And Then They Were One ….

This is the quintessential picture of Wendy and Clay, taken just a month after we met in the summer of 1978. We were old souls in young bodies. We were each at crossroads, ending one phase of life and looking forward with great anticipation to the next. Wendy, at 17, had just moved to Indiana, graduated high school, and was looking forward to heading off to college. Clay, at 19, was back home in Greenwood, Indiana after his first year of college and preparing to serve a church mission for 2 years.

But what happened? The world stopped for us. Suddenly, instead of focusing on our next big adventures, our eyes refocused on the here and now. Falling in love was not on the agenda, it was not convenient for either of us, and it was not in either of our playbooks. But we fell, and we fell hard. Now, for a few months, before we parted on our unique journeys, our focus was brought to the present.

How can I describe the feelings we had for each other? Our souls longed to be intertwined, focused at an sub-atomic level. To be one. We knew the synergy of that chemical bond would create more than we could even imagine.

I studied Wendy. And I became fascinated and awed. Being with Wendy brightened my entire life!

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You may find this particular post an abrupt departure from our usual topics of travel adventure, investing, etc. But this blog is really a journal and our primary audience consists of our grand children and their grand children — on and on through the ages. In short, we write this blog so that our descendants can have a glimpse of who we are. To help them find courage, wisdom and perhaps a new understanding about themselves. To help them on their life journeys. And we do it to show our love for them (even though they might not yet have arrived on planet earth yet and we will have long since departed when they finally read it). So to our descendants, we hope that you too can feel our love through our words.

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The summer of 1978 was the best three months of my life — June, July and August. Wendy and me, our first date, our first kiss. How do I describe our first kiss. Impossible. Let’s just say that it was a moment never to be forgotten. In that exquisite experience our spirits sparked and aligned.

We became enveloped in each other that summer. The more time we spent together, the more we longed for each other.

And then it was time to part. We each had our path. Wendy was headed for Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Clay was headed for Ventura, California on a two-year mission. Parting was agony.

In my head, I calculated the odds that Wendy would still be unattached in two years. Slim to none. BYU is a marriage factory. Coeds typically don’t last two years, it just doesn’t happen.

So I struck a deal with God. I committed to the Lord that I would focus my entire being on doing His will for the next two years. Not half-hearted, but all in! Whatever He wanted, however I could help in His work. In exchange, I hoped that He might consider producing an impossible miracle: “When my mission is over, could I please have her as my wife?”

When you propose a bargain with God you don’t know if he will accept it. So you work on hope and faith. Those are different from covenants which He defines and you accept. With covenants (like baptism, the Sacrament, and eternal marriage in the temple), He defines the commitments on both sides. His commitments we call blessings. Anyway, with my “bargain”, all I could do was work hard and hope.

Two years is a long time. Especially when you’re young. Especially when you are having completely new experiences every day. My missionary service those two years took me to Studio City, North Hollywood, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, San Fernando Valley, Santa Maria, Lake Isabella, and Ridgecrest, California. In each of these communities I was invited into the homes of families and individuals to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the process, they became a part of my life and I theirs. They shared with me their life’s challenges and together we applied the principles of the Gospel to help them find their way through life.

This was intense work. It was full of joy, sorrow, success and sadness. Each week was a lifetime of intimate experiences with people I came to love and it completely absorbed me. It changed me. I learned about life and the amazing variety of difficulties people face. I learned of the suffering that can come to people through no fault of their own, but from choices their parents, spouse or children make.

But more importantly, I witnessed the miracle that can come, the complete change that takes place, when a person turns their life over to God. When they hand over their guilt to Him, when they hand over the right to judge another to Him, when they turn their focus from being a victim, from being hurt, from seeking pleasure in doing things they aught not, when they work from a new understanding that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings —- it is a miracle to behold. They become a new, happier, glowing, delightful person– full of love, completely changed.

They really should create a half-way house for returning missionaries. The work is so intense, you’re just not ready to re-enter the normal world. Two years of complete focus also means two years of no TV or radio, and certainly no dates, no dancing, no kissing … you get the idea. It’s a strange lifestyle. And then one day they ship you home in your white shirt with your nametag, suitcoat, tie, and black leather shoes. The real world is like being on Mars without a life-support system.

