Rootstech 2016 Giveaway (3-Day Pass)

Yes, I’m about to offer a free pass to the 2016 Rootstech 3-day conference. But first I’d like to tell a little story about my last experience with Rootstech.

I’ve been working on genealogy since I was a teenager. It was right after Personal Ancestral File went from low-tech black screen and white (or green, in some cases) words to “high-tech” blue screen with white words. I was just getting my feet wet when I came across some fascinating tidbits.

First, Benjamin Franklin was my great-great-g-g-g-g-g-whatever grandpa (found out later he was actually a g-g-g-g uncle, but still…), and second, that I had royalty in my family line–namely, Prince Hathaway. It was only after much searching that Prince Hathaway wasn’t a prince at all. Prince was his name, and after further misleadings, I learned that Prince was down a different line than mine–that we’d been following the wrong line.

Anyhow, I’ve learned a lot since then, and have come to discover that every person in my family line is fascinating. They were pioneers, shop owners, parents of a dozen kids, farmers, miners, toothbrush makers, people of faith, people of music, people of industry, people of creativity, people of passion, people of faith. Whatever they made of their life, every tidbit of information has become like gold to me.

My first time attending Rootstech a few years ago, I was doing a presentation on self-publishing your family history. The class went well, but the moment things got really interesting was when a man approached me after class and introduced himself to me. He shared my last name, and as I thought about it, I realized we’d conversed online. Kent and I are something like 3rd cousins twice removed–I haven’t figured it out exactly, but Kent was a gold-mine of information about the branch of my family that includes Prince Hathaway (which, I might add, turns out I probably AM related to–it just keeps getting more exciting as we go along!).

Kent had even done DNA testing, visited the birthplaces of our shared ancestors, and spent literally decades in research on the individuals that leave the most mysterious shadows on my family tree. Never could I have expected that.

We actually spoke several times throughout the conference, and both he and his wife Jaelynne were both fascinating and informative to speak with.

I was also interested in the booths representing the plethora of websites, companies, organizations, guilds, and technologies available to family historians and amatuer genealogists.

The beauty of the whole experience for me was the discovery of how many allies we have to our family history efforts. Sometimes the hours behind screens, old books, and endless wanderings up and down aisles and websites can feel quite lonely, but that’s only an illusion. There are so  many people and resources ready to help. There are even people researching branches of your family history already, and never in history has it been easier to team up with them.

Okay, so you heard my story, now you get the goods. I’m excited to announce that I am a 2016 Rootstech Ambassador, which basically means that in exchange for my helping to get the word out about the conference, I get to offer someone a free 3-day pass to Rootstech 2016. So here are the rules:

  • Share this link on your favorite social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, whatever)
  • Comment here, sharing something about an ancestor of yours.

I’m going to trust you on the first rule, so by commenting about an ancestor of yours, I’ll be assuming that you have shared a link to this contest. The commenters will be entered into a drawing to win. That way you can know how good your chances are by counting the number of comments. If you’re the only commenter, you’ll win by default. Seriously, folks, you’ve got nothing to lose–other than three days of your otherwise boring life to an exciting, fulfilling, fun, and incredible family history experience.

Here’s the real clincher. You have ONE week. The comments will be tallied one week from today (September 21), so get sharing and typing!

The Diary of William H. Freshwater

Here’s the diary of William H. Freshwater that I mentioned in my last post.

. . . May 8, 1862: I, in company with my father, William Freshwater; mother, Martha Freshwater and sister, Valora L. Freshwater, and Hertford, England, my native city and country with several other Latter-day Saints, all en route for Utah, U.S. A. We arrived Watford at 1:30 p.m., went to W. Kaffal and stayed all night. We went in a cart from Hertford to Watford. I am not quite ten years old.

