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Overheard at the Family History Library: An Original Cartoon

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 23, 2009

A Keepa reader signing himself “Alvin Nichols” shares his impression of conversations overheard during a recent session at the Family History Library:



45 Comments »

  1. Nice.

    Comment by Jami — January 23, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  2. Well, I’m married to my 7th cousin. Beat that! :)

    Comment by iguacufalls — January 23, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  3. Having worked there for three years, this doesn’t surprise me a bit and makes me quite happy. Oh, the nostalgic quirkiness of the FHL . . . . :)

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — January 23, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

  4. This lady, my great-grandmother, was married to her second cousin. My parents are eighth cousins once removed. My brother and his wife are twelfth cousins once removed.

    In other words, any oddity about me can be chalked up to inbreeding. Yeah, that’s it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 23, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

  5. My parents are second cousins, once removed – I think, being too lazy to call and ask them. They found out after they had scheduled their wedding.

    That explains everything.

    Comment by Ray — January 23, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  6. My great-great-great grandfather is my g-g-g grandfather through two different lines, and is also my great-great uncle. My little brother likes to say that our family tree looks more like a family vineyard, and because of all the polygamy, marrying cousins, etc., it’s difficult to argue with him.

    Oh yeah, that great-great-great grandfather? George Q. Cannon.

    Comment by Christopher — January 23, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  7. Reminds me of a retort I would use when I was young and geeky. “Oh yeah, well we’re related, cause your mother and my mother were both mothers!!” It was usualy followed by blank stares. It is good that I’m no longer young.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 23, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  8. Christopher! We’re related!!

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 23, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  9. Oh, goodness. Do I have to be the one to point out the BYU genealogical relationship finder? Some of the close relatives can be interesting, but get a little more distant and it is so deliciously absurd.

    Wow. I just looked at my paternal grandpa’s relations. They’ve added a lot of people since someone pointed it out to me several years ago. It looks like he’s related to half of the church. Or at least he could be if some of those lines crossing the ocean were known to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    Hmmm. It looks like I’m related to some percentage of the people I have listed as contacts on Facebook. Jacob Hamblin, anyone? And I don’t know how I’ll be able to stand living with myself. It says that I’m the first cousin, 13 times removed of William Shakespeare. And the seventh cousin four times removed of Emily Dickinson.

    Let me know, and my autograph will be available upon request.

    Comment by Researcher — January 23, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  10. Oh, goodness gracious. If the Ancestral File is to be believed, I’m a cousin of six of Brigham Young’s wives, T.S. Eliot, Dallin Oaks and … and … woe is me, the Presidents Bush!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 23, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  11. It looks like I’m related to some percentage of the people I have listed as contacts on Facebook. Jacob Hamblin, anyone?

    Jacob Hamblin is on facebook??!! :)

    Oh, goodness gracious. If the Ancestral File is to be believed, I’m a cousin of six of Brigham Young’s wives, T.S. Eliot, Dallin Oaks and … and … woe is me, the Presidents Bush!

    The Presidents Bush? Hahahahaha.

    Comment by Christopher — January 23, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  12. BruceCrow,

    Hello Cousin.

    Comment by Christopher — January 23, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  13. That’s funny, Christopher. Whoops.

    I should also mention that I put in the AF number for one of my other grandparents. I know some of the people who should be on that list, but it came up totally blank.

    Comment by Researcher — January 23, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  14. My grandmother would describe a Cannon family reunion she went to where she was given a name tag showing which line we were related through. She was related through two of George Q.’s sisters: Ann and Mary Alice. So she had two name tags. She said it was a great way to start a conversation. It has been a while so I don’t know if they still do that. Seems with how large the Cannon family has become it would be easy to marry a 3rd or 4th cousin without knowing it. I almost did.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 23, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  15. These two articles by Steve Olsen printed in the Atlantic should squelch any pride we have in our relationships. The first shows just how closely related we all are. The second demonstrates the uncertainty in linking child to father. We just might not be who we think we are! But then, who are we?

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200205/olson

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200707/paternity

    Comment by Alan — January 23, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  16. I have one of those polygamous relationships in my ancestry where my 3g-grandfather (John) married his dad’s (Enos’, my 4g) widow (Tamma, Enos’ second wife) who was his (John’s) first wife’s (Matilda’s) mother. Tamma had children with both husbands.

    If I’ve done the math correctly, this makes Tamma my 4g-grandmother, 4-g Stepgrandmother, and sister wife and mother to my 3-g-grandmother.

    Since Enos was her second husband (her first died crossing the plains) that makes her Tamma Durfee Miner Curtis Curtis. Not quite up to Elizabeth Taylor’s record, but admirable for the mid-1800s.

