Willis Welty Family

The Value in Re-Plowing Old Ground

It has been an interesting time for working on family history.

The part I like least about this work is prospecting for data – finding the names, dates and places necessary to fill out the tree.

That’s ground-floor stuff and I’m much more of a storyteller. I want to know what’s beyond the data with each person.

I got a message a few weeks back from my niece Michaela asking if I had any more female names for baptisms. As it turned out I was fresh out. She will be going for her own endowments next fall so until then she’s limited in what temple work she can do. So, for her sake I decided to see what I could find out there in the part of the work that’s not my favorite.

I’m glad I did. From it I learned more of the story.

~ Going for the Low Hanging Fruit ~

In all the recent work on my step-grandfather’s line – that of Pascal Henry Caldwell – I assumed I would find a lot of work on his family. After all, it now stretches back to the year 1100.

But that Caldwell family must have a lot of people out there working on it that I do not know about.

Not only did I find the data but I found lots of temple work that has been done over the past several years.

The Caldwells were not the low hanging fruit I thought they were.

So I went back to my mother’s line to see what had changed. Due to the pandemic and the situation with my Dad it’s maybe been three years since I’ve been down in the weeds on my mother’s lines. There was enough there – and still is – to keep us pretty busy.

What I noticed right off is that others have really stepped up in the time I’ve been away. In fact, I would wonder what my mother would think today if she saw how things have progressed since the last time she was able to look at it herself.

Of course, what I was about to learn is that she knows it all without being here.

She woke me up one night this week. It was her voice I heard.

~ There’s More to the Story ~

I had a long session on Family Search and Ancestry on Wednesday. I had decided to go back to some familiar names to find out where we stood on completing their temple work and what additional records we could attach to names.

When I attended Roots Tech I listened with interest to hear the numbers from Family Search and Ancestry about records they have added since the last Roots Tech was held. Billions and billions of records are added each year from sources all over the world.

I have noticed the last several years that military records have been added in abundance. And, of course, the 1950 census was just released and I wanted to update information from any family who participated in that event.

It was a long day that resulted in many “new” records being added but nothing that changed the outcome in temple work or new family discoveries.

I had a nagging sense, however, that I was actually doing something useful. That something was going to come of going back and adding records to names that technically didn’t need them.

I hit the pillow at about 1:00 am, exhausted, and slept for about 90 minutes. Then, in a dead sleep, I felt a poke on my shoulder and my mother’s voice said “John Jackson”. And that was all.

In all my years of working family history I can claim to have had feelings and promptings to something I needed to do.

But never have I ever felt anything so specific.

So I immediately got out of bed and began a search for John Jackson.

Of course, I assumed that was the entirety of his name.

There are a billion John Jacksons in the world but none that I could find that tied to my mother’s family.

I was momentarily confused as I tried to think through the problem. Then it dawned on me.

I wasn’t looking for a man whose last name was Jackson. I was looking for a man whose first and middle names were John Jackson.

In about 30 seconds I found him – John Jackson Carson, who lived from 1858 to 1924.

He was the son of Erastus Ulysses Carson, who had two families with two separate wives. We knew about John Jackson years ago and did his work, along with all of the other children of Erastus and his two wives.

What we did not know what that John Jackson, like his father, had three wives. He had children with each of them. The reason we didn’t know this before is that the records showing all this were not available the last time any work was done on John Jackson Carson.

In fact, some of the wives and children fell under the 110-year rule, meaning they might have been discoverable in some cases but we could not do their temple work.

Between the combined new record resources of Family Search and Ancestry, we have now a more complete story of John Jackson – and his 8 children from his three wives.

All of John Jackson’s children are now on the other side. Many of their records are now available. He has grandchildren and great grandchildren still living all over the country.

~ More to Every Story ~

John Jackson’s new discoveries made me question everyone on my mother’s lines. So I went back, straight to my grandparents, and began just adding what new records I could find.
Most yielded nothing new.

But, as I got past that great-grandparent level – say from 1850 to 1920 – I started uncovering a lot of new people. Wives added, children born, etc. The make-up of some family units changed dramatically.

For example, Aunt Glenora Welty, my great-grandfather’s sister, has been for years a kind of lost person.

