Family History Changed My Life

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My Family History Journey began on a ….. Honestly I don’t know how my journey exactly began. I do know that it has changed my life. I know everyone says that. The term sounds so cliché but it really has changed my life and helped me through one of the toughest times in my life. I grew up hearing about a lady named Emily Cope Smith. No one could ever find her family. When I was like 14 after hearing this story and that no one could find her I decided to look around on the internet and see if I could do what my grandma who searched for hours couldn’t do.I found my family tree instead. They were just names to me. They didn’t mean much. I had no idea what I was doing so I stopped there for many years until a cousin called.

I had started making end of year scrapbook DVD’s for my parents shortly after getting married as Christmas gifts. My dad asked me if I would make one form my grandmother 90th birthday. I’d done a few by that time but this one was by far my favorite one to do. I had the privilege of spending hours with my grandmother, a grandma I hardly knew, just listening to stories as we poured over pictures from her past. Pictures of a man she didn’t know feeding the bears at Yellowstone, the Hoover Dam being built, pictures of her as a little girl. Every picture had a story. It sparked my interest in finding out more about my ancestors but I was the mother of 3 young children none currently in school and didn’t have time. Just before her 90th birthday she took a turn for the worse and we ended up celebrating her birthday in the hospital with a hundred or so people stopping by to visit. I thought that was the end. My grandma was going to join my grandfather on the other side. I was wrong. She was able to come home but her quality of life had diminished and she was pretty much bed ridden but she taught me so much during her last few months.

My oldest cousin called me, someone I don’t know very well as there are almost 20 years between us. She said that my grandmother had given my cousin, whom was living with her, the task of going through her treasures and document them. Making sure each treasure had their story and that all the family histories she had collected would be digitized. She asked me if I would help. I almost didn’t pick up my phone when she called and was wondering why she would be calling me. Today I am so grateful that I did and that she did ask me out of my 30ish cousins. I later found out she asked a few other cousins too but most didn’t have the time or the desire. We picked a Saturday and got to work. It was then I realized what I had gotten my self into. There were 5 large plastic containers FULL of pictures of past relatives some with names most without, a whole filing cabinet of typed histories, historical documents, this didn’t even include the 20+ scrapbooks she kept of her children and grandchildren. Everything right there. A shawl that came across the with the Mormon Pioneers, her mother’s wedding dress, I couldn’t imagine the treasures we found. Treasures I had never known existed. Treasures that as a little girl we were never allowed to touch like her jewelry, and her vanity. We took pictures of items and began recording their stories. I took many of the boxes of pictures home and spread the work load out between my sisters and myself then we were able to post the pictures to facebook for my grandmother, aunts, and uncles to name the people I didn’t know. I began to know these people the way she did. They were no longer names on a family tree. One great grandpa was murdered over his axe, another came across the with the pioneers to Utah. She told story after story and these people became real to me. I realized that these people lived through all the historical events I had learned about in school.

Shortly after this I became pregnant with my 4th baby and it became a difficult pregnancy. I ended up in the hospital for a week before we had our daughter, on my grandmother’s birthday. As soon as we brought her home I took her to see my grandma who really wasn’t doing well. She said this is the last great-grand baby she would get to see, and two months later she was gone.

No one else really wanted the family history papers she had collected so my dad took it knowing I was very interested. I got to work typing up each history and loading it to Familysearch and a personal blog so others could have access to the treasures. A few times I’d search the internet for the name of an ancestor and find that the life sketch was the one my grandmother compiled. This truly was her life’s work and I know have it.

I have had to slow down on typing family histories because I am the mother of 4 children, I was just starting as the PTA president of our local school, my husband is a fire fighter and also works a second job 2 hours away in Idaho when he’s not on his 48 hour shifts, I also watch other people kids in my home to help pay the bills so I can stay home with my own little ones. I began setting aside 1 hour every Sunday to type up the histories, search for ancestors, whatever I felt I needed to do. I had a difficult time keeping track of where I was in my searching so I started adding the links and notes I found to my personal blog. That way I had a digital record of who I had searched for, where I looked and what I found. Others working on the same mysteries or needing the same stories could also find my research when they did internet searches.

That’s how my journey began. I have hit brick walls that I can’t seem to break through in my searching. Thanks to my grandmother and another relative my 5 generation is complete. The only mysteries I have left are the very difficult ones and they go back 7 generations. That’s how Family History became addicting, but it’s not how family history changed my life.

This last year has been by far the most difficult year of my life!!!!!! Last May we found out we were expecting a surprise baby #5. We had decided not to have anymore children because the last 2 pregnancies had ended with my blood pressure becoming dangerously high and the baby in the NICU for a week or two. They were emotionally draining and very difficult. We were done. Then surprise. Something just felt a little different about this pregnancy. It’s difficult to explain but it just felt different. I’m not a huge fan of doctors and needles send me into a panic attack. I remember standing in the kitchen doing dishes and having a voice come to me saying “You’re not going to make it through this pregnancy.” I remember thinking what? Not going to make it. I have to make it. I can’t leave my husband with 4 kids. That’s just not an option.” I became more determined to make this a healthy pregnancy. Medication doesn’t work very well on me so I started looking into holistic medicine, eating protein every hour, attempting to exercise but I was so sick somedays I couldn’t get out of bed. I was going to do everything I could to have a healthy pregnancy.

