Guided to Our Ancestors

“Guided to Our Ancestors,” Ensign, June 1995, 58–59

Guided to Our Ancestors

My wife and I knew that when we moved seventeen hundred miles from Idaho to Cincinnati, Ohio, we would miss our families. What we didn’t expect, however, was that we would become much closer to our ancestors as a result.

Soon after we arrived, I heard an inspirational lesson about family history work and decided to visit the Cincinnati Public Library to search for some information about our lineage. As far as I knew, no one had yet done any serious research on our family. My grandfather had mentioned that his grandfather William Adams was originally from Indiana and had fought in the Civil War, so that’s where we began.

We learned that William was born in 1845, but we did not know his parents’ names or the county where they had lived. Consequently, we faced a search through hundreds of Adamses in more than ninety counties. We began our work with a prayer in our hearts.

We felt inspired to begin in Franklin County, which borders Ohio near Cincinnati. However, after viewing the records of Indiana’s 1850 census for more than an hour without finishing even one of the ninety available counties, we began to feel discouraged. Then the records from Metamora Township came up, and the record of William Adams, age five, appeared before our eyes. His parents were Patrick Adams and Rachel Carter. We had found them!

The next Saturday, we loaded up our five children and headed west across the Ohio-Indiana border to find this place called Metamora. The town turned out to be a bustling tourist center featuring buildings, artifacts, and crafts from the previous century. An old waterwheel-powered gristmill and several horse-drawn canalboats had been restored.

We located an elderly shopkeeper who, upon hearing our errand, turned to a booklet he’d written on local history and pointed out an early pioneer named George Adams. As we discussed the possibility of George’s being one of our ancestors, the shopkeeper gradually recalled an old Adams family cemetery in the area. He drew us a rough sketch of where he believed it to be.

Elated, we began our search by stopping at farmhouses in the vicinity. One family knew nothing about the cemetery, and another had heard of it but could not give us a specific location. Finally we found an elderly couple who verified the cemetery’s existence but informed us that the local historical society had searched for it some time ago and could not locate it. However, we were welcome to search in the woods behind their farm.

All seven family members began to trek through uncultivated farmland. After half a mile, we stopped in a clearing to get our bearings. We all had burrs on our clothes and several insect bites, and the two youngest children were crying. But I could see what appeared to be several white headstones in a small ravine near a wooded area about a hundred yards away, so we pressed on.

The headstones turned out to be old tree stumps bleached by the sun. By this time our three older children were going off in all directions, and our younger two were quite upset. I thought that maybe we should return home and come back another day with just the older children.

Then the thought came to me that a graveyard would naturally be placed on higher ground. I began to head towards a small nearby hill. At the crest I found two old headstones hidden among the grass and fallen timber. I quickly called to my family, and together we knelt and deciphered these words: George Adams, died July 27, 1826, aged 61 years. Sally Adams, wife of George Adams, died October 13, 1827, aged 56 years.

We found other headstones facedown and half-buried in dirt and leaves or broken and scattered. We found the markers for Patrick Adams and his wife, Rachel, my great-great-great-grandparents and the parents of William, the Civil War soldier. In all, we located twelve headstones with death dates ranging from 1826 to 1871. Nearly all of the buried persons were my direct ancestors.

With further research, we later verified that the land around the cemetery had been the old Adams family farm. I wish I could express the feelings that came over me on many subsequent visits as I stood on the crest of that hill and imagined my ancestors clearing the land, plowing, and planting, trying to make a home on the frontier.

The sweetest part of the experience, however, was performing temple ordinances for these ancestors. Just three months after our trip to the Atlanta Georgia Temple, I was transferred by work assignment to Missouri. We had lived in Cincinnati just long enough to find our ancestors and seal eight generations together in the temple!