I remember my parents and family picked me up at the airport. My youngest brother, Jonathan, was 11 years old and already taller than me — on his way to 6 feet-something. I can still remember him looking at me like I really was a Martian. I could read his mind, “This cannot be my brother. He is too strange for words.”

But they were weirder than me by a mile! My father had thought it would be a brilliant idea to get a perm. He looked quite incongruous as a Superior Court judge in somber black robes and a kinky hairstyle. He had also become enamored with Volkswagens of all types. He had a stable of VW Bugs, a Karmen Ghia, and the ubiquitous VW Van with carpeted benches on the sides that converted into a big bed in the back. So these alien life-forms picked me up at the airport and stared at me in the van all the way home.

Home. I sat at the kitchen table in my suit and looked out the window at the neighborhood and thought “I really would like to knock on all those doors and share the Gospel” while my mother sat looking at me, wringing her hands, and finally insisted I change into casual clothes. I obeyed my mother, but I felt completely out of whack in jeans and a t-shirt. I needed a halfway house!

But there was not time for a transition. Life was happening. I needed to leave for BYU in a few days.

Wendy — well, let me backtrack. One of the most awesome things while serving in California was that I received letters form Wendy that were just spectacular. Spectacular, you say? Oh yeah. First off, they smelled good – perfumed. Not fair! And Wendy is an amazing writer. In her letters, always uplifting and encouraging, she was able to reveal more of who she was. If you know Wendy, you likely realize that she is incredibly intelligent. A very quick mind.

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Wendy is scary smart and it truly was frightening at times. After we were newly married, I remember the first time we read in bed. She was reading a novel and I was reading a history of Winston Churchill. Suddenly I became annoyed. What was it? Oh, it’s her page flipping. Why was it annoying? Well, first of all, she was turning three or four pages to my one page. How is that possible? Is she just messing with me? So I look over and watch her. She is completely unaware of me. And what I see is terrifying! Wendy is reading with an intensity I had never witnessed before. It’s like watching a laser beam consuming the typeface. Fast and furious! And when she flipped the page it was with force! That was the second annoying thing. And it all scared me very much. So what did I do? I kindly asked that she turn her pages more quietly as I sat trembling at the intellect I had married.

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Wendy’s letters to “Elder Smith”, as I was called, were fantastic. But over the months and years, we drifted. We each had our own worlds and we were each focused on our own worlds. And then my long-time friend, Chuck Brown, sent me a letter notifying me that Wendy was dating someone I knew. Well of course she was dating. But, dang, that was painful. And so, to minimize any further pain for either of us, and to make sure she did not feel she was betraying me in any way, I suggested we not write any more (or something to that effect).

So when I arrived home in Indiana, I hadn’t had any contact with Wendy for at least six months. I knew she wasn’t married but I didn’t know if she was attached to anyone. She seemed like a long ago dream.

And quite frankly I didn’t know what I would do with her if I saw her again. Let me emphasize, no dates and no kissing for two years. That will mess you up! I had no idea what to do with a girl. Before my mission? Oh yea. I was ever so suave, ever so confident. Now? I was lost.

What to do? Time to man up and face the music. If she was engaged, it would be a relief in one small way because I was in no shape to have any kind of relationship or even hold hands. Slightly terrified here. So I called Wendy and she invited me over.

I knocked on the door and Wendy opened it with a baby in her arms. Oh. Hmm. A lot can happen in six months, but . . . Wendy laughed and told me the child was her niece. Funny girl. Smart girl. Clever ice-breaker.

Wendy was absolutely gorgeous, poised and confident. She glowed! But I instantly saw that she was not the same woman I had dated two years ago. She was more mature, less immediately trusting, more savvy, and somewhat wary. And did I mention she was scary beautiful?

I was a mess. Completely uncomfortable in these jeans and t-shirt, talking to a girl with the intent of — what? I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it.

Wendy had mercy on me. She never placed any expectations on me. I asked if she would like to accompany me to the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. A strange first date, but I didn’t know if I would survive the experience, so the graveyard seemed convenient, in case she just wanted to leave my corpse there. And by my grandparents’ grave we began to talk. And we talked and talked like we had two years before.

Next day my parents informed me they had asked Wendy if she would like to ride with us to BYU. This was coming from the Dad who wanted me to explore my youth, take my time, date lots of women, delay marriage as long as possible.