    I often bring this bit out at parties…

    Comment by Chad Too — January 23, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  17. I can’t resist my relationship story:

    Heredity: A Genealogy Poem
    by Grandpa Tucker [whoever he is]

    I saw a duck the other day.
    It had the feet of my Aunt Faye.
    Then it walked, was headed South.
    It waddled like my Uncle Ralph.

    And when it turned, I must propose,
    Its bill was formed like Aunt Jane’s nose.
    I thought, “Oh, no! It’s just my luck,
    Someday I’ll look just like a duck!”

    I sobbed to Mom about my fears,
    And she said, “Honey, dry your tears.
    You look like me, so walk with pride.
    Those folks are all from Daddy’s side.”

    Comment by Maurine — January 23, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  18. Hey, that relationship finder is pretty cool. Alan’s disillusionment aside, we could have a poll to see who has the most direct relationship to current apostles, prophets, mayflower people, etc. Bonus points for being a direct descendent! I’ll start –

    Current Apostles – 9 (closest – 8th Cousin 1x removed)
    Prophets – 13 (closest – 5th cousin 5x removed)
    Presidents – 18 (closest – 3rd cousin 8x removed)
    Mayflower – 6 (closest – 12th great grandparent)
    Signers of the Declaration: 16 (closest – 2nd cousin 8x removed)

    Comment by iguacufalls — January 23, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

  19. I should probably have added that my descent is through John and Matilda.

    Comment by Chad Too — January 23, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

  20. Oh my goodness. I have no pioneer ancestors or pioneer blood, but I’m cousin to an awful lot of ‘em, and that’s being able to put in only 3 of 4 grandparents (one was still alive when we did ancestral file). I had no idea. (who are these prolific Gerard Spencer, Thomas Harris, and John Lake people, anyway?).

    Ah, I get it. The only real connections are through my Mayflower-era ancestors.

    Comment by Coffinberry — January 23, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

  21. Just how significant is one’s pedigree in the formation of his or her identity? I’ve interacted with some real insufferable people who really thought they were something because of their ancestor(s).

    Are there still views in Mormon society, held over from the 19th and early 20th centuries, that the “true blood of Israel” is primarily traced through New England and British roots?

    Anyone out there have a dating/courtship experience where either you, or your significant other, was not “blue-blooded” enough for a certain family member? My grandmother used to have a semi-formal sit down with the fiances of her grandchildren to learn more about their heritage (pedigree charts and all). She claimed she was just looking for common ancestors, but I’ve always wondered if she was looking for prominent relatives. But thanks to her, I’m linked in with all the “important people” on the BYU database.

    Comment by Alan — January 23, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  22. #17 – Maurine, that poem is awesome!

    Comment by Ray — January 23, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  23. Ha, ha! When I was a highly nerdy teenager, I spent my summers hauling hay for Dad, and copying Grandma’s genealogy (and preparing countless group sheets to submit for temple work). Somehow, I needed the self-image boost which could be obtained only through relationship charts.

    Therefore (drum roll!), I will have all Keepa readers know that I am a sixth cousin, six generations removed, to both Joseph and Emma Smith [poignant silence, waiting for thunderous applause . . . , . . .] Er, oh, well, anyway . . .

    Comment by Rick Grunder — January 23, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  24. O, the symmetry of it all, Rick!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 23, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  25. I’m surprised that no one has brought up the old song, “I’m my own grandma.”

    Comment by Steve C. — January 23, 2009 @ 9:33 pm

  26. You mean this one, Steve C.?

    I’m My Own Grandpa

    It sounds funny, I know,
    But it really is so,
    Oh, I’m my own grandpa.

    I’m my own grandpa.
    I’m my own grandpa.
    It sounds funny, I know,
    But it really is so,
    Oh, I’m my own grandpa.

    Now many, many years ago, when I was twenty-three,
    I was married to a widow who was pretty as could be.
    This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red.
    My father fell in love with her, and soon they, too, were wed.

    This made my dad my son-in-law and changed my very life,
    My daughter was my mother, cause she was my father’s wife.
    To complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy,
    I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy.

    My little baby then became a brother-in-law to Dad,
    And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad.
    For if he was my uncle then that also made him brother
    Of the widow’s grown-up daughter, who, of course, was my stepmother.

    Father’s wife then had a son who kept him on the run,
    And he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter’s son.
    My wife is now my mother’s mother, and it makes me blue,
    Because, although she is my wife, she’s my grandmother, too.

    Now if my wife is my grandmother, then I’m her grandchild,
    And every time I think of it, it nearly drives me wild,
    For now I have become the strangest case you ever saw
    As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa.

