Family, Uncategorized

Help Me Solve a Family Mystery

This is going to be an usual blog post for me.

It’s a plea for help with a family puzzle.

Here’s the thing…

I have spent a good chunk of my adult life trying to solve a vexing family mystery.

julina
Julina Harris Snow Berkhimer July 3, 1909 – August 13, 1991

This beautiful woman is my Grandma Snow, my dad’s mom.

We thought we knew her well until her death in 1991 when we found out she was adopted.

My aunts found a family history document in the lining of her dresser drawer that had the word “adopted” scrawled next to her name.

Adopted?

Why didn’t we ever know this?

After learning she was adopted, we launched a search for her birth story.

Who were her parents?

What happened to them?

What is her adoption story?

Oh, there are theories like that she was left in a bundle on my great grandmother’s doorstep.

Or that a midwife delivered her and gave her to my great grandparents when the mother died in childbirth.

Or that the Mormon leader, Joseph F. Smith, who was my Great Grandfather Hyrum Smith Harris’ uncle, arranged for the adoption.

Joseph F. Smith’s wife, Julina, was a midwife and delivered many babies, so we have speculated that maybe she helped with this adoption, and perhaps that’s why they named their baby, Julina.

My favorite theory formed while reading the compelling book The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

paper_orphan

The book illuminates the brutal tales of abandoned children who were piled on trains from New York City and sent out to train stations across the country between 1845 – 1929 for people to poke, prod, foster, and adopt.

Some of these trains carried infants, and they made it as far as Utah and Texas — places where my grandma lived as a child.

I sent a letter to the records department of the New York Children’s Aid Society – just in case.

They had no records of a little orphaned baby in Utah or Texas in 1909.

We’ve searched vital records, court records, personal journals, orphanages, correspondence, church records, and visited with countless relatives.

Always dead ends.

We’ve given up on this for years at a time, but then, something sparks our curiosity, and we start searching again.

We want to know her story because it’s our family story.

julina child
Julina and her mother, Delia Sarah Rebekah Twede Harris

So, speculation aside, here’s what we know…

  1. Records say she was born July 3, 1909 at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.
  2. She was blessed in Provo, Utah in July, 1909 by Roy Passey, her adopted father’s brother-in-law.
  3. In 1910, she shows up on the U.S. Census in Garza County, Texas where her father, Hyrum Smith Harris (45) and Delia Twede Harris (38) lived and owned a sheep ranch.
  4. Personal correspondence mentions having Julina “come to them,” and others mention that they “got their baby” in Texas. There is no mention of how they got the baby from Utah to Texas or how the adoption was arranged.
  5. She had no siblings. Hyrum and Delia had a child, Mercy Rachel Harris, in 1891, but she died a few months after her birth.
  6. She married Alton Roswell Snow April 23, 1928. After his death, she later married Mark Elwood Berkhimer April 14, 1969.
  7. We have submitted our DNA to Ancestry.com and continue to try to find matches that might help.

So, where do we go from here?

If anyone has any ideas, please share them.

Share this blog.

Help us solve this mystery.

julina 3
Julina Harris Snow Berkhimer

Maybe there is no reason for us to know.

Maybe her story is unknowable.

But, if anyone has any further details, hints, stories, correspondence, journals, or anything the slightest bit helpful, please share.

We would love to know about this beautiful woman and her story.

grandmasnow

Community, Family, Religion

Genealogy Goes Prime Time

(This was an article I had published in the Deseret News http://desne.ws/qr5awt)

Genealogy has gone prime time.

That was the message at the Conference on Family History and Genealogy held at Brigham Young University last week.

Television programs like NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are,” BYU-TV’s “The Generation Project,” and “Faces of America” on PBS have piqued the interest of viewers around the world and motivated more people to research their family histories and heritage.

D. Joshua Taylor, a nationally recognized genealogical author, lecturer, and researcher spoke at the conference and talked about the future of genealogy, saying, “it will not longer be viewed as an ‘old’ activity for the retired.  It will be undefined by age, gender and nationality.  We’re in primetime now.”

Taylor looked at his first microfilm when he was 10 years old, and became instantly hooked on genealogy.  He is the director of education and programs at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and has assisted with research for the NBC Series “Who Do You Think You Are,” including helping Sarah Jessica Parker with her genealogy.

At the conference, he traced genealogy through the generations, and discussed how it has changed and evolved over the years.

“We started out with people writing letters, going to courthouses, and lineage organizations for genealogical research, then we moved to microfilm, which brought thousands, millions of records to people.  After Alex Haley’s “Roots” book and television series, people became more interested in tracing their families.  It became more visible and the word ‘genealogist’ became known.  Then we moved to digital records like on familysearch.org and ancestry.com,” Taylor said.

Sarah Jessica Parker on an episode of NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are."

Photo taken by Lisa Poole, NBC
Sarah Jessica Parker on an episode of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are.”

The attributes of the next generation of genealogy may sound “absolutely bananas,” but they will happen, he said.  He predicted some of the following changes:

  1. We won’t have to type in genealogical data from census and other records, we will just drag and drop everything, and the computer will fill in all the details.  “It’s happening now with medical records,” he said, “why not with genealogy?”
  2. Everything will be interactive.  For example, you’ll click on a church, and then click on a pew with a name of a family.  Then all the information about that family will pop up.  With the push of a button, you’ll see all their data.
  3. There will be more online websites for digital scrapbooks and family histories. There will be blogs with live recordings, videos, and links to other pertinent information.
  4. We will see the end of paper.  No more carting boxes of family documents from one relative to the next.  Everything will be digital. It’s all about “the cloud,” and storing data in Apple’s new icloud that should be coming out soon or “dropbox.com” where you can access your data from any computer and you won’t have to worry about external drives, back-up CDs, and thumb drives.
  5. Genealogy will be more about people than facts.  He encouraged genealogists to think beyond the pedigree chart and get into the stories about people.
  6. Communities will share data.  Genealogists, historians, librarians, archivists, and medical professionals will share information.  “We all need the same stuff,” he said, “so we might as well share it with each other.”
  7. Mobile devices are the future.  They will replace computers because they are more portable and can perform more functions.
  8. There will be more instant communications, not just with family members working together on genealogy, but with librarians, county clerks, associations, etc. In fact, he said, the new plus.google.com could be the end of Facebook because of its increased functionality, group video chats and “circles” of friends that can be organized by families, research groups, etc.
  9. Genealogy will not have to be a full-time pursuit.  The younger generations will be able to devote just 15-minutes at a time and make progress because of new technology and collaborative methods.
  10.  There will be a new generation of genealogists that will take new tactics.  Taylor described a Boston University group of students assembled to work on their family histories and said there were 20 countries represented within just three generations of a family.  Fifty percent of their parents or grandparents were born outside the United States.  The average birth year of this new group of genealogists was 1989.  About 85 percent of them immigrated after the year 1900, with the most recent immigrants coming to America in 2000.  With this new generation, new approaches need to be taken like oral interviews, and tracing people who are still alive to find out why they came to America and what political movements affected them.

The Conference on Family History and Genealogy is held at BYU and is sponsored by the BYU History Department, BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy, FamilySearch, Family History Library, and BYU Division of Continuing Education.