Wednesday, April 1, 2020

George Welton Ward and the Ward Family Legacy

George Welton Ward has the distinction of establishing the Ward family legacy in America. Throughout his life, his name was synonymous with a positive example and industrious work ethic – honorable characteristics that would shape the family’s solid reputation for generations.

Here is a journal entry from George's treacherous voyage across the plains:
"While traveling one Sunday afternoon, a violent hailstorm came up, and before we could all get our teams unhitched, the storm was on us in such fury that many of the teams ran away and jumped into the Platte river. Hailstones as large as hen’s eggs fell, and people were obliged to cover up their heads with quilts and blankets for protection against the frightful pelting. Some took refuge under the wagons until the storm passed. Some of the wagons were overturned and many persons were hurt. The singular part of it was that half a mile up the road there was not enough rain to lay the dust. The storm was local, and did not extend more than half or three-quarters of a mile in every direction. In more recent years these local storms have been known as ‘cloud-bursts.’

When we arrived at the Black Hills we were all worn out. Our cattle were footsore, and the horses having no grain, were weak and tired. Our provisions began to run low, and things looked decidedly squally. It was getting late in the season, and father was fearful we might get caught in a snowstorm in the mountains, when allmight perish with cold and hunger."

Despite all the adversity he was faced with, George left a legacy of hard work. George Welton prided himself in doing his farm work carefully and systematically. He trained his family of boys to be thorough in their work, as well. Because of his training, the work of George Welton Ward’s family drew attention among their neighbors. Edwin Cordon remarked, “There wasn’t a man that could stack grain to shed water like George Welton Ward."

I'm grateful to George Welton Ward for establishing the legacy of my family in the United States. #ResilientRoots

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Hortense Carpenter: Stepping up to a challenge #ResilientRoots

I've talked about my Paternal Grandmother on the blog before, and I've spoken far and wide about the resilience she blessed me with through a quilt she made for me.  But I've never written much about the resilience she showed in her own life.   She was a strong lady who instilled lots of fortitude in me that is coming in handy right now.

Hortense Snow was born April 25th in 1911.  She was the daughter of  Erastus Beaman Snow Jr. and Rosina Christina Gregerson.  Her mother grew up on a ranch with lots of books, was college educated and taught school before she married.  She loved literature and taught all of her children about the importance of an education.  She loved to travel, entertain and use the good china--all qualities she instilled in Hortense.  

Rosina ran a dress shop in their town and Hortense was always impeccably dressed.  She learned to sew, play the piano and the clarinet, traveled and served a mission for her church.  After graduating from school and returning from the mission, one morning her mother came downstairs and said, ""Hortense, I've not slept all night. I have been worried about you. I don't think you should go to San Diego. You have said several times you might like to go to BYU. Get yourself ready and go on to college. I don't think you will find San Diego the same place now that your mission is over. I would like to keep you here to run the dress shop for me. I have considered selling you the business. I know you could manage the shop and do a good job, but I won't make an old maid, out of you." So Hortense packed up and left for college the next morning.   

Hortense was nervous about going to school but she enjoyed her home economics classes and decided to major in that.  She was president of her sorority and had lots of friends and boyfriends.  When she was about to graduate in the sprint of 1934 her mother took ill and died in April.  Rosina insisted that she graduate and not come home to care for her or she might not graduate.  Hortense did graduate with her teaching credentials and accepted a job at a high school for a year before returning to take care of her father and the dress shop.  

That fall, one of her teachers came to the shop to visit and encouraged her to go on with more school about consumer education and bookeeping to be better at managing the shop.  So Hortense left again after Christmas to continue her education.  There she met my Grandfather G. Alvin Carpenter.  After two years of writing letters, they married June 10th, 1938.  Hortense worked for the State Extension Staff as a clothing specialist until they married and moved to Reno Nevada. 

After stints with Alvin's job in Reno and Berkeley, CA, and getting his PhD at Cornell in New York, they settled in Logan, Utah and began to raise a family.  Hortense put her homemaking skills into her three children, Paul, Don and Colleen.   She was a wonderful mother and taught the children to be hard workers with a couple of acres of fruit trees, gardens. chickens and a horse.  Hortense canned and froze all of the vegetables and fruit that they raised.  She made sure the children all had piano, speech and art lessons.  During this time she finished her work on her MS degree except for the thesis.  She also renewed her teaching certificate.  Little did she know how valuable that would be soon in her life.  

