Sunday, August 24, 2014


Grandpa and Spencer
   "Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked..."  The summer of 1847 brought the pioneer saints west from Illinois to Utah, one step at a time.  Our backward journey from Salt Lake to Illinois (and eventually to Indiana) took just a few short days, one rotation of the Goodyear tire at a time. We felt so fortunate to have modern transportation instead of traveling by ox or hand cart.

   We left Salt Lake City after our last session of training at the Church Office Building on Friday, July 11th.  Our intent was to drive all the way to Ft. Collins, Colorado that day.  But by 7:00 p.m., both Michael and I were so tired that the little roadside motel in Rawlins, Wyoming ( 1/2 star higher in ratings than the Bates Motel) seemed very inviting. After a good night's rest, we continued on to Ft. Collins.  It was an enjoyable weekend spent with Kevin and his family.  I agreed to play Wii video games with the boys, but had to back out when motion sickness forced me to shut off my racing car.  Playing board games, eating out, and getting reacquainted with the grandsons was so fun.  We attended church with them on Sunday and then left Colorado early Monday morning.

Winter Quarters Visitors' Center
   Our goal was to visit two temples on our way to Indiana.  Denver was closed, but Kansas City, St. Louis, Winter Quarters and Nauvoo were all options.  We chose the northern route and plotted our course through Nebraska.  It was a beautiful drive.  Green fields were everywhere.  We stopped for a brief moment in Lincoln to tour the state capitol building and arrived in Omaha about 8:00 that night.

Playing the pump organ at the Kanesville Tabernacle.
   I experienced a tender mercy moment as we prepared to go to the Winter Quarters temple the next day.  Both Michael and I wanted to do ordinance work for our own ancestors.  The week before, as we were packing for our trip, I remember specifically putting my ordinance cards in a safe place to bring with us.  That morning in Omaha, I looked, and looked, and looked some more for those cards.  After half an hour, I resigned myself to the fact that I would do Packham work instead of Singleton names.  But I REALLY wanted to do my own - I am stubborn that way :)  So I prayed for some help.  I might not know where those cards were hidden in our loaded-down car, but Heavenly Father did.  I went back to the car, looked through the boxes that I had already searched twice.  As I opened one box, the idea came to look inside some notebooks.  No cards.  Another notebook.  No cards.  Then the reassurance came that the next notebook would be my answer.  Yes, there they were.  Heavenly Father almost immediately answered my prayer.  I was able to take my family names to the temple.

   Of all my regrets of the last six months, the greatest comes from not stopping and taking pictures of Clearfield, Iowa; Centerville, Iowa; Farmington, Iowa; West Point, Iowa;  all in Davis County, Iowa.  How dare they steal those names from us!  In fairness to the Midwest state, Iowa was beautiful.

They went west, we went east, but we both had to cross the
the Mississippi River.
   We also enjoyed our temple experience at Nauvoo.  Michael will share some thoughts about that in our next blog.  For this blog, I wanted to express feelings that came in our final moment in Nauvoo.  As we were heading out of town, we drove down Parley's Street and walked to the banks of the Mississippi River.  The early pioneers stood on that land, looked west and wondered what their future would be like.  Here I stood on that land, looking east toward Indiana and wondering what my future would be like.  Would I have the same kind of faith as my great, great, great grandparents?

"When the Saints were persecuted and driven from Nauvoo, Robert and Maria felt greatly blessed to receive their endowments in the temple shortly before they crossed the Mississippi River and headed west.  Although they were uncertain of what their future held, they were certain of their faith and their testimonies." (Elder William R. Walker, April 2014 General Conference).

We arrived in Crawfordsville, Indiana about 7:00 p.m. Thursday July 17th.  If we had taken another week along the "trail", we could have arrived on July 24th.  That would have been a perfect ending to our backwards pioneer trek.  We had arrived at our new home.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Digital Camera Training in Salt Lake City

Our week at Provo's MTC was a very general introduction to our life as missionaries.  The second week of our mission was specific to our call as record preservation specialists.  
Our "school house" for the 2nd week

We lived at our home in Syracuse and each day commuted to Salt Lake City, parked in the Conference Center parking, walked to the Church Office Building, and up to the 5th Floor.  Several floors of the Church Office Building are devoted to Family Search.  Ann and I were treated like royalty because not very many missionaries trickle through the system and end up with this assignment.  The program NEEDS missionaries, but now that senior couples can "request" certain assignments, there aren't many that are even aware of this type of service to consider it as a choice.  We were the only couple being trained our week, so we really were the center of attention.  The objectives of our five full days there were both general and specific.
Our first "exposure" to the digital camera equipment and software

Half our time we were learning the very technical process of "capturing" the digital images of old documents.  The 37-megapixel camera and controlled lighting are mounted on an elaborate, adjustable metal framework.  We learned how to control the camera through a computer with software written by the Church--focusing, cropping, rotating, and documenting each picture.  The digital files are so huge that it takes a terabyte drive to hold a week's work, and one of our images could be enlarged to a size many times its original without losing quality.  That's the reason for our blog title, Packham's Pixels, because our attention to detail is clear down to the pixel level of the image.
Getting some help with genealogical research at the
Joseph Smith Memorial Building

The other half of our time was helping us understand how our work fits into the overall work of Family Search.  Thousands of people are involved in finding documents that are needed, contracting with their owners to allow us to preserve them, preparing the documents, getting the teams in place (like us) with all the equipment and training they need, auditing the images for quality, archiving them, prioritizing them for indexing, arbitrating the work of the indexers, and then finally publishing the searchable data on Family Search's website.
Learning about handling old documents at the
Church History Library
Now there is a pin for Indiana on the map
of the hundreds of Family Search cameras at work
We spent a little time becoming familiar with each of these facets of the work.

At the end of the week, our heads were swimming with information, and we had learned enough to know that we had A LOT more to learn.  It was good, though, because it gave us our first glimpse of what life for the next 18 months will be like.