Family History Moment: A Parking Meter Miracle

Contributed By Walt Morrell, Church News contributor

  • 20 September 2017

A father and son look at an interactive discovery experience at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Article Highlights

  • Our ancestors are anxious to get their family history done.
  • The Lord will prepare the way for us to accomplish our family history.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that our ancestors are so anxious to get their work done that they will cause worldly events to take place to further that work.” —Walt Morrell, member of the Nibley Utah Stake 

Years ago, I went to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City with one goal in mind. I needed to find the marriage record of my great-grandparents James Jones and Rebecca Upchurch.

It was payday, so I had just enough change in my pocket to fill up the parking meter for two hours. In those days, the only way to find marriage records was by using microfilm. So I went to the marriage bond records for Wayne County, Kentucky, and searched the index for all of the records around the time I thought they were married. Their first child was born in 1866, so I looked for records a year or two before 1866. I found a marriage record for a James Jones and a Rebecca Carson, but I couldn’t make out the date. It looked like 1865 so I found the proper microfilm and started cranking, cranking, and cranking.

I looked all through the 1865 records, but no James and Rebecca. I tried the microfilm for 1866 and again for 1865 and 1864. Still nothing. I was very disappointed and realized that my two hours were up, so I packed my briefcase and headed for the car. To my surprise, the meter was still at two hours! Either the parking meter was broken or some good Samaritan had come along and filled it up for me. I had to try one more time. I went to the index and studied the date intently, and it seemed as though the number that I thought was a 5 was actually a 2. It seemed to come off the page for me to see it correctly. Suddenly it made sense. James served in the Civil War and would have been gone most of those early years, and they had their first child when he came home from the war.

So I went to the 1862 film and there it was! The parents of James were my great-great-grandparents. Rebecca’s last name was Carson, not Upchurch, and the Carson line was now open to me. I was so excited, I had to borrow a dime from another patron (my pockets were empty) to be able to make a copy of the record. Now I could have James and Rebecca sealed in the temple and have their children sealed to them.

I went back to my car and the meter was now on zero minutes. The parking meter was working just fine. There’s no doubt in my mind that our ancestors are so anxious to get their work done that they will cause worldly events to take place to further that work.