Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Tribute to Our Pioneers--He Cares More About the Shoulder Than About the Wheel

Robert Henry Swain
19 Mar 1835--18 Nov 1995
Being Labor Day today, I wanted to relate a story of labor, renewal and love about LaRee's grandfather.  In 1853 her grandfather, Robert Henry Swain and his wife were baptized in Kent, England, where he was employed as a policeman and as a member of the queen’s local bodyguard. Like many of our ancestors, Grandpa and his wife, Elizabeth, and their children crossed the Atlantic to make the pioneer trek to Utah, but they did not come together.

What’s unique in Grandpa Henry’s story is that when he departed from Liverpool on April 29, 1865, on the ship Belle Wood, he left alone. He and Elizabeth had separated five years earlier. We don’t know the circumstances of the divorce, but we do know that Elizabeth was not happy with Henry and had tossed her wedding band into the sea. Grandpa subsequently lost his membership in the Church.

Ponder for a moment and visualize Grandpa walking alone into the Great Salt Lake Valley with the William S. S. Willes wagon company on November 11, 1865. I wonder what he was thinking and feeling as he entered the valley. What was this divorced and excommunicated brother to do there? He had no useful skills for the Saints at that time, and he wasn’t in a position to provide much priesthood service.

Harper's Weekly of Robert Henry
Master Stone Mason on the
Walls of the Salt Lake Temple
So he went to work as a stonecutter in Little Cottonwood Canyon and as a stonemason on the temple, where he labored for the next 10 years. And while working on the construction of the temple, a reconstruction of his own life began taking place as he returned to full fellowship in the kingdom. Eventually he became a chief stonemason and established a family occupation that was passed forward to many of his descendants, including my father and my brother. I miss the quality of that work and mourn a little of its disappearing legacy as the Swain family line continues to move forward into the information age and acquires new skills in a new economy.

Jesus taught:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Alma the Elder personally experienced this wonderful paradox:

Stone Masons of the Salt Lake Temple
Robert Henry is the tallest, at center.
And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

In my heart I see Grandpa Henry trudging into the Great Salt Lake Valley, laden with his own burdens. The Lord’s tender response was not to grant a reprieve and a vacation; rather, Grandpa Henry was invited to “Come, follow me” and give himself to the Lord’s will and to His work. The blessed work was restful and refreshing, and Grandpa was renewed. The key to finding rest and renewal is to give ourselves wholly and wholeheartedly to God’s work and to His will. Grandpa Henry worked in God’s stone quarry and found renewal of his life.

Vernal Temple of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Two and half years after the temple dedication, on November 18, 1895, Grandpa Henry died of a lung disease attributed to his working so long in the granite dust. His work on the temple breathed life back into him. Grandpa died surrounded by his large family. He died fully in the faith. Besides a family tradition of brick and stone masonry, he left a legacy of faith for us. Grandpa Henry was built—was remade—into a new creature.

The Vernal temple, seen here was originally the Vernal Stake Tabernacle in Vernal, Utah.  It was built in 1912 with brick from the Swain Brick Yard of Abner Swain, son of Robert Henry Swain.

Taken from a talk by Dr. Monte Swain at Brigham Young University, May 27, 2008.

Dr. Swain and LaRee are both direct descendants (great grandfather of Robert Henry Swain.

Monday, August 30, 2010

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.

Mary Ellen Chappell- 1956 ?
Ruth Chappell and George Miller
2002, Roosevelt, Utah
I have been searching for ancestors of my Father, George Theodore William Miller, who was adopted at age 14 in El Reno, Oklahoma in 1930.  His biological sister, Ruth Margaret Miller (originally HILKMANN) passed away eight years ago.  We just found her obituary, listing her immediate family....two daughters (my aunts) that I knew as a child, Betty Ann and Mary Ellen Chapell, now had new last names (Hembree and Sherwin).  I could find them and find my ancestors.  I did some quick searching this evening and found a phone number.  I called and Aunt Ruth's grandson (Mary Ellen's son) answered the phone.  His voice broke when I asked if I could speak to his mother.  I was excited; but he held back tears as he told me his mother passed away three years ago. 

I paused for a moment, then offered my apologies and told him of my interest in his family.  He seemed pleased that I knew his mother and had pictures and information about his family genealogy. He told me that he even had some Rose Bowl tickets from 1958, that his mother, aunt and I had attended in California. 

Ruth  Betty Ann, Virgil
and Mary Ellen Chappell
El Reno, Ok 1956?
I felt so badly.  Maybe my Link to my ancestor was gone.  I was too late.

It is said that "when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." I hope that I have not lost too much.

I sent the young man some emails with family tree information and some photos of his mother and grandmother and great grandparents. 

Don't put off contacting your family.     George  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Your Family History In Records

Herbert C. Legg, George's Grandfather
What kind of information can you learn about your ancestors by reading public records and documents?
We have pieced together a story of George's grandfather, Herbert C. Legg, from his birth in LeRoy, New York to his death in Palm Springs, California, using information from census records, draft cards, news articles, obituaries and personal histories. 

Come on a quest with us and see what you can learn:

World War I Draft Card for Herbert C Legg.
We have uploaded a few of these public records on flickrClick here to view them as a slide show.  Please note, these are images of text documents, many of which are handwritten.  Zoom in with your web browser to get a closer look. Then click the right arrow at the top of the flickr page to go to the next image.