10th. We left Watford at 8 a.m. by railroad. We passed through several tunnels, in one of them Mother fainted. We had a good trip to Liverpool where we arrived at 6 p.m. We took a berth on a sailing ship named William Tapscott which was bound for New York, America. This ship was chartered to carry the Mormon emigration this year.

13th. The ship raised anchor and left the dock with seven hundred and eighty five Mormons on board and went into the River [p.248] Mersey. There were thirty more Saints came on board while we lay there. Two accidents occurred today; one, a boy fell from the main deck to the lower and broke his leg very bad; the other, a woman in coming down the hatchway, slipped and spilled some boiling water on the face of a child. There were twelve more came aboard this morning. The vessel was towed out of the river by steam tug into the Irish Sea. The weather is beautiful and warm.

15th. A few of the passengers are a little seasick. There were two boys found in the hold and Captain Preston is going to make them work their passage across the sea.

June 8th. (Witson Sunday) In the morning, wind very fair but during the day it increased until the sailors had to tie ropes about the ship to hold themselves on. They spiked all the hatchways down and would not let any of the passengers go on deck at all. The captain told us it was the worst storm he had ever witnessed although he had made many trips across the ocean.

9th. A child of three years died on board this morning of consumption.

10th. Wind favorable but foggy. If there had not been any fog we could have seen Newfoundland as it lies but a short distance off.

11th. Very cold and foggy, still on the banks but going all right. We are now 1012 miles from New York. There have been a few grampus seen ― they are a species of the whale about five feet long.

16th. Head winds till noon. We have made, since yesterday noon, 126 miles, being the best run since starting form Liverpool.

17th. Wind good, at noon log shows 176 miles in 24 hours.

18th. Wind dead against us. We are now going through the gulf, a place where three currents meet; the sea is very rough. By the log we have traveled 200 miles since noon yesterday but only twenty-four towards New York.

21st. Wind dead against us. We saw a great many whales today.

22nd. A pilot came aboard. A man died on board today.

23rd. We saw a lot of blackish, the sailors claimed a sure sign of a bad storm. Weather pleasant and had been a dead calm all day. Saw a great many porpoises in the evening. They are a very ugly looking fish, three to five feet long and about as thick.

24th. Fair wind all morning. Only fifty more miles to New York. For the first time since we left Liverpool we heard thunder. At three o’clock the wind sprang up in the right direction and we soon left the fog behind us. We arrived in the mouth of the Hudson River at four o’clock and dropped anchor at five. This is a very beautiful port. Far excels Liverpool.

25th. We were all up at the first peep of day and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the examining doctor who came at 8 a.m. and pronounced us all well except two who remained on board the ship, the last we heard of them. The steam tug took us to Castle [p.249] Garden, the New York emigrant landing where one can stay for ten days only.

26th. Today is Father’s birthday; he started in the new world in a new year to him. Uncle George, Father’s brother, came to Castle Garden early and we were glad to see him. He came to this country last year. We hired a dray and took our trunks, etc., through New York and over the East River on a ferry boat to Brooklyn where George lived. We did not have much time with George for he left today on the 6 p.m. train to go west. We had to stay in New York because we didn’t have sufficient means to come on to Utah this year. Father hired the same house that George left.

28th. We moved to 136 North 2nd Street, Williamsburg. We stayed there about a month then we moved to Conselea Street, Williamsburg, where we stayed eleven months until we left for Utah during which time Father worked for a plumber by the name of William Cozer of Williamsburg.

June 26, 1863. In company with my father, mother and sister, Valora, I left Williamsburg, New York with a company of Mormon emigrants for Great Salt Lake City, Utah. Just before we arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri, the rebels, or bushwhackers, fired two cannon balls through our train, one shot went through the passenger car exactly eight inches above the peoples’ heads and the other through a baggage car destroying a great amount of baggage. We stayed in St. Joseph three or four days, afraid to go on because of the rebel soldiers being all throughout the country. While we were there, some fifteen rebel soldiers were taken prisoner, right from among our company, by the northern soldiers. Two companies of Union soldiers surrounded the depot and made the rebels surrender or they would have killed them. I can truly say I saw a little of the war between the North and the South. We went from St. Joseph to Florence (Nebraska) by steamboat up the Missouri River. We stayed at Florence (which was three miles above Omaha). Omaha had six houses and Florence, seven, all of which were trading posts.

