Family history moments: Pioneer discoveries

Because I descended from two generations of less-active members, knowledge of my pioneer ancestors was very sketchy. After I was married I began collecting their family group sheets in a genealogy class.

From birth and death information, I could piece together their travels through Church history. Thanks to Wilford Woodruff's journals, I even found out how one of my pioneer lines joined the Church. This line eventually settled in Utah's Dixie as part of the Cotton Mission.

When my husband and I were called as Church-service missionaries to the St. George Temple Visitors Center and Historic Sites Mission, I was thrilled with the opportunity to learn about the area and walk where they had lived. Each site where we gave tours had special meaning for me, and I was able to gather more information about their lives than I ever dreamed possible.

I had another line of pioneer ancestors from Wales. A young widow with a daughter of 14 and a boy of 8 had crossed the plains in 1856 with a handcart company. The mother was buried in Escalante, Utah. Right at the end of our mission, we decided to drive there and look for her grave. We stopped at a visitors center to ask for directions to the cemetery. The kind lady behind the desk called the cemetery caretaker. He agreed to meet us at the cemetery when he had finished his lunch — about 15 minutes.

To pass the time, I started looking at the literature offerings on a display shelf. I was stunned to find pictures of my great-grandparents and the brave widow from Wales in a book called The Escalante Story. I learned of their talents and contributions to the community. I felt an instant bond of love. I had a heart full of gratitude as never before for their sacrifices and devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where would I be without them? I honestly feel they somehow have reached across the bridge of family inactivity and guided me to them.

We are now back home, but the blessings of our mission continue to shower down upon us. While in St. George, we lived a block from a family history center and across the street from the temple. We were able to complete temple ordinances for 98 ancestors ourselves. All the old records are now on computer discs for our children, and new doors for research have opened. We served two missions in one, and our blessings were double as well.

— Donna Walker, Roseville, Calif.

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