Huh. I guess I’ll have some more time with this woman creature, trapped in a van with no escape.

We departed and then the realization of what was happening started to crystalize in my mind. Remember the VW love bug with the fold down bed in the back? What the …? I’m supposed to lay down in this bed with her all they way to Utah? What the…?

Yep. I needed a half-way house. But no time for that. Man up and transition. You’ve got weird parents with strange ideas and you’re in the Hippy Love Van for the next several days with a beautiful woman. Deal with it.

So off we went laying in the back of the van, staring at each other — and we began to talk, just like we had two years ago. I was entranced and fascinated by this intelligent, beautiful creature. What a delight! And how crazy and terrifying. Especially when we had to camp in one tent and stay in one hotel room for the four of us along the way (with two double beds… girls in one bed, guys in the other). What the…??? Gotta love those sweet parents, who never noticed how uncomfortable we young people were with the situation.

My parents dropped us off at BYU and I half figured Wendy would fold back into her life and forget about me. But Wendy had mercy on me. My last area during the heat of the summer was in Ridgecrest, which is in the Mohave desert. It’s inhumanly hot there in the summer. Mission rules require you to stay indoors from 1pm to 3pm during the summer months. People who live there have what they call green rooms. It’s a special room with no windows to the outdoors, typically with murals of lush green flora. They usually have tiny waterfalls burbling and cascading. Anything to cool their skin and heal their mind from the heat.

Well, my body had been seared by the desert sun in that last area of my mission and I had lost the ability to eat much. I was a physical wreck, and I had lost weight. Skinny, burnt, dehydrated, malnurished, and I couldn’t eat. So Wendy proposed that we split the cost of food and she would cook dinners for me. Not that I could eat much, but, that sounded great.

Transition to college life again was fun as far as academics were concerned. I loved my classes, but the social scene was — well. Let’s do a flash back to the September 1977, my freshman year. Freshman orientation included a week of the best bands on planet earth. The dancing was outstanding! Girls everywhere! It was a party! Disco was in full swing, and I was in heaven!

By September 1980 something had happened to the music. They did something called slam-dancing to New Wave music. It was murderous! Revolting! I needed more than a halfway house for the dance scene — it just wasn’t going to happen.

As for the social scene, flashback to 1977, my friend and I had a contest to see who could have the most dates in a weekend. We were each in the double digits. 1980? Not so much. I was not ready to deal with that yet. Life had moved way too fast and I wanted my slow, steady, thoughtful transition, thank you very much.

But, we danced anyway!

Dinners were awesome and slowly but surely I was getting my appetite back. And Wendy was just amazing to talk to. Okay, mostly to listen to as I’m not much of a talker. I’m great with questions though, and so I listened and learned and observed and marveled.

You know where this is going. We fell in love again as we ate together, talked together and went on simple dates. Once again that desire to be together as one soul increased into a yearning. Problem was, dagnabit, I needed my transition time! Life was moving way too fast! I’m thinking marriage and I’m also thinking I need to run away!

Logic was my only way out. So I suggested we make a spreadsheet (this was before computer spreadsheets, but I was already doing them manually). On one side we would list all the reasons NOT to get married. On the other side, the reasons TO get married. Well, it was a lopsided list. I had written down all sorts of logical reasons NOT to get married on the left side of the chart. On the right side was only one reason, and it outweighed all the others. We could be together.

We could be together, our souls intertwined. There has never been anything more powerful in my life. It’s like Wendy was made for me and I was made for her. Yes, we could wait. Until I completed college, got a graduate degree, established myself as a provider. But could I wait?

A part of me saw that the miracle I had prayed to the Lord for was now being delivered. It was up to me to accept the gift, not on my timeframe but on His. A woman like Wendy was not going to be single long. And for some reason I could not fathom (still can’t all of 41 years later), she loved me. How was that possible? I had no career, a part-time job, no car, and I no longer had any charisma.

Time to man up! No time for transition. Life is moving and it’s time to jump in and do it! So, during Thanksgiving break I proposed and Wendy said “Yes”. The plan was to get married in April, after the Spring semester. But why wait? So then the plan was December 30th, near the end of Winter break. Who needs a transition? A five week engagement is totally do-able.

