Rarely can a complete story be told of a pioneer ancestor that doesn’t come from a personal journal. But through good fortune we have been able to piece together the life Ann Findley Westover lived and present it here in a new video:

We cannot help but think that more can be learned of this beloved pioneer mother and grandmother.

Her life after about the age of 30 was stable to mostly one location. She served a high profile, central role in Westover family life and in the daily life of the community in which she lived in Mendon, Utah. She touched many lives. We think stories of Ann’s mortal journey may continue to surface.

Ann’s growing up years in Scotland we know little about, other than the Findleys were poor, working class Scots dependent upon coal mining. What we do know is that they were very close and they remained that way all their lives. Her father, William Sr., was present in Ann’s life until the late 1880s. We know precious little about him or Ann’s mother, Linzy. No known record exists detailing their life experience, thoughts or feelings.

Her experience on the pioneer trail would have been interesting to capture. She came as a teen age daughter — and she pushed a handcart in the successful Daniel D. McArthur Company, a handcart experience that gets little notice because it came in front of the Willie Handcart Company by nearly 2 months. Notes we found in Mendon Ward records in the Church History Library tease us a little bit in this regard. Many primary meetings featured Ann telling pioneer stories and we have to wonder how many of those stories were her own.

Likewise it would have been significant to know Ann’s thoughts about plural marriage. She and Edwin spent effectively just 12 years of their lives together. And though they had five children the bulk of their experience was spent in separation from each other, a fact that was common to plural wives in Utah history.

They were both devoted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to each other. Edwin frequently made trips to Mendon, even before Ann lived there. But when he died in 1878 Ann was just 40 years old. It was not uncommon for widows of the time to remarry. Ann did not.

Instead Ann focused her efforts on serving the children of her family and of her community.

Our first real break in learning more of Ann’s personality came in finding the city of Mendon website that showcases Ann’s personal history. That history was written by a local sister who was asked to pen her memories of Ann more than a decade after she died.

She got some of the details wrong — for example, listing her as a wife to Charles Westover instead of Edwin — but we were thrilled to get the tidbits of information about Ann’s service in the Church and the community. We learned that Ann’s inclusion in city history only came after former children she served wrote to the city to remember her.

The image at the top of this post is of the Old Rock Church in Mendon, a building that Ann no doubt spent many hours in during her lifetime. It was located on the town square, kitty corner to the house that she lived in. That pioneer structure was built in the early 1860s and was torn down and replaced in 1914.

Listed below are links to various other sources we used to compile the history and some of the images used in the video:

The Ebb and Flow of Mormonism in Scotland 1840-1900 — BYU Studies

Scotland Saints on the S. Curling 1856 — Mormon Migration Records

Biography of William Findley, Jr. — FamilySearch.org

Isaac Sorensen’s History of Mendon — A Pioneer Chronicle of a Mormon Settlement

Leadership, Planning and Management of the 1856 Mormon Handcart Emigration — State Historical Society of Iowa

Life Sketch of William Ruthven Westover — WestoverGenealogy.org

The Reluctant Bride — Dorothy J Schimmelpfennig Ph.D.

As my Dad has labored this past year on the history of his Mother, Maurine R. Westover, I have been sitting on this video just waiting to share it now — at Christmastime. Many of you have seen these before and may, in fact, have it in your possession. But many others have not seen it. It is as timely now as when Grandma recorded it 29 years ago.

As I understand the story, even though she was very ill at this time (and I think the video makes this somewhat apparent), Grandma was asked to give the main talk in Church the Sunday before Christmas. Of course, she was in no condition to be there but Dad would video tape her message and they would playback the video for her ward during the meeting.

Watching this video brings a variety of emotions to me. Seeing Grandma, no matter her age, brings back a flood of memories. Hearing her voice and seeing her in her home always makes me remember times from my childhood. But there are other elements in this video that get to me now. The afghan in her lap was made by my mother. I’d know her work anywhere. The chair grandma is sitting in, the way she and Grandpa would decorate the Christmas tree — it all comes back even though the image is simple.

But best of all is the message of Christmas. It was never really elaborate at Grandma and Grandpa’s for Christmas. But I loved it there at that time of the year because it was always filled with conversation accented by laughter and memories. Tears were sometimes shed but only because people were fondly remembered and missed.

Please share this video with your family with our best wishes here at Westover Family History for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year:

We’re pleased to present our newest family history video, this one exploring the life of Edwin Ruthven Westover, father to William Westover, and a central figure in the latter-day expansion of the Westover family in the West.

This video is narrated by Marc Westover, son of Gale, grandson of Darrell, great grandson of Arnold, great-great grandson of William and great-great-great grandson of Edwin and Ann Westover.

There are several documents associated with Edwin and the stories told in this video that will be posted in the next few days. For now, we want to introduce the video, which we title “A Might Work”. That is a reference to one of three patriarchal blessings given to Edwin during his lifetime.

The years of our family history from 1714 to 1834 is something of an emotional journey for me.

I think the more we invest in discovering the lives of our ancestors the more they jump off the page and become real to us. Such is certainly true of Jonathan Westover, brother to Jonas Jr.

I have learned what a critical role he played in the early history of the family. To be honest, I had never considered him much before doing this research. His journey is part of a compelling story, a story marked by one generation after the other where Westover brothers left a mark and had a profound influence. Watch our latest video:

I had never considered Jonathan Westover because he was “just a brother” of my 9th great grandfather, Jonas Westover, Jr.

He’s a good example of the “cousins” initiative put forth by the Church on family history.

The Church is encouraging us to work on the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins in our lines because our temple work is never truly done. We all tend to focus on the Mothers and the Fathers, and well we should. But these from whom we are not directly descended are important, too.

Our Jonathan Westover is a prime example of that.

