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Treasures: A Pioneer Letter

Today is a very loved holiday in the state of Utah – the 24th of July.  It’s the day we celebrate the first Mormon Pioneers arriving in the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847.  After years of persecution and being driven from place to place, those pioneers finally fled Nauvoo and began the difficult journey to Utah.  Some traveled by ox cart, many walked alongside the wagons, others traveled by handcart which meant a lot of walking, and a very small group of Saints traveled on the Ship Brooklyn sailing from New York, around Cape Horn, and arriving in Yerba Buena, California six months later.  My own ancestors were among each of those groups.

In honor of my pioneer ancestors, on this 24th of July, I have a special treasure to share.  I just discovered this gem last week while going through some more of my Grandma’s collection.

Pictured above you can see my 4th great-grandfather, Julius Augustus Caesar Austin, then the headstone for his wife, my 4th great-grandmother Octavia Ann Lane, and then their daughter, Louise Maria Austin, my 3rd great-grandmother.  In my searching, so far I have not found any photos of Octavia.

In 1846, Julius, Octavia, and their three surviving children, Louise – age 7, Edwin – age 5, and Newton – age 2, all began their journey to Utah on the Ship Brooklyn.  I’ve known that was the case for many years, but discovering this transcription of a letter written by Octavia during that journey was such a cool find.  The transcription was completed by Julius and Octavia’s granddaughter, Louise Delina Cheney in 1934.  What a treasure!

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transcription:

“Copy of

Photostat of a letter written by grand mother Austin to her parents while on Ship Brooklyn.

Honolula, Oahu

June 29 – 1846

Dear Parents and Brothers & Sisters

I take this time to write a few lines, but one sheet of paper to communicate one’s thots  If you knew my feelings for your eternal happiness.  I want you to come where we are to live – and die with the Saints of God.

Give my love to Sister King and enquering friends.  One thing more we met some. relatives on board Brother Nathan Burr married Chloe Clarke, grandchild of Thomas Pratt grandmother’s brother; she was acquainted with Aunt Stocking, has been to Uncle Stannard’s house   they are first rate folks, she looks some like your mother

Julius sends love

Octavia A. Austin.

To you all.

431

Copied at Genealogical Office From Mss.  Oct 15 – 1934 by Delina Willis.  There is also copy of another letter written by grandmother dated 29 Sept 1846″

 

The details about Chloe Clarke, Thomas Pratt, and Aunt Stocking have got me curious.  This is a line I haven’t spent any time on.  I’ve got to see where these clues lead me!  Also, Aunt Stocking?  I love that name.

I was also curious to see if the original letter was viewable on the LDS Church History Library website.  The image is not, but I discovered that this note from Octavia was a postscript to a letter written by her sister, Emeline Lane, as seen here.  Emeline wrote an additional letter that is also held there, as seen here.  I can’t see any trace of the letter Delina mentions from 29 September 1846.  That letter must be in a private collection, or in another department.  I have some digging to do!  AND, I think a trip to Salt Lake is in order to view the two Emeline letters.  I can’t wait to see Octavia’s handwriting!!  I better make a list of other treasures in the Church History Library about my family.  I found that at least one letter written by Emeline is included in the book Scoundrel’s Tale: The Samuel Brannan Papers by, Will Bagley.  I ordered a copy.

 

Happy 24th of July!  It’s a day that honors Mormon Pioneers and their sacrifices so that LDS church members would be able to live what they believed in peace and safety.  I am thankful for them, so many of whom reside in my very own tree.

 


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Preparing for RootsTech 2018 – A Few Tips

rootstech 2018

RootsTech 2018 is coming right up.

 

I will be attending once again this year and I can’t wait!  Many of my plans are taken care of, but I’m still working on the two most important items:

1 – Selecting classes to attend and printing the handouts.

2 – Making my FHL research plan for my free time.

Let’s talk a little bit about those two very important items.