    I’m my own grandpa.
    I’m my own grandpa.
    It sounds funny, I know,
    But it really is so,
    Oh, I’m my own grandpa.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 23, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  27. When I was about 8-11, my uncle used to sing that song almost every time I saw him. It still is my most vivid memory of him – well, that and how good it felt occasionally to beat him at Scrabble (the game of the Gods, in his eyes) or to help him hide the playing cards from my grandmother, so we could play rummy with my dad and grandfather when she wasn’t around to see us sinning.

    Thanks for the memories. I haven’t thought of him in a while.

    Comment by Ray — January 23, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  28. There’s a great Robert Heinlein story called, I think, “All you zombies” about a guy who knew his ancestors really well. Time travel was involved. He also sang the aforementioned song.

    Comment by Tatiana — January 24, 2009 @ 1:51 am

  29. Re #21 – Alan, I know of no examples of a “Blue Blood” culture in Mormonism. A surprising fact since we place so much emphasis on genealogy. I can even point to several examples of how recent converts/emigrants married into established pioneer families. It is so prevalent that it almost seems planned. Like a deliberate effort to prevent the formation of a Mormon “blue blood” class.

    The closest I can find are older attitudes about miscegenation which were generally on par with the wider US population. Fortunately these are falling into disfavor too.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 24, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  30. know of no examples of a “Blue Blood” culture in Mormonism. A surprising fact since we place so much emphasis on genealogy. I can even point to several examples of how recent converts/emigrants married into established pioneer families. It is so prevalent that it almost seems planned. Like a deliberate effort to prevent the formation of a Mormon “blue blood” class.

    Oh, there definitely exists a “priveled class” in Mormonism. It’s called the “Daughters of the Utah Pioneers”.

    My wife, raised in Utah to converts who are as about as “insider” as you can get in modern SLC Mormon society, cannot qualify as a member. My daughter, born in North Texas to a father born/raised in the Great Lakes region, can.

    (My wife says that many of the Seminary presidencies and Junior League were biased against DUP-eligible people, when she was growing up in SLC in the 70s and 80s.)

    Comment by queuno — January 25, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

  31. privileged, not priveled

    Comment by queuno — January 25, 2009 @ 7:42 pm

  32. (
    I should point out – I’m proud of my heritage. I’m not casting aspersions on the DUP, not by any means. Some of my relatives have held positions of prominence in the DUP. I’m pointing out that, unfortunately, there are apparently some circles where one’s ineligibility to be a DUP member was used against them.

    I remember that while I was at BYU, in a discussion about some political question of the day, a girl suggesting that I wasn’t as “Mormon” as she was, because I didn’t come from Utah, and so that I couldn’t possibly understand what real Mormons might believe. I hadn’t pulled out any genealogical trump cards to that point and refrained from doing so, although it was humorous to think how we were standing in a building named after an ancestor. It just so happened that I was the first person born to my mother’s family outside Utah, since the pioneers arrived in Utah.

    We ofttimes put too much emphasis on where our parents chose to live, what careers our parents chose, etc. I’m glad I will be judged on my own life, not theirs.
    )

    Comment by queuno — January 25, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

  33. I’m proud of my heritage, too, obviously, and it would be a pleasure to remember that heritage with nearby women in person as well as with y’all long distance. But it’s no pleasure to be around people who act as though all the honor earned by their ancestors is owed to them personally, is it?

    The attitude you describe — which I recognize as very real — is the kind that could flare up just about anywhere and anytime and among any group, depending on the personalities of the people who join. I hope nobody sees it here on Keepa. If I ever say anything that suggests I feel that way, there’s a misunderstanding somewhere.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 25, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  34. My father tells the story of, right before the wedding to my mother, the two families all got together, and how there was a tense moment while the two grandmothers got out the books to ensure that the wedding would be legal. Some common ancestors, but far enough away to not derail anything.

    Comment by queuno — January 25, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

  35. queuno, I’ll defer to your (and your wife’s) personal experience. I have not lived in Utah (aside from BYU, which barely counts) so I have no first hand experiences like that. I still think that the Church leadership during the pioneer period appears to have tried to prevent exactly what you describe.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 25, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  36. Institutionally, I think you’re right, Bruce. But you know what it’s like when any bunch of people get together — some of them will always find a way to consider themselves better than all the rest of them.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 26, 2009 @ 5:22 am

  37. I’m not casting aspersions on the DUP

    Well, if you won’t, I will. It’s always given me the heebie-jeebies to go into their museum. What wasted potential! They have amazing collections and have done so little with them. What a shame.

    (I have additional problems with the organization, but won’t air them here.)

    In interests of full disclosure, most of my grandmas all the way back have belonged to the DUP, including one who served as president, and if I lived in Utah, I might consider joining for a variety of reasons.

