Old family letters give some great information and wonderful insights into the lives and relationships of our ancestors.
Some family letters written to Samuel Eggleston were included on typed sheets I found with records of Theron Eggleston at the home of his daughter Ruth. With these letters were others with genealogical information that Orson Hyde Eggleston gathered while on his mission and genealogical correspondence. These had all apparently been transcribed by Theron or his wife. I don’t know what happened to the original letters.
I found this correspondence to be quite interesting. The family letters give some insights into personalities and family relationships as well as provided some genealogical clues which were helpful in my research.
The Family Letters – First from Eliza Barron
This earliest letter, dated 1862, was to Samuel Eggleston from his sister Eliza Barron. Samuel had recently migrated from Iowa to Utah. Eliza passed away in 1869. Eliza mentioned their brother Ansel, who was somewhat of a mystery – to us, and possibly to them. This letter provided clues to help me find him in records in Michigan, where he died in 1871. We also get a glimpse of personalities from the things Eliza said about her brother as well as the colorful way she expressed herself. I would like to have known Aunt Eliza.
Eliza also mentioned a letter from Rev. A. Eggleston, who would be the Ambrose Eggleston mentioned in later genealogical correspondence. This letter to Eliza may have begun that correspondence.
Early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were encouraged to search out their family genealogies in order to provide baptisms for their dead family members. Samuel and Lurania Eggleston were the first of our family to join the LDS Church. I am not sure if Samuel did any active genealogy, but it does appear that he encouraged his son Orson in efforts to gather information. While on his Mission in Michigan during 1876-1877, Orson visited family members and obtained names and dates. He wrote to his father several letters with such information.
I don’t know what happened to the original letters. It appears that at some point Orson’s son Theron, or his wife, transcribed these letters. I found several typed pages of letters when I visited Theron’s daughter Ruth. I made copies of them. They were all typed on numbered legal size sheets and include some notes made by whoever transcribed them. Included with these letter were correspondence with W. E. Hagens and other letters from Orson to his father and from family members to Samuel.
There is also some question about whether Orson kept this information himself or simply sent it on to his father in these letters. Orson went to the Logan Temple in 1914 to do proxy baptisms. The records of the work done then do not fit exactly the information in these letters. There is a possibility that some of the handwritten information was misread or typos made when typing them up.
Discovery of the Journal
Orson Hyde Eggleston served a Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1876-1877. He was called at the General Conference of the Church on October 7, 1876. Years ago, after learning that Orson Hyde Eggleston had kept a journal of his Mission to Michigan, I went to the Church History Library to see this Journal. This was when the Church History Library was located in the Church Office Building, before the beautiful new building was built. The procedure to view items in the Archives required checking in with ID, leaving everything I had brought with me in a locker, except a pencil and paper. No electronic devices allowed, though a cell phone with a camera was not something I even had then. Items were requested and then brought to a viewing room. I painstakingly transcribed – by hand – the entire journal. It is not a very long journal, and in a very small notebook. I then went home and typed from my notes a two page transcription of the journal.
Family Bibles are wonderful sources of information. I found this Bible when I visited Cousin Ruth several years ago. She indicated that it had belonged to Orson Hyde Eggleston and had been given to her father Theron Eggleston, probably by his father Orson. It appears that it may have been in the possession of Joseph S. Eggleston at some point and he may have entered at least some of this information himself. Ruth let me take this Bible to make photocopies of the Family Record entries.
Finding the Treasure of an Old Book
Sometimes a old book is more than just an old book – it is a tangible trace of someone’s life – a treasure worth much more than the value of the volume.
At one point in my genealogy journey, I made contact with a second cousin named Ruth. She was the daughter of my father’s Uncle Theron Eggleston. Somehow, Theron had assumed the role of family genealogist in his time – I can relate to that. He apparently had been given his father Orson Hyde Eggleston’s records. Theron also lived in Salt Lake City near the Utah Genealogical Society and he and his wife Emily spent much time there researching during the early to mid-1900’s.
I made a visit to Ruth’s home in West Valley City, Utah and found there a genealogical gold mine. Her basement was filled with boxes and file cabinets full of records. This was before I had a cell phone which could take pictures, so we filled a box with selected documents which she let me take to make photocopies.
Journal entries of Samuel Eggleston in Times & Seasons
Times & Seasons
DNA is the new wonderful tool for genealogy. It has great possibilities, especially if used along with traditional genealogy. It also has limitations at this stage and results can be misleading or even disappointing.
Family Finder Puzzles
I decided to take advantage of a sale with FamilyTree DNA during December 2016. I went with FamilyTree because this was where our Eggleston Y-DNA project was done. This project has shown similar Y-DNA between descendants of Joseph Eggleston of Stonington and Bygod Eggleston and was undertaken because of a lack of paper documentation of that link.