All we had of her was a record of her name from the 1870 census when she was a year old and ten years later from the 1880 census when she was 11. That was enough information to get her baptized and sealed to her parents.

But as is often the case with female records, it ended there.

From years back I can find online inquiries from my mother asking for help in trying to discover whatever happened to Glenora. I spent considerable time about 6 years ago on Glenora and got no further than my Mom did.

But after John Jackson’s discoveries I decided to give it another go and in 20 minutes I was able to finally get somewhere.

Glenora married in 1887 at the age of 18. On the wedding record, which I think may have been available for years, they spelled her last name as Kelty instead of Welty. Her parents were not listed on the marriage record, as was common at the time.

Glenora was an usual name at the time and evidently she never used it after marrying. Every new record I found of her she is listed as Glenna.

In fact, thanks to all these new records I was able to find a brief obituary about her in the local paper:

Glenora Welty Lohman

Of course, discovering this entire family of nine people led to other stories. Glenna had a daughter named Eleanor Beatrice Lohman who never married. She died in France in 1958.

That was a curiosity to me and I wondered what happened.

Turns out, she was in France working as an insurance clerk and while there she died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. When a foreigner working overseas dies there is a report made to send to the family – and that report is accessible now through Ancestry.

Another good reason to plow over old ground is to discover what other family members (most you likely don’t even know about) have added to either Family Search or Ancestry.

Someone at some time posted this image of my great-grandparents, Kit and Effie Carson (Kit was John Jackson’s half brother):

Kit and Effie Carson

That picture means the world to me. My mother did not get to know her Carson family growing up because her mother did not get to know the Carson family, their stories or traditions. To get anything this intimate is very significant to me.

That wasn’t the only family photo I recently discovered. Below is a picture of the Willis Welty family around the year 1915 or so. Willis is Glenora’s brother. Why is this important? Because when my grandmother – Winifred Calista Welty – was orphaned by the deaths of her parents it was with this family that she lived for a long period of time:

Willis Welty Family

Can you see why continuing to look for people we have found adds to the story? When my Nana died in 1967 my mother was only 24. She had nothing of her family that was known. Since that time we have been able to piece together their stories as every new record, photo or story is added.

I’m not done discovering things as I work through ground that has been plowed before.

In fact, I’m finding that I can get 20 to 30 records I can attach now to people who have lived in past 150 years on average. Not every person – but a great many.

This has me motivated to keep working on names we’ve already worked on before. There are stories to uncover in names we have already known about and perhaps have done the temple-work for.

It is good to learn more of their stories.

Aunt Evie

Memories of Aunt Evie

Evelyn Riggs Westover, Aunt Evie to the entire world it seems, passed over to the other side today, Monday, May 23, 2022.

Aunt Evie

In the coming days there will be no shortage of tributes, memories and histories shared of this wonderful lady.

As cousin Lynn Quilter expressed this morning, “Well, that ends an era in the family”.

He’s right. Aunt Evie was the youngest in her family and the last of our “greatest generation” to leave us. What a grand legacy she built with Uncle Darrell and what an imprint she has left on us all.

There are not many people, not even my children, who can fully appreciate how much Aunt Evie has impacted my life.

Even as I still mourn the recent loss of my father I’m almost speechless in trying to express how significant Aunt Evie has been to so many of us. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have long cherished her.

On both sides of the veil today there are hearts rejoicing. Her long illness and physical challenges, which could never define her, have released her and she is free to return home to so many others who also adore her.

As a little boy, I struggled to understand our connection.

I was told she was my Aunt Evie, yet I had another aunt who was so much younger. More confusing to me was that my father called her Aunt Evie, too. So did my uncles – and my aunt. I just couldn’t comprehend that.

Aunt Evie, most of the time when I saw her, was in the company of my grandparents.

In fact, my Grandma, who I adored, seemed to be a little different whenever she was around Aunt Evie.

Riggs Sisters

This family famous photo of the Riggs girls – all expecting, powering the post-war baby boom all by themselves.

You see, they laughed a lot.

Aunt Evie could make my Grandma laugh out loud and with great enthusiasm. This was, at least at that time, a little out of character for Grandma, to me.

