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Saturday
Oct272007

The Lost Girl

Thalia's Child has written some really great Soap Opera Sunday entries lately about people in her own family. She inspired me to tell this story. (If you are new to the SOS scene, you should know that it is the brainchild of Brillig and Kate; see their fab sites for links to all sorts of great tales of love, grief, and drama.)

Here are a few bits of exposition to help you make sense of the following story. I am an active member of the LDS church, colloquially known as the Mormons.

One of our basic beliefs is that after this life is over, the righteous will live in the presence of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father not separately and singly, but as families. We believe that marriage does not have to be only 'until death do you part,' but can last into the eternities.

We call the simple and beautiful ceremony of eternal marriage 'sealing'; it is a sacred ritual performed by proper priesthood authority in any of our Temples around the world. Children are also sealed to their parents, ensuring that those who are faithful to their Temple covenants will be together again after the resurrection.

We also believe that God, being no respecter of persons, has provided a way for those who have died to receive these sealing ordinances, if they desire to accept them, in the afterlife. In the Temple, these ordinances are performed by proxy, which means that the living can serve in place of those who have gone on. We call this 'temple work.'

This is one of the reasons many LDS people, including myself, are avid genealogists. We want to find our ancestors and provide them with the opportunity to be sealed together as one great family from generation to generation, again believing that they are always free to reject these ordinances if they so choose.

We believe this is the meaning behind the gorgeous scripture in Malachi, chapter 4, which reads:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and
dreadful day of the LORD:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the
children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite
the earth with a curse.

Several years ago, Patrick began attending the annual conference of The Copyright Society, which is held every June at a fancy resort up at Lake George called The Sagamore. The whole family was always invited; we had a grand time and looked forward to it every year.

I first started doing a little genealogy (or family history) nine or ten years ago, when Christian and James were small. Imagine my surprise to find out that I had many ancestors from the Lake George area. In fact, my first relative to join the church, my great-great-great-great grandfather John Tanner, had once owned the very property on which The Sagamore now stands, part of a town called Bolton in Warren County.

John Tanner was a wealthy landowner with twelve children. Unfortunately, at some point he contracted a disease in his leg that forced him to be in a wheelchair. He was in this handicapped
condition when he met Jared and Simeon Carter, newly called Mormon missionaries, in 1832. He believed their message of a Restored Gospel, with restored priesthood authority, and told them that he would get baptized if they would heal his leg.

The Carter brothers commanded him to rise up and walk, and he did: he got up, walked a mile to Lake George, and got baptized. Soon after, he sold all his property, traveled to Kirtland, Ohio (where most of the Latter-day Saints were living at the time), and gave all his money to the prophet Joseph Smith to help get the church out of debt. Later, he walked all the way to Utah with his family and settled there.

So the next time we went to the Sagamore, I decided to do a little cemetery reconnoitering and see what I could find. In the big Bolton Cemetery down by the lake, I found the grave of John Tanner's first wife and a few of their children who had died in infancy. I wrote down the names and dates and took photos of the tombstones. It may sound a bit creepy to those who think graveyards are scary places, but I had the cozy feeling you get at Thanksgiving, when you are surrounded by people you love and who love you.

There were a couple of other, much smaller cemeteries on the Bolton map I'd gotten; I looked for those next. The smallest was hard to find; it's in a grassy, overgrown field not far from a golf course, easy to miss as you're driving by. But I spotted after about the third try, parked, and got out.

These stones had not been well tended; their writing was much harder to read. But almost immediately I found two that captured my interest. One read:

Dorcas W.
wife of Harvey D. Tanner
died May 2, 1842
aged 25 years 4 mos & 29 days,

and the other read:

Horace W.
son of Harvey and Dorcas W. Tanner
died May 2, 1842
aged 4 years & 5 mos.

I had a different feeling about these two graves: a sense of sadness and loss. How had these two died on the same day in May so long ago? Disease? Fire? Catastrophic accident? I didn't know, but I felt very concerned about these two people.

Call it a hunch, or the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, but I HAD to find out who these people were and if/how they were related to me. I started looking once I got home.

LDS Church records showed that the first graves I'd found at the big cemetery were all relatives whose temple work had been done.

Church records also showed that Harvey had been sealed to his wife Laura Cooledge, whom he married in 1843, and their two children, Dorcas Anna and Morgan Harvey (who has a very interesting story of his own--he married a certain Sarah Eliza PERKINS in 1888!).

But there was no LDS Church record anywhere of Harvey Dean having an earlier wife and son.

A little digging in census and Warren county records confirmed, though, that Harvey had indeed been married before. I submitted Dorcas's and Horace's information through the Temple Ready program. I did Dorcas's temple work, and then Patrick and I were able to stand in for Harvey and Dorcas when they were sealed and when little Horace was sealed to them.

Later, I found Dorcas's family going back a few generations; I've gotten their temple work done as well.

This was the first time I'd had a confirming witness of what I had been told by a Church patriarch in a special blessing many years earlier. There IS genealogical work in my family lines that only I can do. All the family I know of from this line is out West now. What other relative of mine would have occasion to be up prowling around Lake George while these tombstones were still legible?


