Creating “Small Plates” For Your Family History
Writing Your Family’s Small Plates
(An idea for family history and genealogical record keeping)
How do you make family history more interesting and meaningful than a bunch of old records with a bunch of birth and death dates and maybe some statistics? You get to know the life of those individuals that the dates and statistics talk about. I got an idea from a family Facebook group post the other day on how to keep track of the lives of our deceased loved ones. One of my extended family members (Thanks Joy) had posted excerpts from a book the family had compiled of experiences and testimonies my grandpa and all of his siblings had either written or told. They distributed copies out to all of the families that are descendants of these siblings. Then I thought how great it would be to have this for more deceased family members?! So, before I move on to my idea a little background.
The church I belong to (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) is huge into doing family history. The reason for this stems from our core beliefs in the afterlife. Put briefly, it is our belief that death is not the end of our existence that encourages us to know our ancestors and do important faith-based work or them. The Book of Mormon is an important part of scripture in my faith. We believe it was compiled from various ancient records known as the large and small plates.
Now that we have some background knowledge here comes my church nerdiness. The idea came from my relatives Facebook posts when she titled them “The Small Plates of the Prestwich family”. Basically, similar to how the Book of Mormon is organized, it’s a compilation of testimonies from my ancestors (For more info. on how the Book of Mormon is compiled go here https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/explanation?lang=eng).
Get it? So how cool would it be to have a record of “Small Plates” from all of the lines in my family tree? I thought what a great way to do some family history. It’s going to take a lot of work to complete and won’t really be possible for all family lines since some people are already deceased. However, for those who are still around I think it would be a special treasure to complete. It would definitely be more interesting to read than a bunch of numbers. Here’s an example that comes from my grandpa’s excerpt:
“I reached high and grabbed the branch with both hands, giving a little jump so I could throw my feet up and my leg over and was pulling myself up. When the branch broke, and I plunged head first towards the ground. “
I was told by my older brother that if you climbed high enough in the big old tree in our yard, you could see clear to the reservoir, sic or seven miles away. So this became my goal as a young tree climber, to climb high enough to see the reservoir. One day when I was about 10 years old, I decided it was time for me to conquer that tree. The branches were large and close together at the bottom I had climbed them many times, so it was easy at first, but as I climbed higher, the branches got smaller and farther apart. When I was about three/fourths of the way up, I paused to get my breath and look around. I could see a long ways, but not to the reservoir. about 12 feet from the top. I paused again to look around. Way out, I could just see the blue outline of the reservoir.
After a little rest I decided to go up on a branch above my head. I could just reach it from the branch I was standing on. In my excitement to see the reservoir better, I over looked the fact that the branch I was reaching for was dead and dried up. I reached high and grabbed the branch with both hands, giving a little jump so I could throw my feet up and leg over the branch. I got my leg over and was pulling myself up. When the branch broke, I plunged head first towards the ground. It’s amazing what goes through your mind when you find yourself in a situation like this. I remember thinking about my life and some of the things I had done that I was not too proud of, I called inwardly to my heavenly Father to help me. My cry was heard and answered very fast. I came to a sudden stop, head down and feet up. When I looked around why, I was very surprised. My head was hanging about one inch above a large branch not very far from the ground. My shoe had caught in the crotch of the branch above me brought me to a sudden stop. I pulled myself up to free my foot and dropped to the ground. I sat there quietly for a while, trembling and thinking how fast God had heard and answered my prayer. I have reflected on this event many times in my life. I gives me a good feeling because I know God and hear and respond to our needs very fast if he chooses.
As a young man born into a religious family, I was often told that there was a God and he loves us. I wondered about it a lot, because I had never seen him or heard his voice. I had only heard other people talk about him. I often wondered how I could find out for myself if there was a God. I was taught by my parents, especially my mother, that we can talk to God by our prayers, and if our prayers were sincere done with faith, God would answer our prayers. So I offered prayers occasionally. I can’t remember if I did it daily or not, as I grew older. I began having experiences which convinced me that God loved me and He cared about me. On several occasions in my life was miraculously saved. As I look back at these situation when I was saved, the only answer was some body was looking after me. I finally concluded that it was our Heavenly Father. Because of my situations at the time, only God knew where I was, no one else. Please accept my testimony that God is real. That he loves us, and that his Son, Jesus Christ, is our savior and redeemer , it amazes me that Christ loves us so much that he accepts the responsibility for our stupid acts of sin, making it possible for us to return to our Father in Heaven God is my closest friend, Amen
By Clarence Prestwich
I remember hearing my grandpa tell that story to me as a kid. He was a very good story teller! Now that he has passed on this story is even more precious to me. I have a copy I can give to my kids who never really got to know him while he was alive. They can get to know a little bit about him through his own words. I realize that not everyone reading this may belong to the same faith as me and that’s ok. If you still love genealogical work, you could easily adapt this to your own purposes. Say get a life history of each family member and compile them into a book. If nothing else, when your loved ones do pass away maybe reading their stories will bring a smile to your face.