My Grandma was a little serious, you see. Not in a stern way, but in a reverent way. Grandma was bright and positive and loving and so very, very kind. But it sure seemed that when Aunt Evie was around my Grandma sure laughed a lot more.

Once, at a family event at my Grandma’s house when Evie was there, I asked her about this whole Aunt Evie thing. I was maybe five or six.

I just did not understand how my Daddy’s Aunt Evie could be my Aunt Evie too. So, I asked her about it.

In fact, I told her I would much prefer to call her Grandma – because she looked a little like my Grandma. Aunt Evie just giggled.

Taking me in her lap, she hugged me, kissed me and told me that she loved me. She was always doing that to me.

She said, “Now, Jeff, I know it’s confusing. But your Grandma is your Grandma and nobody else can be your Grandma. She’s special.”

I said, “I know. She’s my Grandma but you can be my Grandma too”.

She laughed again.

“I love you like any Grandma would, that’s for sure!” Evie said, with a finger pointing in the air. “But I’m your Aunt Evie and happy to be so!”

That sounded a lot like something my Grandma would say. She did her best to explain.

“Your Grandma and I are sisters,” Evie said. “I’m her little sister so that makes me your Aunt Evie.”

I clearly did not understand.

But I was taken with the idea that both Grandma and Aunt Evie were once little girls. Sisters, you see, were little – like me. I had sisters, I understood that. But how could she still be Aunt Evie to me and to my Dad?

Aunt Evie very wisely pointed around the room when I told her of my confusion. “Do you see all these people?” she asked me.

I nodded.

“We are all family. Every one of us. And that is all you need to understand.”

Aunt Evie was always that kind of voice of comfort and love to me. And fun, too. She could laugh with the best of them.

When I was a teenager we moved in across the street from Uncle Darrell and Aunt Evie. Years had passed but Evie hadn’t changed at all. She made a special effort to make me feel welcome living just across the street.

Of course, Uncle Darrell built our house but it was Aunt Evie who made the efforts to make us feel welcome.

On one of my first weekends there she invited me to go to the store with her. On the way, she chatted me up, asking about school and the things I liked. As we walked the store she explained what she was looking for and that she loved feeding everyone.

There was a long line at the check out and while we waited our turn she just kept talking. But suddenly she stopped and started giggling. Behind me was the rack of magazines and a tabloid headline had caught Evie’s eye.

Man Marries a Head of Lettuce, the headline read. Aunt Evie started giggling at that headline and just could not stop.

She was laughing so hard tears were starting to come out of her eyes and she started apologizing. But she kept right on giggling and asked me to help fill out her check because she couldn’t see well enough to do it herself.

I understood rather quickly that this was just life with Evie. She saw humor in things most of us might never notice. She was infinitely upbeat. She took great joy, it seemed, in just about everything.

She had her serious moments, too, of course. At Church one Sunday, after I had given a talk, she came up to me and grabbed my face, giving me a big kiss in the process. “You did far better than I could do. I’m proud of you.”

There was no giggling with that, just love. That was Evie’s gift.

Over the years I would have opportunities to have many conversations with her. Some about me and what I was doing but almost always it was about other people in the family. My parents, my cousins, my grandparents, her parents and all those who came before.

Darrell & Evie

My adventures in family history I’ve noted many times came about thanks to Uncle Darrell. But in a more quiet, consistent way Evie was at the center of many of those conversations, too.

She always read what I would post on this website. She asked me questions. She encouraged me. She was always interested.

I’m not sure how much Aunt Evie knew how much that motivated me. I’ve always had kind of an Aunt Evie filter in place when I write things – because I knew she was going to read it.

Still, we teased her a lot when I was younger.

I can never forget those early morning drives to Seminary. It was always early and we were always grumpy and Evie never was. Never.

Being teenagers we would sometimes do things just to get her reaction. On a cold day when the windshield on their big Chevy Impala iced up we all sat in the car while Evie tried to clear the windshield.

Evie was a little lady. That Impala was huge. She had bummed my pocket comb off me so she could scrape the window.

We were content to sit in the car with the defroster blowing watching her jump up at the windshield in an attempt to get her little arms to cover some distance on that huge window. The higher she jumped and reached to scrape the ice the more we laughed.

