Mary Text – Next Revision

Today I reread Brandy’s posts on Storytelling for Genealogist with the Mary book in mind. While it didn’t inspire me to take a whole new approach to the text it did help me to approach it a bit differently. I had been unsure about how to start the narrative off and Brandy’s advice on conflict and cost gave me better focus on what to do. I think the flow of the story is much improved. Plus I was able to improve the ending by comparing the beginning status to the end of the story. That was another great suggestion Brandy had in her third post in the series.

Another thing I came to better understand from Brandy’s series is that while my mom is very good at editing for spelling, punctuation etc., she isn’t able to help me with content editing. I was beginning to realize this but I didn’t know how to articulate what the challenge was. I also like Brandy’s hint to read it out loud. I was hoping to get my edits typed up today but I didn’t make it. But I should be able to get them done tomorrow and posted. Then I’m going to find someone to read it out loud so I can see how it sounds.


Mary Book – Text

Mary and her mother in England

Here is my current text for the children’s story book about my great-great grandmother, Mary Taylor. It has come a long way but I want to revisit it after Brandy Heineman finishes her series on storytelling for genealogists. I’m sure her posts will help me make the text for my book even better.

Grandma Mary, will you tell me a story?

Of course, Irene, what story would you like to hear?

Tell me again, Grandma Mary, about when you were little, like me.

OK, I’ll tell you. I had a happy childhood. My grandmother would tell me stories too. I was an only child because my sisters and brother died when they were tiny babies. I was rather delicate when I was young and I was raised on milk tea. Close your eyes, Irene, and imagine you could travel back in time to when I was a little girl, just your age.

I grew up, far away, across the ocean in England, in a cozy village with lots of beautiful Elm trees. That is why we called it Coton-in-the-Elms.

But Grandma Mary, that sounds like there was cotton in the trees. I don’t see why that was the name of your village.

Irene, in the English way of speaking coton means cottage or little house, so Coton-in-the-Elms means cottage in the Elm trees.

Grandma Mary, tell me about when the missionaries came to your village.

Oh, Irene, that was a glorious day. I was just a little older than you when the missionaries came. They taught us about Jesus and Heavenly Father’s visit to the Prophet Joseph Smith. We also read more about Jesus in the Book of Mormon. My family believed what the missionaries taught and we were baptized in a nearby river.

Was the river cold, Grandma Mary?

No, it was July when I got baptized and the water felt good. Plus I felt all warm and happy inside. It was the Holy Ghost telling me I was doing the right thing.

Grandma Mary, tell me about how you learned to make such beautiful dresses.

When I got older I learned to sew from my uncle who was a tailor. It took me a long time to learn to be a dressmaker. I was lucky because when I met, and then married, a handsome young man named William Upton, I could make my own wedding dress.

William and I dreamed of going to Zion far away from Coton-in-the-Elms in America. In Zion they were building temples to the Lord and we would be with many other saints. Plus we could hear the Prophet speak the words of God. Sometimes the people were mean to us because we had joined the church. But we didn’t have enough money to go to Zion.

Then, Irene, a most wonderful thing happened. The Prophet Brigham Young came up with a plan to help Mormons like me and my family go to Zion for less money. We would pull handcarts, instead of needing horses or oxen to pull wagons. So in May of 1856 me and my family sailed with lots of other Mormons on the ship Horizon from Liverpool England to Boston in America.

What was it like on the ship, Grandma Mary?

Well Irene, it took many days for us to sail across the ocean and some days the seas were rough making everyone seasick. There were more than 800 of us going to Zion so it was crowded. We kept busy sewing the tents we would soon be using as we crossed the plains and we sang songs. The children played as quietly as they could but with so many people it was often very noisy.

As we got closer to America, the ship was surrounded by thick fog. We were scared because we couldn’t see, but all the saints prayed and the fog parted just in time for the ship to avoid an iceberg. The fog closed around the ship again but there were no more icebergs and we were safe.

What happened, Grandma Mary, when you finally got to America?

I remember how excited I was when I finally stepped off the ship in Boston. It felt so good to be on solid ground again, yet our journey to Zion wasn’t over yet. We all climbed into train cars that had been used for cows to get to Iowa City. It wasn’t very comfortable but we were moving toward Zion.

One night when the train was stopped a mob of angry men surrounded us as we slept. They were mean and wanted to hurt us because we were Mormons. The Lord blessed us and the mob left without hurting anyone.

Another night in Cleveland, Ohio, there was a fire. That was scary too, but the saints helped to put the fire out and everyone was safe.

Tell me about after the train ride, Grandma Mary.

