My great, great grandmother was born in Switzerland and was named Verena.  She fell in love with a hard-working, gregarious man named Samuel.

They got married and worked hard, Samuel as a millworker and Verena as an expert seamstress who tried to help make ends meet.  They had thirteen children, four of whom didn’t live past childhood.  They met missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and through some pretty amazing circumstances were baptized as members in their early marriage.

In June 1888 they decided to take their then six children to make the journey to America to settle with other Mormons in Utah.  My Great Grandmother Ida was one of those children.  It was a long and difficult journey filled with severe seasickness and lice and trepidation, and I can imagine the emotion involved leaving their homeland forever and ever.

But they arrived in Staten Island and headed to Utah where they settled and struggled to make a new life for themselves.  Two of their children died shortly after they arrived and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to navigate a new country in a new language they did not understand.  Eventually they moved to Star Valley, Wyoming where they had more land and could start to make ends meet.

That beautiful valley is where their daughter, my Great Grandmother Ida, grew up, married and had my Grandmother Hazel (my mom’s mom).

Why do I explain all this?

Because this year at Grammie Camp my mom held an “ancestor museum” where she assigned each grandkid (before they arrived) to study and “become” one of their ancestors.  She did three different groups on three different days, each representing a different family of ancestors.

And as each group presented, I couldn’t help but think over and over again about my Grandma Hazel’s quote I talked about a while ago:

“But when you master the seemingly impossible, it does something for you that fits into your very character for a lifetime, and makes the next impossible thing seem that much easier.”

These people all did the “seemingly impossible” and became stronger and shone brighter because of it.  And I’m so grateful!

ancestor museum GROUP 1

Claire was Verena and boy, we learned a lot as she prepared to tell the other kids about her life.

Each child stood up and explained a little about “themselves” (being the ancestors) and they all learned so much!

Claire was also Erwin, one of Verena’s sons who was instrumental in helping the family join the church…so she had a quick costume change for that 🙂

 Her cousin Charlie was Samuel (Verena’s husband).

 Here they are:

All these kids gave pretty fabulous stories about who they were representing.

The moms were invited to Grammie Camp this year, so after the kids were done presenting we packed up and headed to Freedom, Wyoming to see where they used to live…

…and meet up with my mom’s cousin who lives there and told us all kinds of stories about those the kids had studied, plus played the piano exactly how my Grandma used to play and had us sing along.  (Her daughter helped teach us the words sitting there in front of the piano.)

She also yodeled for us because that art was passed down to her from her Swiss roots and it was pretty cool to listen to.

She showed us her journals and told us all kinds of stories from them.  Check out this row of journals:

 …and I thought I was a good journal keeper…

 Then we went to the close-by cemetery to find the graves of those the kids talked about.

 Stopped at the new Star Valley temple on our way home:

ancestor museum GROUP 2

The next day we were on repeat with the group of younger kids, except this time it was about Grandma Hazel’s family AND there was a “pet show” to kick it off.  Ha!  (Lucy and her cousin were so excited about their new-this-year pets and wanted to show them off a little.)

Cousin Lyla has a guinea pig so she showed us some of her tricks too 🙂

Very exciting stuff I tell you!

Lucy was SO excited about this whole ancestor ordeal.  She took copious notes on her Great Grandma Hazel and was so excited to “be” her for the cousins.

My mom had her mission journal that was fun to look at, and some other cool pictures and certificates to show us.

Someone was my Grandpa Roy:

…who was a farmer at heart and worked the land his whole life.
And I love these pictures of their daughter, my mother:

Each kid did a great job presenting all they had learned.

And then they got presented with stuffed animals who they named after each of those ancestors they had studied.

Seriously, my mom is amazing.

And these kids know it.

 I didn’t get to go on the little adventure after the presentations since I had to get ready for reunion stuff (we were in charge this year), but here they are as they headed off…

 …and luckily my sister got some pictures for me.

ancestor museum GROUP 3
The last day was the oldest group of Grandkids.  Elle got there just in time to join in (she had been in the desert working until that day).
This time they learned all about my dad’s side of the family, so he was there to help out.

