Mormon Migrations and My Ancestors
Posted January 7, 2013on:
Among the most precious gifts I received this Christmas, is a binder full to burst of memoirs, testimonies, old photographs, life histories, etc. of ancestors from both sides of my family tree (up to my great, great, great grandparents). The gift was inspired and drawn from work my aunt Mardi did on my maternal line this past year; my angel mother added to and organized further research for each of her grown up children.
Tonight, for Family Home Evening, we decided to read about my paternal great, great, great grandfather, Alfred Henry Atkinson, born in 1849. His parents were converts from England; his father the branch president at Middlesex. We learned that they sailed to America in 1855.
My husband recalled to me that he had helped design a website at BYU called Mormon Migration about converts who voyaged to America. You can look up voyages by ancestor name, location, ship name, or dates. We quickly found our ancestors names listed among those who sailed on the Chimborazo from Liverpool to Philadelphia in 1855. I browsed through the different voyage accounts and read a few of them, including the account kept by the ship historian, Elder William G. Mills. I was touched by his account of the rapture the saints felt at leaving their homeland for a life full of promise, hearts so full they were singing. I was especially impressed by the hymn he wrote during the voyage.
When on our Mother Earth we trod
And oft admired her gorgeous robe;
When wandering thru life’s varied scene
At will upon the solid globe;
The goodness of our God we knew
And felt the power of His command;
We praised and loved His holy name
And owned this providential hand.
Thus now when on the watery sphere
When every wave is crowned with foam;
The Chimborazo’s “wooden walls”
Our temporary floating home;
With horizon of sky and sea
That circumscribes us like a ring.
We see the kindness of our God,
We feel the power of ocean’s king.
Then let our numerous voices blend
In songs of deepest gratitude
To him, whose hand controls the sea,
And guides us over the briny flood,
He claims our praise, so let us be
Humbly obedient to his word,
Be faithful now and evermore
To gain all blessings from our Lord.
May we still feel his favouring hand
While traveling over the trackless deep;
The winds in storms and gushing sound
or calmly over nature sleep
God bless our worthy president
The council, president & Saints,
The noble captain, mates and crew
And may we have no just complaints [p.11]
Oh! May we live as Saints should live
our walk & conversation good;
As living testimonies to
The gospel covenant received
Be cheerful Saints all will be well
Angels watch over our gallant ship;
And for the power that brings us thru
Let it be heard from every lip.
As I read on about Alfred and his wife, Mathilda’s lives, I marveled at how they took hardship in stride. They seem to have had no expectations that their lives would be free from trial, that their needs would be met. They took in so many people (at different times both of their mothers – They built an add-on to their home for Mathilda’s mother-in-law and her four young children when Alfred’s father died of cancer and in Mathilda’s own words: “There was never a cross word spoken between them” – not in all 19 of the years she lived with them before she passed away.) They probably thought their lives unremarkable, but I stand in awe of their patient acceptance of life as it came to them. There was little to romanticize about their lives but the way Mathilda writes and historian W.G. Mills writes…. it is just so obvious that they were grateful for every moment of joy and peace; they knew how to drink it in. They knew that life was beautiful. I am proud to know them, prouder still to be descended from them, and I yearn to know them better.