Planting Pansies: A Remembrance

Planting Pansies: A Remembrance

Recently I visited the coastal village of Bosham, Sussex, where my Chamberlain ancestors lived out their days fishing, gathering oysters, mending nets, and laundering clothes. I walked around the marshy harbor, past the quay on to Shore Road, where high tides brush the steps of the sea-facing homes. I passed the Millhouse where my Second Great Grandmother Ida Gardner lived with her husband and children. And I stepped quietly on the worn floors of the 1000-year-old Holy Trinity church where my Great Grandfather Archie was baptized in an ancient stone font. As I wandered through the churchyard, brushing my hands against sea-pocked headstones, I noticed something that took my breath away: bunches of pansies dotted the yard, planted seemingly at random. To understand why these pansies meant anything to me requires the telling of another story: how through loss, pansies became a flower of remembrance for my ancestors.

Sisters Ida and Ellen Gardner were young — 10 and 13 years old respectively —when their mother died. Following her death, Ida lived with her maternal grandparents while her older sister Ellen stayed with cousins in nearby Fishbourne. In 1878, 17-year-old Ida Gardner gave birth to a son, Archie. The birth record did not reveal a father. Three years later, Ellen married Percy Chamberlain, a fisherman who was orphaned as a boy and was also raised by his grandparents. During this time, younger sister Ida worked as a laundress, living with her grandmother and son Archie.[1] By 1887, Ida was married to George Brown while Ellen, Percy, and their three children lived in Fisher’s Gate, near Brighton. 1887 was a pivotal year for the Chamberlains. In March of that year the family decided to join themselves to the Mormon faith. On a foggy evening missionary George Miller[2]  baptized Percy and Ellen Chamberlain in the sea near Brighton’s West Pier.  From George Miller’s diary:

Wednesday March the 2 1887 […] then we go to the west pier to meet a man and his wife who wished to be Baptized it being a very foggy night so we baptized them close by the pier in the sea though it was so foggy and dark we was not alone for one man came along just as we were going into the water and ask us if we were going to lurn them to swim but we Baptized them all rite we came out on the street, shake hands and Bid them good by they go for Fishers gate we for Albion Hill.[3]

In the ensuing months, Ellen and Percy determined that they would sell their possessions and emigrate to Utah with their children, Albert, Ellen Rose, Mabel, and infant Robert. When they set sail on the S. S. Wyoming in June 1888, there was one extra family member: their ten-year-old nephew Archie. He was thereafter was known as their son Archibald Percy Chamberlain. In my mind’s eye I can see young Archie pacing the ship’s deck, already missing his mother and grandmother, bracing for new adventure with his new family.

The journey took its toll on the Chamberlain family. Ellen struggled with a persistent illness throughout the voyage across the Atlantic. Too weak to care for her infant son Robert on the journey, she allowed a kind stranger to assist her. As they grew closer to Salt Lake City, Robert also fell ill with fever. The night they arrived by train in Salt Lake City, residents took the ailing family to the Tithing Yard [4]—an open-air, temporary accommodation where incoming emigrants could sleep outdoors and receive provisions and rest. Despite these comforts, Robert died that first night on the straw in the Tithing Yard. They buried the him in a pauper’s area of the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Tragedy also caught up with Ellen. Doctors determined that her illness was tuberculosis, and she died the following January, six months after the family arrived in Utah. She was buried in the same cemetery, not far from her son Robert. With no headstone to mark their burial place, Percy marked their graves with pansies.

Percy never remarried. His family lived in an area of the Salt Lake Avenues called “the crummies”, and  Percy—far removed from his fisherman days—worked as a gardener. He could often be seen walking through avenues with his sack of gardening tools slung over his shoulder. Many times those walks lead to the cemetery where he cared for the pansies that marked the resting place of his wife and son. Perhaps he loved pansies for their delicate hardiness, and how they bloomed despite the cold.  Or perhaps he knew that pansies symbolized humility and remembrance. A remembrance of seaside days, gathering cockles in the shallow marshes of Bosham harbour. A remembrance of Ellen and the love of his youth. A remembrance of home and the flowers that bloomed there.


A collage of the Percy & Ellen Chamberlain Family designed by Clark Chamberlain.


Bosham homes on Shore Road.


Great Grandfather Archibald Percival Chamberlain

[1]  1881 England Census, Class: RG11; Piece: 1135; Folio: 24; Page: 9; GSU roll: 1341277, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. 1881 British Isles Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

[2] Amazingly, George Miller’s great-granddaughter is my neighbor Sydnee Spencer. It was her family that donated his journal to the Church History Library.

