My mother and birth father
My mother's brother Dee when the children were babies
I have come to believe that Miracles and happy surprises abound when the children turn their hearts to their fathers in an attempt to chronicle their family history. It was so for me this year. After taking a 6-week genealogy class, during Sunday School, I committed to finally get into it. I decided that I would dedicate Thursdays to family history endeavors.
I stood in my office closet staring at the boxes that held years of pictures and other family memorabilia from my maternal grandmother, my mother and my own. “Every Thursday, a box at a time.” I told myself . “You can do it.” I sorted and filed feeling happy, every Thursday, that I was making progress.
As I sorted my grandmother’s pictures I had an overwhelming realization that I was the last one who would know many of the people in the photos. If I handed these photographs, in their scrambled form, to my children they would not know what to do with them. Then I thought of the other grandchildren, and cousins who might want copies of these pictures, so I proceeded to scan hundreds of pictures making several family Web albums. I labeled each picture with the names and dates as I could. I made the files public and sent a link to all the family members that I have e-mail for. They have the option to peruse the pictures and download any or all.
One of the web files had two pictures of my birth father that I never knew. He and my mother were divorced before I was born. He moved to a distant state and we had no contact with him. When I was 30 and he was 55 he died of a heart attack and my aunt , who lived in the hometown of his youth, gave me a copy of his obituary. I knew from this that he had a daughter.
Two months ago this daughter googled her father’s name and discovered the photos. She didn’t know I existed and we are now e-mailing. She lives across the country from me and I am not sure what will become of our connection but I feel there is a reason for us finding each other.
Two weeks later I received another surprise contact from two cousins, who had disappeared from our lives, many years earlier. My mother had a younger brother who was killed in a mining accident when he was 29 years old. His wife, took their boy and 2 small girls and moved away to be closer to her parents several states away. Sadly, eventually they lost contact with the family and the years moved on. The two girls are in their late 40’s now. They had no pictures of their father, except a small obituary picture, until the day they googled his name and came up with dozens of pictures on my web files. They knew very little about him personally.
This connection has thrilled me. I have written family stories for years. I have been able to give these cousins a piece of their Dad and lost grandparents, aunts and uncles. They are crying with joy at finally having some connection to their father.
My mother and her sister died in their 60’s, less than a year apart, more than 20 years ago. I have not had contact with my aunt’s children all these 20 years until this week. I decided that these 3 cousins needed to have access to the web albums if they desired them. There are many pictures of their mother as a child and young woman and some of the cousins when they were young and our families spent time together. So, I called information looking for someone that would give me a phone number or contact information. The person who answered wondered how I got their number, as it is unlisted...a little miracle? Before the next day I had phone numbers and e-mails of all 3 cousins. Now they have the grandparent stories, histories, other family stories and access to the pictures. And we have promised to get together. One of these cousins has scanned their family pictures and offered to send me a copy. I am excited to see what they have.
The last little blessing of my Thursday commitment happened when I handed my husband a box of his “stuff” that I had sorted out of the mass. I said, “When you die your children will throw this box of memorabilia away. But if you put it in a book chronologically, with notes, it will mean something.” I gave him a large loose-leaf binder, some clear page protectors, A pile of colored cardstock and he went at it. He copied all the newspaper clippings and highlighted stories about himself. He wrote some little vignettes about his life and put it all together, with pictures, to make something worth going through.
I have felt strongly the hand of the Lord in all of this. Angel Moroni told Joseph...”and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” (JS History 1:39) Utterly wasted! No wonder there are so many miracles that happen in this endeavor.