By the time we got to Iowa City and the end of the railroad tracks, it was really hot. We began the really hard part of our journey to Zion. We had been traveling for more than two months but we had a long way to go yet to reach the Salt Lake Valley. Me and my family loaded up a wooden handcart with our few belongings to begin our journey across the plains.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Indians along the trail. I was excited and scared at the same time because there were stories about Indians hurting people. But these Indians just looked at us, they didn’t hurt us. I was so grateful. Later in our journey, at Fort Laramie, we saw more Indians and the kind Indian children shared candied fruit with the pioneer children.

Grandma Mary, was it hard?

Yes, Irene, it was hard work. It was so different from our life in England. But we were going to Zion so each day I walked, pushing and pulling with my mother, father, husband and cousin in the Martin handcart company. Gradually we got used to it. Each night twenty of us slept together in a big round tent with our feet toward the middle and we cooked over fires.

But there were good times too. When we were camped by a river, the children had fun swimming. It was so good to see children, just like you, having some fun. We had much to do each night in camp. We gathered wood or buffalo chips so we could make our fires. The handcart would break and need to be fixed. And we were getting worn down. Time was running out to get to Zion before winter came so we traveled as far as we could each day.

What was it like Grandma Mary, walking day after day, pushing and pulling a handcart?
It was a long hard journey so I would sing the Handcart Song. The words and the melody helped me continue one step at a time. We didn’t have enough food to make it to Zion. So Elder Franklin D. Richards, an apostle, road ahead in a fast carriage, to tell the Prophet that the handcart pioneers needed help and more food. We prayed everyday for help to come and we kept pushing along as fast as we could go toward Zion.

Grandma Mary, tell me about crossing the icy rivers.

We had to cross many icy cold rivers to reach Zion. I remember the day we crossed the Platte River. The weather had turned from hot to cold in just a few days. It started to snow and we had to wade across the river through the cold water. It was so cold that I even saw ice floating in the river. Everyone was hungry including me. We worked hard every day and the cold made it worse because there wasn’t much food and we had to make it last as long as possible. I felt hungry everyday. But I walked and pushed and pulled anyway, just like everyone else, so that I could reach Zion.

What about the help that Elder Richards promised to send, Grandma Mary?

Well Irene, we didn’t know this but hundreds of miles away in Salt Lake City, Elder Richards arrived in time for General Conference and told Brigham Young about me and the other handcart pioneers. He said we needed food and help to make it safely to the Salt Lake Valley. The prophet told the men to gather food and wagons and then go and find us on the plains. Then he ended church early so everyone could help get the wagons ready to go.

Tell me, Grandma Mary, about the man who rescued you.

Well Irene, a righteous man named Burt Simmons already had a stout carriage full of food and ready to go. He and many others followed the Prophet’s directions and quickly left Salt Lake to help me, my family and the other pioneers. They hurried as fast as they could to reach us before winter came. But they didn’t make it before the snow because it came early that year.

How did you keep going, Grandma Mary, not knowing when help would come?

I prayed all the time, Irene. All of us did. I was so hungry and so cold. There was lots of snow and it was hard to pull our handcarts. We didn’t have enough to eat. Some people died, including my mother, my father and my husband. I was so sad but I knew I had to keep moving on toward Zion. The snow was so deep that we had to stop for a few days in a place now called Martin’s Cove. Soon Burt Simmons found me and he and other rescuers helped all the pioneers make it to the Salt Lake Valley. I was so weak and my feet were frozen. I don’t remember much about that part of the journey.

Grandma Mary, how did you get better?

Burt Simmons drove me in his sturdy carriage to his home where his wife took good care of me. It was a long time but she nursed me back to good health and even saved my feet from the frost bite. Many others lost fingers, toes and even feet because they were frozen. After several months I was strong again.

I love that story Grandma Mary. You are so good, noble and kind. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Thank you, Irene. The Lord has blessed me. I’ve been married in the temple and have nine children, your mother being the youngest. Plus I have 57 grandchildren. I still remember what it was like to not have enough food to eat so I never waste any food, not even a potato peel. I’m so happy that I can tell you about Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father and how they have blessed me.

Grandma Mary, I’m so glad that you are my grandmother. Because of you the Lord has blessed me too.

I’m open to suggestions on my text. I feel very inadequate to write the text but I’m dedicated to making this project the best that I can.

Another Illustration for the Mary Book

I thought I would share the latest illustration for our Mary book project. This illustration is of Brigham Young telling the people in the Salt Lake Valley about the handcart pioneer in need of help. It is exciting to be making steady progress on getting this book finished. My mom turns 90 in a couple of months and this will be a major part of her birthday.

I’ve been working on the text and made some major changes to it which I think will make it more interesting. Plus during a brainstorming session we came up with the idea of having an image to search for in each illustration which relates to another story from the Martin Handcart company. The back of the book will give the images to search for and the little story. I think I’ll post the text on my next update.


