I believe now will be a good time to introduce a significant new feature to our website, one that has been requested and worked on for some time. It is our family tree.
What many folks want is a visual. They want to be able to understand how they connect to all the individuals we talk about.
That’s actually a pretty tall order and one I have frankly tried to avoid for a long time. It’s so very complex.
Most places you go online – such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org – are really limited in showing information of the living. We get why that is. The issues of privacy are complex.
Complicating that is the fact that logging in and keeping a password for any site is just plain problematic for some folks (well, everyone).
What has been requested is a way to have a tree that shows the living and yet doesn’t require a login or password.
Well, we think we have found a way. You can access our family tree at this link.
Please understand that this is a work in progress and it will always be a work in progress. We’re also attempting to include all of our many branches. This is not just Westovers alone.
We are also very focused on grafting in the ancient branches of the family – or at least those we can find within the past 500 years.
That means we are in active pursuit of the Canadian Westover lines, the Michigan Westovers, the Missouri Westovers, etc. – and we want ALL of them on the tree.
We cannot do this alone.
We know there are a lot of skill levels to this and we’re wanting to connect and work with them all.
If you have resources, especially pertaining to connected branches of the family so far not represented on the tree, we’d love to converse and, if possible, get a GEDCOM file of your current data for those missing lines.
The tree presently has about 33,000 names and more than 13,000 family groups. And that’s nothing. There are literally MILLIONS of us.
The living are very important. The Edwin Westover Family Project is a good example. We just want to know how many living descendants Edwin has and who they are. We feel that if we can find them and list them we can better share his story (and thus OUR story).
But it doesn’t end with Edwin. In fact, we want as many living family members as we can find.
We do not need any private information for the living. We just want a photo and a name. That’s it.
Here is an example of a living individual – one of my daughters, Allie. This shows only basic information about her family and her connection to me and thus to all our ancestors.
In fact, our tree is set up to showcase both the ancestors and descendants of any individual. Explore the menus a little bit, you’ll see.
And that is our primary goal: to make it possible to see how we are all connected – whether you’re on a computer, a phone or a tablet.
As with any family tree, this project will take time and effort. It will get better with time and the effort it takes to fill it out.
While we really want GEDCOM files of all our many branches we desire more to get the stories, photos and journals of as many as possible. We will work with anyone to help get that information on the site. It may take a while to achieve it but we will achieve it.
My big fear in putting this feature out there is that we will get bombarded with comments like “It’s wrong! You have my information wrong! Stuff is missing! You mangled my grandma! Where’s Uncle LeRoy? This sucks!”
We KNOW some of this wrong. We know it is incomplete. Please just help us get it right.
To begin, please see this page about what the tree is or is not (if the info above doesn’t explain it enough for you).
Then see our use and contribution policy. It contains a form where you can submit information you may want added to the tree.
Then point your folks here and have them see how they connect. Invite them to contribute or suggest. The more involved we all get the better the tree becomes.
Finally, I want to once again caution you about the many resources found online related to family history.
Any resource online – Family Search, Ancestry, even Westover Family History – is only temporary. EVER. Don’t think it will be there forever and never think it is absolute. Someone’s always messing with it.
You need to be keeping your own separate records.
You need to gather and preserve information for your own children and grandchildren. You need to have a standalone organized library of information that you have put together featuring your own research blood, sweat and tears.
That’s a lot of work and so daunting. Some have issues using computers. Others just do not see the time required to do these things. Some just rely on others to get it done. Most just don’t know where or how to begin.
We get that. We have all been there.
Whatever your excuse, please get over it.
The only way is to just jump into the pool and to take the sting of the cold water. Every journey begins with a step. There are lots around to help you and that’s all we’re offering.
It can be done if that is your true desire.
Please also recognize there are a lot of ways to bring your own talents and knowledge to the table besides working the project of researching and recording names and dates.
You can help catalog pictures, for example. We need all kinds of help organizing and identifying people in pictures.
You can write histories – really, just memories of your experiences with family members and those things you can remember. It doesn’t have to be a thesis or school paper. Just talk.
You don’t even have to write them anymore. Even recording them into your phone and passing along that recording would do.
You can be a family history reviewer – where you read and submit corrections to written histories of the past.
You can simply video yourself telling stories to your grandchildren.
There are lots of ways of doing family history and they all can now come back to the tree. Everyone putting in stuff makes the tree stronger.
I’m excited for this feature and I’m terrified by it. I hope you will consider becoming a part of it.
I was recently released from my calling as a Temple and Family History Consultant. I’m sad to lose the responsibility because I have enjoyed it a great deal. I’ve served in that capacity for more than six years and even though it is the type of calling that gets people running the other way from you in the halls of the church it’s been a lot of fun to see people grow when they begin their family history.
The journey of discovery is a fun one, I don’t care who you are. It’s great to see someone go from the frustrated beginnings of not knowing where to start or being overwhelmed by the technology to actually learning their family and where they come from.
It does take a while to capture the vision. But once you’re hooked, you never quite get over the excitement of what family history really is.
