Friday, September 18, 2015

Family History Party

One hundred and sixty five years ago my ancestor, James Finlayson, left his home in Scotland to travel to Utah to join with other members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  He left behind his parents and seven siblings who strongly disapproved of his decision.  

His journey was eventful.  He traveled by ship across the Atlantic during the stormy winter months.  He worked to earn the money for each leg of the trip so it took years.  He traveled by wagon into the Salt Lake Valley and eventually settled in Payson, Utah.

I think I heard him cheer when the Payson Temple was announced!  He loved Payson, he raised a large family there, served in the church, served his community on the School Board and as the Mayor and worked to make it a place that the gospel could flourish.  

My thoughts turned to him repeatedly as the Payson Temple was being built.  I was impressed, over and over, by the influence his choice to join the church has had on the thousands of members who are descended from him.  I decided to try to find as many of those living descendants as I could and organized a celebration of his life to correspond to the temple open house.  

We invited family members to join a Face Book group.  Family trees were searched, obituaries read, invitations sent out to anyone that might be related.  

And then we started planning the party.  Another descendant of James Finlayson finangled a very large number of tickets to the open house on the day of our celebration so that everyone who attended would also be able to go through the temple.  We wanted all of James Finlayson's descendants to understand more about his life by attending, including the children, so we made some fun displays. 

James Finlayson was a pioneer!
We had a backdrop and some pioneer clothes for pictures.
James Finlayson was a convert!
The story of his Atlantic voyage is shared on this board with a painting of the ship he traveled on.
The berth below is the actual size that they slept on in that rolling ship.
James Finlayson was a father!
We printed pictures from Family Search of his wives and children.
Of his seventeen children only ten lived long enough to have families of their own.
We gathered all of the pictures and documents we could find so people could learn more.
We made a map of the cemetery where he was buried so people could go and visit if they wanted to
after the temple tour.
A display shows where he traveled and highlights some of his pioneer journal entries.

Descendants of James Finlayson were invited to add their names to his family tree.
A story from his youth was shared.
To help everyone remember what they learned we put together some necklace kits
for the kids to make.  Each part of the necklace is a reminder of what James Finlayon
did and how his choices continue to ripple forward today.
We had people travel from at least four different states to be there for the celebration and the opportunity to see the inside of the Payson Temple!  Stories were told of his life.  Someone brought a tool that had been his that had been long handed down.  Someone remembered that their mother has one of his suits in a box in her closet.  Another "cousin" wore his Finlayson clan kilt.  Others read through his history and later drove to see if his house was still standing in Payson (we think it is!). People met, memories were made, ice cream was consumed, and the temple was visited by hundreds of James Finlayson's descendants.

It was a wonderful day! 

We all have stories to share from our family history, stories of heroes and scoundrels.  I hope that you will be encouraged to find a fun way to share your family history with the children in your life, that the stories will continue to be passed along, that the lessons they learned and the character they built can continue to bless your family today.

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