Who am I?

Researching my family history has become something of a passion. I have followed many lines in my family tree and found out a lot about my ancestors. It was difficult though for me to choose a subject for this piece on who do I think I am, so I decided to see if I could find at least one ancestor who shared at least one of my key values with me; they are:

  1. Autonomy and independence
  2. Curiosity
  3. Honesty and integrity
  4. Challenging myself to create new things – being a pioneer
  5. Learning and intellectual pursuits

In my last piece for the writing group, I wrote about my Grandfather who, I now realise was considered an educated man compared to, both his family who were labourers, and my Grandmother’s father who was a coachman. Here I am going to focus on Esther Beilby who is a first cousin four times removed and became a handcart pioneer in 1856.

Esther was born in 1830 in Wheldrake which is a village very close to my own birthplace of Escrick. She was baptised in Elvington, probably in the Methodist faith. Her father is described in the 1841 census as an agricultural labourer and she lived with her family in a tied cottage outside the main village. She had three brothers, two of whom were agricultural labourers like their father and the other one was a shoemaker.  By 1851 she had married William Heaton from Horton, near Bradford whose occupation is listed as a wool comber. On their marriage certificate her father is described as a farmer and this is confirmed in the 1851 census where he is said to farm 15 acres. Her first child, Christopher, was born in 1852 and she went on to have five more children, all boys.

At some point early in the 1850s William changed his occupation and followed his Baptist faith. In a book on the Mormon pioneers written by LaRae McManama he is said to have served a four year mission in England and Scotland before the family emigrated to the United States. Esther and William and there, by then, two boys, walked from Iowa City, Iowa to Salt Lake City in Utah; a distance of 1300 miles. They were part of the Second Handcart Company whose Captain was Daniel D McArthur; he was a returning missionary from Scotland. The journey took about four months in 1856. Pushing poorly built handcarts loaded with supplies was arduous work and not everyone completed the journey. Sadly, as they arrived in Utah, Esther’s youngest son, William, died.

Once they were in Utah, Esther’s husband William was called to serve in the Muddy Mission where he was first councillor of the Bishopric. Between 1857 and 1866 Esther went on to have four more sons. They settled in Payson, Utah which is where Esther died in 1875 at the age of 44; she is buried in the cemetery there. William went on to marry Susan Terry in 1876 and became the secretary of the United Order in Orderville in 1877. He died later that year and is buried in Orderville cemetery. The Beilby name lives on as some of Esther’s grandchildren have been given it as their middle name.

However, some mysteries still remain; how did Esther meet William and what motivated them to seek a new life in America? In addition, I am looking forward to investigating more of my ancestors to see if they share my remaining three key values of autonomy and independence, curiosity and honesty and integrity.

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