For me this began in validating some dates — a common task in genealogical work. And I discovered something I had never considered before: I noticed that Hannah Westover, Abigail Westover and Jonas Westover Jr all died within a month of each other. Immediately it led me to question: what about the kids?

You do that don’t you? I do. In the dark of night I’ve had the conversation many times with my wife about what would become of our children if both of us suddenly died. It is horrific to contemplate and it DOES happen to some people. It happened to Jonas, Jr and Abigail.

That’s where I learned about Jonathan. I wanted to find out who took charge of the kids. That wasn’t a necessary question for the purposes of genealogy or temple work. I just wanted to know.

At first I was impressed to look at the sisters of Jonas Jr. It seemed logical to me that one of the aunts would take charge. But that search never really bore fruit.

Then I found the will of Abigail Westover and noticed that she had listed two of her own brothers and the brother of her husband, Jonas Jr, as executors. I decided those were the people I needed to look into.

I never had to look further than Jonathan. I started, as one usually does, with the hard data: when was he born, when did he die, where did he live, when did he marry, how many kids, etc.

I discovered that he was unmarried when Jonas Jr. died and that he himself didn’t marry until years later.

Curious about that, I started looking closer at dates and places. Then I searched for anything I could find about Jonathan in those places.

I found a gold mine about Jonathan in Sheffield, Massachusetts. And by discovering the story of that place I was able to put together the story of Jonathan Westover.

What a story it is! And what a service he performed for the family.

It is hard to me to think of him in terms any less than I feel for others here we have profiled. He was a great, great man and I am proud to be related to him. I’m glad I know this story.

It helps me to better consider my own actions as a man and as a brother. It inspires me to become better.

That’s the value of real family history.

These people are bearing their testimonies to us. They are sharing the lessons of their lives.

And we are better for it.

When I was a kid my Dad exposed me and my siblings to the satire of Stan Freberg and one of my favorites of all his stuff is the song “Take an Indian to Lunch”, from the classic Stan Freberg album The United States of America. I fear it forever tainted my view of Puritans.

We dig deep into the life of Puritan settlers in a serious way with an in-depth look at the life of Jonas Westover Sr. and Jr in our newest video titled Jonas and Jonas:

Our purpose behind these videos is simply to present our family history in a new way.

We want to engage our younger generations and with so many of them with their faces in screens we are hoping some video family history finds its way to them. This is family history you can share. We hope it gets passed around on social media, used in family nights, and maybe in a lesson now and then.

But by doing this we take some risks.

First of all, for this far-back history especially, it is hard to get the details right in such compressed time.

As I discussed this over the past year or more with my Dad he has always reminded me that we need to make these videos brief. Our first video was 2-minutes but our last two have been better than 7-minutes each. I’ve blown off the brief-video counsel twice now, it seems.

What’s hard is knowing what not to include. We want to be entertaining and we want to be complete. How to do that while being brief?

I lose sleep over getting something wrong. I live in fear that one mistake will discredit all of our other efforts. When you’re going back 300 to 400 years how can you really know?

And I fear I will editorialize, or, worse, slip in a little Stan Freberg or something equally — and inappropriately — light-hearted.

I’m being serious. In a parallel life I have written about the topic of Christmas for 25 years now and part of that has been a rather exhaustive study of Christmas history. Puritans very famously did not celebrate Christmas, at least as we know it, and that too has affected my opinion of them. How could it not? And how can I not talk about that?

If you’ve read this far and haven’t watched the video yet — relax. I didn’t talk about Puritans and Christmas and there’s no Stan Freberg. I restrained myself.

I am learning that every life history has holes.

While you don’t need a day-to-day record to get a good read on a person the more detail you can find the better. Where the information is thin the questions multiply — and so do the theories. And that is where a lot of trouble gets stirred up in doing family history.

So in producing these things I’m attempting to stick with just the facts.

This 7-minute video of the 80-year life of Jonas Sr. and his eldest son has taken weeks of research and has touched on more publications than I care to admit.

It seems a bit of a disservice to cover such a life in so short a window. But in this case, those were the facts I could confirm. I am sure that as time goes by we will uncover more verifiable information about Jonas that we can add to our record.

I am receiving some feedback on the videos and on the site over all. I’m gratified at the response. And yes, we’re working on more videos. in fact, we have about five in various stages.

For now I’m focusing mostly on individuals who lived before William Ruthven Westover.

In my view this becomes a much bigger and more difficult job to feature folks who lived closer to our own time. I’m not sure yet how I would approach doing a video about my grandparents, for example — especially since my Dad and his siblings are still living and have a lot to say. How any of that gets covered briefly is really beyond me. For now, I’m putting that responsibility on them.

For now, there are lots more videos we can do of a low-hanging fruit variety to keep us busy.

Some are asking — what about the Riggs? What about the Smiths? Or what about whoever?

And the answer is yes: we want to be as inclusive as we can. We want to get to them all.

And we want to involve more people in producing these things as we can.

I’m thrilled to report that one of my favorite cousins has agreed to voice a video and that Dad too will not only narrate but write an upcoming video. This excites me greatly and I invite as many others as want to jump in here as we can possibly get.

The lessons I’m learning by doing all this are many. The miracles I’m experiencing are NOT insignificant.

I am growing in respect and admiration for my ancestors and I feel inspired as I learn more about them.

One of the things I’ve discovered about these 17th and 18th century Puritan ancestors is that they usually created some sort of will towards the end of their lives. A common thread I’ve noticed after they have discussed the disposition of their worldly goods to various family members is an expression of faith — a testimony! — right there in the will.

It’s the coolest thing.

I’ve seen enough of these things now to not only feel the Spirit of what they are expressing but to change my mind about my own will. What examples they are.

And, for the record, if you must, you can catch Take an Indian to Lunch right here.