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.

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:

Westover Family Tree

Our Family Tree

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.