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The email read, “I don’t know much about my family tree [and] any information would be really helpful.” Those words resulted in a string of discoveries and circumstances that can be considered “tender mercies.”

Chris Brough of Essex, England, wanted to know his ancestry. British census reports and other records of the late 1800s and early 1900s showed his great-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Procter, had married two different men with the same last name. In 1884 she married a John Brough — who was born in Stoke Upon Trent, Staffordshire, and worked as a coal miner and by whom she had six children. Then in 1899, Mary Ann married a William Brough who was born in London and who also worked as a coal miner and by whom she had one child. But why did she marry twice? And were John Brough and William Brough somehow related — even though their birth places were nearly 160 miles apart?

While pondering what might have happened to John Brough, a researcher for the Brough Family Organization in Utah felt inspired to check the family’s Internet account and found an unexpected email had just arrived from a relative in England, who had written: “I have just been given a small booklet entitled ‘The Diglake Colliery Disaster’ [near Audley, Staffordshire]. There was a disaster in the [Diglake] coal pit on 14 January 1895 and over six dozen men and boys were killed. One of them was John Brough, age 30. Hope this is of interest to you.” The Diglake underground coal mine disaster happened when “water from an old pit, augmented from inclement weather, spewed into the lower regions of the mine, carrying and drowning everything in its path.” It quickly became apparent that the John Brough who died in the Diglake mine disaster was the same man who married Mary Ann Procter in 1884, and that he was also the great-great-grandfather of Chris Brough and my ninth cousin three-times removed.

However, another question still remained: Was John Brough related to Mary Ann’s second husband, William Brough? Within a few days of discovering what had happened to John, more information arrived from England which confirmed that John and William were first cousins, and that William, who was a bachelor prior to marrying Mary Ann, was a caring stepfather to John’s six children.

Today, the families of John Brough and William Brough have been added to LDS FamilySearch Family Tree. While some people may assume that such findings and events are mere coincidences, others who are involved in family history research can see the hand of Lord at work in such discoveries and “tender mercies.” — R. Clayton Brough, West Jordan Utah Park Stake

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