For Kathleen Burridge of Ventura, California, family history is a lifelong obsession that started in high school.
“When I would go back to Texas to visit my dad’s family, I would sit there and write down everything everybody told me,” she says. “They would give me their stuff, write me letters, tell me their stories, and I wrote them all down.”
But her most memorable experience happened on her mother’s side of the family.
“My mom always told us that her mother was dead. But when I went to live with my brother, he told me our grandmother was alive and living in Santa Monica. He said he would introduce us—and then he died before he could do it. So I braved up and went to meet her. My mom went with me.”
They ended up bringing her home. She was lonely and alone, in need of her family. While her grandmother lived with the family, Kathleen talked to her and wrote down everything she said. Then she talked to her mother, who would clarify what the grandmother had said.
“My mother never knew where she was born, but my grandmother knew she had been born in Mexico. She had run away from home, so in her mind, her mother was dead. She had never told my dad she was half Mexican.”
Kathleen went online and found her mother’s christening records and her grandparents' marriage in Mazatlan. “It was pretty exciting,” she said.
The experience of looking for and finding the records for her mother and grandparents helped Kathleen in her work at the family history library in Las Vegas, she said. “It helped me work with Spanish people. Even though I didn't speak Spanish, I could go online and show them how to do their research.”
Kathleen now works at the family history library in Ventura. “I do family history for my ward and on the stake level, but rarely get a chance to do my own,” she says. “I did have 19 names done last Saturday for my own family!”
For a convert to the LDS Church, family history work can seem endless, she says. “Stories—that is one thing I really need to work on. I try to learn their lives, and collect stories out of the paper. When you're in Texas, if someone comes to visit you, it's in the paper. Anything that has our name in it, I copy it. I'm still looking for a Caddell who was my great-grandfather.
He was shot and killed for a bad poker game in Texas. You'd think it
would be in the paper!”