If I told you my mother, Twila Gagon Peck, that paragon of saintly virtue, once traded kisses for marbles, would you believe me? It's true, written in black and white by her own hand and included in the book we compiled when she turned 100.
She described how the children in her Eureka neighborhood were picked up by a horse-drawn wagon to go to the local school in the early 1900s, including this little bit of shocking information:
"When I had finished the sandwich, Lizzie (Partridge) took some marbles out of her pocket and began playing with them. She saw me eyeing them. The glassies, with their mysterious cloudy centers, fascinated me. 'I'll give you a marble if you'll kiss Weldon (Ercanbrack),' she said. Weldon was in my class at school. He looked as if he had no objections and I did want those marbles. I kissed him. All the kids laughed. Lizzie, wanting to further the entertainment, volunteered to give me a marble for every time I kissed Weldon. I obliged and went home with a pocket full of the little round treasures."
There you have the whole shameful tale. And that, my friends, is the beauty of the old, long-forgotten stories that hide in ancient autobiographies, diaries, recollections written by those who knew the deceased — any of the many sources that preserve real-life stories.
And it's an impetus for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' expansive initiative to preserve such recollections by using modern technology to scan them, store them and make them available online to those engaged in family history work. More than 200,000 digitized family and local history publications from around the world can be accessed at books.FamilySearch.org.
That's where you might find the "Twila kissed Weldon for marbles" kind of stories that will make your ancestors come into warm being. An informational summary about the program states that "up to 60 percent of the names in these books are not found in public genealogy trees. And don't be surprised if you find a relative in a completely unrelated book."
If you have family history sources that would find a happy home in the church's digital library, you can share.
If you choose, you can create your own PDF and provide a copy to FamilySearch's Family History Books. Or you can donate or loan a physical copy of the item to the Family History Department for scanning. You can personally bring your books to be scanned to the Family History Book Scanning facility at 2370 Constitution Blvd., or you can mail them to Family History Library/Gifts, 36 N. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-1103 USA. There is no cost to have your book digitally scanned. If you’d like to make a charitable donation to the initiative, you can do so online at LDS Philanthropies.
There are some rules. Copyright provisions, for instance, must be observed, and permission must be granted for scanning to occur.
A list of suggestions, provided by Michael Hansen, director of the digitizing program in West Valley City, includes these guidelines:
• Materials must be readable, organized and accessible so researchers can identify individuals and relationships by name, date and place. The program does not accept duplicates.
• Items should include a title, author and publication date if pertinent. They may not violate privacy and/or copyright provisions. The donor must sign a Permission to Duplicate Form.
• The project accepts family histories, local and county histories, autobiographies and biographies containing genealogical information, and indexes to records in book format. There is a long list of things that will not be accepted, including artifacts and souvenirs that cannot be digitized (there are other repositories more suitable for them), Books of Remembrance, personal or family videos, family Bibles, and journals that mention living individuals or lack genealogical connections.
The complete set of guidelines for donating your books or loaning them to be scanned can be found online. You may make an appointment if you have special concerns you need to address. You will need to download a Permission to Duplicate Form to give permission to replicate your material online. To request an appointment or ask questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-406-1830.
See? It's as easy as "booking" a vacation, and much more enduring.
Twila Van Leer is a former Deseret News editor and staff writer who serves as a family history missionary.