    That said, while I understand some of the purposes of exclusionary organizations (including the DAR, private country clubs, etc.), how can anyone seriously claim that one of the purposes of such organizations is not the unspoken (or sometimes spoken) thought that “we’re better than you because… [fill in the blank].”

    I never did understand why my ancestors who walked across the plains were any better than those who rode the train several years later. Or my husband’s great grandpa who moved to Utah in 1913. Or someone who moves there today. The process of moving your feet enough times to get you across the Great Plains elevates you into a special category that should be held in particular veneration? I don’t think so.

    I respect my ancestors for reasons other than that.

    Thanks, though, BruceC for your comment in 29 which made me smile and think of the DUP. That led to a chain of events which included me looking up some of my ancestors in their catalog (click on “history department” on their left side-bar). I’m posting family histories on my personal blog and didn’t have histories for some upcoming ancestors, but see that the DUP does.

    (Sorry for the length of this comment!!!)

    Comment by Researcher — January 26, 2009 @ 7:33 am

  38. Yes, the DUP does do a bang up job of collecting family histories. However, I have one I was able to get from them which full of errors. So be cautious. Not all of them are of equal quality.

    The LDS church equivalent to the DUP database is The Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel index which is organized by pioneer company. I found that an ancestor that was not listed in the pioneer company in which I knew she was a member. The church history department was happy to receive the documentation from me and to update their records. But they would not deal with the DUP. I felt ridiculous getting info sent from Salt Lake to Nashville so I could turn around and send it back to Salt Lake.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 26, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  39. The DUP won’t let the church deal with them! They will not allow extracts from their published books to be added to the Overland Travel website, which is why the “sources” section lists only citations to the DUP books rather than the text, and they won’t allow anyone to do research in their records to identify pioneer companies: they will allow any individual researcher to see the records of that person’s own ancestors only. I can’t even take in a client’s pedigree chart and a signed request from that client that I be allowed to see records of the client’s ancestors on his behalf — unless I lie and say those people are my own ancestors, I am barred from looking at them. Plus, I can’t use my computer or copy out passages in longhand; I am allowed to takes notes only.

    I’m glad you were willing to retrieve the records and share your information with the Church, because that’s the only way to pry anything out of the Daughters.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 26, 2009 @ 8:31 am

  40. Tell it how it is, Ardis! And for a touch of the absurd, you could get into a discussion about their claims of holding “copyright” to the submitted histories.

    (As a private library, I guess they have the right to control who sees their collection, but since when does a library own the copyright to the materials in their collection? [But who's going to take them to court over those lines on their submission form?])

    (Perhaps there is a copyright lawyer among the many lawyers who read your blog who could comment.)

    They do perform some valuable functions, but like I said before, it’s too bad they don’t do more with what they have.

    Comment by Researcher — January 26, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  41. Woohoo!

    I tried to join the DUP, but even when I shaved, powdered my face and put on my best wig and frock, they still discovered that I wasn’t anybody’s daughter, Utah Pioneer or no, and black-balled me.

    I don’t have any ancestors who do not meet the DUP qualification–arrival in Utah before 1869–but I don’t know of any women in my family who have ever joined that bunch. But, my New York born-and-bred daughters seem unlikely candidates for membership, as in, “it’ll be a cold day in hell when they sign up”.

    I just hope they don’t read this blog–I just sent them a request for a history of a 3rd great grandmother.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 26, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  42. Well, it is good to know the source of that disfunctional relationship. Though it does not surprise me. The Church History Department has come a long way under the leadership of people like Marlin K. Jensen. It is disappointing that the DUP has not been able to “grow up” as well.

    If only someone here had the ear of the DUP leadership. It is past time they learned how to play nicely with others.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 26, 2009 @ 9:38 am

  43. I spoke with a former library director of a small northern Utah town who once told me that the DUP had received state money in the past and that part of the strings in getting the money was that their collections would have to be open to the public. I don’t know the validity of what he claimed, and haven’t had the time or money to look into it. Anyone heard something similar?

    Comment by Alan — January 26, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  44. I don’t know, Alan. It has been several years since I even tried to use the DUP collections, and I don’t know if their policies have changed recently.

    The DUP deserves praise for caring enough to gather and preserve records. Much of what they gathered in the early days would have been lost to us, no doubt, without their efforts. Their stated goals of honoring and preserving the memory of the pioneers would be enhanced by allowing access to historians studying “the pioneers” and not just “my very own pioneer ancestor X.”

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — January 26, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  45. Re: BYU genealogical relationship finder?

    That thing is awesome!

    Comment by Jacob F — January 26, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

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