Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Family History Fun--------Really!

June has been a month filled with Family History.

 We mentioned in the last blog that we had a wonderful time in the Palmyra Temple with Heather and Mike's family on June 5th.  We no sooner finished our visit with their family and then were so excited to be able to go to Pittsburgh Rootstech on June 13th.  Rootstech is a community genealogical event that is sponsored by the church.  The biggest central event is usually held in Salt Lake each year, but they also have satellite events held in other cities around the United States.  It is ironic, but we have never been to Rootstech in Salt Lake.  In Pittsburgh, though, it is a smaller, free event and it was held in our Oakland church building.  There were many presenters and participants who were not members of the church, as well as many who were.  We both learned alot from classes that ranged from subjects as varied as Beginning Familysearch to DNA testing to Western PA research.  The event organizers did a very good job at organizing and publicizing it.  We helped to distribute flyers and posters to local libraries and also helped clean the church and set up the day before. Then we helped with clean up afterwards. We heard there were about 170 people in attendance.

The next event was held on June 19th (anniversary of the emancipation of the slaves) at the Heinz History museum.  We felt honored to be invited to it.  It was called the "Freedmen's Bureau Indexing Campaign" announcement.  We arrived at the Heinz History Museum and were seated with about 100 other people. Many of the people there were prominent community leaders and leaders in the African American Historical organization here.

 There was a short 1/2 hour program conducted by a very dynamic man, President Ron Paul,  who is member of the Pittsburgh Stake Presidency.  The news

media for CBS kdka 2 news was there. We actually ended up seeing a few shots of us in the audience on the news that night!  A glimpse of fame for us here in Pittsburgh!!

Then they started a Live Video feed from the main event which was held in Los Angeles, California. The Master of Ceremonies at that event was Germaine Sullivan and his wife, Kembe.  He is a Stake President in Atlanta and they are featured in the recent documentary called  "Meet the Mormons".
Elder D. Todd Christofferson (Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) was the speaker from the church who announced the purchase by the church of the Freedman Bureau records.

By now you are probably wondering "What in the world is the Freedmen Bureau"? A few short weeks ago we didn't know either!   It was basically a
bureau established by the Federal government when the slaves were freed after the Civil War.  The bureau was meant to help assimilate the freed slaves into normal society since they were in need of so much education, food, employment and many other things.  Records were kept which are invaluable to African American research. They have been so difficult to search in the past.  Now the church has purchased the records from the government and is planning to start the indexing project with help from the African American community.  They hope to have it completed in one year.  One small portion (Freedmen Bank Records-- a tenth of the size) was completed previously by inmates at the Utah State Prison and it took 12 years.  The new website is  With all the advancements in Familysearch and the large number of volunteers now indexing, it is a real possibility that it can now get done in one year or less.

Then on June 24th we organized and held a Family History
Workshop at the Vintage Senior Community Center.  We had 17 people, besides us and ward members, there.  We felt alot of interest and had many positive comments about it.  We had volunteers to help from the two wards we attend and also a set of elders to help.  We did an overview of family history and then we did a demonstration with our computer and projector on Familysearch.  One of the best things about it was that the technology actually worked.  Jim worked very hard on it.  Many people were very interested, especially in the newly released Freedmen Indexing Project.  It was very timely and really seemed more than a coincidence that we planned this workshop right after the announcement about the Freedmen records.  When we set the date we had no idea about the  announcement.  We have two more workshops scheduled soon and then will do more in the Fall if we have enough interest.

Really, we are discovering that Family History is just exploding around the world.  It's like the train is leaving and we are trying to catch it before it is too late.  We have a little bit of a grip so far----so I guess we will just keep trying to hold on and keep learning.

Sunday, June 14, 2015


We experienced one of the most wonderful and yet unplanned blessings of our mission this last week.

I remember as we first began planning to leave on our mission.  We felt strongly that this was the time that we should go.... and yet we began to realize all of the family things we would miss.  One of the major ones was having Megan leave on her mission without us. We still felt spiritual promptings that going on our mission NOW was something we needed to do....and so we moved ahead.   Even so, every time we would think of her going to the temple without us there was a little saddness.
She did go through the temple
for the first time with her mom and dad in St. George, but having her family come here a month later and experience going through the Palmyra Temple with her was amazing and so unexpected!  Jim and I were able to even do some 'sealings' with her for family names after the temple session.  Mike and Jenna did family baptisms.  It was just an incredible blessing.  It is wonderful to see how we can never indebt the Lord.  He always ends up blessing us more than we can imagine and more than we really deserve.... even when we can't hardly see our way through the trials of life.

Mike, Heather, Megan, Jenna & Brynlee were planning to come visit us anyway before Megan's mission.  Megan's mission call here to this mission made it quite a unique experience for her to see part of her mission area before she even gets here as a missionary.  President and Sister Johnson were very supportive of them coming and they even invited us to the mission home for a short visit with Megan and her family.

They arrived on June 2nd.   Of course, our first stop was to Mount Washington to see the beautiful view of the city.  We loved showing them other spots around the city and we were able to take time to visit both the temple and church sites in Palmyra and also go to Kirtland one day.

