I once read that serendipity is like looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer’s daughter. I found my great-great-grandmother.

There’s a great adventure story in the first part of the Book of Mormon about 4 brothers who traveled back from the desert to Jerusalem in search of some important family records and a copy of the scriptures. It didn’t turn out well for the man named Laban, but the brothers were successful. They were able to bring a written copy of their genealogy and beliefs with them when they moved to a new and better place.

Our family traveled south for Thanksgiving in order to see my extended family and we had a marvelous time. The food was outstanding, the games were lots of fun, and the time spent with loved ones was very, very valuable. But I also had an ulterior motive. I was in need of some particular records that were hiding in my uncle’s house. I can’t say what or why, exactly, but I knew I needed to find something he had.

The story turned out better for my uncle than for Laban, and I was able to abscond with check out several boxes of family history from him: records that might as well be made of gold, there are worth so much to me.

I sat down with my stash the day after I got home and began to sort through them. Original photographs, letters, my great-grandfather’s pocket notebook (with notes in English and a prayer in Norwegian, a recipe for prune-filled cookies, thoughts on a passage in the New Testament, and notes on Latin vocabulary), and family group records all organized and ready to be typed into the computer on FamilySearch. Wow. I am in genealogical heaven, so to speak.

One of the more remarkable finds was the written life history of my paternal great-great-grandmother Maren Kirstine Olsen Petersen and her husband, Peter Fredrick Petersen from Denmark. While that was exceptionally cool, the thing that made me stop in my tracks and get goosebumps was the fact that these were stuck in with the information from my mother’s side of the family. If this section of the box, which contained my mother’s work from the 1970’s, had gone unopened from my mother’s brother to his children, they would not have known who these people were and the stories would have been lost to my children since I don’t have them anywhere else in my files.

Last night I dreamed I was being guided through a maze of hallways and institutional buildings by a dark-haired young man who wanted me to go where he had been. I did say I believe in angels, didn’t I? Well, I believe they are most active in my life when it comes to family history and finding that which is necessary for me, individually, to find. When I follow my inner guide, I go amazing places and get to visit amazing people.

Like my ancestors Reuben, Marie, Clifford, Jean, Peter, and Maren.

5 thoughts on “Serendipity

  1. Wow. This is incredibly cool. Thanks for sharing this. Ben’s family makes a Danish heritage raisin filled cookie that they all love. My Danish blood must not be thick enough to have acquired the taste.

  2. Maren, this entry touches me directly, as we “found” our Norwegian ancestors, too, only in Østfold, Norway. We’ve also been able to procure a number of journals and personal letters from Haakon Aamodt, our great-great grandfather, who left the homeland and settle near Salt Lake City, Utah. With ancestors like that — people of conviction and grit — I feel obligated to them to make good on the investment that cost them so very much. Love that you’ve got Danish blood, too, as do I.

    • Thanks, Melissa. Finding that kind of information- even the mundane things like a little pocket notebook- is so exciting. It’s not entirely rational: “Look! This guy I’m related to liked prune-filled cookies! I have the proof!” It’s something more than that, something beyond; the thrill we descendants feel is more than the sum of the paper parts of their lives we hold in our hands. There’s something spiritual at work, of course. I have half as much Danish blood as Norwegian. I really enjoyed my visit to Denmark 2 years ago. Maybe sometime I will write about the humorous story wherein I (at age 16) met a Danish woman who made fun of my name.

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