After 16 years in Logan, Alvin moved the family to work for the University of California at Berkeley in 1956.  Shortly after, Alvin was diagnosed with diabetes and Hortense became worried.  To quote her son Don, "She wanted to make sure she could support the family if necessary.  So she began as a substitute teacher and then accepted a full time position teaching home economics at Alhambra High School in Martinez California.  This proved to be a great blessing in her life.  Not only did the extra income help during the children's expensive college years, but it gave Hortense the added peace and assurance, increased self-confidence and new opportunities to serve others in ways that were rewarding and satisfying.  Having raised her own children, she felt more competent, and qualified to teach foods and nutrition, clothing, family finance, and family life than she ever felt as a young college graduate teaching home economics."

After 12 years of teaching, Hortense retired at the same time Alvin retired from UC Berkeley.  They moved to Provo, Utah to be closer to their grandchildren and Alvin worked for 10 more years as a part time faculty at BYU.  It was then that I got to spend most of my time with Grandma.  Each grandchild got to visit by themselves for a week and Grandma taught us how to sew, needlepoint, cook and we went for long walks in the mountains where she taught me the names of all the wildflowers. She organized summer sewing and home economics classes for the children in the neighborhood with her many sewing machines and the room she kept full of fabric. She made her granddaughters beautiful clothes and we had huge family dinners on Sundays and holidays. She loved to hear the piano recitals her grandchildren would perform and she used her many sets of china and dishes for entertaining.   She taught me that I was going to college, it was just a matter of which school I picked.  She knew that it was best for a woman to be prepared to have a career, even at a time when many women didn't.  

I'm thankful for a grandmother who taught me so much about kindness, faith, and courage.  When she passed, 6 years after Alvin did on July 6, 1991, she left a great legacy of determination and drive that I draw on today.  

Monday, March 30, 2020

William James Reynolds #ResilientRoots

My grandfather, William James Reynolds, was born on 1 April 1919 in Sandpoint, Idaho.  As a child he contracted rheumatic fever, and it ruined his heart.  Despite this permanent health challenge, he proved to be quite resourceful in providing for his family.  Right out of high school, he started working for American Airlines.  After a time he needed heart surgery, and the airlines laid him off rather than giving him sick leave.  Obviously he needed to do something different for employment, so he bought a mattress company for $2000.  He didn't know much about the business but learned very quickly on the job.  Several years into his "career," a man approached him and asked, "Do you do upholstery too?"  My grandfather replied, "Yes"--despite knowing nothing about it.  He figured out how to do it as he went along and eventually did upholstering regularly.  He taught his wife and 3 children how to do many tasks in making mattresses and upholstering, so it was something of a family affair.  Through it all, he worked very hard and was often exhausted--but he refused to stay home.  The day came when he was too tired to go in to work, and he was never able to go back.  He died at age 47 of complications caused by a medication he had taken to strengthen his heart (Digitalis).  He was a great example of tenacity, tremendous work ethic, flexibility, and determination.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Resilience in a Health Challenge #ResilientRoots

 I've written before about my maternal Grandmother Eila Mae Romney Dana.  She was a beautiful lady and a wonderful grandmother to me.  She was always generous and I never doubted for a moment that I was the favorite.  She grew up in challenging circumstances.  Her father died of an appendicitis attack while on a business trip.  That left her mother, Viola, as a single mother in 1928.  Eila and her younger brother Douglas were only 7 years and 2 years old.  Her mother went back to business school and then to work at the local department store while Eila and Doug were shuttled back and forth with family and friends.  Shortly thereafter, Viola married Gifford Talbot and Eila had a step father.  They moved several times while Eila went to school so she got good at making new friends.
I've written here about how Eila married my grandfather Darrell Dana in the middle of World War II and he shipped out the day after they were married.  Truly they were part of the greatest generation.  They made alot of sacrifices when they were first married, but they ended up in Southern California and raised three beautiful children.  My grandfather worked for United Airlines as a mechanic and then always had a second job as well to support the family.  Eila served in her church and took care of the children.  They enjoyed a few vacations when Darrell could get away and went to Disneyland as often as they could.

