Chasing Butterflies: When Clues Lead to Stories

In my grandmother Dorothy Smith’s  collection of photos there is a picture of her standing alone, posing on a hill with a snowy mountain in the background.

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When I first saw this photo, I turned it over to see if any information was written on the back. I was lucky to find a description in my grandmother’s own handwriting.

University Hill Provo
April 1933
I was going to catch a butterfly but it flew away and left me.
Springville Art Exhibit

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I was so pleased she had written the date, place, and occasion of this photo. But who took it, and why was she there? I knew she kept a diary from that time, and because it is transcribed, I was able to search for those dates and words. Here’s what I found from the day the photo was taken:

Sunday April 23, 1933

Went by Orem Electric to annual Springville Art Exhibit with T.S. Knaphus, sculptor. Spent 3 hours in Provo, sight-seeing on our way back to S.L.C. Took kodak snaps on B.Y.U. campus.

This was a very interesting day for me and rather an outstanding one I suppose, inasmuch as I was so kindly favored and well treated by one so prominent in his sphere.

En route he gave me valuable instructions and criticisms on art. Urges strongly that I begin to busy myself with “oils” and harness the talent he believes lies dormant. (I hope to do this soon, as I have been so inspired today)

Left Knaphus at 8 P.M. to finish the day with Ellsworth. Youth does have its preferences.

What started as a photo and ended with a diary search reveals a snapshot of Dorothy’s life from the early 1930’s, where Mormon sculptor and artistic mentor Torleif Knaphus and husband-to-be Ellsworth Clark contended for Dorothy’s affections. It was a very pivotal time in Dorothy’s life as she was mentored by influential artists and courted by multiple suitors. To connect an image with a specific page from her diary in history adds rich context to his photo and lends a greater understanding to who our grandmother was.

Sometimes searching for stories in our family records is like chasing butterflies: we never know where the path will lead us, and catching them is elusive. With Kindex, our goal is to make that path easier through the ability to search and share family records. Had I been required to manually page through these diaries (shown below) to find that story, it would have been far more difficult and time-consuming. So here’s to catching butterflies—and finding stories!

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A Sample of Dorothy Clark’s Diary Collection

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