July 9th: We started across the plains with a train of fifty wagons drawn by three to five yoke of cattle, some of them were trail wagons. The captain of this company was W. B. Preston who was from Cache Valley. The Platte River was very high. We had considerable trouble in crossing several streams. We had several heavy storms, one I remember was near Chimney Rock, a lot of lightning and thunder. Our cattle stampeded and started running away. The teamsters unyoked them as best they could ― some of them two and three yoked together. Three of the oxen were dragged to death. That night, herders went after them on horses. Devil’s Gate was quite a scenic place. The train went around and up a canyon but most of the passengers went over the mountain. When we got over and into the valley on the west, the sagebrush was as large as fence poles and eight to ten feet high. [p.250]

We arrived in Great Salt Lake City Thursday, September 15th, 1863, just as the peaches were ripe. We stayed in Salt Lake thee days and visited all the main places. The temple was then about four feet high. We left Salt Lake for Provo with a man by the name of Ira Tiffany who lived in Provo. We traveled in an ox wagon, the same kind we crossed the plains in. We arrived in Provo, Utah County, where George Freshwater lived. Stayed with him a few days when Father hired a house of Joh E. Booth were is now First West and Fifth North. We lived in Provo four years, then moved to Spanish Fork where we stayed about four months. We did not like the place; terrible winds down Spanish Fork Canyon, so we moved back to Provo.

June 19, 1867. The army of grasshoppers lit in Provo this afternoon by the millions. Everything in the way of vegetation was eaten and destroyed before night. We had several large tobacco plants growing and they were covered with hoppers in a few minutes. Father cut them and ran into the house and saved most of his tobacco. We also saved some other of our stuff by taking it in the house and shutting the doors. Our chickens ate so many hoppers they could hardly move. We saved our green corn which was in good roasting ears.

About half the grasshoppers raised in a cloud and went off in the southwest direction. Our garden looks almost as bare as it does in winter. About the only thing the hoppers didn’t clean was rhubarb. They ate part of that. Mother put up quite a lot.

August 24th, Saturday. The Provo meeting house, located at the corner of University Avenue and Center Street was dedicated today. The building is eighty-one feet by forty seven feet with a tower eighty feet high.

May 27, 1870. In the fore part of this summer a few companies of United States troops were sent to Provo to establish a camp. After considerable trouble a site was located immediately north of Provo River and just below Provo bench, being about one and a half miles northwest of Provo City. My father and Thomas Clark had contracts for building chimneys, bake ovens, and so forth, for the soldiers. The first troops cam from Camp Douglas under Colonel Hugh and only a little while when they were replaced by several companies from the East under major Osborn. The soldiers appeared peaceable for some time when the citizens and soldiers had several disputes and trouble appeared in the wind.

September 22nd. The soldiers (or part of them) from Camp Rawlins intended having a big supper and dance in town tonight which ended in a row and can better be described as follows.

Telegram sent to Salt Lake City:

Provo, September 23, 1870 A company of about forty U.S. troops from Camp Rawlins made a raid on our city last night between twelve and one o’clock and before the police could rally and check their progress they broke into the residence of Alderman William Miller, firing several shots into his bedroom, smashed in his doors and windows and took him prisoner and marched him about an hour or so. Thence passing up Center Street (7th) they stove in the doors and windows of the Co-op Boot and Shoe store (the old McKinsey building) and tore down the sign and stoned the doors of the Co-op store. They surrounded the residence of Councilor McDonald, who was away from home, and completely demolished every outside door and window on the first floor and scatted the furniture over the yard and sidewalk.  Alderman E. F. Sheets’ residence shared nearly the same fate. Their progress was here partially interrupted. They, however, proceeded to the meetinghouse, broke in the shutters of one window attempting to fire the building. The raiders were armed with U.S. needle guns with bayonets and revolvers, and during their foray they captured several citizens, parading them through the streets, some of whom were severely beaten and bayoneted before they could get away.  [p.251]

William Henry Freshwater died in Provo, Utah, January 27, 1937. His wife, Sarah Ann, passed away January 11, 1924, in Provo.

