One of the ways I escape from the endless stream of bad news is to delve back into the genealogy of my family. I will select a name in my database at random and start sifting through the hints supplied by Ancestry.com's records. Digital versions of historical documents are uploaded every day, and I was happy to see so much more information now available.
I came across a distant relation on the Brunk side of my mother's family. Sadie Myrtle Ellison was married to Bert Jennings Wriston. I saw that Sadie's family information was scarce, so I started digging through her life. She was born in Pax, W.V., in 1897, and lived to be 90 years old. Her son Wayne married into the Winston family and -- well, I won't bore you with the whole lineage. I eventually ran across the name of Robert Gardner, Jr. He was born in Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1819. Robert's father, Robert Gardner, Sr., was accused of treason and held in Stirling Castle for nine weeks, along with 47 other men charged with treason. Charges were dropped, but the senior Gardner was so angry over the affair that he moved his family to Upper Canada in 1821.
Robert Gardner Jr. married in 1841. He was baptized into the Church of Latter-Day Saints in 1845. At age 28, he pioneered to Salt Lake Valley in Utah. He maintained a diary of the journey, portions of which remain today. There is a poignant tale of his five-year-old son being run over by a wagon. The child died several days later and was buried on the banks of the Platt River.
The family reached Salt Lake City, Utah, in late 1847. Robert became a vital elder in the church and was frequently mentioned in newspaper articles. He had four wives, 37 children, of which 27 reached adulthood. He had 122 grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren when he passed away in 1906. His sons traveled on many mission trips, including several to New Zealand. Most of the Gardner family are buried in Utah, Montana, Nevada, and Arizona. There is no way I could figure out the actual relationship of Robert Gardner, Jr. on my own, but luckily, Ancestry.com can. Officially, he is the 2nd great-grandfather of the wife of the brother-in-law of my 2nd great-nephew of the husband of my 1st cousin 3x removed to me. "Distant" doesn't begin to describe this relationship!
Around 1960, David Clark Winston of West Virginia acquired a job in New Mexico as a geologist. He is my brother-in-law to the 2nd great-nephew of the husband of my 1st cousin 3x removed according to Ancestry.com. It was there in Grant, N.M., that he met and married Sharon Mae Heppler. Sharon is a great-great-granddaughter of Robert Gardner, Jr. The Winston-Heppler marriage formed the connection between the Gardner and Houston families.
Another interesting fact I found is that Robert Gardner, Sr., was born in Bogstown Farm, Houston, Renfrewshire, Scotland. I have known for years that a Houston Castle exists in Renfrewshire and is thought to be the place of origin for the Houston clan. The possibility now exists that ancestors from both my father's and mother's side came from the same area in Scotland. Separated by circumstance and time, their descendants arrived in different parts of a new country, only to find themselves through chance.
Undoubtedly, you are quite confused by the names, dates, and places I have thrown together, and your interest in my family history is probably not great. But, as I stated, I do this as a distraction from the happenings of our times. I can easily get lost in the documents of the past. Finding connections to those long gone brings a sense of continuity to my life. The hard times we face are different from those of my ancestors. But they persevered through loss, and their families lived on. No matter what happens to us, we should strive to leave something of our lives for those who come after.
--DEVIN HOUSTON IS THE PRESIDENT/CEO OF HOUSTON ENZYMES. SEND COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS TO [email protected] THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.