Saturday, November 23, 2013

Big time in Salt Lake City

Just back from my periodic foray to the Family History Library, for a week of immersion in genealogical research, and a chance to reunite with a group of fellow conspirators from the Midwest.  The weather was cool but mostly dry (as a Californian, I earned a few laughs for wearing a jacket outside when the temperature was in the low 60s).

It is always a treat to be there and learn what changes are taking place in and around town.  The local rapid transit system goes right to the airport terminal now, for one thing. The Salt Lake Plaza Hotel has remodelled most of their rooms, for another (and my closet was cleverly concealed behind a huge mirror -- took me a while to find it). In the library itself, there is at least one photocopier right out on the third floor (US/Canadian books), as well as the film-to-print-or-flashdrive equipment on the second floor. (I haven’t investigated the lower floors where my Minnesotan friends hang out, looking for their Swedish, German, and Norwegian lines.)

We hiked over to the LDS office building most days for hearty but very inexpensive lunches, and were in time to see the holiday decorations being put up in Temple Square. Hearing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice on Thursday night was a pleasure, as always.

My big find was on (their “institutional” version is free to use at the Library). Browsing for Lewis Hartwell Thompson, whom I know had come west by 1860, I found him in a database of “California Pioneers,” with place and date of his birth, and the names of his parents. A real piece of luck! The list had been compiled by the California State Library (applause), originally from Hubert Howe Bancroft’s seven-volume History of California. Of course, if I had thought of it at the time, I could have followed up by looking at the books themselves, since the Family History Library has a set in print and on film.

Another rather intriguing clue I picked up was the discovery that my great-grandmother, Nancy Jane Sherwood, had signed her name “Nancy Sexton” in some probate documents after the death of her first husband, David Hammond. I was looking for some clue as to when she might have married my great-grandfather, whose surname was Howard. I had always thought he was her second husband, but it seems there was another brief union first.  Unfortunately this all took place in Jasper County, Indiana, before the time of their 1864 courthouse fire.  So, no marriage records are available, and I will have some digging to do in order to learn about this Mr. Sexton.

There were a couple of other pieces of information which came to light in my searches, but as we all know, the longer you work on this, the fewer the discoveries. At first it is like skimming the cream off the top. Later is it more like sifting through already-mined sources to find a tiny nugget or even a bit of gold dust.

Nonetheless, I had a really satisfactory visit, and now there are some real clues to stalk.

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