 

Class Choice & Handouts

It’s important to carefully look over the RootsTech schedule, you can find it here.  The RootsTech app allows you to create an electronic schedule of classes.  If that works for you, great!

I use the app, but I also make a detailed paper schedule for each day of the week.  Why?

There are so many reasons.  My perspective changes throughout the week.  Sometimes I attend a class that is so incredible, I decide I want to go to every class taught by that teacher during the rest of the week.  And, unfortunately, the opposite has happened.  I attend a class taught by someone and decide to skip any other classes taught by that person.  Sometimes a class is full by the time you get there and you need a backup plan.  And then sometimes a presenter isn’t able to be there for one reason or another, and once again, you need a backup plan.  Sometimes I have selected more than one class on a specific topic, but the first one I attended was so detailed that I decided to change my later plans and learn about another topic of interest to me.  There are lots of reasons you might decide to change your schedule during the week.

I try to choose three classes I am interested in for each session.  I make myself a schedule in Google docs.  I rank my three choices as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice.  Sometimes I add a note to remind myself of what I hope to learn from a specific class, like – “maybe I can learn some tricks that will help me track down John Costello’s immigration records?”  I include all relevant data in my document – classroom, teacher, class title and description, etc.  Here is a sample page from my schedule for last year:

RootsTech 2017 schedule

Notice that I even added information about streaming sessions and times when the class is being offered again during the week.  Those are important factors to consider.

I spend time making my schedule really user-friendly for me.  I print out my schedule for each day, staple it together and then this is the part that works especially well for me – I use a different colored folder for each day.  I use a few large paperclips to paperclip the schedule to the front of the folder.  And then on the inside, I have ALL of the handouts for each of my class choices – 1st-3rd.  I write on them so that I know which handout is for which class.  The handouts are paperclipped together by session, with the first choice class in the front of the stack.

Seems excessive right?

Well, there is plenty of downtime in between classes and while you wait for the general session to start.  I try to always be one class ahead on my final decision.  What does that mean?

Well, while I wait for the general session to start, I look over my three choices for the class after the general session.  I skim the handouts, finalize my decision, make any necessary adjustments to my backup plan (like switching my 2nd and 3rd choices), and then look at the map so I know where I am going after the general session ends.  While I wait for the first class to start, I go through the same process to prepare for the next session.

I love having the printed handout to write on, but I also bring a notebook in case I want to write more than will fit on the handout.

I add one more very important list to my schedule – a list of exhibit hall goals.  That might include things like purchasing DNA kits, getting coupons from specific vendors, meeting someone at their booth, purchasing some specific books, or learning about a new tool, group, or tech item.  Having a list of exhibit hall goals that is printed is really helpful for me so that I don’t forget anything.

 

FHL Research Plan

One of the best parts of being at RootsTech is the opportunity to do some research at the Family History Library.  It’s really important to have a plan for that research time.  And a backup plan, and a second backup plan, and even a third backup plan…

Last year, my top priority was getting a long list of South African probate files.  I had a detailed list of film numbers and reference numbers to help me locate the items quickly.  I had double-checked and finalized that list on Monday.  On Wednesday I was in the library going through those microfilms.  When I got to the 6th probate file, I had some trouble locating the file on the microfilm and went into the FamilySearch catalog to make sure I hadn’t written the microfilm number down incorrectly.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that all 400+ microfilm in that collection were suddenly online and viewable from home when just on Monday they were not!  Thankfully, I had several backup plans and quickly shifted gears.

Just like I like having a physical, printed schedule for each day of RootsTech, I like to have a physical, printed research plan so that I can have it in my hand as I wander the library looking for things.  It’s much easier for me to glance at a piece of paper and make notes on that, check things off, etc, than to have to keep pulling up a list on my phone or on the computers.

I have lots of work to do to get my class schedule and research plan prepared, but it will be so worth it!  The more time I spend preparing, the more I learn during the sessions, and the more I find in the library.  Preparation makes the week even better.

Are you attending RootsTech?  If so, do you have any favorite tips to share?  Happy Monday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!