Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Search

The window of our hotel room reveals a bright sunny day, pefect for skiing.
Eden, Claire and Matt head for the slopes early in the morning, while I make ready for a day downtown.  It's full of life during the holidays -- shoppers, streets lined with trees that twinkle with tiny white lights.  I somehow forgot to pack a coat, stupid, I know.  So I don my heaviest sweater, load up a back pack full of pens, my camera, and computer and make my way to the Trolley station right outside the hotel.

I sit down on a  bench by a girl with a U of U letterman jacket.   It's cold outside which makes waiting miserable.  I feel so sorry for those who sit on curbs holding signs that say: Need Work.  How do they stand this freezing air?

Within minutes the Green Line pulls up and the doors open.  I hop aboard and ride to the end of the street where it stops at Temple Square.  Across the street from the Square is a three-story building that houses The Family History Center, one of my favorite haunts.  I've been frequenting the place for over 30 years now.

Funny that in the 80's a girl in her twenties would have the desire to visit once a week to look through reels and reels of microfiche searching for familiar names,  I looked so out of place with all the gray haired seniors wearing bifocals.  I don't know what it was that fueled the desire --maybe it was the deaths of my grandfathers, and father at a young age, or the fact that no one left a record, or journal about their lives.   I remember how it felt, the moment I found that first name (my 5th great grandmother), I cried.  I felt such a connection, and I knew that I had to keep going.    I'm now one of those gray haired seniors, and I'm still going, and still excited when I find more pieces to the family puzzle.

If you've never done genealogy work, it may sound daunting.   That was true thirty years ago, but not so now in this ever growing age of technology. Today, it's miraculous what you can find if you know where to look.

I walk into the building where a tiny woman with grey fluffy hair sits behind a desk.  She has twinkling eyes and a kind face and I image this is how Mrs. Santa Claus would look if she were here.  Mrs Claus hands me a name tag which I paste to my sweater.

She says Do you need help?
No thanks, I know exactly where I need to go today, I reply.
Good luck, she says as I walk into the computer lab which is surrounded by bookshelves that contain personal family histories.

I sit down in my front of a computer near my lucky spot -- the shelf where I found a personal history which lead me to my ancestors.  My fingers take their place on the keyboard and type Civil War Records.  My eyes scan several screens and look through lists and lists of records with the name Thomas Farish.   There are so many, but I am looking for a particular Thomas -- my 5th great grandfather.   Two hours pass by, but I am patient because I know it takes time to find what you are looking for, sometimes years.

Looking for ancestor's is a little like fishing, sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don't.  But, if you are passionate, you keep at it, even if you go home with nothing on a particular day.

Today was a good day, a bountiful day.  I finally see a record I recognize -- Thomas L. Farish, Charlottesville Virginia, and I whisper a triumphant YES to no one in particular.  The lady next to me whispers back: Sounds like you had some luck!   I smile at her and turn my computer screen in her direction -- a photo of amnesty papers signed by Thomas at the end of the civil war.

A few moments later, I find the name and death date of a another -- my 5th great grandfather whom I've been looking for for a long long time.   Tears come to my eyes as I learn that he died in an assylum at the end of the Civil War.   What must that have been like for his wife, to watch his mind leave because of the things that occurred during the war?   It makes me think of the millions of other women throughout the ages who have experienced the very same thing.

I pull out my family history chart and fill in a blank -- the name James Overland Harris.  It makes me happy to see his name beside the name of his wife.

The sun is low in the sky, so I pack up my things and leave.   I cut through through Temple Square to make my way back to the Trolley stop.   There temple casts shadows everywhere, which means the Christmas lights will soon shine in the dark.

On the way to the Trolley, I get a text from Claire who writes: We are at The Lion House Pantry. Come eat with us.  Perfect timing.  The Pantry is only a block away so I make my way in that direction.

I must tell you that if you ever visit  Temple Square, make sure you duck down the alley next to the J.S. Center and find the Pantry.  It's a fun place to eat.  Home-cooked food in a casual cafeteria style setting.   There are several places in town with better atmosphere, and fancier cuisine, but this place reminds me of eating dinner at Grandmas.   It's become a tradition to eat here every time we visit Utah.

As we make our way back to the car, we cut through the Joseph Smith Center.  Christmas music floats through the air as people bustle in and out of the lobby.   Claire sees an area where you can take a souvenir picture, so we stop to take advantage.

We spend the evening at a family party.  The cousins reconnect and swap stories of their adventures over the past years.

We laugh ourselves sick playing Charades and  Big Booty.

The night ends with Christmas carols, hugs goodbye, and promises to get together more often.

It was a perfect day with family, past and present.

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about searching for your ancestors, visit here, or email me at



Bethany said...

THis is beautiful. And Lion House Pantry - good stuff. Also, now I know who to go to when the time comes for me to start my family's history. I've been told there are certain people that I am responsible for finding. Lots of pressure.

Kristi said...

we ate lunch at the lion house this summer. so very delicious. some day I will do family history. hopefully soon!

Tanya said...

Can I just say, I love this whole post! I laughed that you forgot your coat...I worked at the Lion House (as a banquet server) a decade ago...and I too love the family history center...I'm loving your Christmas trip. :D TFS!

Jessica Hunt said...

Hi Crystal, I'm Jessica with Temple Square Hospitality. We own The Lion House Pantry and would love to feature some of your pictures from your visit on our Facebook page and blog. Check out and

Let me know if you'd be interested! :)

Take care,
Jessica Hunt