I’m an opinionated person. Nobody really appreciates that much and in the calling of being a family history consultant there is a lot of needed restraint when it comes to opinions.
But now that I’ve been relieved of that responsibility I’m going to give you some opinions based upon my experience in trying to help others.
~ The Main Thing ~
The first rule of Family History is one that I use for a lot of things: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
What’s the main thing?
You are the main thing. And for many people that’s an absurd idea. After all, family history is the exploration of others, right?
But that exploration is really about you, at the end of the day. Like many things, losing yourself in family history is just another method of finding yourself. Most are really surprised by that after they have invested the time and work of family history.
But why is it such a singular thing when it involves thousands of people, at least in theory?
Because your family history is unique. You might share heritage with a sibling or a parent but your total family history is entirely unique.
When you marry you adopt a whole new line of family thanks to your spouse – one that will belong to your children. But theirs will one day be unique from yours.
In that respect, the family history of one is not the same of another. It’s like fingerprints. Nobody has the same family history.
That singular definition and pursuit of the same individualizes family history. And there are times when you will swear the lessons you continue to learn from it are individual as well.
You are the main thing. Nobody can do it for you. You have to tackle it alone. You have to make the effort alone. You have to leave it for others to discover somehow.
That makes it all a very daunting thing. It is work. It is time consuming. It can be expensive. It can feel like an insurmountable task, which it really is, and it will never be truly done.
So why do it?
We do it because of the heart, the souls and the bones. That’s the stuff that family history is made of. It’s a very personal thing.
~ The Bones ~
The bones of family history are found in cemeteries and in pedigree charts. They are the dry data of names, birth dates, places and relatives. They are what everyone thinks of when they think of family history.
Oh sure, family history is much more than the bones. But it’s where nearly all of us begin.
It’s necessary to get down to the details at this level. Frankly, it’s not my favorite thing, to be honest. Standing over a grave and getting a name and a date really does not tell me much beyond the fact that existence is proven.
But the bones are heartless and soulless. Meaningless, otherwise. If that’s family history to you it has to be the blandest of meals.
Real family history has more flavor. That’s the stuff of the heart.
~ The Heart ~
The heart of family history is found in the stories, the personalities, and the experiences of the person attached to the bones. It’s the fun stuff of family history.
Unfortunately, it is the hardest part to find, especially the further back you go.
YOU have the potential of being a heartless entity of family history if you don’t do something about the record you leave behind. That too is family history.
I have a grandfather who modestly wrote a one-page autobiography. He was a modest individual. But really if I had my way I’d like to lecture him about how it wasn’t enough. I’ve learned a lot more about him through the stories and experiences of others with him. It sure would be nice to get to know him through his own words and recollections.
That is worthy of your thought and consideration.
The heart, you see, is what we really all get the thrills from when it comes to family history. The heart is found in tragedies, tears and triumphs. It is born through the unchangeable stuff of gender, identity, roles and even in what some call “social constructs”.
You see, it doesn’t matter if they were famous. It does not matter even what they did for a living. Where they went, the houses they lived in and they stuff they did on a daily basis pales in importance to what they thought, how they treated others, and what their opinions were when they faced the stuff of life we all face.
That’s the heart.
That is what makes us appreciate the folks of the past that we have never met. And that is where the real work and the real payoff is in family history.
The heart is what leads us to the real blessing of the work: the soul.
~ The Soul ~
The soul is the spiritual side of family history. If you are a person of faith this is a concept that builds faith. If you are not a person of faith it is something you discover and may have trouble explaining.
Years ago, I met a man at Roots Tech who was not a person of faith. He was elderly and suffering from physical challenges that made attending Roots Tech problematic and that saw his decades-long hobby of family history one that pushed him in ever-more difficult directions. He openly asked my why he kept doing it, given all that he was dealing with.
I tried my best to explain that his ancestors, though long dead, were still alive. I tried to explain they were pushing him as much as he was pushing himself. I tried to explain that the work he had engaged in for years was one they appreciated and that someday when he crossed over to the other side he would recognize them and they him.
I did my best to explain the doctrine of “we without them cannot be made perfect and they without us cannot be made perfect”.
With tears in his eyes and a nodding head he agreed. He could not articulate what he was feeling. He did say that was the most profound and loving doctrine he had ever heard. But it helped to explain the power of the work and the influence upon his life for good.
Though unschooled in things spiritual he was not inexperienced. His family history work had exposed him to the souls of those he researched. He discovered that he loved them. How do you define love? Would you call it a thing of the soul?
The soul of the work of family history comes from connecting with those ancestors you research. Many reject that thought as crazy. Yet so many who might shy away from spiritual or “churchy” things cannot deny this is what happens to them the deeper they wade into the waters of family history. Love is the ultimate and unavoidable outcome.
If family history teaches things of the soul what does it teach us about the Divine within us?
What more can personalize the work than that?
When you discover the soul of others you discover the soul of yourself. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God. YOU – the main thing – are great in the sight of God. Your ancestors teach you this about yourself.
~ Bringing the Bones and the Heart to Discover the Soul ~
As I wrote when I first began this little website many years ago my goal was to leave my children and grandchildren a better record than I received.
