Years ago I spent quite a bit of time gathering information for my four-generation family group sheets. The information on one of my group sheets was eventually complete, with the exception of one great-uncle. I had searched extensively for his birth and death dates without ever finding a real lead. Every time I glanced at this group sheet, the white space where Edward’s information should have been loomed out at me.
Several times I despaired of ever finding his information and thought of sending the sheet in as it was. However, I prayed for inspiration to know what I should do. I asked Heavenly Father to help me find a record or a person who would be able to help me. After praying I felt that I must not give up.
One day, after having tried every other place I could think of, I picked up a postcard and addressed it to the “Rector of the City Cemetery” and put the address of a town that Edward’s family had lived in for a while. On the back I simply asked if there was a grave marker with Edward Oren Tarbutton’s name on it. I wasn’t even sure a cemetery existed in that town, yet as I sent the postcard I suddenly felt free of frustration.
A few weeks went by without any answer to my postcard, nor did I expect one. Then one day I felt unusually excited, like a child on Christmas morning. At the normal mail delivery time, when I heard the familiar noise of a metal mailbox being opened and closed, I ran out to pick up the mail. The stack was big that day, but I stood on the street at the open box and looked carefully at every piece. In the stack was the returned postcard, and on it was Edward’s missing information!
As I gazed at the long-sought-for dates on the postcard, a warm feeling embraced me. I felt that Edward was somehow close to me in that moment, and I could feel his great joy.
I will never forget the prompting to send the postcard and the circumstances of its return. Later I learned that the town I had sent the postcard to had no rector and no official cemetery. The postmaster realized that no one in the town would know about my ancestor. His first impulse was to stamp the card Return to Sender, but on second thought he decided to search for the grave site himself. He remembered once seeing headstones in a field near a small church. It was there he found Edward’s headstone and copied the inscription.
This experience deepened my love for my ancestors and helped me understand how much they long to be linked permanently to their families. And as I encountered disappointments in the following years of family history research, I thought of the postcard and kept going.