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Family history moments: 'To get your attention'

Jewell Nelson had been a staff member at the Idaho Falls Regional Family History Center since September 1965. She was fond of telling how her great-great-grandfather got her attention.

She had worked for years to find records of this ancestor, William Houghton. She thought he had been born in England about 1810. Each time she would think of a new source to use, there would be no information.

One evening she was working late at home on her computer. She was frustrated, and she told William Houghton, "I give up! I don't know where to look for you. I have looked everywhere that I can think of. If you want me to find you, you will have to help me."

The next morning she was at the family history center. She chose a roll of microfilm from Oldham, Lancashire, England, looking for the christening record of another family member. Judging from that person's age, she felt the record she wanted would be about half-way through the roll.

She put the microfilm on the reader and started to turn the wheel. She seemed to hear "Start at the front."

Sister Nelson looked around to see if anyone in the center was playing a trick on her, but no one was there.

She started at the beginning of the roll. This film began in 1794 and went to 1825. In 1794 there were no Houghtons. In 1795 there were no Houghtons, but on Dec. 18, 1796, there was her William Houghton's christening entry. He was 15 years older than his wife. Sister Nelson had been looking for his birth in the wrong time period.

She wrote: "When I found that entry, I was elated. I knew I had him, because he hit me with the flat of his hand on the top of my head. This went through my whole body like a lightening bolt."

With the information in William Houghton's christening record as a start, Sister Nelson was able to take that line back into the 1600s.

In a short biography she wrote for the Idaho Falls Family History Center, Sister Nelson said: "I love this work and will help anyone that needs my help. I will be here until I die or they throw me out." On a Saturday in September 2003, she helped a patron. The following Monday she went into the hospital. Two weeks later she died.

Jewell Nelson was a woman of great faith. She was fond of telling others that sometimes family history has to "hit you on the head" to get your attention. — Loretta Evans, Idaho Falls Boulevard Ward, Idaho Falls Taylor Mountain Stake

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