Looking back now, it seems kind of a mean thing to do.

But when she, out of breath, got back into the car and saw us laughing she started laughing too. “I must have looked pretty silly!” she laughed. But that was Aunt Evie – always bright, always positive, always laughing at herself and never at others.

To me, she was always sensitive about my Mom.

She always asked how Mother was doing. She always asked, if we were discussing something important, if I had talked to my Mom about it.

She always complimented my Mom to me, too – how pretty she was, what neat things she did with our yard, how talented she was in so many creative ways.

Once, when I was maybe 15 or 16, Evie could see I was struggling with girls. I thought she and my Mother talked about it because I had just recently had a talk where my Mom encouraged me to not be so shy – to let my light shine.

Aunt Evie, knowing it was a difficult topic for me but not knowing my Mother had already talked to me, asked me if “the girls” were treating me okay. I told her that was an interesting question, then I told her about the conversation Mom and I had about it.

Aunt Evie hugged me and then kissed me and then told me she loved me. She said my Mom was one smart lady and that I should do as my mother advised. In later years I wanted to ask Evie about that moment but I never did. I should have.

My Mom sometimes had problems accepting love. This was likely due to her upbringing. She just didn’t always know how to respond when someone expressed love.

I know Evie tried and tried and tried with all of us, including my Mother. She never stopped trying.

I say this only because when I think of all the big moments in my life Aunt Evie was there.

She was there when I went to school, when I graduated, when I went to the Temple, and when I went and returned home from a mission. She was there when I got married.

She made sure to speak for those I loved who I had lost.

When my Mom died, she expressed love and told me how much my Mother must love the man I had become. Even recently when my Dad died she told me how grateful he was for me, that he loves me and that she agreed with him.

Evie’s love extended beyond herself and I always felt okay with that. After all, who else would know?

She was especially sensitive to me about my Grandma and Grandpa. After my grandparents passed away Aunt Evie always invoked their name at these big moments she participated in. Grandparenting is a proxy work, if you ask Aunt Evie.

She knew how invested I was in my grandparents and how they were invested in me.

Evie, Dad and Grandma

This was a significant photo for my Dad, show him being held by his mother next to Evie in Topaz, 1943.

She did the same thing with my father.

In fact, one of the last conversations I had with my father before he passed was about Aunt Evie.

She was always his 2nd Mom after Grandma and I never knew a time when Dad and Evie were not close.

In his final years they would call each other frequently, comparing notes on their health issues and cheering each other on.

During the course of these conversations, which always ended in a mutual expression of love, Evie would remind Dad that she was supposed to go first.

In my conversation with my Dad that night he passed away he said, “If I go first, Evie will never forgive me.” I understood fully what he was saying. He just didn’t want to let her down.

When I saw Evie a week or two after my father’s funeral, she hugged me, as always, and whispered in my ear, “I’m sorry about your Dad. I sure loved him.” But without saying a word to her about it, she just kept talking. “He wasn’t supposed to go first. The little stinker!”

This too was one of things I love about Aunt Evie.

Everything is eternal in her eyes. My Dad was not “gone”. He is still here, still the same. So too, I would tell you, is Aunt Evie.

She spoke of Uncle Darrell, too, in present tense. Grandma and Grandpa have been gone for over 30 years but not in Evie’s eyes. The same was true of her parents and her siblings. She spoke of them all in the here and the now. Always.

That’s because one of Evie’s great gifts was to see the greatness in others. That was never something in the past, it was always something in the now.

Like all truth, the greatness in people is eternal. Evie was always so bright and hopeful and loving in expressing this about others.

That’s why her passing at age 96 is not a thing to be sad about.

The reunion taking place right now is filled with the laughter – and the giggles – of Evie and her sisters. I know it.

How proud her Mom and Dad must be. How thrilled Uncle Darrell must be to have her back. What a great time it is for my grandparents, and my parents, and all who know and love Evie.

I cannot think of Evie and not smile. It just isn’t possible. Even in death, there is joy.

How I miss her already. How deserving all those dear family members on the other side are of her presence there with them today. Like a new baby coming into this world, I know the passage of Aunt Evie in that “new birth” is one of great rejoicing. It can simply be no other way.