Truly, once the decision was made, I was completely and totally ready to move forward. We could be together, our souls intertwined. Forever. I’m in!

After finals in mid-December we hurried back to Indiana where the women furiously planned the wedding stuff and Wendy suffered through a severe bout of strep pharyngitis. December 29th both families drove to Washington D.C. where we were to be married. We had several cars loaded with people. Wendy and I had been given my parents car as an incredibly generous wedding gift, so Wendy and I drove by ourselves to the temple early in the morning of December 30th, 1980, trailed by all the families in their cars. It was quite an experience.

On the way to the temple from our hotel with that wagon train of cars behind us I was very quiet (and Wendy was very beautiful). She looked over at me and said, “Are you all right?” Truth be told, I was barely breathing. It was such a big moment. So Wendy said, “Well, if you die of fright, there’s the funeral home.” as she pointed to a funeral parlor. Next she pointed to a jewelry store. “And, if you forgot the ring ….” My eyes got really big and I spluttered, “I forgot the ring at the hotel!” I immediately did a U-turn in Washington D.C. traffic and hit the gas, passing our wagon train full of people with their mouths falling open.

We finally made it to the Washington D.C. temple. It is ethereal. In that temple, special men, known as sealers, can bind husband and wife together, not just ’til death do you part, but for time and all eternity, so long as you live your life equal to the special covenants you make in the temple.

Washington DC Temple

Walking out of the temple, hand in hand with Mrs. Smith was the most wonderful feeling. I cannot express my joy, to be intertwined, soul to soul with Wendy.

At our wedding reception in Wendy’s parents’ home, Southport, Indiana

Now, at age 62 I am so grateful that the Lord accepted my bargain. I now understand that He knew all along what He wanted for me, what was fore-ordained for me if I lived worthy of His blessings. He knows best. And He has a way of putting into our hearts what He knows we need so that it becomes our desire as well. It is a powerful thing!

So that, dear children, is how Wendy and Clay became one.

~ Clay

Secrets, Miners and Gunfights! Part One

Moving Targets

Caveat:  Our blog was originally conceived to be a way to connect with our sweet grandkids, Eric and Hazel, since we don’t get to spend much time with them.  And to keep our kids, Jesse (Terri) and Caroline apprized of where our wheeled home was currently residing, in case they wanted to visit.  We share pictures, stories, geography, geology, history, church missions, adventures and love. Hopefully, our extended family and friends enjoy it as well!  This particular blog series is about Wendy Walton’s family history, before she became a Smith.

I’m not often nostalgic, but Clay and I spent the month of April, 2018 around Bisbee, Arizona and it made my heart gooshy (that’s a Latin medical term for soft and squishy).  Nostalgia doesn’t often bubble to the surface because it seems like I’ve never been in the same place twice during my lifetime.

Thanks to my Dad’s career and our current nomadic lifestyle, it practically guarantees new scenery all the time with no backtracking.

In 1968, when I was 7 yrs old, my father was offered an active duty army assignment, which meant he could finally quit working 4 jobs at the same time to pay the bills (including high school French teacher, counselor at a juvenile detention center, grocery clerk and reserve army major).

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Denzil Ree Walton, at the start of his army career

Major Walton was asked to attend Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kansas– a rare honor especially for a reservist, with the next orders after that being assigned to Intelligence headquarters in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

One of his C&GS classmates was Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. who later became a general and commander of United States Central Command, leading all coalition forces in the Gulf War.  It was a prestigious opportunity for Dad.  We met lifetime friends there, including Blaine and Clarice Jensen and Al and Laura Morris and all their wonderful children.

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Although Dad could never talk specifically about his top secret work in Vietnam, we knew he was the French speaking secret military advisor for the Cambodians fighting the Khmer Rouge when the US government was denying they had any personnel in that country.  He sent daily briefings to General Abrams and President Nixon during that time.

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We were living in Laie, Hawaii when Dad returned from Vietnam 13 months later- safe, tan and handsome. It was the first time I can remember crying tears of actual joy.  It still happens when I look at this picture.

 

We were then stationed at the Military Intelligence School in Fort Holabird, Maryland. From sunny Hawaiian beaches to December on the Chesapeake Bay, freezing our flower leis off!

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But that next summer of 1971,  the entire Intelligence Command operation was moved 2300 miles to the isolated outpost of Fort Huachuca, Arizona, near the Mexican border.

