Leta and Eric’s Inspiring Presentation - “Your Story”
Leta Pedersen and Eric Bawden promised to deliver “A practical step by step guide to discovering the story of your ancestors” at our Distinguished Speakers Event on April 18. I spoke to Leta briefly before the event, and she confided to me that she was very nervous at the thought of speaking in public. Well, she certainly had no reason to be! She and Eric had put together a terrific presentation that lived up to its promise, and they delivered it in a most engaging and professional way.
Leta spoke first, and managed to weave together the nitty gritty of researching your family background with her own very interesting family history. She started her search with one Canadian census record and managed, step by step, to trace her family tree back to 1720.
Using slides of the records she had discovered, she showed us how she took one small piece of information and used it to link to other sources of information until she had formed quite a complete picture of her family background. And more than that, she was able to connect in person with people she was related to in both North America and Denmark. These included a 96-year old relative still living in New Brunswick on the property her immigrant Danish grandparents had lived on, 75 cousins and other descendants of those grandparents (whom she met at a 2009 family reunion), as well as some relatives in Denmark. She and Eric also visited some of the places in Denmark where her family had lived, and the cemeteries where they were buried.
Eric took the little information he already knew about his family and embarked on a search through Canadian immigration records. He encountered many wrong turns due to multiple family name changes, archaic or illegible handwriting, errors, and smudges in the official records. But his impressive persistence paid off and he also was able to trace his family background in Finland.
Both Leta and Eric emphasized that when they contacted archivists and church staff for assistance, they were always very helpful and interested in their searches - certainly encouraging for those who may be a little shy about tracing their family stories. During the question and answer period that followed, Tim Mark noted that he had joined a local genealogical society, something he found to be very useful, and also that the Church of the Latter Day Saints offers free courses into tracing your ancestry. It was clear that for both Leta and Eric, the mystery, the hunt, and the journey towards discovering their roots had been both exciting and very satisfying. Their enthusiasm and practical tips will no doubt encourage many of us to delve deeper into the mystery of our own family backgrounds.