Healing Familes Through Family History
Jane Calaway and Carol Wells
Family history libraries are great places to go for help in solving family history mysteries. Sometimes they can even help to bring living family members together.
Jane Calaway of Mattawa, Washington, works one morning a week in the family history library in her ward chapel.
“My father lost his mother when he was three years old,” she said. “And so his dad remarried, and a son was born of that marriage. I knew of him, but I didn’t really know a lot about him except that I had talked to him when my father died, and told him my father had died. So I was trying to find out some information about him because his mother and my grandfather divorced when he was just a small child. And so as I was doing research, I found that she was working as a housekeeper with this little boy. I just wanted to cry when I read it.”
She wanted to learn more, so she began to search newspapers. She knew her half-uncle, Howard Courtney, had died in 2006. She found his 25th wedding anniversary announcement. She learned when his daughter was born. She found his daughter’s wedding and his son’s wedding, and she found out later that his daughter had adopted a baby boy.
“All this, just from little blurbs in the newspaper,” Jane said. “I found lots of Howard Courtneys, but I knew the right one because I knew the area that he lived in. And so now I know his children. And I had a picture of their family that I found in my mother’s cedar chest. I knew the dad’s name. I didn’t know the mother’s name, and I didn’t know any of the children’s names. Through the newspaper articles, I found out all their names, and Howard’s wife’s parents’ names. I know the daughter’s maiden name now, so I can call them now and talk to them about their dad and his feelings about how all this happened. I can contact his kids now and find out the story, because I want to know the story.”
She found this information at the family history center during the week before the 2014 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. It was a story that had been nagging at her for a long time.
“Ever since I ran across that line in the census where his mother was working as a housekeeper for someone and she had the boy with her, I just felt so sad. But later I found out that she did remarry–because it showed him later, when he was young, living with them. That’s how I found her–because it said stepson of the head of household. So it’s interesting just how the puzzles fit together. I’m excited about talking to his children now. They live in Iowa. We moved west, and that’s why I didn’t ever know them personally. My dad knew his half-brother, but I never did. But I know because we had a picture of their family that there must have been some connection there.”
Jane came to the Conference on Family History and Genealogy with her friend Carol Wells, who works with her at the family history center in Mattawa.
“We are there every Thursday for anyone who comes in,” Jane says. “We work on our own lines when nobody comes in, and we have a hard time tearing ourselves away by noon. We’re supposed to only be there from 9:00 to 11:00 because we get excited when we get on a roll, and we don’t want to quit!”