– Beulah Freshwater Spencer

Freshwater, William H., Diary, Our Pioneer Heritage, comp. By Kate B. Carter, vol. 7 (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1964) pp. 248-52. (L)

Most of this excerpt can be found at: Mormon Migration

Google Alerts: A Powerful Family History Tool

I set up Google alerts to tell me when Google finds anything on the web containing the names of my ancestors. It picks up a lot of spam sites, but probably 2-3 times a month it comes up with something good. Last Sunday I checked my alerts and it had a link to a BYU record of LDS immigrants in the pioneer days. To make a long story short, I found excerpts from a diary of my great great grandpa, William Henry Freshwater.  I didn’t even know he kept a diary.

The reference quoted on the site was to a book I knew I’d seen once at the local library, so I checked it out and found an even longer excerpt of his journal. If anyone out there knows where the rest of his journal can be found, PLEASE TELL ME!!! If you know of a site, send me a link. If you have access to actual hand-written books, I’ll bring my digital camera, and in 20 minutes make a full digital copy of it. I’ll even give you a CD of the digitized version so you can share it with others if you want.

Anyway, I’ll post the excerpt of his journal right after this entry and call it, The Diary of William H. Freshwater.

Gotta love modern technology. It is completely reshaping our approach to family history!

By the way, if anyone would like to learn how to set up a similar Google Alert system for your own ancestors, I’ll be glad to post a simple step-by-step tutorial. Just let me know!

You CAN Write Your Personal History!

If you are like me, you’ve spent a lot of time considering writing your life story. And, if you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time putting it off because either you don’t have time or you don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you can’t think of anything about your life that Is worth writing about. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer and don’t feel confident in your literary skills.

Have you ever considered that the biggest thing holding you back is you? I suspect that you really do want to write your life history, but you’ve just procrastinated it so long that you’ve collected a lifetime supply of excuses.

Here are a few thoughts that might help you get the motivation you need to just start writing!

“I’m not a good writer.”

One of the differences between an average writer and a great writer is that the great writer doesn’t try to make their writing great. While you are reading a great book, do you think to yourself, “Wow, what a great paragraph – this wording is amazing, and look how smoothly these sentences flow”? Probably not. Most likely you are mesmerized by the story or situation taking place in the book. How did the writer do that? Of course there are a few rules and tricks, but the main thing they did was this: the first time they wrote the words, they didn’t even think about making their writing great. They just concentrated on the story they were trying to tell.

What I’m really trying to say is don’t worry about your “style” or your grammatical correctness. Just tell your stories. If you really feel that you need to get your wording right, do it after you’ve written the whole thing – that’s what authors do all the time. They write a rough-draft, and then go through and clean it up over and over until they feel semi-comfortable with it. If you are just writing for children and posterity, you probably don’t need to do much redrafting, but just remember that the first time you write, you don’t have to worry about any of that. And if you are successful at ignoring everything in your writing except the story, it will come out pretty great.

“I don’t know where to start.”

The obvious place to start is the beginning, but the moment you try to start at the beginning, you may find yourself struggling to decide which beginning to start with. Your first memory? Your birth? You’re parents’ first date? Your ancestry?

