Family history moments: Journey of letters

Letters have been a very important part of my family history search. That was particularly so as I began the search on my husband's line.

As far as I knew, none of my husband's family had ever joined the Church. In 1974, only one was still living, his Uncle LeBaron Beard, his mother's brother.We visited him at his home in Missoula, Mont., but his memories about the family were not really clear.

Then, his wife, Aunt Mary, who was in a wheelchair, told me to go into her bedroom and get a purse. The purse had belonged to her husband's mother.

"Come sit right here by me and open it," she said. In the purse were two letters. When I opened those letters, my heart beat fast.

Both letters were written in 1913 to my husband's grandmother, one from her sister and one from her own mother.

One was 13 pages long, written in pencil, and was page after page of the names of all the family members for several generations. The letter recounted stories and family secrets. It even told about distant nieces and nephews.

The second letter was written to her by her own mother, who lived to be 99 years old, and told about her life at that time, including the farm she lived on.

Aunt Mary told me I could have the letters. She didn't know why she had kept them all those years, but now she knew that I was the one who should have them.

Those two letters became the starting point for all of the family history that I did on my husband's and children's line. As a direct result, I wrote hundreds of letters to church priests, county courts, cemetery sextons, libraries and newspapers.

As the responses came back I was able to gather the information to eventually submit nearly 500 family names to the temple. I am so glad that I acted upon my impression to go visit this aunt and uncle, because they both died within the year. The Lord surely does open the way when we open our hearts and hands to His work.

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