I don't know, but I do know that I felt an unmistakable warmth and sense of rightness when Dorcas, my lost girl, was finally reunited with her family.

Reader Comments (23)

Oh, Luisa! What an incredible story!!!! I'm so glad you found your lost girl. It makes me wonder how many people are still lost in my own line-- a line I've always considered "done." Beautiful SOS, dear!

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBrillig

where is Lake George, by the way? I like a happy ending. Let's hear the Sarah Eliza Perkins story! So, did you marry your cousin??!!?!?!! hahaha, did you know that my own Sam is a cousin of our Andrew's new wife Candace? We tease him about marrying his cousin, even if it a "step" cousin...good story, great ending!

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteranjmae

I've always loved cemeteries, too. What a great story. I wish there were a way of knowing about what happened on May 2 all those years ago.

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Lyon

I'm feeling all riled up and wanting to do some family history work now. Brilliant post!

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

What a wonderful story! Thanks so much, too, for explaining the tradition and ceremony of sealing -- I never understood this before: what a breathtaking idea.

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteranno

That is beautiful, louisa. I think it's amazing that people like you can do so much good for so many people. way to go, and what an amazing experience.

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJosi

Absolutely beautiful story. And I also really enjoyed learning about sealing and the interest in genealogy.

And I've always wanted to go to the Sagamore!

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJen of A2eatwrite

Luisa...

This is your Cousin Ben. (Ron and Jane's youngest).

So... I was cruising through the net doing some family history of my own.. and I came across your blog.

Very Nice.

I talked to JT the other day and asked for a list of your families grandkids. (i.e. Uncle Mikes Grandkids etc)

I'm trying to update my Geni.com site with this info.

Will you visit my Geni.com site and do the updateing for your fam?

I'll send an invite to your email.

I'm happy to have found your blog.

Let's catch up.

Ben Tanner

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

What a beautiful witness to the importance of temple work! I got chills.

And thanks for the linky love.

October 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThalia's Child

This is a great story, but I want to know how they dies on May 2, 1842! It's also interesting that Harvey named his daughter after his first wife, I wonder if his second wife knew he had an earlier family.

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered Commenternell

OH wow, I love the turn these SoS's have taken. Thank you for sharing this; I always love reading what you have written!

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSecret Agent Mama

I had heard about the tremendous work that the LDS church is doing in genealogy...work that also benefits other people trying to trace back their ancestors.

I've been working on my family tree as well although I like to find all living blood relatives off mine: all descendants of my great-grandmother. That seems so intreaging to me since those are people of my age living across the globe.

Geni.com is by the way a wonderful tool to interact with family members and building on the same family tree!

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGoofball

Annette and Nell: you're right; I'm going to do some more digging and try to find out how Dorcas and her little son died. And Nell, Laura was from the same town, so I am virtually certain she knew about Dorcas. I've always loved that she and Harvey named their daughter after her.

Anjmae: Yes, P and I are fifth cousins! And ninth cousins another way, and related many more other ways. And we knew NONE of this when we got married....

Kim: Get to it, girl! You'll be so glad you did!

Ben: I'm on my way over.

Thanks to all for your great comments!

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

Oh, and Anj, Lake George in upstate New York in the Adirondack Mountains, close to the border of Vermont. It's gorgeous.

Maybe I'll tell the Sarah Eliza Perkins story next week...

Jen, get to The Sagamore if you ever get back this way. It's pretty swanky. And the childcare--The Teepee Club--is HEAVEN.

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa Perkins

Oh, how this makes me want to have time to do genealogy and money to go to the Sagamore (I saw a special about it on the Travel Channel, you are so lucky!). Great story, but I want to know what happened on May 2nd!

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJerseygirl89

How very cool! I'm looking forward to the hearing about Sarah Elizabeth next week! :)

October 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I just love that story. I've heard you tell it before, and I never get tired of it. My SOS is coming. I apologize that its not already done, but I have had some complications with it. It will be done by tonight, i guarantee. Let's call it Soap Opera Sunday Stuck.

October 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

i did not know that that was my mormons are so in to genealogy... so this was really informative, as well as interesting. thanks for giving all the background info, as well.

October 29, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterpainted maypole

I'm glad you found her.

I really did read this on Sunday, but was having an onry day and didn't comment!

October 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDedee

This was one of my favorite posts ever. You told the story beautifully. I'm sending my dad over to read it.

October 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

Very interesting. I learnt a lot from your post. Is Lake George where Fort George was at the time of George Washington in 1776? We read about it in a couple historical novels.

Anyway, thank you for telling about your family. History is so much more interesting when connected to someone. I guess that is the female part of me. Sports are the same.

October 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

That is an amazing story!

October 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNH Knitting Mama

This gave me chills, Luisa. I love the intriguing mystery that led you to their discovery, and I love your description of your experience in the cemetery as more Thanksgiving-like than creepy. So true. Gathered loved ones.

September 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercharrette

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