Like the old time land grabs, the Walton clan was one of 500 families set to race directly across the country to snatch up the limited housing options near the new headquarters.  But instead, my parents decided to take a month camping in our tent trailer on a leisurely drive west across Canada, then down through Washington, Oregon and California. Upon arrival, there was no more housing near the post, so we found a wonderful hacienda style home in the old mining town of Bisbee, 30 miles southeast of the fort.

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April of 2018 was the first time I had been back to the area in 46 years.  Clay and I spent a lovely day touring the museums at Fort Huachuca and seeing the history that unfolded when the Military Intelligence schools arrived.

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What did my Dad work on at Fort Huachuca?

[credit: classtools.net]

 Shhhhhh!  It’s probably still a secret.

Clay and I enjoyed the Military Intelligence Museum and while walking out the door into the warm Arizona sunshine, I felt the overwhelming presence of my Dad right there, smiling and happy, looking over my shoulder at his old stomping grounds.

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The Walton family spent 1968-1977 scurrying around the country while Dad was on active duty.  Because we usually moved in the middle of the school year, I had 13 notches on my school transcript belt (even though I skipped my junior year and graduated early).

While Dad was stationed at Fort Monroe, Virginia, he also served as the Bishop of our congregation, which was also a confidential job, where people came to him with their problems and concerns.

Mom: How was your day at work, Dear?

Dad:  Great!

Mom:  How was your evening at church, Dear?

Dad: Great!

I don’t think they had many substantive conversations over the years.

The last time I moved with my parents was to Southport, Indiana.  In the middle of my senior year of high school. During the Blizzard of 1978.  Welcome to the midwest.

But, the miracle is, I met Clay there in the few brief summer months when he was home from college before he left to serve his two year mission for our church. So I’m not complaining!  If you ever feel the Lord does not know where you are, just remember He has GPS: God’s Positioning System.

When the army ended his active duty assignments, Dad worked at whatever civilian jobs he could find (who needs a white-haired French speaking secrets keeper?) until he could finally retire from the reserves as a full Colonel with 32 years of service.

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Colonel Denzil Ree Walton in full medal regalia, with the Intelligence pin on the left lapel.

 

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Military Intelligence pin.  I have one on my charm bracelet to remember his service.

 

Walton family picture Spring 2000

The Waltons, Spring 2000. Back row: Mark, Kerry, Jean, Ree. Front row: Creed, Wendy

Dad died in Greenwood, Indiana at the age of 71 in April 2001, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, two months before I completed my Otolaryngology residency training.

When Heavenly Father suddenly called his son home, the Colonel saluted smartly and said, “Yes, Sir!

Never once questioning his newest orders.

I am so proud of my father– an honorable, gentle, intelligent, hard-working, funny guy who loved his Savior, his loyal wife, his four kids, his grandchildren and his country with the heart of a true patriot.

I’m beginning to think the spirit world is kind of like his secret military jobs, because he hasn’t told me what happens on that side of the veil, either!

Stay tuned for Part Two- Miners.

–Wendy

On The Trail

Devil's Gate at sunset

Devil’s Gate at sunset

Between 1843 and 1869 (when the railroad finally joined the west coast to the rest of the nation), 500,000 people rode horses, walked beside their wagon or pulled a handcart  by Devil’s Gate (in Wyoming) on their way to what is now Oregon, California and Utah.

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This summer we are camped right on this famous trail which we read about in our American Heritage classes as teenagers.

Our mission this summer is to tell thousands of visitors the stories of these pioneers.

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The Martin Handcart company, made up of over 600 European immigrants bound for the Salt Lake Valley, got a late start on the trail in 1856.  They were seeking refuge from religious persecution in their homelands. Because of their late start, and early snows in the high plains of Wyoming, over 150 of their group perished as they struggled to pull their carts through the snow and sub-zero temperatures.  During the worst of these storms they took shelter for five days in a cove just west of Devil’s Gate, now known as Martin’s Cove.

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On the trail from Martin’s Cove

These are touching stories of sacrifice which families made in order that their children and future generations could be raised in a place that would nurture and promote their religious freedom.

