"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
December 21, 2012
Connecting to the Past
by Dian Thomas

My brother Jay Thomas sent me a history of my great-grandfather Edward Richins and Sarah Beard. It was a story of their lives in England, and their conversion to the church and the long voyage to America and then across the Great Plains to Utah.

It has been several years since I took my own journey to find their birthplaces in England. After I wrote my book Roughing it Easy I had the opportunity to go there to promote it in the media. I traveled for two weeks promoting the book on TV, radio and newspapers.

While there I went to church in London. Before I went on this journey I went to as many relatives as I could to gather all the histories of my ancestors I could find. I thought it would be a wonderful experience after my media tour to travel and find their birthplaces and gain a better understanding of my ancestors and their life in the Motherland.

I hired a genealogist to go with me to find their towns of origin. I had identified several of them on a map of Great Britain. While at church I met Eldon Ricks’ wife, and she began to inquire about my journey and ask what I was going to do now my media trip was over. I told her that I had hired a lady to take me to the birthplaces of many of my ancestors. She quickly reminded me of my travel skills and told me I should do the journey on my own.

Here I was in another country and not sure of myself. Driving a car seemed like a skill far beyond me. They not only drove on the wrong side of the road; they shifted the car with their left hand. Could I really rent a car and set out and find my way in this strange country?

With much fear and trepidation, I called the lady that I had hired to go with me and told her my plans had changed.

I remember having such great fear for one day that I could do nothing but look at the map where I had marked the locations and then tremble in fear of what I had got myself into. At the end of the day I mustered up the courage to call a car company and make a reservation to rent a car. The next day I boarded the train and headed west to Bath, England where I was to pick up the car.

I remember it felt so awkward trying to drive on the wrong side of the road and shifting on the left side, which was hard to get used to. I headed out for the first place on my journey. As I drove around the winding road, which had high banks on both sides from having the road be there for hundreds of years, I slowly found my way to the first town. I was so pleased to find the old church I was sure my ancestors had attended.

As I went down the winding road I decided I was on the wrong road. I pulled into a farmhouse to turn around and as I backed up I knocked down a big stone fence that I am sure had been there for hundreds of years. My heart sunk and it seemed like everyone in the small village came running to see what all the noise was about. My knees were weak as I got out of the car and faced the farmer. All I could think about was to see if I could figure out a good sum of money and give it to him. One hundred dollars then would have been like five hundred today. I pulled out the equivalent to a hundred dollars in pounds and gave it to the farmer. I saw a big smile come over his face as he figured he had made some money as the fence could be repaired.

Weak and tired I turned around and slowly made my way to Painswick where I had determined I could stay. I checked into my hotel and decided because it had been such a traumatic day I would find the most expensive restaurant and dine in class.

That night as I went to bed I learned that 26 of my ancestors came from this little hamlet in England. As I went to sleep my mind flashed back on the long journey. I felt great pride for making it through the first day of my trip to experience the homeland of Edward Richins and so many of his ancestors.

One thing that we can all do is to gather histories of our ancestors. If the opportunity comes that you are blessed to travel to their place of origin you will gain new insights and understanding of what they went through to make it possible for you to be here and enjoy the blessings that you do.

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About Dian Thomas

Dian Thomas was blessed with the good fortune to be born near and raised in the remote, breathtaking Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah, where her father was the forest ranger. She took the skills she learned in the outdoors and turned them into a New York Times best-selling book, Roughing It Easy. Her appearance on the NBC's "Tonight" show with Johnny Carson boosted her into the national media scene, where she became a regular on NBC's "Today" show for eight years and then ABC's "Home Show" for six years. After more than 25 years of media exposure and 19 books, she now shares her practical insights and wisdom with audiences who want to savor life.

A former Relief Society president, Dian is currently serving as a visiting teacher. Visit her website at www.DianThomas.com

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