More Illustration for the Mary Book

Sleeping in big round tent

Kimberli has been busy get more illustrations done for the Mary book. I’ve worked hard the last few days on the text and I’ve narrowed things down so the book isn’t so long. With these four new illustration we just have five to go plus the cover. My mom turns 90 the end of March so we have to have it done by then. She is going to love this book. The text is evolving in what I hope is a good way. I’m sure it still needs lots more work, but I’m going to work on some other projects for a few days and let it sit. Then I’ll look at it again with fresh eyes. I don’t consider myself a writer and I’ve prayed that someone else would come along to write this book. But no one has come along so I’m forging ahead, hoping for inspiration and a miracle so this book can really share the story of my great-great-grandmother.

Mary being nursed back to health

children playing in the river

Mary with a mob threatening

Gift Idea #29 – On this Date

idea numbers29For this idea you will share with your family through out the year or a specific time frame important things that happened to your family on this date in the past. You could follow the life of a single person or a group of people. You could focus on just one year or you could draw from a bunch of years.

I did my version of this for my family with my great-great-grandmother, Mary Taylor this past year. I focused on her journey from England to Utah in 1856 as a handcart pioneer. I shared this information with my family via e-mails, either daily or weekly depending on the amount of information I had. You could also put together a book or binder with the information.

A second version I did this past year was for my mom’s trip to Europe in 1952. Sharing a story with lots of details makes it easy in some ways because it breaks it into bite sized pieces, that can be more manageable to digest in our busy lives.

Another version would be to share with your family important dates such as wedding anniversaries, birthdays etc. for present and past family members. One way to do this would be with a personalized calendar.

Gift Idea #24 – Walk in Their Shoes

idea numbers24I had the opportunity this past summer to “walk in the shoes” of my great-great-grandmother, Mary Taylor. She was member of one of the handcart companies that got caught unprepared for early winter storms in 1856. At Martin’s Cove they have everything all set up to experience a little of what it was like for Mary Taylor and learn more about her experiences.

A great gift for a family would be to plan a trip to one of the many historic places that are set up to help us experience and understand a bit about the history of the past. Several year ago we had the chance to visit Plimoth Plantation, which has a pilgrim village set up along with an Indian village. It was very interesting but if I had gone with a specific ancestor in mind it would have been more meaningful.

So do a little research and find a place that can teach you about what life was like for one or more of your ancestors. Then plan a family trip. Before you go take the opportunity to learn more about that person. A trip like this can be a wonderful opportunity. Here are a few links to get you started. I think you will find more information with a more focused search.

List of Historical Reenactment Groups

Living History

Living History Sites



Gift Idea #12 – Ancestral Greeting Card

How about using an old family photo with your family by using it in a Christmas card. I’ve never been too good about sending out traditional holiday cards every year but I think that I’ll add an e-card to this years family directory and send it out for Christmas. I could also use it on the calendar I’m making to give to my family this year. It only seems fitting to use the image I have of Mary Taylor this year with all the things I’ve done to learn more about her. I think I’ll include a very short bio on the back of the card. I’ll post it here when I get it done over the next few days.

There are lots of resources both local and on the internet to help you put together a custom card featuring one of your ancestors. I find another blog post on Making an Ancestral Greeting Card here.



This Week in 1856 – Arrival in Salt Lake Valley – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

The next camp, on the 26th, was in a small canyon running out of the north side of Echo Canyon, a few miles above the mouth of the latter. Here a birth took place, and one of the relief party generously contributed part of his under linen to clothe the little stranger. The mother did quite as well as could have been expected, considering the unpropitious circumstances. So did the father who subsequently became a prosperous merchant of this city. The little new comer also did well, and was named Echo, (this is little Echo Squires).

On the 27th, the company camped on East Canyon creek, on the 28th, the Big Mountain was crossed, and the company camped at its west base. On the 29th, the company crossed over the Little Mountain, or part of it, and camped in Killian’s Canyon, near the head of emigration canyon, and on Sunday, the 30th of November, passed down the latter canyon and arrived in this city about noon, driving into East Temple Street as the congregation was leaving the old adobe tabernacle in the southwest corner of the Temple block.

The meeting of the emigrants with relatives, acquaintances and friends, was not very joyous. Indeed, it was very solemnly impressive. Some were so affected, that they could scarcely speak, but would look at each other until the sympathetic tears would force their way. In a short time, however, the emigrants were taken into the homes of their friends and made as comfortable as circumstances would permit them to be, while they thawed the frost out of their limbs and regained their health and strength.

