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.

Join the Westover Family Christmas Card Exchange

Christmas! Yes, I’m going there. I know it’s only August. But I tried to set up a family Christmas card exchange last year and failed spectacularly.

I think I got it up too late and didn’t put enough push behind it. This year I vow to do better.

So, here’s the deal: the Westover Family Christmas Card Exchange is opened to all registered users of the site. But to participate in the exchange you will need to sign up.

I’m not expecting huge numbers. But I am hoping enough of us sign up that we get a good little exchange going. My goal, of course, is to connect as many of us together as possible. I believe good family history comes from sharing and we cannot share if we cannot connect.

If there is one powerful lesson I’ve picked up in the course of this year it has been the importance of connecting with family wherever and whenever we can. One cannot go to every reunion or visit far-flung family very often. But we can all afford to send a merry greeting with a stamp — and maybe share a little bit about ourselves in the process.

Those who know me know I’m something of a Christmas freak. I have managed for the past 27 years a Christmas website known as mymerrychristmas.com. One of our beloved events at that site is an international Christmas card exchange. It is, far and away, the most popular event on the site. Everyday from Thanksgiving to Christmas I receive dozens of cards from my friends made there who just happen to come from all over the world.

The cards add a lot to our home. And it makes me one of the more mysterious people on our mailman’s route.

I don’t have any aspirations to make the card exchange we do here near as big as what happens at mymerrychristmas. But I know the value and the power of this simple tradition and I know it will add great cheer to your home to have greetings arrive from as many family members as we can get to participate.

So sign up. I will collect the list information between now and Thanksgiving, then I will distribute that list to participants on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Bear in mind that you need to be a registered family member to sign up. That means you need to login below to access the sign up page.

If you cannot recall your password to this site, go here.

If you cannot remember your username, click here.

If you are lost and just can’t figure it out, just contact me.

One way or the other, if you’re family and you want to be on this list, we’ll make it happen.

I hope you join us in this fun little event.

Ella Jensen

Our Family in the Spirit World

Ella Jensen

Ella Jensen on her wedding day in 1895, about four years after her near death experience.

It has been something of a difficult year. This week we noted the passing of two more family members, the latest felt very keenly with my wife and her dear family. It is a tender time.

It is amazing to me how losing a loved one re-centers me.

I have found that even attending a funeral for someone who is not a family member touches me on a very fundamental level and reminds me how the things of this world pale in comparison to the eternal principles of love.

A good death, it seems, leads to a greater appreciation for living and loving better the people around me.

It is natural, in the process of mourning the loss of one so loved, to worry about where they are and if they are happy.

Those with gospel-centered teachings and a testimony of the Savior take comfort in God’s known plan. Others, whose lives have not given them access or opportunity to learn those things, may suffer more when a loved one leaves this life.

That is why I have always had a fascination with stories of “the other side”.

Long, long before my testimony strengthened in the Gospel of Jesus Christ I read and collected stories of near death experiences.

Today I again stumbled upon a story I had read before of a woman named Ella Jensen.

There are many accounts of her experience but I prefer this one, first published in 1929 while she was still alive. A shorter version can be found here.

This is an old story. Ella was nearly 20 years old when she died and was called back to life after being dead for nearly 3 hours. As with many near death experiences she tells a remarkable experience in seeing and conversing with loved ones who had preceded her in death. The detail in her story is amazing.

As I read her tale again, and contemplated it in the context of loved ones we have recently lost, it occurred to me how close Ella Jensen lived more than 100 years ago to where I am living now.

I know we have her maiden name Jensen in our Family Tree and the family historian in me couldn’t help but wonder if there was a connection. So off to Family Search I went.

I looked her up and – boom – there it was: a link to “view my relationship” with Ella Jensen. “I’ll be darned,” I thought. “We ARE family.”

I quickly scanned her tree looking for familiar names, thinking in my head this was another of my Westover connections from Northern Utah and South Eastern Idaho. But none of the names looked familiar.

So I hit the relationship link and was shocked to see I’m not related to Ella Jensen through my Westover line – it’s through my mother’s family that the distant relation dating back to the Puritans of Duxbury, Massachusetts is made. My 9th great grandmother, Mary Howland, is Ella Jensen’s 6th great grandmother. We’re cousins.

That changes the story doesn’t it? Her family is my family, just as much, I feel, as my wife’s family is my family. That being said, in context with Ella and her experience when she died, what might be the experience of this dear aunt lost this week on the other side?

For me the answers are clear. She is with family. She is with people who love her. And she is happy.

Does that lessen the sense of loss?

Good heavens, no.

It has been more than three years since I lost my Mom. I miss her more and more every day. I cannot count the times I have wept over missing her.

But at the same time, as hard as it is for me to explain, I’ve become closer to my Mother since she died.

I very firmly believe it comes from working on her family especially in these efforts of family history. This, I believe, is something I very much still hold in common with Mom.

I would give anything to have another conversation with her. I would give anything to tell her once again how much I love her.

But as Ella explained to those in her life that grieved, I feel Mother would be unhappy to know of my continued mourning.

Those moments, and they surely come, I find are more about me than about her. And by that I mean I want her back, I want her here during moments that are important to me. That makes the sting of death truly sting.

What gives me relief is that my Mother is with those she once lost – and that I too, have truly not lost anyone and never really will.

Yes, there is separation, a part of God’s plan to help us learn and grow in knowledge and in love. But those moments of separation are indeed merely moments on an eternal time line.

I will continue to be fascinated with the next life and, in a small way, live in envy of those who have already made that transition.

I know I too will someday go through it, as we all must. But it is not something I dread. In fact, I think of it with great rejoicing and give thanks to our Savior who makes such things possible.

Ella Jensen lived to tell the story. My mother, in her dying days, had moments while here with others on the other side, too. I witnessed it.

I believe it is part of the dying process and I’m convinced those we’ve lost this year all experienced the same. It is part of living, of this earth’s experience for each of us.

And in the end I think we will be surprised at all we can count as family. Whether they comes as in-laws or as distant relations like Ella, we are all family.