ESBJERG, DENMARK — A good many Sea Trek 2001 voyagers found adventure here before they ever set foot upon a tall ship as they stood upon ancestral farmland or strolled city streets where their progenitors might have walked as long as 150 years ago. In some cases, they are finding hitherto undiscovered family connections or meeting relatives for the first time. All of that is sure to continue as the voyage progresses to Germany and the British Isles in coming weeks.
Sea Trek 2001 is literally an extended-family affair for Michael and Julie Robinson Smith of the Alpharetta Ward, Roswell Georgia Stake. They will be participating with their children, Maren, 7, Michael, 9, and Kathleen, 11. But they have brought along Sister Smith's parents, Bishop Talmadge Robinson and Bonnie Dipo Robinson of the Salt Lake 26th Ward, Salt Lake Pioneer Stake. The Robinsons will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on board ship.
"My dad is the fifth-great grandson of Frederick Charles Robinson, who joined the Church in Scotland," Sister Smith explained. "He married Sarah Elizabeth Gambles on board the ship Horizon just before departing for America.
When the couple got to America, they joined the Martin Handcart Company, remembered for the suffering and deaths that occurred among its members.
"I've often pondered what it must have been like for them," Sister Robinson said. "Many a honeymoon would have been spent under better conditions. But that's their story. Because of Frederick, a lot of people joined the Church and other family members immigrated. So we thought it would be wonderful to bring Mom and Dad for their 50th wedding anniversary."
Sister Smith's great-grandfather emigrated from Denmark. "We are going to be meeting some descendants of that ancestor who are not members of the Church," she said. "But they've been researching their genealogy and happened to contact us. They have all kinds of information to share with us now that we're coming. We'll be meeting them in Copenhagen."
In a special fast and testimony meeting held Sunday, Aug. 5, in the Esbjerg Ward meetinghouse for Sea Trek participants, Bishop Richard Cawley of the Centerville (Utah) 6th Ward, paid tribute to his wife, Sherry, for her persistence. She persevered in researching an ancestral line on which he had all but given up. As a result of her findings, they decided to participate in Sea Trek to honor an ancestor who emigrated in 1852 under the leadership of Erastus Snow on the ship Italy and had been left an orphan by the time he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.
In the days prior to boarding their assigned Sea Trek ship, the couple visited the parish where the ancestors lived. There, they found a man who was doing research on the same line. He showed them on a map the precise location of the ancestral farm, and even showed a picture of the farm before it was destroyed by fire. From that information, they were able to visit the farm site. The man also shared with them a family group sheet, providing them with information they did not have.<!– A brother and sister, David Hedengren of the Boardman Ward, Hermiston Oregon Stake, and Jean Moultrie of the Cottonwood Ward, Richland Washington Stake, are participating in Sea Trek together. They have met a number of gracious and helpful Danes as they research the areas and lines of their ancestry. Riding the train from Copenhagen to Esbjerg, they sat across from a man and his grandson who had been biking across Denmark together. When they told him of their family history quest, he offered to help with some of their research. They exchanged addresses with him.
As a result of other contacts they have made, they have some additional names for whom temple work can be performed. –>
Gordon and Mary Jensen of the Mueller Park 9th Ward in Bountiful, Utah, have been traveling to the hometowns of their ancestors in Denmark and experiencing a renewed appreciation for the sacrifices they made to gather to Zion.
"They were strong and courageous people," he said during the fast and testimony meeting. "I look at what I see in Denmark today, the way the people live and the crops that are raised. I marvel at how this background and capability were brought to the Utah area at a time when it was so desperately needed there. I appreciate so much my ancestors."