Bridging Generations

Ancestors and descendents of Joyce Verla Pratt and Mark Richard Berrett

Archive for the category “why i write”

Just start somewhere

I’ve joined a challenge from Amy Johnson Crow to post about 52 ancestors in 52 weeks.  I love a plan and a program, and I’ve been looking for something to get me blogging again, so here we go.  The prompt for this first week is “Start.”

My interest in genealogy started with two different people, but in very similar ways – they both died and left me with their family history!

Dad in study

Lou Butler in his study with a backdrop of countless notebooks!

In December 2005, in the course of some redecorating, Don and I encountered his dad’s collection of loose-leaf binders containing his pictures and assorted other memories. Dad had passed away the previous July, and none of us in the family had given much thought to Dad’s notebooks. We all knew he was a great picture taker, and he never could get rid of any – no matter how unflattering. We also knew he faithfully kept a journal and also liked to keep copies of letters, newspaper clippings, church programs and other random bits and pieces.

noteboks in car

Yes – that’s the back of our Trailblazer filled with family history.

But what we didn’t realize was how his collection had grown. Our awakening occurred, however, when we moved 140 loose-leaf notebooks from their garage to our basement.


I didn’t have a clue how to manage the collection.

We lined them up on the floor of our family room and, totally overwhelmed, wondered aloud what we would ever do with all of them. We did a quick and very surface initial inventory, combined a few, and reduced the count by maybe 10! Still overwhelmed.

I began to feel a real pull to these notebooks and the family history that I knew was inside. I knew I could not leave these family members in the garage or basement, uncared for and virtually ignored. I wanted them to be safe inside our family circle. I was drawn to sort and label and organize and create a family history from these 130 notebooks we had stored on shelves in my sewing room.

On January 28, 2006 I left my job to devote my time to family history. After the initial sorting and organizing, I began blogging the Butler family history.

Version 4

Joyce Pratt Berrett, November 2007

In the middle of that experience, my mother passed away in December, 2007.  The following July I returned from a visit with my dad with this in tow – my mother’s genealogy files.

mother's file box

At least this took up less space!

All of my mother’s genealogy research and information was filed in this box, categorized by just a few broad labels like “Roberts” or “Pratt.”  Mother had been researching her ancestry for years (I found several letters of inquiry dated in the 1960’s) and she had accumulated a wide assortment of documents.  Dad was happy to see the box go; he had no plans to continue the research on the Pratt/Roberts side of the family, and I think it made him feel good to know that even if I never did anything with the information, at least I had it available and he didn’t have to store it.

I rifled through the files and decided that I probably had a treasure chest of genealogy information, but many of the names were unfamiliar to me.  I knew I had heard “Buker” before, but I had no idea what family line that name belonged.  “Benoni Pratt” kept turning up, and I finally realized that name belongs to two different ancestors – my great-grandfather and his grandfather.  I wasn’t really sure how to make sense out of my inheritance, and I was very overwhelmed, so I did the natural thing and ignored the box for several months.

One day when I couldn’t ignore the hodgepodge any longer, I read about a filing system that made sense to me.  So armed with file folders in 4 colors – indicating my four direct lines – I sorted and filed.  Going into this project, I was very afraid that my need for organization coupled with my ignorance and inexperience in the field of genealogy could result in the loss of valuable information.  So as a precaution, I threw almost nothing away, which is highly unusual for me. I simply filed every document where I thought it belonged, knowing that I would have to do some rearranging later.  And then I jumped in and began to study and research those family names.  Some of that information I’ve shared on this blog.

Through the last ten years, I’ve learned a lot about genealogy and my family members.  I’m excited to share those discoveries through #52ancestors.  Stay tuned!




The Mothers in our Family

Today I’m celebrating the mothers in our family history who have helped shape my life.  They each have stories of strength, courage, humor, and love, and I’ll continue to share their stories.  We are fortunate to share history with them.

joyce senior pic

Mother – Joyce Verla Pratt Berrett

Roberts, Alpha Madalene

Grandmother – Alpha Madalene Roberts Pratt

Version 2

Great-grandmother, Estella Jane Widger Roberts

Compton family copy

Great-grandmother, Iva Compton Pratt

Harriet Brown - 1899 copy

Grandmother – Harriet Lydia Brown Berrett

Brown, Eliza 2

Great-grandmother, Eliza Brown White Brown

Annie Elizabeth Toone

Great-grandmother, Annie Elizabeth Toone Berrett

Brown, Jemima

Great-great grandmother, Jemima Brown Rogers

“We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”
– Liam Callanan

Now, how are we related?

Is she my cousin or my aunt? How many greats is that grandfather?  If my grandmother is your great grandfather’s sister, what does that make us?  One of the most confusing parts of family history can be figuring out how all of these family members are related to each other and how we are related to them.  As we add more generations and more names, the relationships become even more complicated.  And sprinkled throughout our family history, we have plural marriages, second marriages, half-siblings, and step grandparents.  Our family tree appears to be a little gnarled at times.

Outside of immediate family and grandparents, many of our relatives are cousins. Cousin is a term for someone who is descended from a common ancestor.  A first cousin is someone who has the same grandparents as you do.  We share great-grandparents with our second cousins, and mutual great-great grandparents create third cousins.  “Removed” simply means that you and that relative are from different generations.

Use this chart to help figure out how you are related to your many cousins.

  • Determine what relative ? you have in common with another relative.
  • Find your relationship to ? in the left column.
  • Find your relative’s relationship to ? in the top row.
  • Figure out where your row and column meet and see your relationship.

generation chart new-1

For example:  Lynnette Berrett Butler and Gwen Daniels Orton are both related to Harriet Brown Berrett.  Although they are the same age, Lynnette is Harriet’s granddaughter, and Gwen is Harriet’s great-granddaughter.  Lynnette and Gwen are first cousins once removed.

Have fun figuring out how you are related to the people you meet in this blog!

“I have a family tree with branches by the dozens.
I have grandmas.  I have grandpas.
I have uncles, aunts and cousins.”
‘I Have a Family Tree’, LDS Children’s Songbook, p. 199





We all have a story

This is why I feel so compelled to record and share our family history.  Enjoy!

Why I Write


San Francisco – July 2008

When one of our sons was quite young, he was unusually afraid of bridges. Each time we drove across an elevated stretch, from the backseat we could hear his voice edged with fear urging whoever was driving to, “Hurry, hurry. Go faster! Hurry and get across.” He didn’t look out the car window, but kept his head down or his eyes straight ahead so as not to see the ground fall away beneath. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to get to whatever destination was on the other side, he was simply terrified of the process.

It's a long way down

It’s a long way down

Then when he got a little older and began to understand that bridges weren’t so scary, he was brave enough to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge on a family trip to San Francisco. He realized it was kind of fun to be up so high and have such an amazing view of the entire Bay area – although still a little nerve shaking to look down.

Butlers at Golden Gate Bridge - September 1987

Butlers at Golden Gate Bridge – September 1987

In 2008, we were in San Francisco once again as a family. This time we rode bikes across the Golden Gate bridge, stopping from time to time to marvel at the time and effort spent in construction, the view, the distance across, and the convenience that bridge provides. As an adult, this son was as excited about that adventure as the rest of us – even sporting his 10 month old son in a seat on the back of the bike. We all felt something exhilarating about biking across that expanse of concrete and cables – it was one of the highlights of the vacation.

Along for the ride

Along for the ride

The past few years as I’ve been processing seemingly endless pictures and mementos of family members I don’t actually know, a couple of times I’ve wondered aloud why I’m really doing this. I wonder if I’ll ever really complete the project. Tell me again who is going to care about all this stuff. Why am I taking the time to sort, organize, preserve and label pictures of a lot of people who are gone and almost forgotten? Who would really know if I threw some of this stuff away?

“. . . family history builds bridges between the generations of our families. Bridges between generations are not built by accident. Each [of us] has the personal responsibility to be an eternal architect of this bridge for his or her own family. Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes,” Ensign, May 1999, 83

What a great reminder! The picture albums I am creating, the blog posts I am publishing, and the memories I am preserving are family bridges. This work allows each member of the family – past, present or future – to be discovered or rediscovered. These records are the bridges that connect those of us living today with those who have gone before and those who are yet to come. I am in awe when I consider the time periods these bridges span, the care with which they’ve been constructed and preserved, the panoramic view of family they provide, and the connection I feel to these faces and letters. My feeling of exhilaration returned!

Bridge building materials

Bridge building materials

And it makes me happy to help build this bridge!

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