Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hearts Knit (or Rather "Crocheted") Together in Unity...

courtesy: ColourBox Stock Photo

The Beginning...

Oh how I love going to genealogy conferences! Just three years ago, I emailed a user on FamilySearch seeking information on a special ancestor:

Ishmael Phillips

"Dear Kay ----,

Greetings from a distant cousin if you are descended from Ishmael Phillips. My name is Cassandra, and I obtained your email through Familysearch. Brother Phillips is my 4th great grandfather, and an ancestor I have taken deeper interest in doing background research for. Do you by chance have information on him concerning his early years in England right after he joined the Church? I have scoured the Internet, microfilms, and books for the records I now have, but there is very little which covers his years as a new convert. Thank you for any help you can provide in doing research on Brother Phillips,



I received the following reply:

"Cassandra, sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you...[she proceeds to talk about her family in great detail, not uncommon to genealogists :) ]...When I get feeling better and can take time to look in my records, I would be happy to sent you some information about Ishmael.  You are a generation younger than I...I'll be in touch when I can get over this flu bug...Thank you for getting in touch with me.  It's always fun to find a new cousin!


We send more messages back in forth, sharing what knowledge we share on our progenitor, the humble and lovable Ishmael Phillips. We decide to meet at RootsTech in February (2015). Since that time, we have met up at three other genealogy conferences, always referring to Ishmael Phillips and our shared love for our grandfather. 

She treated me to dinner (Feb. 2015)

A Miracle...

When Kay first arrived at RootsTech, she was registered for the entire weekend. In a conference hall packed with 20,000 people, she sat down to take a rest. Being the friendly person she is, she struck up a conversation with a kindly mother sitting nearby. They were talking about their ties to Utah when they discovered something they had in common: they had both been in contact with me! She was the mother of a friend from work, and her son and I worked for the same company at the time! Kay took this as a sign that she was in the right place, and our shared interest in Ishmael was no coincidence. She could trust me with handing over any research work she had done for the past 30 years. 

We met later in her hotel room and she shared this story with me. I was agape...what a miracle! For the next 3 hours, she shared stories, documents, and sentiments on our grandfather, and I came to see and appreciate him in a new light. Our shared love for Ishmael turned our own hearts to each other as cousins. 

If I can say one quality I truly admire in Kay, it is her devotion to her family. She talks often about her children, her in-laws, and her grandchildren, almost like they are my own family instead of distant cousins. She is another great aunt to me rather than a 3rd cousin. She stays valiantly by her ailing husband's side as his health problems continue to worsen each year. It has gotten to the point where she may not be able to return next year if his condition become worse. 

Late in the evening this week, I was reflecting on my friendship with Kay. I thought over all the times she bought lunch or dinner for us. I reflected on her selfless act of giving me ALL of her research findings on our grandfather. What have I given her? Does she have a piece of me to remember me by? A thought entered my head, and I stayed awake until 5:00 a.m. working on the project.

After two hours of sleep, I readied for day 3 of the genealogy conference, grabbing my wares and my gift for Kay I made my way to classes. I presented Kay with a crocheted doll of Ishmael Phillips. The love and affection in her eyes was indescribable, it chokes me with emotion now just sharing the experience. 

I love you Kay, I keep you in my prayers. May we meet again soon! I thank God you are a part of my life and share a love for Ishmael only his descendents can appreciate. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Day 1 of the Rest of My Life...And I Have a Doctor's Appointment

Greetings and Salutations from one happy student...That's right, I got back into university for one semester. Things feel so good right now, being able to really take the first step in my path to becoming an accredited researcher in is truly happening!

However I did happen to have a doctor's appointment today during class that I could not reschedule. Oh well, no genealogy researcher goes unprepared when they carry a bag or purse regularly. Therefore, I talked to my professor, whipped out my voice recorder, gave it to a friend to record the lecture for me, then headed on my merry way.