[3]  George Miller, 1850-1918. “George Miller papers, 1886-1925”. Church History Library Catalog, Call Number: MS 2816, Image name: MS 2816_f0002_00113.JPG

[4] Fred E. Woods, “The Arrival of Nineteenth-Century Mormon Emigrants in Salt Lake city,” in  Salt Lake City: The Place Which God Prepared, ed. Scott C. Esplin and Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2011), 203–230.

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

Despite all the busyness of preparing for RootsTech, this morning I had a few quiet moments this morning thinking of our Grandma Dorothy Smith Clark. I wondered, what was she doing this week, so many years ago? I searched “Feb 27” on her Kindex archive, and found these diary pages from 1928:

Sunday Feb 26th

Stay home from S S with Virgil who has a bad cold. Go to church with Lucille & to Mutual. In our J class we discuss getting or “J” pin. Discuss contest numbers for M.I.A. Day & began plan for  Progressive Supper.

Monday Night Feb 27 Lucille P. and I went down to Galt Hospital to see Anna Nielson who had her appendix out last Friday. She was feeling pretty good. We took her some flowers in behalf of our Junior class.

Wed. Feb 29th – Leap year

We washed & in P.M. I went to bed as I had a little sore throat.

Thurs. Mar 1st Spring weather

March 2nd

Friday. I’m up & better. Sr. Wallburger sends us some cakes & tarts.

Nothing much: some church activities, a sore throat, a visit to a friend, and a comment on the weather. And yet, it is so much, because with every found page the knowledge of who she was becomes more complete. Getting face-to-face with her history is one the greatest gifts I can think of.

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Solving Mysteries with Searchable Archives

Solving Mysteries with Searchable Archives

I recently accompanied my 5th-Grader on a field trip to the Utah State Capitol and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) Museum. As we passed the capitol on the west side, we our school bus drove by the Capitol Hill Ward where my grandparents first met in 1932. At the DUP Museum next door, we had a scavenger hunt with the students. As we were checking items off our list, I walked past these photos.



They were part of a larger exhibit on pioneer Charles C. Rich and his family.  I was immediately struck by the similarity between the lettering on the photo captions and our grandmother’s lettering. Could it be hers? I asked docents at the DUP if anything could be learned about the donor and date of donation, but unfortunately, there was no additional information.

But what evidence could I discover within our own family archive on Kindex? Even though the archive is only partially transcribed, I was certain I could find some clues. A quick search of “DUP” and “lettering” gave me answers in seconds. Let’s look at the connections.

Connection 1: Employment and Skill

Dorothy Smith did odd jobs hand-lettering for various local businesses. A quick search for “lettering” in her Kindex archive confirms this, revealing a list of lettering jobs she did in the early 1930’s.


Hobbies  Dot  JOBS Employment

3 Feb ’32 Clerked at “Everybody’s Store’ sale today (1.50) (script)

13 June ’32 – got show card order – Fred Bich[…]

Also job to tint 22 charts for NDA.

Jan 16 / 34 Kress Store clerk & Decorator 14.00 wk

Mar or Apr 33 thru Aug 34 Lettering signs after May 1/34 earn 17. – 20. wk

6 Dec 33 Hand-lettered some charts for Pres. B B Stringham

3 Feb

14-19 Dec 1931 – 7.65 earned from Christmas and orders from friends or kin.

Also 5.00 making 16 show cards for Realsilk Co. thru Chas. Jarman.

1.50 for business cards.

Connection 2: Physical Proximity and Record of Visit

In the same record as above, under the heading of “Church Work”, she mentions a visit the DUP Museum which was situated near her home.

going Wed DUP


Connection 3: Handwriting Comparison

In her archive are many examples of lettering she did for various family history projects.  This connection compares Charles Rich photo captions with examples of Dorothy’s own lettering in her Book of Remembrance, also found in her Kindex archive.





Connection 4: Family Connection

A final connection is a family one. My own 2nd Great Grandfather, Charles Rich Clark, was acquainted with Charles C. Rich family, as they both had families in the same towns in Southern Idaho.


While Dorothy has some variance in her lettering style with the use of script and various embellishments, there is a strong similarity between the writing in the Charles C. Rich photos and the writing from her own Book of Remembrance. I see a strong resemblance especially in the numbering. Below is a selection of Dorothy’s writing pasted on to the Charles C. Rich photo image.

While there is not direct evidence to support that she indeed did the lettering, there is strong circumstantial evidence that she did. What do you think?


Dorothy’s lettering in center.