On our way to Palmyra we stopped at Niagra Falls and
really enjoyed walking around the area on the "American side".  We also took a boat ride on the "Maid of the Mist".  We were blessed with great weather and it was such a pleasant experience for all of us.

Mike & Bryn-Science Center climb
We stayed at a comfortable place in Palmyra called "The White House" which was within walking distance from the Sacred Grove.  Going to the temple the next day was a real highlight, but we also enjoyed all of the other history sites.  It was fun to talk to every set of sister missionaries at each site and relate the fact that Megan would be coming out to join the ranks in about 3 weeks.  Talking with each one seemed to get Megan even more excited.  They exchanged e-mails and gave her tips for what she would encounter at the MTC etc.

We spent another day or so with Pittsburgh sightseeing and then also visited Kirtland Ohio church history sites.  We had a comment made on the trip that can go into the family archives!  After we visited President and Sister Johnson we were talking in the car on the way home.   We felt such a missionary spirit while we were there and Jenna said how excited she was to become a sister missionary in the future.  Then
she said "but what I'm REALLY excited about is to be a senior couple one day"!  It just made us smile!!

We were able to celebrate Heather's birthday here.  Their anniversary was also on the 9th, but we spent the day driving and touring Kirtland for their celebration!  They left Pittsburgh on the morning of the 10th and flew to Atlanta to visit with Kent, Shelly, and cousins that Megan won't see for quite a while.  Megan and Courtney especially have a special bond so we were so glad that they had this opportunity.

We got a report that Megan and Jenna actually had a really good missionary opportunity on the way home.  They sat by a woman who was interested in talking about religion and had a religious reference book she wanted to discuss.  Megan pulled out her missionary handbook "Preach My Gospel" and Jenna contributed to the discussion.  The discussion ended up being positive on both sides as they related why Megan will be leaving to serve a mission, what people in our church believe, and what this woman believes.  Seems like she is really being prepared for the next 18 months and Jenna and Megan decided it almost seemed like they were missionary companions!

Memorial Day News--From Home & Here

Being here for Memorial Day seemed really different.
We attended a ward Memorial Day picnic on a beautiful day at a beautiful park here. The weather was perfect and we actually got to taste something off the grill--something we will kind of miss this summer.  We were very grateful to also get a few pictures from Jared and his family who tended to my mom and dad's graves at home.  Somehow it just warmed our hearts to see them doing this---something we would have liked to have done if we were there.  Just one more thing that makes us so thankful for GOOD kids and grandkids!

We continue to notice seeds of the gospel being planted in people's lives here even amidst alot of transistion in both of the wards that we attend.  Both the lst and 7th Wards have a large percentage of the population comprised of students from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and a variety of other schools and programs across the city.  So summertime is transition time with lots of people graduating and moving in and out.  Even with all of the movement, the Elders seem much more busy than they were in the winter and the work is moving really well.  Each Sunday there seems to be alot of new people who are investigating the church in attendance at the meetings.

Mary, who just went through the temple, is now the teacher of the Gospel Principles Sunday School class for newer members of the church.  She was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools. She told the class that she has found many answers to her questions that have added to what she learned as a young girl.  Today we had an awesome class where everyone introduced themselves and told a little bit about where they came from and how they came to join the church.  There were a variety of brief stories told by people from a variety of different religions.  Some were born and raised in the church---some had fallen away and were now returning.  One was trained as a minister for a time and is investigating the church currently.  One said she was a recovering alcoholic who almost lost her life when she fell away from the church and made very bad life choices.  One is actually a Pittsburgh Steelers football player!  At any rate, each person was there because of their search for truth and a feeling within themselves that tells them they have found the truth in what the restored gospel has to offer.

We also helped Karen and Charlette with family history, did a service project with the elders which involved removing carpet padding and staples at Margaret's house, and hemmed some drapes for Martha who is moving and trying to sell her house. No matter how messy or trivial the service projects are, we are finding that it feels good to wear jeans and T-shirts occasionally!  At least I like it!   It still makes Jim a little nervous and shaky to take off his tie!!!!   We also watched a video with Mel and Elders Tunquist and Wright that we found from BYU-TV.  It is called "A New Day for the Book of Mormon."  It gives a variety of expert opinions both in and out of the church about the validity of the book.  It was just SO  good.  Mel really liked it.  He is devouring and getting into family history.  He is already excited to start working towards going to the temple.  We are also visiting the Children's Hospital again for two families.  One is a 3 year old boy who went with his mom for a routine doctor visit and wound up being sent a couple of hours away here to the hospital with a diagnosis of leukemia.  Another is a family who has had so many struggles with their little 5 year old son.  They have been in the hospital this time for over 50 days. We are realizing that the people we visit seem to love our visits.  We think it is not because of us.  We feel that when we enter the room and they see our name tags that it just melts their hearts.  They know we represent the Savior.  As they face such difficult trials we sometimes want to give them something tangible, but have realized that His love is really what they need most.
Morning hike at Falls Run

Then on Saturday morning for our exercise time we drove about 15 minutes away to the coolest little hike.  It had rained the night before so things were a tiny bit damp and misty.  We hiked across many small bridges to a small little trickle of a waterfall.  It was so refreshing and was a nice bit of variety for our exercise routine.

               Pennsylvania is really BEAUTIFUL !!!