I would be remiss without acknowledging all of Aunt Evie’s children, who have been so loyal and loving to her these many years. Barta has been there for Darrell and Evie these many years with such devotion. How I admire her tenacious care, especially during these difficult times. What great acts of service and example we have still among us.

There is much more to tell of the life of Aunt Evie. There’s a great love story. And another story of raising a dynamic family. Another other of church service. Another of service to family, past and presence. I just can’t do justice to it all.

The responsibility is now ours to document the wonderful life of Evelyn Riggs Westover.

I know among her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren there are many memories and lessons. I hope you will share them in abundance here, so that the record we leave behind is complete.

Family History

Why It Matters More Now

Three years ago I produced the video below for Roots Tech. They were holding a contest for their annual family history event. Their purposes for such a video are obvious but for me it meant more.

The video is a variant of a theme I had produced earlier in another video about the importance of photography in family history. It was a personal project, one that made me weep then and one that still evokes great emotion – which is kind of the point of the message of the video, too.

Of course, I didn’t place in the contest. But the video has been used in a few church family history events and occasionally I get comments from folks who stumble upon it.

But the video has another story I feel compelled to share:

Winter of 2019, when the video was made, was the last time Roots Tech was held in Salt Lake City.

That was just a different time altogether. So much has changed for us all since then.

Back then my home was filled with children and grandchildren. I was working at a different place. The world at large was hardly at peace but it was not the drama and chaos it has since become.

My Dad at that time was living quite independently and getting along pretty well. He was traveling, enjoying visits with family at various events and keeping his cancer in check.

As with most things associated with this website and my efforts in family history Dad was supportive.

His journey with family history was different than mine. But in time this video shifted it all for him.

~ Dad’s Family History Journey ~

Our heritage has always been special to my father. It was just how he was raised. My grandparents were, in my view, pioneers of family history.

In my “treasure room” I have among my father’s things a file box that belonged to my grandparents. In it are examples of how family history was done in the 1940s to the 1970s. There are lots of family group sheets – and copies of letters sent to various entities seeking records of ancestors.

I often wonder what Grandpa and Grandma would think of the Internet and all we do with family history today. Grandpa, I know, would take to it like a fish to water.

In the days of my father’s upbringing family history was celebrated with stories, reunions, pictures and gospel discussion about why it is important.

But as the video suggests my interest and love of family history came as a result of my mother, not my father.

It’s not that Dad wasn’t interested.

Dad just figured a lot of his family history was “done”. He didn’t have the at-the-ready memory of all family past stories of my grandparents but he held his own pretty well. And that’s because it was just the culture of his family growing up to talk of those who had gone before.

But Dad didn’t have a Book of Remembrance. He never created or even looked at a family tree. His was, like many people, a secondary level of involvement. Family history for Dad was something of a spectator sport.

Dad’s family history journey took an unexpected turn when he met and married my mother. My mom was an only child and came from a difficult and disjointed family history situation. Hers was a blank slate and Dad did quite a bit to help my mother discover her family.

Because family history was important in the culture of his family growing up my Dad helped my Mom with her family history – at least for the sake of us kids. But again, while Dad lent his talents to the effort it someone else – my Mother – who put together the groups sheets, the photos and that side of the family tree.

In 1984, after returning home from a mission, I was living and going to school in Salt Lake City. I got a call one day from my father telling me that Grandma was coming to Utah to visit her sister, Aunt Elma, and to visit the brand new Family History Library adjacent to Temple Square. My job was to pick her up at the airport and to take Grandma and Aunt Elma wherever they required. Dad made me call him every day to see that all needs were met.

It was an easy assignment for me and I so enjoyed their company I moved my schedule around as best I could to be with them all day long. So I got to visit the brand new library as well.

In going there Grandma showed me how it was organized and how I could find information. In no time I was threading microfilm into readers and making copies of filmed documents. Wisely, Grandma instructed me to work on my mother’s line because she knew those records would be there and easily found.

She was right. I found stuff almost instantly and began calling my Mom each day as well with news of my discoveries. It ended up being a very exciting week for both Mother and me and it most certainly lit the fire of addiction in my family history pursuits.

~ My Own Family History Journey ~

This opened a dialogue between me and both of my parents about family history.