Can you find:
Public Service
Special Note: Can you find a census record that indicates a maid living in his residence? What might that indicate about the Legg family's status?
What do personal histories add to an ancestor's story?

Good Luck!  Post your findings in the comment section below. 

Click here to begin your quest...

Getting Started with your Family History

Getting Started:

Family history can seem a bit daunting. We hear people say all the time that they want to do family history work but they haven't because...well it sounds like work. It can seem overwhelming and the most often heard phrase is "I don't know where to start!" Well don't worry. We've broken it down into 3 easy steps that you can do to get the wheel rolling.

Miller/Swain "Family Box"
When LaRee and I started with our family history, we found all sorts of papers, documents, photo's and the like scattered in various places. Picture albums, family bibles, boxes of papers handed down from grandparents and parents, etc. Here are few things you can do to get you started on your own family journey:

Miller/Swain Important Papers
1- The Family Box: Put everything you can find into a cardboard box. Start collecting anything and everything and put it your "Family Box." Keep it in a conspicuous place so everyone will see it and add their "stuff" to it.

2- Embrace technology: Computer technology will make the sorting, storing, finding, analyzing, and enjoying your family history materials much easier. Software (both free and fee) are available to help you. One of the best, and free is PAF 5.2 (Personal Ancestral File). You can simply download it on your computer and your family tree is ready for you to enter information.

Example of a Pedigree Chart
3- Fill out a 4 generation group sheet: Start with the basics. Write down everything you can about the biographical information of your ancestors. (Names, Dates, Places, Births, Marriages, Deaths, etc.) This information is essential for future searching to make up your pedigree. Click here to find a form and download a pdf.

Start there and you'll start to see holes that you want to fill in, or you'll see an interesting name or date and you'll want to investigate to find out more about that person. Is someone's death date around 1863? Did they fight in the civil war? Was someone born in England or Denmark and die in New York? Can you find out what ship they came over on or find them listed at Ellis Island? Do a dogpile, google or wiki search to see what you can find out. We recommed visiting and typing in the name of your first deceased ancestor, whether that is a parent, grandparent, start with the one closest to you. Put on your sleuthing hats and away you go!

PS if you have the means, a subscription to is well worth it, but you can certainly get started by utilizing he free search engines listed above.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Insight #1--Your Genealogy Activities

As you begin your Family History journey, keeping track of your discoveries in an organized way will help.  Write down notes about a particular ancestor before doing any research.  Before begining your search, think about what you want to find and write it down to help you remember what you are looking for. A research log is a great way to do this. 

1. Start with the full name of your ancestor.  Most search engines (Yahoo, Google,, FamilySearch

2.  Be consistent with dates and places.  A common method for a date is Day/Month/year: 2 Feb 1945.
A common method for notating a location is City/County/State/Country: Midvale, Salt Lake, Utah, United States

3.  Scan through  results of searches quickly.  Most searches will result with 5,000 to 500,000 results.  Many search sites will use a scale of stars (*) to indicate relevance.  The more stars the better.

Alma Anderson and Family, LaRee's Great Grandfather
4.  Involve your family when possible.  They may remember something about your ancestor that you didn't know. 

5.  Check out the Family History Library Favorites.... a great resource that is organized by geographic regional websites regarding national and internation genealogy searches.

6. Be sure to use a software program like PAF (free),, RootsMagic, or or more to store your records.

7.  Keep track of your results.  Use your research log to mark down your findings so that you can reference them later.

George 25 Aug 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming Together Over Family History

Helen Nordquist and her father Axel.
Today two generations of the Nordquist family (George's maternal line) came together and met for the first time.  George's 3rd cousin Michele, lives just a few hours from our home in Park City, yet we have never met until today. In fact, we didn't even know we had any surviving realtives from the Nordquist line still living in the area. 

A few weeks back we received an email from Michele, who had been on and saw an entry we made to a relative on the Nordquist family line.  Wondering who was working on her family's history, she sent a us an email through the site's messaging system inquiring of our connection to the Nordquist line.  Come to find out her great-great parents Axel and Ida Nordquist are George's great grandparents! (Picutred above are Axel Nordquist - George's great grandfather -- and Helen Nordquist, George's grandmother).

We met today at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City where we were able to compare notes, family stories and discover commonalities between our family and hers.  What a fun example of how we can be connected to living family members as we search out those from generations past!

...til we meet again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

LaRee has some "Offshoots" of her own.

Carolyn LaRee Swain Miller  (LaRee) has quite a pioneer heritage in her family line.  Visit
Orville Hatch Swain Family Tree 2010

LaRee's genealogical interest started several years ago.  While helping her husband (George) recover from Liver Transplant surgery, they brought home a 50 pound box of genealogical papers from her brother's (Orvin) home.  It was loaded with pioneer stories, family group records, and lots of pictures of her ancestors.  They have spent the last two years putting it all together.  The stories and genealogy discovered have been a treasure beyond belief that has enlightened and benefitted their family. 

When you can, read the story of Orville and Ora Swain  They and their families were true pioneers whose legacy we all can marvel at!  See:  Orville Hatch Swain's Story.