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Many of our visitors come in groups of 30-700 teenagers.  They set up in primitive camp sites, dress in 1850-era pioneer garb, pull handcarts and cross rivers: re-enacting to the best of their ability a small part of the journey their forebears made so that they can appreciate the heritage they enjoy as free people, and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

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During their experience with us, these youth cover mile upon mile pulling their handcarts, fording rivers and thinking about their relationship with God, about what they truly believe, and how they will, in their own way, be pioneers of the next generation.

2016-06-14 09.06.45These are amazing youth!  They get it.  Wendy and I have been in awe of their dedication, their desire to learn and their pure goodness.  They give us hope for the next generation.  We feel so fortunate to be their mentors and guides.

  • Clay

What’s in Your DNA?

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Isn’t this the most cool image? These are the people who created my DNA.  They are my ancestors.  I enjoy just looking at all of these people, going back four generations. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to go back in time and see your great grandfather, to watch his mannerisms, to see how he treats his wife and children, to see how he reacts under pressure? Was he good with his hands? Was he an independent thinker?

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Clay’s G-Great Grandpa Oren Smith

What mannerisms and ways of thinking did I inherit? So many people have commented to me that when they see me in a public speaking situation it’s like watching my father. And you know what? It’s probably like watching my great-great-grandfather Oren too.

Create Your Ancestral Fan

My genealogy fan was created in familysearch.org. They’ve made it incredibly easy to trace your ancestors. You start by putting in your full name. Of course, you know when you were born. So start filling in your information.

Now add your parents. Don’t know where they were born? Just look at “sources” and it will show you census records, military records, marriage records, etc. which have your parent’s name.  By using a little deductive reasoning you can identify the right source documents, which will have their birth places, etc.  Before you know it, you’ve used source documents to trace your genealogy back several generations.  Then you can create your own way-cool fan.  Most genealogy research can be done from your computer at home — zip, boom, bam.  But sometimes you come to that source document that doesn’t just pop up on the screen for you.  So then you have to get up from the computer and go hunting.  Wendy will tell you about that game.

Clay

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Gene-Caching

OK, now it’s my turn (Wendy).

We love to geo-cache, which is a new type of world-wide treasure hunt. After downloading an app, it uses your GPS coordinates to help you find caches others have hidden in parks, buildings, paths and natural settings.  It’s a fun way to take a walk while having something to search for.  Another version is LetterBoxing– great for kids (you put stamps in your notebook for every cache you find- the picture below was from a four part Star Wars themed stamp finding expedition).

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Terri and the kids Letterboxing

So genealogy is a lot like that— gene-caching.  Instead of finding a plastic or metal container, you are locating information about your ancestors. It can be just as much fun as geo-caching but is much more rewarding. Instead of finding a trinket or stamp, you find Grandpa!

We were heading to Silver City, New Mexico, where my great grandfather Charles Thomas White was born.  My sister, Kerry, wanted me to see if there was a birth record for him and any information on his father, William Henry White.

The hunt was on!

As Clay mentioned, although there are many digitized, searchable records online (so you usually don’t have to go to the actual place to find source records), the majority of records are still sitting in local towns and cities, waiting for you to physically find them.

Digitizing is really important for genealogy work: imagine a document hand-written in cursive, like a land deed, a military muster list, a ship’s passenger manifest or a birth record, with barely legible names. Someone has taken a photo of it and put it on microfilm, but how do you ever find that document?

Someone else now has to digitize the names in the document: type in the actual names into a computer program, with the book, page and file number, that then becomes available online. If a source document has been digitized you can do an online search by name, date, and location and it will pull up the source document.

Digitized documents have revolutionized genealogy.  It’s made the difference between hiking to grave sites, county courthouses and church record vaults (the old way) versus simply sitting at home in front of the computer and doing an online search (the new way).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a huge digitizing program called Indexing.  Anyone can volunteer to be an indexer, from their own computers at home. It’s actually quite fun to be an indexer and doesn’t take much time. Many hands make light work and it’s a much better use of time than playing computer games.

So, let’s go on a treasure hunt together!

Silver City New Mexico Recorder’s Office

I went to the Grant County Clerk’s office and asked blundering questions about where to go for information, birth records, etc. They pointed me to the Recorder’s Office just down the hall.  The Recorders Office showed me into a records room, with old wooden tables, clunky enormous copy machines and shelves filled with rows of big huge heavy ledgers that recorded mining deeds, property deeds, marriage and divorce records.

