Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Interview with Cynthia Joan Mitchell: Part 2


I hope you are excited to find out more about Cynthia. For part one, click here. Here is another question I asked her.

In your biography you mentioned that you've caught the Spirit of Elijah. What events lead you find so much joy in your family history? 

I became of member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at age 25.  As a new convert, everything was exciting and bigger than life, and this enthusiasm extended into researching my family history.  

My father’s parents died when he was 12 years old.  This was a painful experience for him and he never wanted to talk about it, so I asked my aunt if I could ask her questions about them.  When I showed up with my tape recorder, and list of questions, she just turned it on and we both relaxed as she shared memory after memory with me.  It was as if I could see the pages of history unfold before my very eyes.  Then she said, “You know, I just might have some papers you’d be interested in.”  She went into another room and resurfaced with my grandfather’s Catholic Baptismal Certificate and a couple letters he had written to his sister who stayed in Spain with his parents when he came to America.  All the documents were in Spanish and I couldn’t wait to have them translated, which gave me three generations of names I would otherwise never have had access to.  It doesn’t take a lot to light a fire under me.  This enthusiasm only increased as the kindled flames of the Spirit of Elijah grew as each new piece of my family history puzzle was discovered.  I never had the privilege of knowing my father’s parents, but as I transcribed the loving memories of my aunt, I grew to know his parents well.  I would even go as far as to say I would know them and feel our kinship when I see them in heaven.

The Lord works in mysterious ways.  I have a great grandmother (whom I never knew) who was the family historian of her time.  She did extensive research on my mother’s family line, and my appreciation of this labor of love is immense when I realize the difficult process she went through in writing to government officials, churches and such to obtain information.  Family history then was costly and a lot more time consuming as you’d wait and hope for responses to letters. 
I live in Utah, and whenever I went to Denver to visit my parents, I stayed in the spare bedroom in the basement.  Late at night, when the lights went out upstairs, the lights went on in my bedroom.  Mom had a bookshelf with multiple journals written by both my great grandmothers.  She also had a dresser drawer filled with old photos.  I stayed up into the wee hours of the night with pen in hand as I copied family history information onto the pages of my notebook.  As I read her journal one night, I discovered ‘my’ name written within its pages.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  She knew me.  Though we lived states away from each other, and I had only visited with her at the tender age of five while on vacation with my grandmother, she remembered me, and through correspondence with my mother and grandmother she kept track of my life.  From this moment of shocking realization, my love for her has grown immensely as I find I share her interests.  Through the pages of my great grandmother’s journals I found that she had a deep love for her Heavenly Father, she loved to write and she loved Genealogy. 

I think of her many times as I add new pieces to my family history puzzle, and with her help, I am seeing a much larger picture now.  We are connected through shared interests. 
My great grandmother was a postmistress and a teacher.  She also wrote columns for her local newspaper, sneaking in bits of family history wherever she could.  She was sharp as a tack as she worked on her family history well into her eighty’s; consolidating duplications and carefully pasting her final organized work into a large scrapbook.  She placed it into a box (along with her black shawl to cushion the precious contents) and wrote this note which she tucked into the cover of her scrapbook:  “I have completed my life’s work and now leave this with you to carry on.”  Though there are other members of her family it may have made more sense to mail this package to, she mailed her life’s work to my mother.

For years I pleaded with my mother to not throw away any family records, and if she ever wanted to get rid of them, to please let me have them.  With my family history research they would be of great value to me.

Years later, my mother decided to ‘de-clutter’ and finally agreed to let me have the journals and old photos.  I was thrilled beyond belief as I carefully packed these things into two large boxes.  Then my mother retrieved another box from the closet shelf and opened it up.  It contained my great grandmother’s scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings that contained family history, and two letters.  One was a love letter from my great grandfather to his wife stating he hoped the war would end soon so he could return to her.  The other was a letter to my mother from my great grandmother stating she had completed her work and made a copy to send on…and wanted my mother to keep the original records.  As my mother read this she stated “I don’t know WHY she sent this to ME!  Family history is the FURTHEST thing from my interest!  Instantly I had the realization, I know exactly why she sent it to you.  It was intended for me!

Doing the extensive work she did, and being the spiritual woman she was, I’m certain my great grandmother prayed as to what to do with her life’s work...her genealogy.  The Lord works in mysterious ways and the Spirit of Elijah is alive and well.  Is it any wonder I’m on fire with the love of this sacred work?

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