," the author suggested.  "It's stronger than ever."  But lying in bed afterward, he began to wonder: Was he right? What is the secret ingredient that holds a family together?

Sometimes our documents are held together by brads.
They are easy to undo and don't create much damage to the documents.

Midway through the article, he states, "The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative."  It appears the children who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.  Mr. Feiler told of a group of psychologists who set out to test and measure what is called the “Do You Know?” scale. They asked children to answer 20 questions. For example: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Earlier documents were often bundled together
and tied up with ribbon.

They asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001 and compared the children's results to a series of psychological tests the children had taken.  There was an overwhelming conclusion. "The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness."

Rivets are also used to keep papers together.  If they
are positioned just right, they don't need to be removed.

Mr Feiler concludes the article.  "The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come."

Hundreds of little receipts that needed to unfolded.  They have
been kept in a nice little bundle for 140 years.

I think Pres. Boyd K. Packer said it best.  "Keep the fire of your testimony of the restored gospel and your witness of our Redeemer burning so brightly that our children can warm their hands by the fire of your faith.  That is what grandfathers and grandmothers are to do!"

Faith of Our Fathers Journal

Several years ago, our family started a project called Faith of Our Fathers.  Twice a year we gather three or four stories from our ancestors, or from current generations, that help us get to know them better and to learn from their experiences.  My sister, Ilene, writes them in wording that children can use for Primary talks or for Family Home Evening lessons.  We usually have someone in the family illustrate the story.  At Christmas and at our family reunion we distribute copies to the extended family members.  It has been a fun tradition.  I wanted to share one story with you.

My grandmother, Elva Aroline Arave Bennett

"One of the Ten Commandments tells us to honor our fathers and mothers.  To me, that means to be respectful and kind in the things I say and do, and to be obedient when they try to help me and teach me the right way to live.

"My great-great-grandmother, Elva Bennett, was a good example of that.  When she was growing up many years ago, girls dressed differently than they do now.  Mostly they wore dresses, except when they were working on the farm or doing chores.

"One day Grandma and her friend put on some of her brother's clothes and they started walking to the grocery store for an ice cream treat.  They hadn't walked very far before Grandma's dad came along on a horse.  He stopped and said, "Your mother and I think you should come home and change clothes.  You'll look more like a lady."  He then turned the horse around and went back home.

"Grandma remembered thinking that she still had a choice.  She could continue on to the store, or she could go home and change her clothes.  She decided to honor her parents and be obedient to their counsel, so she went back home and changed into her 'girl clothes'.

"I'm happy to know that my great-great-grandmother was obedient and that she showed me what it means to keep the commandments.  I know my parents love me and I want to honor them by being obedient."

The hardest documents to capture are the ones that are glued
together.  There is no way to capture them without destroying content.

We love gathering, preserving, and retelling these kinds of stories of our family.  But what if your family does not have oral or written histories of ancestors in the past?  First of all, it's not too late to start.  Begin with those who are still living.  The tradition needs to start somewhere.  Secondly, there may be information out "there" that can be pieced together to help you know Great Grandmother better.  And that's where Elder Packham and I come in.

Rubber bands were often used to group documents.  These bands
might have had elasticity in 1840, but now they look like dried earthworms.

For the past fourteen months we have been capturing images of documents from as early as 1812 up to 1935.  If papers were related to each other, they were often bundled or connected in various ways.  In order to capture the best image, the documents needed to be separated.  Depending on how they were put together, it could be a challenge to get them apart.  We have seen massive amounts of glue, pins of all shapes, rivets and brads, string and ribbon, and even sewing thread holding papers together.  Our anxiety level rises when we see forty documents glued together.  On the other hand, the very concept of keeping documents together is so appropriate for the work we are doing.  I can't help but be reminded of how we are trying to keep families together when I handle bundled documents.

Elders learning the tricks of the trade.

Just this last week we had two volunteers that found their own family records in the papers they were helping prepare.  They were so excited to get copies of the documents and do some individual research.  That's what our work is all about.  It's like proud parents-to-be announcing a new bundle of joy, only in reverse.  We love to see proud great grand children announcing a new bundle of joy when they find an ancestor.

We LOVE pins.  They are the easiest to remove.
Mostly we see straight pins.  This was our one
and only safety pin from the 1880's.

Probate records are an excellent way to get to know the lifestyle of our ancestors.  By looking at medical receipts, we can understand about their health concerns.  Records for music lessons indicate talents and abilities.  Inventory lists provide an insight to their livelihood.  A listing of unpaid debts enlarges our empathy.  A court hearing to determine an ancestor's insanity creates a tender heart in us.  FamilySearch feels it is important to preserve this information for the generations to come.  When I come across a new bundle of documents, I deal with the rivets and pins as patiently as I can, and then realize I am holding in my hands, some secret ingredient that may bind a family together.