I made the decision after that week’s experience to drive to Minnesota, where my mother’s father’s family still lived. My goal was to meet my great grandmother, who was still alive.

I discussed this with my cousin, Bunni, and her father, Pete, my great uncle. They were supportive and felt it could happen and that it would be a good thing.

My Mom was very nervous about it. She had heard rumors of difficulties and misunderstandings between her mother and various family members after her Dad died in World War II. Of course, she never knew her father or his family. Her mother remarried after the war and for whatever reasons they were never in her life.

So Mom’s reticence about me going to Minnesota was perfectly understandable. She was still supportive and hopeful.

Dad, on the other hand, was not convinced all this was a great idea. He wanted me to wait. It had more to do with him just being a Dad concerned about a 21-year old son driving cross country by himself to somewhere he had never been before.

Well, I went. It was a joyous experience, one that left me with more questions than answers. But also one that allowed me to meet so many good people – family! – that I have never known. I also came home with copies of precious pictures and a more complete understanding of this largely unknown branch of the family.

No, I did not get to meet Grandma Begich. It was not in her heart to give in to the pleadings of Pete and Bunni and that was because in the tenderness of a mother’s heart it was still too much to deal with after losing her son in the war.

My Mom was a little hurt by that. She took that as a rejection. It would take her many years to come to understand. My Dad was frustrated by it too.

But there were hidden blessings by that whole experience. It fueled continued discussions between us, one that drove our efforts to seek out more information about my mother’s family.

It gave all three of us – Mom, Dad and me – a common goal that proved foundational in the years ahead of family history exploration.

~ The Video: All Sides of the Family ~

When I put the video together of course Dad and I talked about it.

Being who he was as an educator and a producer of television and video productions Dad peppered me with questions about my choices for the video.

One of his observations was that I began the video on his side – the ancient Westover family history we know – but ended it on my Mother’s side of the family. He thought that this would be confusing to people.

I learned long ago that when teaching a class or giving a talk my Dad would dissect it as if he was the one putting it together. As such, he always began with the objective – what’s the point of what you’re saying? – he would always ask.

Four or five years ago Dad and I both taught Gospel Doctrine for a period of time. Our Sunday phone calls would frequently become a gospel discussion of our lessons and how we would teach them.

I frustrated Dad a great deal because I never approached my church teaching with his methods of having a lesson objective at the top. In fact, I rarely went into these lessons with notes. I had studied and I had prepared. But I had learned as a missionary that gospel teaching was something different.

We didn’t disagree in these conversations. But we challenged each other and commiserated about our teaching experiences. It was a fun time, at least for me.

But when it came to this video, Dad was a little bit bothered, I could tell, and for a while I thought it was because my free-wheeling style was just too uncomfortable for him.

I learned later I was completely wrong about that.

This video turned out to be the catalyst that took Dad off the sidelines of family history.

In the late summer of 2020, as the pandemic raged, I continued my weekly phone calls with Dad as we isolated 100 miles apart. I grew concerned in these calls as with each passing week he seemed to sound worse and worse. I wanted to come see him but he refused, insisting he was fine and that we needed to stay within the guidelines of not gathering as family.

By the last week of September, he sounded so bad I just defied him and showed up at his door.

Conditions were not good. He absolutely needed help.

But I had not even been there for 20 minutes when a phone call came in that created no small amount of chaos for us both. His Covid test was positive and I was now exposed. The now familiar-to-everyone family drama ensued. I was forced now to isolate – 100 miles away from my family and my brand new job – and Dad was now forced to contend with the virus as a cancer patient.

That began my 15-month journey of taking up residence with my terminally ill father that would see him eventually pass away in November of 2021. That also began a new level of discussion about all things family history.

That discussion really began with picking this video apart. One night in October 2020 Dad and I pulled the video up and stopped it at each image. Then from a laptop on his bed, he compared the names and faces to where they landed on the family tree.

Finally, Dad was taking the deep dive we all need to take when it comes to family history: how does all this apply to me? How do I fit in with these people?

That five hour discussion – of both his family and my mother’s family – led to tears, something that was rare to see from my father at that point.

He already had an appreciation of his family and an abiding love for his heritage. But now he had details. Now he had personal connection. And it set him on fire.

