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Digging Up Roots

Although I am an adopted child, I’ve never really felt like one -- that I didn't belong to my family. And my family’s history is, in my mind, my history too. Although in a technical sense this may not be true, in a legal and emotional sense it is. I have always enjoyed exploring my roots, not out of a need or sense to “find” me, but because of my appreciation of history and my connection to it. Even little things like learning my paternal grandfather who spent a few years of the depression working for the Union Pacific Railroad as a signal electrician, was once posted at Kelso, CA – living in the depot dorms that are now restored as part of the exhibit at the Mojave Preserve visitor center. I'd always loved that building from the first time I saw it, and found it incredibly cool and fun long before I learned about the connection with my grandfather, it now has a personal connection that I feel whenever I visit it.
Growing up Mormon doesn’t hurt either. The Mormon church puts a great emphasis on family genealogy and knowing one’s ancestral history. The church has the world’s best genealogical resources on earth, and on paper I can trace my family back for many generations on both sides. Thus those of us who grow up in the church know a lot more of our family history than most folks do. And we Mormons (and ex ones too) often don’t have nice simple family trees either. With the early church’s practice of polygamy, those of us with early Mormon ancestors have what amounts to a family bush or hedge rather than a “tree”.

But unlike my mother’s side of the family, who’s personal history I know quite a bit about, I really know very little about my father’s family. For whatever reason, my dad was not one to talk about his family history, nor did we spend a lot of time growing up with members of his family who could tell me about it. And while I have the biography and journal of my great great grandfather, one Archibald Gardner, who was among the pioneers settling Utah and who had numerous wives and kids and who’s name is affixed to things all over the Salt Lake valley, I know very little of my own father, or his father, or my great grandfather. On my mother’s side I know a lot of both my mother's and my grandmother’s personal story – where they was born, raised, lived.  And I was close with her mother and several of my grandma’s brothers and sisters – people who would be my great grandmother and great uncles and aunts, and even some of their siblings who are alive today.  I’ve even written about them before on several occasions.

But on my father’s side, other than his younger brother -- my uncle Paul -- and his kids who are my cousins and with whom we spent time with growing up -- we really never knew any of his other siblings or my other cousins. My father’s maternal grandmother was alive when I was younger and I vaguely remember her, and I remember his father, my grandfather, and his second wife—my dad’s mother passed before I was born. But that’s really about it.

Like I said, I know all about my maternal grandmother’s early life, as well as my mother’s. I’ve heard their stories, first and second hand, and visited many of the places in their history. Not so much my father’s. Dad just never really spoke of his childhood, or his family. I do know that my dad was born in Nephi, Utah, but that’s about all I know. Whenever we’d travel through Nephi, Dad would never stop and show us or tell us about where he grew up, and he never had any pictures from those days. Mom was born in Clifton, Idaho, and we’d go there often when I was a kid and I know where she grew up, where her grandmother’s house was, where she went to school, the canal she swam in, the fields they farmed and on and on and I have a number of photos of her as a child in Clifton.

This past summer, she and I even visited and documented all the houses she lived in after they moved to Salt Lake City.  I never got the chance to do that with dad before he died, and I’m not sure he would have done it if I’d asked. In revisiting her history with mom this summer I got curious as to dad’s early history. When I was in Salt Lake in August I went to the church’s genealogical library to see if I could find any records of where they lived in Nephi so I could stop by and see since Nephi is on my route to and from the desert.

I found a copy of the 1930 US Census, which was taken just before my father was born that summer, and it showed my grandfather Eldred, and his wife Florence my grandmother, and their daughter Margaret – my aunt -- along with Florence’s brother and his wife, who would have been my Dad’s uncle and aunt -- living at 129 S.100 E, in Nephi.
I took a copy of that handwritten census page from the 1930 US Census, and then stopped by the address on my way back to the desert this past September.  Unfortunately, there was no 129 S. 100 E. There isn’t even a vacant lot there.  I was stumped, so when I got home and I enlarged the PDF of the census page, the 129 is likely 124, and there was and is a house at 124 that dates from at least 1930.

I had my cousins ask their Dad, my uncle Paul, what he remembered, and he said that he grew up at another address on 300 N.  So, this past week on my way to Mom’s for the holiday’s, and having to stop in Nephi to mail a package at the 1930s vintage post office on Main Street anyway, I went over to that address.
According to my Uncle Paul, this house at 54 E. 300 N. (above) belonged to his grandmother – my great grandmother – Florence Inscore. I barely remember my Grandma Inscore and visiting her at a home on Hudson Ave. in Salt Lake City when I was a child. But I have no idea how she came to be at this address in Nephi or any of her history.
Next door at 70 E. 300 N. is this smaller square house, which according to my uncle Paul, was apparently built out of railroad ties by my grandfather Eldred Gardner in about 1930. That would have been the house my father lived in until he was 13, when they moved to Oak Ridge, TN so my grandfather could work on the nuclear project during WWII.
This house, at 124 S. 100 E. is a couple of blocks from where Great Grandma Inscore lived on 100 North and where my Grandfather built the house next door. The census shows my grandparents and aunt living there on April 19, 1930. My grandmother would have been pregnant with my father at that time – he was born a couple of months later, on July 27, 1930. My cousins say that the family lived at this address while grandpa built the small house, which would have been completed in 1930 or 1931. I'm guessing, from the position of the house and the location it was built on his mother-in-law’s land as it is just next to their home. Grandma Inscore's house is rather fine and grand for Nephi, and I understand her family was somewhat well-to-do. But you see I don’t know – and I don't know if anyone living knows.

It is amazing to me that all of these houses are still standing and in good shape. It’s probably not surprising since Nephi is a small farming community, and hasn’t grown (and more likely has shrunk) since then.

I’m sad that my Dad never spoke of those years. For whatever reason he didn’t. And I’m sorry I never asked him about it. Perhaps he never felt a connection to Nephi, or perhaps he was embarrassed to come from there, or maybe he just didn’t care to remember his personal history. But even though he probably didn’t, I do, in a small way, feel connected to Nephi, just as I feel connected to Clifton. It’s part of my roots and I wish I knew more.

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