My FamilyFinder results had me a little puzzled at first. My results showed seven matches with Egglestons, none of them being ones that were close matches with my father’s Y-DNA in that project. I realize that some of the Y-DNA participants have not taken FamilyFinder tests, but there are some who have who do not show up as matches to me. Three of my Eggleston matches connected back to Bygod Eggleston through his daughter Sarah who married John Pettibone, which would make us about 9th cousins rather than the 2nd – 5th that it showed for 4 of them. This seems to confirm the Y-DNA indications that we are all descendants of Bygod Eggleston, but is confusing that I seem to be more closely related to these very distant cousins than to closer known cousins.
Then a first cousin on my Eggleston side had his AncestryDNA results transferred to FamilyTreeDNA, which gave me more perspective. We definitely match as first cousins. We had considerably more DNA in common than any of the other matches to me. I am beginning to get some understanding of how they determine relationships based on shared amounts of DNA.
The Family History Challenge
I recently attended a meeting where a challenge was issued – Do something dealing with Family History that you have never done before. The initial challenge for me was thinking of something I had never done before.
After setting aside genealogy to make it through the holidays, I tried to get back into it at the beginning of the year by returning to some lines I had worked on previously. I became a little frustrated as I found myself banging up against the same brick walls again. I played around with my DNA results after being tested in December and I was introduced to the Relative Finder feature on FamilySearch which was a fun new tool. Then I added my husband to Relative Finder and learned that he was related to some pretty impressive people. Most of these were through his Stark line. This is his adopted line, which we knew little about, so curiosity got me looking into it. I also looked at his mother’s line which had been thoroughly researched by his aunt, but things were messed up on FamilySearch. All of this was interesting, but I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much.
One thing I had always hoped to be able to do was to teach and inspire my children to get involved in Family History so they could carry on this work after I am no longer able to. This would seem a very worthy goal.
I have three daughters who throughout their adolescence and into adulthood often mocked me for my interest in dead people. I think they resented the time I spent seemingly obsessed with old records when I should have paid more attention to what they were doing. (I probably should have paid more attention to them) Their lack of respect for records and old things left me worried that they would toss out all those papers, binders, books and heirlooms after I was gone.
On Valentines Day 1952, my brother was born– and died. It was never a secret. All of us kids grew up knowing that there was another baby who died before we were born. When it was mentioned, it was simply stated as a fact, but it was not really talked about. I never saw a birth certificate among those for the rest of us, and certainly not a death certificate. There was no grave to place flowers on when we made our Memorial Day cemetery visits. He didn’t even have a name until decades later when Dad finally filled in the blank space on the family group sheet. Of course, there were no photos, or even the smallest of objects kept to remember him. How strange that a life so brief and seemingly unnoticed, could have such a huge impact on generations.
I have always felt that this work is a collaboration between family members on both sides of the veil and that they are probably more anxious for us to know them, than we are. I truly feel that both Donna and I were directed on that summer day in 2010 – me to find Mariett and include her story in the family history, and Donna to learn more about the family. The bonus is forming a relationship with another living cousin.
During the summer of 2010, I made a decision to finally finish and publish the book I had been writing on the Eggleston Family. My research had spanned more than a decade. I had started writing early on, adding to it as I learned more. One of the great blessings of this process was finding many living cousins along the way. Some were very distant cousins, but others were second cousins that I did not know. I even became better acquainted with first cousins during that time. I had tried to include whatever information these cousins shared with me about different ancestors.
Anyone familiar with genealogy knows that no research or resulting book is ever “completed”. There will always be remaining questions, and hopefully information coming to light in the future to help solve the mysteries. When it comes to writing up the results of research, it is necessary to reach of point of decision that what is now known is enough to write, publish and share. So in 2010, after completing a rather large and involved project with the Weber County Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, I decided now was the time.
I am feeling somewhat burdened by stuff. Having lived in the same house for 36 years where my husband and I raised three children who have since moved out, I fully realize that we have accumulated a lot of stuff – way too much stuff.
I and my siblings have also been encouraging our 90-year-old father to get rid of some of the stuff he has acquired during his long lifetime and stored over 50 years in the same house. My father grew up during the depression and has a deeply instilled sense that things should be kept in case there is a future shortage or they may again be useful to someone. He is now willing to give away things to family members, but there are definite differences between what he thinks might be useful and what they might really want.
My children are of a generation which seems to be able to easily dispose of stuff. If they find later that they need something they got rid of, they just buy another. I personally am somewhere in between – I really want to rid myself of unnecessary stuff cluttering my home and life, but I also see value and meaning in some things, which makes it harder to let go.
I have read advice columns suggesting strategies for eliminating stuff. One criteria given is usefulness. If something has not been used for a period of time, you should get rid of it. Another strategy uses a criteria of joy – encouraging people to acquire and/or keep objects which bring them pleasure and discard those that don’t. The challenge that keeps me immobile is the realization that some stuff is just stuff, useful, enjoyable or otherwise, but other stuff has meaning. Getting rid of meaningless stuff that is no longer useful or enjoyed is not really a problem (other than the time and effort involved in disposal). The problem is that for me, many objects have meaning. I have kept them because of what they mean to me, even when they take up space or are not useful. Continue reading