During Dad’s last 15 months he fought all kinds of crazy physical sickness. But when he could set that aside he became very focused on family history. He began to piece in his mind ways to better share the history and connection with other family members.

He started working on writing my mother’s history and then working on his own. As I would work on my various projects we would discuss them and Dad began to embed himself in everything.

My projects became his projects, and his mine.

Last spring, in 2021, after many discussions with LaRee and Will, Dad found the energy to go on a little tour of cemeteries in southern and central Utah. What made it neat was to see him connect with ancestor past by recalling his own early years in Southern Utah and the places he lived there. He never knew – and likely because my grandparents never realized or knew – that they lived in the very shadows where beloved pioneer family members did their pioneering.

Dad and Me

It was thrilling to watch Dad connect his early childhood to those ancestors who were right there less than 100 years before he was born. Though his body was falling apart and challenged with getting through the long days of that trip it fueled inspiration in how Dad felt the family story could better be told.

Even while we traveled Dad began to make plans for written histories, videos, and website features to, as he explained it to me, “get people to look at the tree and connect”.

In fact, on the day he unexpectedly died, we had refreshed the list and prioritized it. He wanted to get back out there. He wanted more pictures, more videos and more understanding that could be found.

His list is now my list. I know exactly what he envisioned and frankly I don’t know if I have enough years left to accomplish it. That’s how ambitious Dad became about family history.

We last watched this video together about two weeks before he passed. At the time, I had gone to bring home my wife from caring for her folks so she could be home for the birth of a new grandchild. Dad was very invested in my daughter’s pregnancy and he was anxious for the little boy that would come to us.

On the night we watched this video again he told me that I had to make sure this new baby would see that video when he was old enough. I found it kind of a curious charge – because my goal has always been to get this video in front of the eyes of my kids and grands.

Dad passed in the early morning hours of November 16th. Baby Bennett was born later that same day.

Yes, the video, which already meant a lot, means more now.

That’s my lesson on several levels. It was also Dad’s lesson in his family history journey.

I have over the past several months since he left contemplated what it must have been like when he unexpectedly crossed over.

He knew faces. He knew names and dates. He understood connections.

This is what family history does for us. I think we all come around to it a little differently.

I don’t condemn my Dad – or anyone else – for being so absorbed by life of the present to the point where delving into life of the past is impossible. We have to grow up, get educated, build careers, and manage the stuff of the here and now. I get it. I was there for 50 years and guilty of not really getting into it.

The point is not when. The point is not whether you have the skills or the technology to do it.

The point is that we can. Despite it all, we really can. And we really need to. And it’s really worth it.

Kyle Westover

Remembering Kyle Westover

We have been showered with kindness in the days since Dad’s passing. Most precious to us have been the cards, notes, and social media posts remembering Dad and the lives he touched.

Dad was an epic producer no matter where he worked. We used to joke that he would die at his desk and that very much was a fulfilled prophecy. I have an updated project list that Dad and I worked on as recently as the day before he passed (with assigned deadlines, which I am duty-bound to honor).

It’s hard for me to speak to Dad’s work life, as he and I worked on many projects together over the course of employers we both had. Dad was also deeply embedded in the work in Christmas we do at MyMerryChristmas.com, and of course, also here at WestoverFamilyHistory.org. But he was my Dad first of all, as well as a mentor, a coach and a cheerleader.

Dad had many positive work associations and many have shared their thoughts and appreciation.

Below is a video from Rich and Todd, friends Dad worked with and for over a course of several years after relocating to Utah. I can recall Dad telling me many times about his work with them, telling me, “I’ve got to get you hooked up with Rich” or “Rich and Todd are talented guys with a tiger by the tail”.

I’ve never had a chance to really meet these gentlemen but I so appreciate them taking the time to share their thoughts about Dad and I am gratified by the really cool and personal way they chose to do this.

I had to laugh at the comments of Dad’s “verbose emails” – Dad used to counsel me about my issues with verbosity and the fact I was challenged with brevity. It’s nice to know, in an odd comforting way, that he suffered from the same with others.

So thank you, Rich and Todd, for these comments. They are meaningful to all of us who know and love Dad: