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Archive for May, 2011

I just finished listening to the original cast recording of the new smash-hit Broadway musical The Book of Mormon (thanks to Rolling Stone magazine). Loved it. Lots of “ridiculously catchy” tunes, which I expected (by Robert Lopez, who composed the songs for Avenue Q), and some Very Bad Language (also expected); but I wasn’t prepared to be so touched by so much of the show — particularly by one song, “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” (say it out loud, fast).

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Memorial Day

My dad was a WWII veteran (Army Air Force) who served in the South Pacific. Like many of his peers, he seldom spoke of his experiences in any serious way, though he did on occasion relate humorous anecdotes (usually ironic or satirical) of military life. As for documentation, we have his 1942 draft notice, his Armed Services-issued New Testament, and a few mimeographed newsletters from a transport ship he was on which contain some of his cartoons (after the war he would go to art school in Los Angeles and then become a commercial artist). Beyond that, I know next to nothing about his war.

His father was a veteran as well, a doughboy who was gassed in the trenches during WWI. I have a bundle of postcards he sent home from France to his future wife, but they tell very little; apparently he wasn’t inclined to say much about his war either. I never knew him: he died in 1948 from damage to his lungs resulting from that chemical warfare two decades earlier. He was younger then than I am now.

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The writer and historian of the American West Wallace Stegner wrote this about the Mormon pioneers:

That I do not accept the faith that possessed them does not mean I doubt their frequent devotion and heroism in its service. Especially their women. Their women were incredible.

Like Ann Knox Gardner, who emigrated to America from Scotland in 1856. Her husband had left for America a few years before, but was never heard from again. (He may have been a passenger on the steamboat “Saluda,” which exploded on the Missouri River in 1852.)

The loss of husband and father notwithstanding, Ann and her five children took passage at Liverpool on the clipper ship “Enoch Train,” arriving in Boston in May of 1856. From there they traveled by train to New York and on to Iowa City (then as far west as one could go by rail), where they joined a handcart company and walked the remaining 1,000 miles to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, which they reached on September 26 of that year.

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I’ve known a lot about parts of my family tree for a long, long time: my tree includes some branches that have been Mormon for 180 years, and as everyone reading this knows, these folks are serious genealogists.

But genealogy really gets fun when you find the stories that fill in the blanks beyond dates and parentage, that make our forebears flesh and blood. This is an account of one such story, that of my great-great-grandfather, James Gardner.

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First post

Private musings, made public.

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