If you don’t struggle with this excuse, don’t worry about it – start at the beginning, or wherever you want. But if you don’t know how to write a beginning, don’t. No, really, don’t bother writing a beginning. Start by writing something that will come later in the history, such as a favorite memory or some thoughts on an incident that you will fill in later. You will find that as you just start writing, the thoughts, ideas, and structure of your history will slowly come together. As soon as you feel comfortable writing the beginning, or start, of your history, do it. But it’s fine to write your whole history without a beginning. You can write that later.

In other words, if you struggle with writing a beginning to your history, just start somewhere in the middle. That way you don’t have to worry about first impressions. Writing is one of the few places where first impressions can be the last thing you work on. Once you have most of your history written, the beginning will come much easier.

“My life is boring. Why should I write about the boring nothing that’s happened to me?”

Writing is an interesting activity. Most people consider nonfiction writing to be simply a laying down of ideas – basically a bunch of facts grouped together into a book or article. But that assumption overlooks all that takes place in the mind of the writer. Writing is an proactive, interactive, self-propelling activity that draws meaning out of nowhere. Just the act of sitting down and penciling down (or typing up) words opens a conduit into the subconscious creative mind. By simply writing down a memory, your mind begins formulating thoughts about that activity, which churn and mix until something unique is formed that wasn’t there before.

Let me put it in a different way: when you bake a cake, you take a bunch of seemingly random foods – none of which taste good alone, mix them together, and put them in the oven. Then, as if by magic, when you take the concoction out of the oven, it has become a delicious treat. All the random ingredients have blended so beautifully and completely that without knowing the process that made the finished product, you would guess that the cake was a single element straight out of nature. And the taste is far better than the combined flavors of all the ingredients.

Writing is the same way, especially with writing your own life history. Your school memories, your dating years, your fears and failures, are ingredients in your history. As you write them, your mind will reflect on the meaning behind each incident. You will find humor in the oddest places, you will find life lessons where they weren’t originally intended, and you will find that your ordinary experiences weave into a heartwarming life story. That process doesn’t take much conscious effort, either. As you write, it will just happen automatically, just like the stirring and baking turns ingredients into cake.

Besides, your boring life is more interesting than you think. Your only context is the society you live in, and all your experiences are common to everyone you meet. Being in that one-dimensional context, it’s easy to forget that your children, grandchildren, and all the posterity after them won’t have that context. Their experiences will be vastly different than yours, because the world will be a completely different place by the time they read your history. Those differences will make your history both unique and fascinating – whether it means anything to you, some in the future will be excited to read the experiences of those who were around during the rise of the Internet and the turn of the century. While they may have access to news and magazines from our era, most people will be more interested in the life of a common person living from this very uncommon period of world history.

The unique things they read will be both fascinating and fun to read. The things you mention that they can relate to (relationships, spirituality, hopes, fears, and dreams) will give them encouragement and strength.

“I don’t have time to write my history.”

Guess what? No one does. I have never known anyone who has time to write their life history. Even authors don’t have time to write their histories – especially if they are writing full-time. Why? Because all their writing time has to be devoted to their profession. Most publishers aren’t interested in life histories – unless you’re Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. But even Nelson Mandela didn’t have time to write his history, and he wrote his twice.

But if no one has time time to write their life history, then how do they do it? Well, basically, they just do it. They just do it! They don’t have time, they make time. Time isn’t something that you can create out of the air, and it’s not something you manage. Time is just… well, it’s just time. It passes. It’s always there, and it goes as fast as it comes.

Every person on earth, be it Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, or the homeless man on the street – every person has twenty-four hours in their day, and every person has a choice what they do with their twenty-four hours. You may feel tied to a schedule, but that is because you choose that schedule. You choose! The way to make time to write your history is to choose to use your time to write your history. And fortunately (or unfortunately), you have no deadline – but if you will make time, that is, choose to take the time to write your history, you’ll find that you can use time to your advantage. It doesn’t have to be your enemy. Time can be your friend, because it will help you write your history. You’ve just got to choose to use time for that purpose.