It’s fantastic that this type of research takes just a few minutes when you have a searchable arhchive. With our built-in indexing tools, your family records can be searched in seconds, making solving mysteries like this fast and easy. Haven’t tried Kindex yet? Head on over to and start your free archive.

Treasure Hunting at Home: a Visit to the Alamo

Treasure Hunting at Home: a Visit to the Alamo

A few days ago, we visited The Alamo. No, not that one. The historic home of Ezra T. and Mary Stevenson Clark in Farmington, Utah, with its architectural stylings reflective of the Alamo, was the childhood home of Kindex founder Kimball Clark. On a mission to rescue records for a treasure hunt for the upcoming MyFamily History Youth Camp at BYU, we thought of no better place to start than in our own backyard.



Welcome to the Alamo.

I had a few minutes waiting for Kimball to arrive, so I poked around outside, walking deep into the expansive property. Situated on historic “Clark Lane” in Farmington, Utah, the property stretches north reaching the Farmington Creek Trail and Lagoon Park. So close is Lagoon that I could hear clack of amusement rides and the screams of thrill-seekers just a stone’s throw away.


Kimball’s father Charles Clark collected, among other things, wagon wheels.


And other kinds of wheels.


The random patterns of native field stones.


A marker for the old telephone system cables. It has not been disturbed.


At last, Kimball is here! Now, where’s that key.

Once inside, we had a great time exploring the home. I remember coming to this home once in a while to visit Charles and Sally’s family, but it had been at least 20 years. Wandering from room to room in the heavy July heat, we discovered some great things. Buried between craft boxes, tools, and boxes of old bills were family genealogies, old photos, letters, and a few other surprises.


A few items from a dusty old suitcase.

This 161-year old home is thick with memory. Treasure hunting aside, I loved looking around the various rooms and hearing Kimball’s memories of growing up here. With eight brothers and one sister, Kimball has no shortage of stories from this house.


A view in the kitchen.


A well-worn banister post cap.

Someday soon, Kimball will share some memories of him growing up in that historic pioneer home. That’s his story to tell. In the mean time, we’ll keep hunting for treasures and putting them on Kindex, one dusty suitcase at a time.

“Do you know what a blessed thing it is to love and be loved?”

“Do you know what a blessed thing it is to love and be loved?”

“Do you know what a blessed thing it is to love and be loved?”
-Hyrum Smith, in a letter to June Bushman

People don’t talk this way anymore, much less write. The excerpts shared below are taken from letters written between June Augusta Bushman and Hyrum Smith during their period of engagement from 1906 to 1908.  Their tenderness and devotion with one another is an inspiration to read, and has deepened my gratitude for ancestors with such gifts and sensitivity.

Soon, the entire collection of letters will be added and transcribed on their Kindex family archive. In the mean time, here are some words to inspire us.


Flagstaff, Ariz., Oct 7 1906
My Dear June,

This is one of those beautiful Sabbath days that you read about in story books. The trees have a more stately appearance; the breeze sighs gently; the sun’s rays are soft and radiant; the clouds linger near the horizon so they will not disturb the spotless blue above; and the very air partakes of the peaceful influence of this Holy Day.

Snowflake, Ariz. Oct 31, 1906
Dear Hyrum,

For two long months I have been looking, anxiously for the promise you gave me the evening I saw you last. (Forgotten you say? Well I haven’t, and if the image doesn’t arrive soon I am going to take a peep at the original, (if the train that goes to Phoenix will stop long enough at the right place.) … Ah Sweet heart, you know full well why times seem dull to me for the first time in my life. I am happy and have always been, yet there is so much gone (that I never missed before I possessed) that seems essential for my complete happiness.

St. Joseph, Ariz., Jan., 1907
Hyrum my Beloved,

Do not say I’m answering rather early, even if your letter did come yesterday. The dearest letter I ever received, it was, and I could hardly keep from answering while I felt that you were near and I could talk instead of write to you. Your letters contain something that I cannot describe, perhaps if you could see me just after reading one you could better tell. They are essential to this little girl as long as your presence is lacking. Yes, I have everything to be thankful for. My Parents are so good to me and such a support. Home seems dearer every day and I am happy. How could I be otherwise with your love and all else that comes to me. Our climate has been almost the reverse from yours. We have had sunny spring weather and the birds are splitting their voices telling us how happy they are.

Flagstaff, Ariz., March 24, 1907
My Dear June,

Do you know how much easier it is to work, to do each day the duty that lies before you, when some one else offers encouragement and is interested in your success or failure? I imagine that I do. From the depths of my heart I appreciate your confidence and trust. Altho I fall far short of being what you say that I am, your unwavering trust is a great incentive to strive to be a worth and fit subject of such love as yours. Your letter was especially good. What do you suppose would happen to me if you should suddenly cease writing? Well, let’s not try just to find out.

