Thursday, August 6, 2015

Some Stories from my Family History

Because I work for the Family History Department, every few weeks I am blessed with some time specifically set apart to do my own family history work. Whether this is research to help uncover new ancestors, going to the temple to complete saving ordinances for my dead, or something else entirely, it has become a source of joy in my life. Two weeks ago, I had my family history time right before Pioneer Day. Family Search sent out an email that linked you to the profiles of a few of your pioneer ancestors, and I spent my time getting to know some of my ancestors a bit more personally. I started writing this post then, but never finished it.

First, these stories, they are what really help us feel connected. Reading about my ancestors, I started to ponder what attributes I got from them. And mostly I just felt proud to be coming from a long line of good people: people who were loving and diligent and valiant and sacrificing and joyful. People who loved God and served Him and His children and understood what is really important, no matter their life circumstances.

There is Eliza Cusworth Burton Staker, my great-great-great-grandmother, who crossed the plains with the Martin handcart company as a single mother of two children. As her husband was dying in their native England, she promised him that she would join the Saints in Utah and have their temple work done. She pulled a handcart and two small children across the plains in difficult conditions. One particular story (that is often told at Martin's Cove, actually) is that while fording one river, she crossed in (in freezing weather, I might add) multiple times. She first took her son across, where she then tied him to a tree so he wouldn't follow her back. Then she carried her daughter across. And then she went back one last time for their handcart. What determination.

Then there is her second husband, Nathan Staker. Saying that he "could not rob the dead," he was served as proxy for her first husband. Not only that, but he also had all of his children sealed to her first husband as well. I'm sure everything will be worked out in the eternities, and I have no idea how that will be done, but what a selfless man he must have been to be willing to do that for the woman he loved and a man he had never met.

There is Rodney Badger, who started supporting his family at the age of 12 to put his two younger siblings through school. He was one of the first into the Salt Lake Valley, and then helped many others across the plains. In the end, he gave his life trying to save a family of emigrants who were drowning while trying to cross a river they had been warned not to ford.

Phebe Emmeline Curtis was intelligent despite not being educated past 5th grade. She was funny and kind and a wonderful mother. She and her husband were settlers of Fairview, Utah, and she communicated with the Native Americans in their native tongue. While reading her story, it was very hard for me not to feel an overwhelming love for this hard worker full of kindness and righteous goals for her and her children.

I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs about another great-great-great-grandfather who went with the Mormon Battalion because he knew it was what he was supposed to do, despite his initial repulsion to the idea, or my ancestors who first detested the church and then had visions to convince them otherwise and had the faith to follow. I could talk about how I wish I knew my great-grandmother better; I have vague memories of visiting her, but not really of her. But I know that, the daughter of German immigrants, she only spoke German when she started school, and she was very kind and talkative. In the words of someone (not a relative) who knew her, "[I] can be very proud to claim Johanna as a relative!"

But instead of continuing to babble on about how proud I am to come from this line of people--from varied backgrounds but, above all, hard-working and serving, I will just end with a quote from my great x 3-grandfather Mormon Miner, the sentiment of which I think sums up how I feel about most of my ancestors, Mormon or not:

"My entire life and energies have been directed toward the salvation of souls and the upbuilding of God’s work on the earth. All the temples which have been built in our State I have assisted in their erection and have spent much time working for the dead in them. I take great pride in serving the Lord and living my religion to the best of my ability."

And following that example is what family history work is about.

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