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Small Miracles

My sisters and I were a bit naïve when we headed off to Nauvoo, Illinois expecting to find easily accessible information about our ancestors, and more specifically our third-great-grandmother Elizabeth Tyler. Surely a few hours perusing records at the Family History Center and the Land Record Office would unravel some of her secrets. We might find her name on old census or tax records. We could find a deed for land she had purchased or discover her name on a headstone in the pioneer cemetery. After a full day of searching we had no new information about Elizabeth or anyone else in the family. To make matters worse, we had missed the Nauvoo tourist season and there wasn’t a restaurant in the entire town that was open for dinner. We ate convenience store pizza in our room at an old pioneer home that has been converted to an Inn.


The next morning we headed out early for Missouri hoping our luck would be better in Far West, another Mormon settlement area and one we knew Elizabeth had lived in. It took almost no time at all for us to discover we were lost in an Illinois cornfield.


It seemed we were off to another bad start but sometimes you just have to maintain a little faith. Faith in our GPS Marvin, faith that we would eventually emerge from corn into civilization and faith that some trace of Elizabeth would be found. And then our first tiny miracle appeared – a crossroads in the middle of the corn fields with a sign pointing east toward Lima, the town near which Elizabeth’s son Daniel had purchased a small farm in 1842. A consultation with SIRI confirmed that Marvin did indeed know where we were headed, cornfield or not. His chiding, “I could tell you but you wouldn’t listen” was spot on. We followed his directions to Quincy, Illinois.


The County Clerk’s office at the Adams County Courthouse in Quincy is filled with old handwritten record books and a competent staff happy to help you find the information you need. We didn’t find Elizabeth herself but we did find deeds of property purchased by her sons Nathaniel and Ira and two marriage certificates of her youngest son Henry, one when he was 22 and the other at 53 years of age. We found it interesting that a man by the name of John Quincy had helped Ira buy land in Adams County and had also officiated at Henry’s second wedding many years later. A visit to the Quincy Public Library gave us information about a cemetery with several Tyler headstones.

It had been a long and exciting day. We found a hotel, a nice restaurant for dinner and put off visiting the Franks Cemetery and then Far West, Missouri for another day.

Excerpt from Long Journeys
A vivid dream became our next small miracle. In the dream I had a contract to deliver bundles of mail and packages along the same cornfield-lined gravel roads we had traveled earlier that day. I had been delivering the packages all day and was tired and relieved to be finished when I found a stack of them on top of my car. Not knowing how many packages might have fallen off the car as I was driving I would have to go back and retrace the entire route. I woke up thinking, “We missed something. We have to go back and look again..” My sisters agreed that we could spend another day in Quincy even though they generally look askance at my self- proclaimed talent for interpreting dreams. We looked in the phone directory for museums and historical groups and continued our search.

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