Bill's Genealogy Blog

Bill Buchanan is a long-time genealogy enthusiast, living in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. This blog will describe my experiences as I research my family history and help others.

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Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired online school teacher. I love family history. Since 2007, I have spent much of my time providing part-time support for the world's largest free family history site This is very rewarding. I have helped others with the Family Tree and related FamilySearch products.
In 2010-2018 Iserved in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Centre. I have a FHC blog at Bill's Family History Center Blog For information the Latter-day Saints and family history click

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Our Trip to Utah

I have served in FamilySearch Support for several years, but I had never attended the annual picnic in Centerville Utah. This time we decided to go. My new supervisor was the person who hosted the annual picnic. And he volunteered to let us stay with him and his wife!

It is a long drive from Edmonton and we had been talking about replacing our old car for some time, but this seemed like the perfect time. We bought a 2017 Elantra with most of the creature comforts and some new safety features, and set off for Centerville.

We visited my mother in Leduc, and then spent Wednesday night with Judy's brother and his wife in Monarch, Alberta. We had a pleasant visit and viewed the new root cellar and the greenhouse they had built.

We left early on Thursday morning, because we had a long drive to our next stopping point, Idaho Falls. We stayed at the Snake River Motel 6, clean and affordable. While in Idaho Falls we bought 14"x17" pictures of Christ with a girl and Christ with a boy, for the children our son and daughter-in-law are planning to adopt. We also bought identical frames and a game for Laurel's family.

Then on to Utah the next morning. In Salt Lake City we visited the Family History Library (obviously!), the Church History Museum, and the Family Discovery Center in the JSMB. I was interested to see what activities were part of the Discovery Center so that I could report back to the director of my Family History Center. At Centerville we stopped for lunch and drove to Andy's farm. Andy and Joanne were not home so I phoned them and we waited. Soon they were there with big smiles, showing us around their home and land. The house was built by William Jennings, an early Utah entrepreneur, in 1887 and was made of adobe. Much of the furniture was also historical. Around the yard there was a collection of old horse-drawn farm equipment and tools, such as my dad was still using into the 1950s. I felt like I had been transported back in time 60 or 70 years. It was wonderful! Andy's grandparents bought the farm in 1910, so it has been in the family for over a century.

Judy helped Joanne make her special salsa. Andy and I helped with the setting up of the church where the dinner would take place the following afternoon. Part of this was a small discovery center. Judy and I slept in a historical bed under the protection of a muzzle-loading rifle on the wall. And in the morning we helped with preparations for the picnic. There were chairs and tables to set-up, and fruit to pick for the support missionaries. Andy got stung by a hornet while picking peaches. But it didn't slow him down or dampen his enthusiasm.

Before 2 PM support missionaries began to arrive. I recognized the names of some who serve in Family Tree support, and it was fun to finally meet them. Among them was Elder Lynn who serves as a leader in my group. He gave me a jar of honey from his bee hives and a jar of his special seasoning for meat. Among the other people there was Joseph (another of our supervisors), their manager Scott, and Scott's manager Bengt from Frankfurt Germany, and Bengt's manager, Diane (Assistant Director of FamilySearch). So these were real people (most were accompanied by a spouse and some cases children), not just names on a organization chart!

Besides meeting lots of people, I also had a chance to ride in the Herman's 1920 Ford Model T. It was an open "touring" model with a canvas roof. I sat up front beside the driver so that I could watch him shift gears using the pedals. (middle pedal for reverse, left pedal for low and high gears, the right pedal was the brake) I had not ridden in a Model T for probably 60 years. I enjoyed it. My 1932 Ford Model B was not much improvement, but in cold weather, the closed-bodied Model B was probably a lot more comfortable.

All too soon it was time to go to the church for the dinner. There I had the opportunity to meet my long-term supervisor, Emma, and two of her assistants, Sisters Craig and Hoffman. It was good to see some of my fellow group leaders: Elder Penrod, and Sisters Sorensen and Yost. We had a nice meal, and then talks by Bengt and Diane. And we visited until it was time to put away the tables and chairs and leave. It was a special occasion, and I was glad that I came. Would I come another year? Probably not. It is a very long drive.

The next morning we left about 7 AM so that we could attend church with Elder and Sister Moore in Mantua (pronounced "man 2-way") We missed the turn and were half way to Wellsville before we could turn around. We met up with the Moores and enjoyed worshiping with the friendly people of Mantua, before resuming our journey. Andy and Joanne provided us with lots of food for the journey. I was really exhausted by the time we reached Dillon, Montana, and we had some difficulty finding the Motel 6. But asking local people had served us well, and it proved to be the case once more. The room was larger than normal and had 2 double beds, refrigerator and microwave. While we watched Hunger Games 2, I sent a Skype message from my tablet to my missionaries.

We left about 6 AM for Monarch. Somehow we ended up going into Butte, Montana. This was not our plan at all. But with some local help, we reached the interstate. We stopped for gas and bought subs at Subway at Shelby. Gas is sure cheap here, and this car barely sips it. 5.3-5.6 litres/100 km! I did not need to refuel until Devon, Alberta. In fact I could probably have made it home on the gas I bought in Shelby, but I like to be safe.

By 3 PM we were at Monarch. After supper we were talking about our preferences in reading. At some point I mentioned The Fire of the Covenant by Gerald N Lund, which tells the story of the Willie and Martin handcart companies of 1856, and things I had learned from the book that do not come up in casual conversations about the events. They mentioned that they had a film of the Willie handcart company, called 17 Miracles and asked if we would like to watch it, so we did. It agreed with the book but followed other people involved in the events, and was really excellent. I was really impressed by Levi Savage, one of the sub-captains. Before the crucial vote was taken at Winter Quarters (Florence), Nebraska, he was asked to speak and he strongly counselled them to not go west until spring. He was strongly rebuked by Captain Willie. When the vote was taken and the majority of the company wanted to go west, Levi fully supported their decision. Later experience proved that both Savage and Willie were right: there would be suffering and death if they went west that summer, but staying in Winter Quarters when the Martin handcart company of 800 people was due to arrive soon, was not a viable option either. I found it interesting that the film mentioned that the death rate in the Willie handcart company was similar to other groups of immigrants coming west. They lost about 14% of their people in the cold weather. I would have considered it high. Of course, the Donner party with the best of equipment fared much worse.

We left about 6 AM so that we could get Judy to her medical appointment at 1:15 PM. At Okotoks, we stopped for lunch. We stopped again in Leduc to see Mom but she was not in her room or the public areas of Extendicare. So we continued home, arriving about noon. Judy had no trouble getting to her appointment.
There were lots of things to catch up on after a 6 day absence. It was good to be home again.

Still, I was impressed by how well everything went. We had not been on a long trip like this since 2002. I wasn't totally convinced we could do it. We took out travel insurance, but fortunately we didn't need it.