Monday, October 14, 2013

Walking in the Footsteps of Our Ancestors

We mentioned last year in our blog (Who Could Have Imagined? - Monday, Oct. 1, 2012) that one of the great joys of this mission has been the unexpected opportunity to travel to places where our ancestors were born and lived. Before we arrived in England, it hadn't occurred to us that we might be able to visit the ancestral homes of several of Pat's ancestors as well as those of my Carpenter lines. We believe it is no coincidence. Albert Einstein once said, "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." 

We recently had an incredible opportunity to see where several more of Pat's ancestors lived. Because our visas expire just a few days after we leave the country, the Area Presidency gave us approval to take a four day trip north to Liverpool and Preston, where the first LDS missionaries arrived in 1837. Along the way, we passed through many other towns and villages with Pat's ancestral history - eventually visiting nine family history sites.

Our dear friends, the Brooks, directors of the Hyde Park Visitors' Centre in London, offered us the use of their brand-new Ford for the trip. At first we resisted. (Pat worried that her father would be rolling over in his grave to know that we had borrowed somebody's car!) But now we are glad we accepted their generosity. It made our trip all the more special.

On the way to Liverpool, we drove through Birmingham, home to Pat's Clark and Barber ancestors. We found the town of West Bromwich where her Great-grandfather Shore lived with his parents and siblings. We spent the night in the beautiful little town of Shrewsbury, which was the birthplace of her Great-great-grandfather John Williams - and also Charles Darwin.

West Bromwich, 5 miles northwest of Birmingham, England

West Bromwich was a coal mining town during the Industrial Revolution.

Shrewsbury Train Station

Shrewsbury High Street

The River Severn in Shrewsbury, England

We met up with Peter Fagg at the docks in Liverpool on Friday morning, September 27th. He is a well-informed  LDS tour guide in England and had agreed to take us on a personal tour for two days. His knowledge and insights made a big difference in what we were able to learn and experience on this trip.

Peter and Don in Preston

We toured the famous city of Liverpool which was the arrival point for hundreds of missionaries and the departure point for thousands of emigrants as they gathered to Zion during the 19th century. We visited the Maritime Museum and Albert Docks and learned about the lives of emigrants.

Legacy Statue memorializing Mormon emigrants -
 presented to Liverpool by members of the LDS Church

At the Albert Docks in Liverpool

Next, we traveled to Preston, 40 miles north of Liverpool, called the "Birthplace of British Mormonism."

Town square where the first LDS missionaries preached in Preston

Don's 1830's re-enactment

The River Ribble at Preston

Near the baptismal site of the first British converts -
including Pat's 3rd great-grandparents, Miles and Elizabeth Romney. 

Friday night we attended the Preston Temple, which is actually in Chorley. It is situated on the most elegant temple grounds, along with a stake centre, MTC and Accommodation Centre.

The Preston Temple in Chorley, England


The next day, we drove through the beautiful English countryside to Ribchester and the Ribble Valley. We learned that a "chester" is a place where there was an ancient Roman fort or military encampment. We visited the stone cottages of Ribchester, Chatburn, and Downham built in the 1700s, where handloom weavers produced fine cotton. Apostle Heber C. Kimball came to this area in 1837 and baptized many converts despite intense opposition from clergy of the Church of England and the Catholics. 

The River Ribble upstream from Preston

The Ribchester Parish Church.
Heber C. Kimball gained a number of converts in Ribchester.

The delightful villages of Chatburn and Downham,
home to many early converts.


We also visited the Lake District and stopped in Hale at the childhood home of John Taylor, third President of the LDS Church.

The John Taylor farmhouse. 
The plaque was placed by LDS Church in 1987.

We made it a point to visit Dalton-in-Furness, at the south end of the Lake District. At least four generations of Pat's mother's Romney family were born and died there.

St. Mary's Parish - the church in Dalton-in Furness where 4 generations of
Pat's ancestors worshiped. The grave of George Romney, the renowned
English portrait painter, is in the foreground. 

The beautiful grounds of St. Mary's Parish

Inside St. Mary's Parish, Dalton-in-Furness

As we headed back to London on Monday, we made one last stop about 30 miles from Nottingham and the Sherwood Forest, in a little village called Great Gonerby. William Clark, Pat's 2nd Great-grandfather was born there.

St. Sebastian's Church, parts of which date back to the 12th century.
William Clark would have been christened here.

We had a terrific time learning about British emigration, the early history of the Church in England, and visiting several of Pat's ancestral sites.  There is something magical about seeing the places your own ancestors came from that fills in the pieces of your life puzzle.  Pat was thrilled, and so was I.  We felt a connection to the very people whose DNA we share.                                                                ~Don~

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