The best part? There is a painting in the classroom of the Ellen Maria, a passenger ship that only made three voyages in the 1850s, carrying Saints from Liverpool to New Orleans, one of those which happened to be my 4th great grandfather and his family.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My First Footstep...Here I Come!

The time has finally come where I feel like I am ready to tackle one of my life goals from the past two or three years--becoming accredited as a genealogist. I have talked to many people about the process and planning involved, but it finally resonated with me when I spoke with Jill Crandell, a professor at BYU, presenting at the BYU Family History Conference.

There is a sense of clarity to take my first steps now, to let that desire work in me. Since my job benefits will cover my tuition costs at the university, I have hope that I can take my first genealogy class in the fall of this year. I also working to focus on a certain locality to specialize in--this one will take more time though. Ah, after how many years of studying history and working on genealogy, I have the necessary means to work toward my dream!

I appreciate all the people who have been an inspiration to me in this time as I have tried to plan the next phase of my life, And thanks to those who put up with my constant ramblings about history and genealogy. I am so full of joy I just want to shout praises to the sky :)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I Thought I Was Saving You, but You Really Saved Me

When I was only a teenager, I had a terrifying wake-up call: I realized I truly did not know how to feel empathy for others. The thought worried me, because I felt to that to successfully interact with others, I should at least have this skill under my belt. When I voiced my concern to loved ones, they assured me it was normal. I tried to believe them, but the thought would bother me from time to time for a while to come.
            I tried to abide by an altruistic lifestyle: spending time with family and friends, listening to others when they had problems, donating to my church, etc. I had the basics down, but I really felt I was lacking in really understanding what it was like to walk in the shoes of another. Then, when I was in my early college years, it started: My interest in breaking down and analyzing the lives of those who have passed on.
            I was enveloped in their daily lives: where they worked, who they associated with, who they voted for, what their struggles and triumphs were. All of a sudden, these people came alive from the pages of my newspaper clippings and outlines. Soon, I began to write their stories down and to share them with other family members. My heart started to open up to the experiences, good and bad, that I learned about my ancestors and their families.

I cried when I learned that your second child died when only a wee thing of 2. I felt your pain in learning that mortality is right at your doorstep when you least expect it.

I appreciate you performing your filial duty when you helped your ailing father in caring for your large farm.

I felt your yearning for your sweetheart when he went off to war, the joy and rapture in his return.

I took a moment of silence when I sat by your grave and tried to understand the difficulties of a young amputee with no legs try to find work in during the Great Depression.

You, most of all, I revere. For rising from your family’s stained past and making a life of your own. God bless you in your desires to make your own way and name. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Chain Letter that Solved a Family Mystery

As many know, I have placed intense focus on one branch of the family for the past five years I have been doing genealogy: the Deans. I was thinking back today on the item that gave me the hammer to begin breaking through brick walls for this seemingly impenetrable line and shocked myself with the realization: it was an 80 year old chain letter! That’s right, a culturally superstitious piece of junk mail kept by my great-grandfather was the key to unlocking one branch of the family.

                How, may you ask, is a useless piece of paper valuable to genealogy research? I will begin with where I encountered the “treasure” to answer this anomaly in research tools. Back in 2010, I had the idea to hit up Mom about getting copies of the family letters she had transcribed many years before. These letters were few of the extant records our family possessed of the Dean line, as B.G. wasn’t a stellar record keeper. Most letters were written by his mother, Ida, and B.G. himself.

Courtesy of Playbuzz

                I have referred to these quaint letters several times to look for research angles. One day, I was traipsing into the domain of looking for B.G.’s brothers, something caught my eye—a letter from his brother Tom! Tom, the third oldest child born to Harry F. and Ida J. Dean, wrote to Ida in 1928 from Manchester, Ohio. The letter is signed “Tom & A.” Obviously, Uncle Tom, or “Doc” as he was widely known, had a companion whose name was signed as “A.”

                Finally having a lead on one of the now unknown family members mentioned in the letters by initial only, I had a mystery for my very novice brain to solve: Who was this mysterious “A”? I pored over the letters several times, even hitting up the internet for help, but alas, my limited expertise at the time hindered my ability to figure out who she was.