In 1967, just months after her oldest daughter (my mother) was married, Eila was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  She started dragging her feet and couldn't do anything about it.  It quickly got progressively worse.  She was in the hospital when she received a note that my parents had called to tell her they were expecting me.  They released her in a wheelchair to go home for Christmas.  She was able to get up and around some over the next little while, but essentially when I started walking, she stopped walking.  Our trips to Disneyland included a stroller and a wheelchair.  

We visited my grandparents often to try to help as much as we could, so I got to spend a lot of time with my Grandma Dana.  She was a gentle soul and a great example to me of faith and peace amid crisis.  I don't remember her before the disease so I don't know if it made her more peaceful and ok with whatever comes.  But when I knew her, nothing rattled her.  I went to visit them by myself for about a week when I was about 8 years old.  I remember going out into the kitchen and trying to cook something--I'm sure I was making a mess. Grandpa was at work and it took great effort for Grandma to come down the hall and see what I was doing.  So she'd call to me and ask what was going on.  She was so patient.  And I have very fond memories of that trip and many other moments with her. When VCRs were invented, we watched many many hours of Disney videos together.  We loved Pooh Bear the most.

I never heard her complain although I knew she was frustrated with MS.  I heard her moan and grumble in pain when Grandpa had to lift her, but I never heard her speak a frustrated word about her situation.  Grandma and Grandpa looked for cures and help to get her walking again all through my childhood.  There was always some new hope that would help.  But nothing ever did.  Thankfully, medicine and help for MS would come, but by then, the disease had done too much damage.

One of the great ironies of their later lives were the chances for travel they had because of Darrell's career at United.  They had free tickets anywhere they wanted to go but it was so hard to travel with the wheelchair.  They bought a camper so they could visit their family members, and they did get to take a grand trip to Europe with their son Ken along to help.  Luckily they were able to move closer to the family in 1991 and they were able to stay close to their siblings, their kids and of course their grandchildren.

I remember lying next to Grandma in their adjustable bed watching TV one day when a program about Christopher Reid came on.  He had been paralyzed and was in a wheelchair.  She  shook her head and said, "I just don't know how he does it."  I don't remember if I turned to her and said, "Grandma, you're in the same situation." but I certainly thought it.  It didn't even occur to her that she was dealing with the same challenge.  It just was and she just dealt with it.
Alot of credit needs to go to Darrell too.  My Grandfather took exquisite care of her their entire life.  He rigged up a system in their bathroom so that she could use it without help and could be self sufficient while he was at work. At a time when men didn't take care of households, he took care of everything.  He was so good to her.   

Eila died in 2000, 33 years after her initial diagnosis.  She was the epitome of grace during a challenge.  The day she died, my mother sat with Darrell and thanked him for all of the years he took such good care of Grandma.  He said to her, "When you have something so precious, you take good care of it."  That is what both of my grandparents were to me--precious.  The 32 years I had with them were such an example to me, of true love, of perseverance, and of resilience.  I'm so thankful that I carry their DNA.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Resilience After Losing a Child

This is Mary Jane, my great, great grandmother. I came across this picture in my family tree and wanted to learn more about her. Upon doing some research, I found out that she witnessed her son's death by gunshot in their living room. What a tragedy this must have been for her and her family, but Mary Jane made it through because she knew they would be reunited again. During this time of uncertainty, I find comfort knowing that my great, great grandmother was able to make it through such a tragedy with such optimism.

Below is the memory recorded by one of Mary Jane's grandchildren.


Family History for Right Now

Several years ago, there was much ado about Bruce Feiler's article in the New York Times entitled "The Stories that Bind Us."  In it he talked about how family history stories give kids resilience.  His assertions were based on some studies done in the Psychology Department of Emory University.  There, in the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, Marshall Duke, Robyn Fivush, Jennifer Bohanek, noticed that children who knew more about their family history did better in therapy.  They created the "Do You Know" test with 20 questions about family history.  They found that the children who scored the highest on on the test also scored higher in tests of feeling like they have a sense of control in their world, lower levels of anxiety and more resilience.  

A sense of control in the world, lower levels of anxiety and more resilience!! Exactly what we all need--no matter what age you are--in these surprising, challenging, crazy pandemic times.  