I’m still working on that. I realize that not everything I share here applies to everyone. My family history is not exactly the same as anyone else’s, as noted above.
But the effort of sharing what I can find is put out there to help others help themselves. I’ve discovered a lot about myself in my efforts here to just share. I would not have discovered what has been so important to me if others had not done their best to share what they had.
So we will continue to evolve. I’ve shared in other parts of the website many times that we don’t really do the family tree thing here.
I have tried to steer as many people as I can to the efforts of the one-world family tree located at FamilySearch.
That’s still true.
I believe FamilySearch is one of the the most important projects in the world.
We all contribute to it. In my 20 years or so of working with FamilySearch it is amazing to see what it has become.
Yes, it’s frustrating that anyone can edit, add to and take away from the tree. That will never change.
But that capability is also it’s magic. The record only gets stronger and stronger as we move along.
So we don’t want to discourage its use. We will continue to link to it relentlessly and work to get you logged in there and using it.
But I also know there are many who are still so challenged with even the technology of a password that they will never go to FamilySearch and pay the price for learning how to use it.
I know there are people who need the visual of a tree or pedigree chart to understand the connections between people and generations.
So we’re soon to post up a family tree – free and available to all – right here on WFH. No login required either. Just click and it will be there.
Naturally, it will not be as complete as a family tree that any competent individual can build on their own. It certainly cannot have all the dynamics of what can be found on FamilySearch.
But it will be enough for those who cannot get to that level.
To it will be tied pictures, documents, histories, links, maps and the stuff of the heart and soul.
Oh, and the bones.
One of my favorite parts of Rootstech has been the development of the “Relatives Around Me” feature at FamilySearch.
The physical gathering of 30,000 family history enthusiasts in downtown Salt Lake City was bound to include a few relatives. But how to find and connect with them? Using cell phone technology and an enrollment process via FamilySearch they found a way to do it. Last year, which feels like a million years ago now, a few of us did get together and took the following picture:
Rootstech this year is entirely different. As of this writing, about a half million attendees are enrolled. Given that many people from around the world, how many relatives can be going through the Rootstech experience at the same time?
Well, they’ve adjusted the technology and we can see who is enrolled who we are related to. This year I can see that nearly 40,000 related to me are at Rootstech.
Obviously we cannot meet this year. But can we still connect? Well, I’m trying — one by one — to reach out to as many of my cousins out there as I can.
I’m introducing them first to the Edwin Westover Family Project.
While that is very important to me I feel the overall effort we’re making here on this website and at FamilySearch is more important. Somewhere in the closets of those 40,000 cousins could be a lot of great information. It could be pictures, it could be artifacts, it could be journals or whatever. We’d like to copy it all and archive here. I think among all those cousins is a bigger family story to be shared.
I want to meet you all, too.
The Edwin Project, which is simply a modern gathering of Edwin Ruthvin Westover’s descendents on Edwin’s 200th birthday, is a great way to meet so many of these cousins.
But let’s face it – Edwin is the low hanging fruit. I’d like to find more information about those generations who came before Edwin. We have a branch of the family in Canada, another in Missouri, more in Michigan and New York state. There are histories there from the 18th century we need to learn.
So when I am reaching out to cousins at Rootstech is not only relates to Edwin. I’m interested in all of you.
So don’t be shy. When I sent that message you may have seen at FamilySearch, it’s not just some weirdo you don’t know stalking you at RootsTech. It’s me. Your cousin! And yes, I’m a weirdo but only in the nicest possible terms and I just want to know you.
We have a tremendous shared heritage. I’m anxious to learn more of our story from wherever I can find it.
So if you have information, pictures, journals and family history stuff, please share. And I’ll share with you. That’s what we’re here for.
What is RootsTech?
Rootstech is an annual convention for Family History enthusiasts. It features classes and speakers who address all levels of experience. Most major vendors of family history products and services are there — Ancestry, My Heritage, Find My Past, etc. Of course there are vendor showcases and all kinds of products for sale.
I have been fortunate to attend RootsTech every year for the past decade. I find it a very refreshing break from the rest of my year as a time to solely focus on my family history and new ways to find it.
At Rootstech I’ve connected with family I have not known or met before and have learned so many things over the years about how to research and discover.
If there is one good thing to come out of the pandemic its the fact that Rootstech is free. Usually I spend about $200 each year to attend the event, plus whatever hotels, meals and other incidentals may come up. I’ve never considered this much of a burden because I’ve been able to gain so much from going. But it is nice to think that this year I can take it all in from home, which is bound to be more comfortable than convention center chairs and miles on foot going from class to class.
One of the unexpected pleasures of Rootstech is the motivation you receive from attending. There is an energy to this event to be enjoyed as you hear speakers share their family stories. I’ve seen quite a few famous speakers at these events but despite their notoriety they usually reveal themselves for human beings as they share their family stories.
The spirit of this event makes it very different than just about any convention or trade show you can attend. I highly recommend you take in at least a sample of Rootstech this year since it is free and comes to you in the comfort of your own home.