Monday, January 3, 2011

Serendiptiy at the Archives

Joyce Miya walked into the archives one day and introduced herself as Velda Jensen's daughter. One of my assistants had just interviewed Velda to get her oral history and Joyce had realized that we were very interested in all histories of Emery County residents and their ancestors or relatives, so she had brought in photographs to be scanned and family histories to add to our collection. We were happy to have new histories! We have about 700, but wouldn't it be wonderful to have 7,000? (We'll get there. Keep them coming!)
Ernest Eugene Jensen
As I looked over the names of the histories she was donating, I saw "Ernest Eugene Jensen" among them. I asked if that was the Ernest Jensen that went on an LDS mission to Denmark, and she said, "Yes, he is my grandfather." I then asked if she knew that we had his missionary suitcase containing all of his missionary books, pamphlets and journals? She had no idea but was so excited to know they existed! It was serendipity!

Joyce loves family history. She collects photos and histories of the ancestors and puts them together as gifts to her family. She was with her mother the day one of my assistants called Velda to see if she could stop by and talk to her and get her oral history. Joyce and her mother were almost out the door on their way to something, but Joyce feels like not much is more important than preserving and passing on history, so she encouraged him mother to stay home and do the interview. That's how Joyce became acquainted with Emery County Archives. And that's how she found that we have preserved pieces of her grandfather's life that, to her, are like finding buried treasures.

Ernest Jensen's Missionary Journal
I thought how wonderful I would feel if I were able to change places with her and discover that journals of my grandfather actually existed where I could see and read his own handwriting and learn more about him personally. What an exciting discovery to find pieces of one's heritage!

Ernest Eugene Jensen's Missionary Collection had come to us through his daughter--Joyce's aunt. It was all in the original suitcase he had taken with him on his mission. It was small--maybe valise would be a better description of it. 
Each item is encased in acid free sleeves or wrappers to keep safe from moisture and dust/dirt, and the suitcase itself, with all of its holdings, is in a box with a number and a label that reads "Ernest Eugene Jensen Collection"
We drew out the train schedule that told of the trains he rode on his way to the coast; the shipping schedule that listed all of the passengers of that ship that carried him to Denmark; booklets written in Danish; a Book of Mormon in Danish; and many other things. She was so thrilled to see them and touch them, and almost overcome with emotions as we leafed through his journals.
I explained that everything we have in the Archives is open to the public so all may have access to them. I told her I would scan the journals which were filled with handwritten details of Elder Jensen's missionary experiences so that she could have a copy of his handwriting as well as his record.
There were two journals and one day book. I scanned them and put them on a web album so she could have access to them right away. As she downloaded them, she typed the pages up so his words can be easily read and added maps from the Internet to show his travels. She put them in a book and gave them as gifts to her family for Christmas!
Joyce's Christmas Gift
Joyce has stopped by my office a few times since that first day of serendipity  and has shared much more information with us. One interesting and helpful thing she did for the Archives was to give us a picture of Ernest Eugene Jensen. There was a photograph included in the suitcase, and we surmised it was a picture of the him, but Joyce did not recognize him when she saw the picture. She took a copy of it to her mother and they are guessing it was a companion of his, because it does not resemble Ernest or anyone they know. That was so good to know. We may have confused history with that picture. 
She stopped by again last week and brought more history and photos for me to scan and copy. She said that typing up her grandfather's journals was so much fun; she learned so much about him that she had never known. She showed me the book she had made as a gift for family members and donated one of them to the Archives!    
1st Page of Journal--Leaving Castle Dale
I have not read beyond the first few pages of his journal yet, except for segments I would mentally grab as the pages were turned and placed on the scanner. But those first few pages not only told about Ernest Eugene Jensen's experiences, but explained some details of life in Emery County that would be common place to residents in 1916. Following is the transcript of the first page of Ernest's journal telling how difficult travel was in the winter time on unpaved roads: 
Price/Emery Stage or Mail Wagon 1912. courtesy USGS
"October 6, 1913--Left my home in Castle Dale at 7:30 AM in a buggy and went as far as Huntington and stayed there till 3 PM when my parents came over in one of Bowen's Auto cars which Alvin was driving. We went along as far as Washboard (near where the town of Elmo is today) where we broke a wheel of the car, so we went to Price with the stage or mail car. We went to a very nice show that night."

So it took all day to get from Castle Dale to Price in three different vehicles! I love reading those details.  I was surprised to find that the next day he boarded the train to Salt Lake City and it took him 12 hours to get there. I had expected that trains traveled a little faster than that, so that was another tidbit of history uncovered.

"October 7 --Left Price at 8:45 AM for SLC. Was on the train until 8:30 PM  when I reached SLC. "

Later, on the ship, we find that missionary rules were different for  in those days. He records that he spent most of one day, on the ship, "with the girls." 

Albany, New York 1913 Postcards
I love first hand accounts on the details of living in days that are long gone.  His collection also includes postcards from Albany, New York as he made his way to Denmark.  

Thank Heaven for people like Ernest Eugen Jensen who saved some details of his life for us to learn from!

And thanks to Joyce and all of you who support Emery County Archives by donating pieces of history to help us better understand where we came from and those who paved the way for our more comfortable lifestyles of today. For, as the saying goes, "We stand on their shoulders."

We invite you all to come and visit and find your own serendipitous moments as you comb through the treasures we are preserving here at Emery County Archives.

See links for access to Ernest Eugene Jensen's Missionary Journals:
Journal of 1913-14