Now is the perfect moment for each of us to look to our ancestors for strength and inspiration.  Now is the perfect time to instill those stories in our family members to lower anxiety and produce more resilience.  When you tell a family story, in person, over social media or over video conferencing, you are creating more peace in the midst of the storm.

SO, we've decided to look to our ancestors with you, over social media, our newsletter and etc. with the hashtag #ResilientRoots.  We hope you will join us and share your ancestor's stories of faith, resilience, patience, perseverance, flexibility, optimism, kindness, grace and connection.  We're excited to share ours with you.  I think we can all find the hope we need already inside us.  It is in the very DNA they gave us.  

Watch over the next couple of weeks:
Here on the blog

To read more: 
My previous writings about the science behind family history:

Bruce Feiler's RootsTech Keynote:

Fivush, Robyn. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Bohanek, Jennifer G. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Duke, Marshall.  Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  “The Intergenerational Self: Subjective Perspective and Family History.” in F. Sani (Ed.) Individual and Collective Self-Continuity.  Mahwah, NH: Erlbaum, 2007. Available at

Fivush, Robyn. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Bohanek, Jennifer G. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Zayman, Widaad. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  “Personal and intergenerational narratives in relation to adolescents’ well-being.” In T. Habermas (ed.). The development of autobiographical reasoning in adolescence and beyond. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 131. 45-57. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

New front page for our website

Congratulations to Alex, our super programmer for another accomplishment that the rest of us think is magical.  Often his magic is spread behind the scenes, but this time it is out front where you can enjoy it too.  We have a beautiful new front page.  Check it out:

Go to to check out the full effect.  I think it shares our message better.  Let us know what you think in the comments below, and be sure to send in your family information for a free consultation so that we can get started on a chart for you!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Creating a Digital Will.

Next week I'm presenting a new lecture entitled "Creating a Digital Will" at RootsTech.  The topic comes from a need I found last year.  As I presented another lecture entitled "Heirloom, Documentation and Junk: What to Keep and What to Toss" across the country, I had dozens of people come up to me after every lecture asking about more information on digital wills.  Clearly, genealogists had been digitizing their family history but had not thought enough about how to preserve their digital past.

So I proposed this lecture to RootsTech and it was accepted.  It is something we all need to be talking about so that our digitized information is safe for future generations. If we don't preserve our digital life, our great grandchildren may know more about our great grandparents who wrote regular letters than they do about us and all of our emails.  To avoid a digital dark age in this generation, we must ensure that our records are accessible in the future with attention and a plan. Our digital footprint is subject to constant change and items are easily lost or destroyed when a subscription runs out, a bill is not paid, there is too much information to digest or even just a computer crash.

Of course I'm not a lawyer so this lecture is a general survey.  Participants are encouraged to consult a lawyer in their local area to ensure that they are working within any laws that effect where they live.  A digital will should never be included in a Last Will and Testament because once the testator dies, the will becomes a public document.  Likewise, digital assets change so quickly, a digital will needs to be updated without having to formally change a will.  A digital will can be referenced in a will but should be a separate document.

The lecture discusses what needs to be included in a digital will, and the survivorship policies of the popular websites for genealogists.  But the actionable part of the lecture is the six steps you can do to secure your digital legacy.  
They are:

  1. Collect a list of all your digital assets.  
  2. Once you have a complete list of digital assets, fill out the list with logins and passwords.  Add answers to security questions, pin numbers, account numbers, and security codes for all web assets and hardware
  3. Leave instructions for your wishes and designate an heir for each asset.  List which assets should be archived and saved, which should be deleted or erased and which should be distributed to family, friends or business colleagues.   
  4. Secure your list of assets, logins and passwords.  Because digital assets are subject to constant change, a digital plan must be easy to maintain so that it is kept up to date.  In some cases a good old fashioned piece of paper and locked case may be more secure.
  5.  Appoint a Digital Executor.  A digital executor will work with the executor of your Last Will and Testament to distribute your digital assets.  
  6. Whenever possible, digital information concerning family history can and should be disseminated among family members now for additional preservation whenever possible.
There is a lot to talk about concerning how we protect our digital history.  I hope you'll join us next Wednesday at 9:30 for the full discussion.  When you have a plan and get organized, you can make sure your family history assets and current history are preserved for future generations.