Too Many Skeletons

Contributed By By Hope Shipley Welch, Church News Contributor

  • 26 December 2012

Article Highlights

  • Author’s interest in family history started young, despite family’s inactivity in the Church.
  • FamilySearch digitized a book with thousands of family names at the February 2012 RootsTech Conference.
  • Anyone can now access online names of the descendants of Erastus Bingham and Lucinda Gates.

In April of 1971, I was returning a book, The Descendants of Erastus Bingham and Lucinda Gates, to my grandmother Annie Adele Bingham Shipley. She had lent it to me so that I could hand-copy stories of my ancestors. My grandfather Moroni Shipley said to me, “I don’t know why anyone likes genealogy; there are too many skeletons.” He passed away not long after.

Genealogy was not something my family did. Even though all four of my lines came to Utah as pioneers by 1869, I was raised in an inactive, even anti-Mormon environment, and genealogy suggested activity in the Church.

As a young teenager, I was visiting the same Shipley grandparents, and a fellow who was also visiting them had a large, long book. He was asking them to tell him stories about those whose names were in this book that was about 4 or 5 inches thick. I later learned it was a book of remembrance filled with family group records. That fascinated me, but I never met him again.

The years passed quickly, and in 1999 my aunt, Lynnette Shipley Walton, gave me her copy of the Bingham descendants’ book to keep. I entered every name into my computer database so that I would find my direct descendants quickly.

As technology and online records improved, I added vital information to the 5,000–6,000 names I had entered into my computer from the book. Still curious about the family organization, I went through the names of the nine members of the board of trustees listed in the front of the book. 

In January 2009 I met with Jean Bigelow (third cousin once removed), one of the nine original board members. We have shared information because both of us are so involved with family history. We both were concerned about the best way to share the contents of the book and what we have done, as the book is out of print and descendants are numerous. 

On February 2 of this year, our quest was fulfilled when I was able, with Jean’s consent, to have FamilySearch digitize the book at the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City, so that it can be placed online for any descendant of Erastus Bingham and Lucinda Gates to research or read. Our goal now is to share, in some format, vital record information we have found to complement those names in the book.

George Bernard Shaw said, “If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.” I hope my grandfather will accept my persistence, and I hope the skeletons are dancing too.