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Family history: From one generation to another

By Tiffany Sowby

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, April 2 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Luke Sowby and his great-great-great grandfather, Isaac Sowby.

Tiffany Sowby

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My 10-year-old son Luke came home with an assignment recently to write about a Utah ancestor. I was sad to admit that I am familiar with very few "stories" of ancestors that have gone before me. Even though my dad has always been a big family history buff, the names on the papers have unfortunately not translated into real stories and experiences.

I retrieved my "Family History" file folder that is filled with everything from funeral programs to family reunion write-ups and pulled out a four-page, typed essay about Luke's great-great-great grandfather, Isaac Sowersby, written by a granddaughter of his several decades ago.

I sat at the kitchen table next to Luke and began reading it to him. Luke, not exactly our academic scholar, was less than enthused to be taking on an essay assignment. He listened with half an ear, until suddenly he began hearing things that perked his interest.

"When they arrived in America, Isaac changed their last name from Sowersby to Sowby."

"Isaac contracted yellow fever and had to ride in a wagon, but his wife and older children walked most of the way from New York City to the Salt Lake Valley."

"Isaac would walk most of the way from Nephi to Salt Lake to work on the tabernacle."

"He walked when necessary and rode when going a distance over 90 miles."

I could tell Luke was already beginning to kind of like this Isaac guy. But as I continued to read, Luke, owner of two goats and nine chickens, really decided he liked this great-great-great grandfather of his.

"He had a small nine-acre farm. He had cows, pigs and chickens"

Luke was smitten. Immediately, he sat down at the computer to begin his assignment.

With the exception of Luke's first (and only) complaint when he felt he'd been "typing forever" and had only 37 of the required 200 words, Luke worked on his essay faithfully and diligently for four days. It was shocking, yet touching to see Luke's enthusiasm for this assignment that he never had to be reminded to work on.

While the sun shone on a nice, mild spring day last week, Luke sat inside finishing up his essay. He exceeded the required word count and was proud of his synopsis of Isaac's life.

A couple of hours previous to Luke finishing his assignment, I had been working on my Primary Sharing Time and came across the talk from the last general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled "The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn" in which Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said,

"I invite the young people of the church to learn about and experience the Spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors."

Without meaning to, Luke had done that exact thing counseled to do. As Luke proudly handed me his final copy, we were both touched by the Spirit of Elijah. I knew in that moment, Luke and Isaac were bonded together as a great-great-great-grandfather and great-great-great grandson.

It was a fleeting, yet eternal moment all wrapped into one. What a joy it will be when one day they meet.

Tiffany Sowby's passion for motherhood and writing come together at www.ourmostofthetimehappyfamily.blogspot.com.

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