                Then I recalled seeing a list of names in a chain letter forwarded in 1934 to B.G. The transcribed text reads as such:
In God we Trust Who Supplies our Needs. “Prosperity Circle”
Mrs. Leona Wagoner, Oklahoma City Okla.
Mrs. Anna Ketchum, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Mrs. Nell Montgomery, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Mrs. Anna Kaufruan(?), El Paso, Texas
Mrs. Aletha Dean, Hot Springs, Ark.
This chain was started by Box 43 an American Colonel and has a definite purpose. Copy the above omitting the first name and add yours, and send to five friends whom you wish to prosper. It must be mailed within twenty-four hours after receiving.
Mrs. Sanford received $5000
Mrs. Guines $1000
Mrs. Cluasy broke the chain and lost all she had. The chain has a definite purpose to all who copy the words and will find prosperity nine days after mailing. Please don’t brake the chain.

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Her name popped out on the page when I scanned over it more closely than I had before: Mrs. Aletha Dean. The letter had been addressed to Tom in Hot Springs and had her name listed. Bingo! Finally had a searchable piece of the puzzle. The rest was smooth sailing from there when I had a legible name to put into Google. From that chain letter, I have learned so much more about the Dean line through researching Tom’s and Alethea’s lives in the public records.

                So the moral of the story is this: One man’s junk mail is another woman’s genealogical treasure. So if you inherited the papers of your grandmother or other aged relative and something seems worthless, look it over carefully before you consider throwing it out.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cousin to Cousin and Heart to Heart

My first job is in a kitchen
Too often in these modern times, young adults are too busy with their own lives to make room for slower-paced tasks. I am most certainly speaking for myself when I make this claim. I work two jobs and fill my spare time with research, blogging, socializing, and similar activities. Even as a genealogist, I often prefer the fast-paced, forward-moving methods to the pain-staking and slow-paced ones that I save for an occasional Saturday or Sunday.
            Recently, an event took place that got me rethinking my preference for the fast-paced methodology. As it is February, most people interested in genealogy know of RootsTech, a major conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah this time each year. My opportunity finally came as I registered for the 2015 event. Rootstech facilitated a meeting I arranged with a cousin I had been corresponding with for about a month already.
Ishmael Phillips
            Our common ancestor is my fourth-great grandfather, Ishmael Foote Phillips. After looking over the files in my computer I had been gathering sporadically over the past three years, I concluded that Ishmael’s early years in England were severely under-researched. I then reached out online to relatives who knew or had more information and one cousin responded with more exuberance than I anticipated.
            This wonderful lady was a God-send to my present plight. While we were corresponding I had already been conducting background research on the time period Ishmael Phillips spent in England after being baptized into the early Mormon Church. (For more on this story, check out my post on finding his baptism.) Over time, we became more than correspondents with a similar interest in a distant grandfather. Our shared appreciation and love for this man was only the starting point.
            On the Sunday following RootsTech, I arranged to meet with my cousin in her hotel room. What I got from that visit was more than I had bargained for. Not only did she share the findings of her 32-years worth of research, she also told me stories about how she found the information, and she told me about her own family. We truly had a heart-to-heart that many relatives should have with their own family members more often than they do.
            Not only did I find a cousin to stay in touch with, her experiences help me to appreciate more the antiquated methods of research. I too have done my share of scanning microfilms and digging through dusty old manuscripts in archives, but this was her main form of research. The information she had to show was the results of hours of true archive and library hunting. Her interest would envelop more than Ishmael, but she also took interest in his own family: his brothers and sisters, his parents and grandparents. As a result, she has compiled significant information for the American descendants of the Phillips on their British ancestors.

            To my cousin and people like her who labor so diligently in putting together the information she has, I say thank you. I will treasure the information you have shared and use it to add to my own. you also help me to better plan research in the future. From your cousin, God bless you. 

She treated me to dinner