From Some Must Push and Some Must Pull by Kenneth L. Rasmussen

So it was that the half-frozen Mary Taylor came to the North Kanyon [Bountiful] home of William Bert and Amanda Simmons. It is thought by some that Simmons took his wagon and his charge directly home, perhaps bypassing the stop in Salt Lake to receive the greeting of Brigham Young.

Mary hovered between life and death for more than a week before making substantial progress. Mary was suffering from malnutrition and severe frostbite. Among other things, Amanda applied warm tar packs to the afflicted parts of Mary’s body. It was a common remedy of the day and seemed to have some therapeutic effects, including having the ability to help remove dead or decaying flesh from the body. Amanda nursed her so carefully the “she lost neither finger nor toe”, though it was said her legs had been frozen black to above her knees. Others from the handcart companies lost fingers and toes, arms or legs from the effects of freezing them.

This is my last post about my great-great-grandmother’s journey with the Martin Handcart company in 1856. I’ve learned so much over the last few months in following day by day as much as I could what happened to Mary on her way to Utah. “The Price We Paid: the extraordinary story of the Willie and Martin Handcart pioneers” by Andrew D. Olsen was recommended by couple of the missionaries at Martin’s Cove. Reading it gave me a much clearer understanding of everything that happened than anything else I’ve read. I would also recommend it to anyone with interest in these two handcart companies.


Gift Idea #7 – Children’s Story Book

If you have followed my blog you know how excited I am about the illustrated children’s story book we are working on about my great-great-grandmother, Mary Taylor. Even though we won’t have this project finished for Christmas it would make a great gift. (Our deadline is actually for my mom’s 90th birthday in March.) With the Mary book I try to imagine it being used as a bed time story for Mary’s many descendants.

Do you have a family story that would lend itself to a story with illustrations? The pictures could be simple drawings or you could set up a photo shoot and have “actors” dress up to illustrate the story. The text doesn’t have to be complicated or long, the illustrations will help tell the story. Publishing could be as simple as printing it on your computer and/or taking it to your local copy center to make copies and have it bound. Of course a print on demand service such as Blurb or Lulu would also work. I think this project would be a perfect way to share one of your family stories with the next generation. Plus I think that even the older members of your family will take the time to read a short illustrated story when they would never take the time to read a long family history book.

This Week in 1856 – Rocky Ridge to Bear River – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

By this time, the shoes of many of the emigrants had “given out,” and that was no journey for shoeless men, women and children to make at such a season of the year, and trudge it on foot. As the emigrants proceeded on their terrible journey, there was no appreciable mitigation of the piercing wintry cold, but its intensity rather increased. The Rocky Ridge and the South Pass were crossed on the 18th of November, a bitterly cold day.

Mary received a pair of shoes from one of the rescuers. Her shoes had long since worn out and she wrapped her feet in canvas from discarded tents.

From John Jacques:

The snow fell fast and the wind blew piercingly from the north. For several days, the company had been meeting more relief teams, which had been urged on by the Joseph A. Young express, and as the company was crossing the South Pass, there was a sufficiency of wagons, for the first time, to carry all the people, and thenceforth, the traveling was more rapid. But it was much colder to ride in a wagon than to follow afoot, and a few of the sturdier of the emigrants preferred to hold on to the wagons and walk behind them. One stubborn pedestrian held out as long as he was allowed to do so. The driver repeatedly urged on him to get up and ride. “Oh, I shall freeze, if I do,” he replied. “Well, we are going to drive faster, and you’ll be left behind,” said the driver. Finally, with such argument, the emigrant was persuaded to get into the wagon. When he was seated, the driver said, “There now, you don’t get out to walk anymore.”

William Bert Simmons, one of the rescuers, put Mary in his wagon. She was semiconscious at times and half frozen.

From John Jacques:

That night, the company camped in the willows at Pacific Springs, about four miles west of the South Pass. The snow was still falling furiously, with one or two feet of it on the ground. Here, Robert T. Burton took charge of the relief companies.

On the 19th, the company camped at Little Sandy, having sage brush for fuel, and on the 20th, on the Big Sandy.

While camping on the Big Sandy, it seemed impossible to get warm, sleeping in a wagon. It was warmer sleeping with beds on the ground, where if the biting, frosty air got the upper hand of you, it could not get the underside of you as well, but it could do both in a wagon.

The handcart company all riding, was now traveling at the rate of twenty-five to thirty miles a day, and my narrative will naturally proceed more rapidly. On the 21st, the company camped at Green River, on the 22nd, near the junction of Ham’s and Black’s forks; on the 23rd, at Bridger; on the 24th, in the cedars on the Muddy, were good fires were had; and on the 25th at Bear River.

At this camp there was an abundance of dry and fallen timber, and great camp fires were made of a cor or more of logs and branches. Here Joseph Young and his brother Brigham were in camp.