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I grinned like a monkey. This was going to be fun! The hunt was on for William Henry White.

It’s always good to have a well-formulated question when started a genealogy search. When and where was he born? Who were his parents? Did he purchase any land? Did he have a mining claim? In this case, I just wanted proof he was there in the county in the late-1800’s and what his occupation was and did he get into the mining fever for silver while living in New Mexico?

I quickly figured out the system and looked through mining deed ledgers from 1884-1887 (according to past census records and information on previous children, they were in Texas right before this time and then in Arizona after that time, so it narrowed the search).  Sitting on the floor, I found the slim index books for each fat ledger that listed the grantors and grantees (sellers and buyers) in double alphabets. A forward and reverse directory. All handwritten in cursive script.

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And I found Wm H White, with a page number. A tiny burst of excitement went through me. I hefted the huge ledger to the floor and leafed through it to find the flowing script of the mining deed itself, looking for clues that this was truly my great-great grandfather.

Through searching through multiple indexes and ledgers, I found that some of the documents even listed his name in full as William Henry White, and that he had purchased a 1/3 interest in the Carbonate mining claim, in the Chloride Flats mining district. Then a few years later, he did a power of attorney to a friend to sell his share, just about the time he would have been heading to Arizona.

It would have been a true ordeal to get a copy of these pages, so I photographed them with my IPhone. Much easier. And, I can enlarge at will to read the faint ink scrawls.

New Mexico Territorial Census

I felt happy about finding the mining deeds.  Next, I really wanted to see if any other family members were on file.  The Records Office directed me to the Silver City public library.  The librarian showed me the titles of all their microfilm. One was the New Mexico Territorial Census of 1885. That was right when my White family would have been there. Now that’s a primary source document!

After being taught how to load microfilm into the reader and how to copy pages of interest, I started hunting through the handwritten census.  It’s a tedious process with lots of scanning up and down pages and pages and pages of documents. For hours and hours.

And there he was. Wm H White, farmer, in the agricultural census. With a small bit of land, $350 in farm assets, two horses and a mule.

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Agricultural Census- line 6: White, Wm H.

And then, in the list of families recorded in the census, Wm H White and his wife, I. F. White (India Francis), three daughters and a son– 1 year old Chas White (Charles).

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Territorial Census, W H White and family

I had found my family! It was a sweet, tender moment. Hello there, Great Great Grandpa and Grandma, nice to meet you!

On the Territorial Census, William was 55, born in Virginia and India was 29. Now I had an approximate birth year for William (1885-55= 1830) and a state to start looking for his parents’ names. That’s how genealogy goes- clues lead to more clues.

Newspaper Hunt

We knew from other sources that Charles’ birth date was April 10, 1884 (findagrave.com), but we don’t have an actual birth certificate. The local health department said all the birth records were in Santa Fe.  I looked on their website and it stated they may not have much birth information before 1911. Typing in his name didn’t reveal anything. Drats.

My sister suggested I try looking through the newspapers of that time to see if there was a birth announcement.  Another source I later discovered is the Library of Congress, which has gathered tons of newspapers, searchable by state, date ranges and names. (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov).

At the local library, the microfilmed copies of the newspaper were tattered and blurred and useless, so they suggested I try the university in town. At the university library I got the appropriate microfilms and began searching. Not easy– newspapers of that time were basically gossip columns with no real organization.

After searching backwards and forwards in the April 1884-July 1884 editions I finally found a birth announcement in the Silver City Enterprise, Friday, May 2, 1884:

“W.H. White, residing at Oak Grove, was recently presented with a ten-pound boy by his wife.”

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It made me smile.

We still don’t have an official birth record for Charles T. White, so the search continues.

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Wendy’s Great Grandpa- Charles Thomas White

 

Do you see how the hunt goes? It’s about asking questions and finding experts (librarians rock!) and searching for answers and a big dose of luck.

And if your ancestors really want to be found, I’m sure they do some nudging from the other world.

Having said all that, again, most genealogy research is done as Clay described — just sitting comfortably at your computer and pulling up digitized source records (census records, land deeds, birth, marriage and death certificates) from simple online searches.  Try it.  It’s fun!

So what’s in your DNA?  Show off your family fan!