 This side of the family was from Sweden.

 Elle was my Grandma Ruthie.

They learned a ton and then headed to Logan where my dad grew up, stopping en route to check out this memorial made for my Grandma’s sister who became well-known for her poetry.

 They visited the graves of those they studied as well.

And I could go on and on but I’m out of time, as I’m sure any reader who has made it this far is as well.

But my heart is so full of gratitude for my dear mother for spending so much time and energy to teach these children (as well as us mothers) about their roots.  Roots of the people who did all kinds of hard things, “impossible” things, so that they can live the lives they live.

I adore this quote my mom shared with the oldest group:

They cut desire into short lengths
And fed it to the hungry fires of courage.
Long after, when the flames had died, 
Molton gold gleamed in the ashes.
They gathered it into bruised palms
And handed it to their children
And their children’s children

–Vilate Raiche, Mormon Pioneer
How grateful I am for those who went before us and gathered those gleaming ashes and handed them down to us.


  1. I love this poem so much i committed it to memory. The imagery is beautiful. Thank you for sharing so much of your life and accomplished family with us. xox

  2. Oh Shawni, I can never thank you enough for recording this all in one place. It is a treasure. All those ancestors must be looking down from heaven with a smile to see all this in living color and must be so happy to see the amazing children and grandchildren who share their genes and to see that they have produced such a wonderful legacy! Love you!

  3. Do the adult grandkids really need to continue in preparing an assignment for the reunion? Why not just go out in the boat with them or go to lunch somewhere and catch up on their lives?

    I do think it's great the reunion is held in reasonable driving distance to the cemetery. You are all so spread out, it's nice so many can visit the graves during the gathering.

  4. What a great idea the ancestor museum is! Shawnie, you have your grandfather Roy's hairline 🙂 Your mom's childhood pictures look almost exactly like some of her Hawaiian granddaughters. Gorgeous!
    Another thing, the quote from your grandmother Hazel is similar to a quote by St Francis of Assisi. He said: "Start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
    Thank you for sharing your Bear Lake reunions. We have incorporated Fear Factor into ours, and it is a HUGE hit!

    1. According to a single catholic blog. Whatever he said he didn't say it originally in English. Not every book has been digitized and searchable by google. That is all the blog did to seek the original author.

  5. Actually it is not known for certain that Francis said that, not that it was NEVER said. After all, he lived during medieval times, and he wrote very little himself. Whether or not the quote truly comes from him, Francis is one of the greatest saints in the history of the Catholic Church. He must have spoken volumes of beautiful wisdom that were never recorded. Francis is well known for preaching the Gospel, therefore his quotes would be heavy on scripture and this quote clearly is not. However, quickly dismissing him as the origin of the quote is unfounded.

    1. Being Catholic myself, I am more than familiar with St Francis. I pointed this out because faux quotations seem to be out of control, particularly with St Francis and St Teresa of Calcutta. These saints are fountains of wisdom and knowledge without adding to their words. It is a beautiful quote but I wouldn't want to attribute to anyone until I'm sure of its origins. Pax vobis CathyMA.

    2. Being Catholic myself, I am more than familiar with St Francis. I pointed this out because faux quotations seem to be out of control, particularly with St Francis and St Teresa of Calcutta. These saints are fountains of wisdom and knowledge without adding to their words. It is a beautiful quote but I wouldn't want to attribute to anyone until I'm sure of its origins. Pax vobis CathyMA.

    3. It's a pet peeve of mine when people copy quotes or misquote, etc. However, if I'm reading correctly the quote in question was from her Grandmother. Who most likely wrote it in her journal, that is being shared with the family. She may have heard or read it somewhere and had no idea where it came from. I just don't think she was trying to "steal" a quote like so many today do.

  6. I just love your blog! As I was reading this post it was so crazy, because I immediately recognized Samuel and Verena's picture before I even started reading your entry. They are my relatives as well! My great grandpa is Lawrence Weber – Samuel and Verena's son. My family still runs the farm in Freedom, WY. Nada and Jarene are also in my ward as well (we are also cousins). What a small world!

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