A couple months ago, my aunt sent an email to her extended family. She had been reading through the journals of her grandfather, Orson Clark (my maternal great-grandfather), and thought it would be interesting to share excerpts with all of us. Since then, we’ve received daily emails sharing his amazing experiences as a missionary in Hawaii for 5 years, starting in 1914.

I knew my mom got her love of the mandolin (and music in general) from Orson, but I know very little else about him. I live several states away from my aunts and uncles, so my chances to hear these experiences are limited. Orson diligently recorded his daily activities, providing a thrilling glimpse into his life as an early 20 year old.

I can see my own 18- and 20-year-old sons in the following experience my aunt recently shared:

We Elders took a look at the sea and decided to try our luck in one of the small fishing canoes owned by our kind host, Massasseh Makehau, as the water seemed to  invite the trip. Our object was Captain Cook’s monument and a cave exploration. With three lanterns, a camera, an extra change of clothing, five Elders and our guide, the little craft sped over the mile stretch to our destination. We all had oars but Elders Eaves and Rowley, their attention being necessary to watch out for sharks.

We arrived safe and took a couple of pictures of the monument, and explored one cave. We had to remove a whole skeleton to make an entrance, and then had to crawl on our stomachs to get inside. The articles found within were numerous boxes filled with bones, old Hawaiian cloth, and dirt. Our guide declined to enter because of the natural superstitious tendency of the race, and some of our number also felt a little shaky in the knees. We nearly roasted inside so did not stay long.

After obtaining some specimens of the cloth we returned to the kai where we all had a genuine swim, caught some peculiar colored & shaped fish and had another picture. The return trip was as interesting as the first, the deftly moved paddles sending the canoe a mile in 25 minutes. Laziness and a desire to lie down and read took effect of all during the rest of the day, which ended as peacefully as it had begun. E hele aku i ka hiamoe [Off to a refreshing sleep – Google translate].

My imagination quickly placed my own boys and their friends in the small fishing canoe. I can see them terrified of sharks, teasing the others of imaginary sharks sneaking up on them, creating stories about the skeletons they discovered, and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

My great-grandfather was just like my boys.

I love reading about my ancestors. They make history personal. In school growing up we read about pilgrims, politicians, military heroes, and famous events for various time periods. But reading about the daily activities of my ancestors makes these periods more personal. Previously my connection with 1914 was the start of World War I, but now, thanks to my aunt’s emails, I associate the period with someone much like my son exploring island caves in the Pacific.

Your heritage

Early Me is all about sharing personal experiences. We want you to get to know your loved ones. This includes the personal experiences of your ancestors.

The new Heritage feature makes this easy.

With Heritage, you can add an individual to your profile and manage their memories just like you do your own. What’s more, you can benefit from the shared memories of your relatives and add them as collaborators on this individual. Together you can build a rich timeline of experiences about each of your ancestors, with photos and videos, that others can read, watch, and enjoy.

Try it out. You’ll love getting to know more about how you became you.

You can find tips on getting started with Heritage in our new Support section. You can also contact us with any questions.