Just after 13 weeks I started to feel my baby kick and move. I thought, “man this is early”. We went in for an appointment and everything looked great. We couldn’t see the baby’s face but we got a nice picture of the back and head. Every night the baby would start to wiggle just after I put the kids to bed. Just after 8 like clockwork. One night it went crazy, just bouncing all over the place. I could not deny that I was feeling my baby move and leaned over to my older daughter. She was excited to get to feel her new little brother or sister soon. A few nights later it just stopped. My babies have done this before so I didn’t worry to much until it had been a couple of days. Usually if I start to get nervous I can almost will them to move. I couldn’t with this one. I knew something wasn’t right but we had our second appointment soon so I tried not to worry. I didn’t want to believe something was wrong.

At our second appointment we were hoping to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl. Normally I would take all the other kids with us to find out all together but this time I didn’t. We only had our 17 month old with us. She fell asleep in the car. As we stood up to go back for the visit the voice came to me as clear as day and said “Your baby has no heartbeat.” That was it. I kind of stopped for a second then headed back. We started the ultrasound and my baby had no heartbeat. I was in shock more than anything, the next week was the worst. I couldn’t eat, hardly slept. My dear friend walked me through as she had gone through it before and my husband only left my side to feed our other children. Our 17 month old would just sit with me and read her books. There was also someone from the other side right there with me, holding me constantly helping me through. I have come to feel and know that it was an ancestor. I don’t know who it was but they prepared me for the toughest trial of my life by telling me early on I wasn’t going to make it through this pregnancy, that my baby didn’t have a heartbeat, then holding me when it hurt to much to bare. This past year has not be easy by any means but whomever it was helping me through that first month was usually pretty close as I learned how to deal with the loss of our son. They know when it will get rough and hold me or are close before I know it’s going to be a bad day, week, moment.

I wouldn’t wish my trial on anyone. It has not been an easy thing to go through and has honestly taken me almost a year to be able to write about it because the pain is still just beneath the surface. We had already told our family and friends so when we lost our little boy we once again told the world over Facebook. Old friends messaged me and one still stands out. She said she had gone through a similar experience recently and when she stood back she could see all the little miracles and spiritual experiences she had through it. The message came at just the perfect time. I wouldn’t have listened those first few weeks. I was too consumed by the grief.

I’ve chosen to take the same perspective. To think about all the times my ancestors came and held me, how close they have been to me, how they prepared me for something I had no idea was coming. It has made me want to find them, and learn about them even more.
I now have a very active 2 year old, a hyper silly 6 year old, a beautiful 8 year old, and busy 9 year old, a husband who still works 2 jobs, I still watch other kids, help my mom with her projects, about the only thing that has changed is I’m not longer the PTA president, I’m just on the board. It’s never easy to find time to get my hour in but I try.

I want my kids to know these names as actual people, who lived lives, saw history, had a story to share. Not just as names on a tree. That those names were real people. They lived through difficult things. One came across on the Pioneer trail without her husband and almost lost both her kids in the Martin handcart company. Many buried their children young and old. They lived through world wars, the great depression, fought in wars, found love, lost spouses, they did all these things that I look back and say how. How in the world did you stay strong though that trial? How did you just not fall apart? They always managed to pick them selves back up. They saw countless miracles happen in their lives and so can I. They are there for me and will stay by my side through thick and thin.

Families are so important to the plan! Past, Present, and Future families. I believe the more real they are to us the more we can see their influences in our lives. If you’d like to see other ideas of how to teach using family history you can go here.

PS. If you know anything about a Milton Cook born in 1820’s my family tree brick wall, I’d love to pick your brain!

By Kierston Scott

Keep Family History in the Family

Getting young kids interested in history is as easy as telling the stories of those who lived before. Reading a history book can be boring but reading personal stories of those who lived through the events can make a historical event come alive. These stories can be slightly altering and made kid friendly and will quickly become bedtime favorites.

My husband is a descendant of Elizabeth Crook Panting. She led an amazing life and saw many miracles. I adapted her life story into a children’s book for a family reunion and my kids love to read it. Here’s a sample:

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Part of her story can be read here and here Her story was also featured in the movie 17 Miracles

I had this book bound so it will last for along time. If you don’t want to pay for bound books you can always print them off at a print shop and have them spiral bound or put them in sheet protectors in a binder. If you have family pictures try to incorporate them into the story, or find pictures on the internet from the era.

I also wrote my husband’s and my story into a children’s book. It has also become a family favorite.

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History doesn’t have to be a boring list of events and dates. We need to learn from history, our history and the history of others. The more relatable history is the more we can learn from it. Kids love stories and can pick out the moral of a story quickly or can begin to develop or understand a character trait. It takes a little time to make these stories come alive but they will quickly become family treasures!

by Kierston Scott
For more ideas, visit Kierston’s Blog

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