Indianapolis, Ind., July 19, 1907
True Heart of Mine,

Ah, Love, you cannot know the joy your words of love brot to this little girl who is so far from you (and yet so near). I cannot believe there is such a distance between us when I feel your presence near me. Your good wishes for me are greatly appreciated, and I know I should be a happy girl, and truly I am and hope to prove worthy of all.

Richmond, Inde., Aug. 4, 1907
My Beloved

This earth is a beautiful garden, with golden sunshine and pearly dew. Then why should we not, as human plants, rise up in strength of our youth and glorify God for his tender mercies, for boundless love? I feel that it is good to live. To know the One who have his life that we might live. Can we appreciate such sacrifice? Do we realize the extent of his love for us? Truly I am guarded every hour, and the blessing of confidence and love is mine.

A sweet sense of peace is mine from the knowledge of your faithfulness. This charming, charming Sabbath day, wish you could feel the serene stillness. Maud and I went to the United Presbyterian Church this morning.

Greenville, Ohio, Aug. 19, 1907
My Own True Heart,

… Well dearest, I rattle away here as if I never intended to stop and I don’t know as my wanderings will interest you at all, but I have to tell you anyhow it seems because you know I am not satisfied to have all the pleasure by my lonesome. I find myself invariable wishing some One were here to make enjoyment doubly sweet.

It is quite impossible to collect my thots for real thinking when I am in so many strange places and seeing so many strange faces, but know this, my beloved, that some one things of someone all the live long day. With undying faith in my over, I remain your devoted June

Flagstaff, Ariz., Oct. 27, 1907
My Dear June:

On this beautiful Sabbath morning I would certainly be out of harmony with the day if I were anything but happy. The quiet dignity of the pines and the mountains with their majestic calmness bespeak the handiwork of the Creator. The mountains are especially beautiful. Their tops are freshly capped with snow, which makes them stand out in bold relief against a deep blue sky.

Your letters always bring good cheer. I envy you your ability as a correspondent. A person who sees and appreciates beauty in everything, unconsciously puts that spirit into everything they do. That is the great difference between us two, you always see the bright side of things while I am inclined to see only the opposite.

Flagstaff, Ariz., Nov. 24, 1907
My Dear June:

This beautiful Sabbath morning fills my mind with thots of love and home. Do you know what a blessed thing it is to love and be loved? Of course you do, but it isn’t that often that I take time to enjoy it.

It is hard to realize all of the confidence and trust that is reposed in my by my sweetheart, my mother, brothers, sisters and friends. The realization makes me feel my unworthiness, but on the other hand is an incentive to greater effort. My progress is very slow yet I believe with J.G. Holland that “Heaven is not reached at a single bound, but we build the ladder by which we rise from the lowly earth to the vaulted skies, and we mount to the summit round by round.” Hope you will not work too hard, but take all the pleasure you can get. I know you must have enjoyed that trip with the Salt Lake people. I trust that you will have a pleasant time Thanksgiving Day. I would enjoy being at home with the folks to join with them in their first Thanksgiving Day in the new house but if school work is my business I must attend to it. I can tell how many days it will be until the Christmas vacation but will not trouble you with it now.

Write soon to your Patient Plodder

Letters copied from the June Bushman and Hyrum Smith Family History compiled by Virgil Smith and June Adele Smith Harker.

Photo courtesy of David Clark.

Family letters: Opening the door to our ancestor’s lives

Family letters: Opening the door to our ancestor’s lives

If a photo is a window into a family’s life, then a letter is the door. This 1904 portrait of the Emma Woolley and Charles Rich Clark family is beautiful, but offers few clues about the challenges, personalities and relationships between these family members.


Today, we transcribed a letter written by Emma Woolley to her husband Charles Rich Clark while he was away serving a church mission in 1892.  In this letter we learn that Emma had a migraine, and that the oldest child, Marion, was the serious one who concerned himself with his mother’s help and offered a little prayer on her behalf. We learn that Vernon, the next oldest, was the silly one and said funny things that made his mother and neighbors laugh. We learned how devoted Emma is as a wife, managing the family accounts, nurturing sick children, doing laundry,  and settling debts. She closes the letter saying,

“I guess this is not what would be called a love letter but it is written in love all the same, and I am proud of the man I love, and hope to keep ever fresh and alive that affection that exists between us”

To read the full transcription, go to the Ezra T. Clark Family Archive.

Make insights like this possible with your own family records and start your own family archive.