Preston and Kathy Nydegger
For Preston and Kathy Nydegger of Sandy, Utah, family history is a partnership. “He does the research, I do the typing,” she says with a smile.
“No, she does research too,” Preston corrects her. “I’m the facts and figures guy. She's the storyteller. She knows lives. I know places, names and dates.”
“It's a good combination,” Kathy agrees.
Several years ago, when the Nydeggers were just getting started on family history, they decided to go cemetery hopping on their way down to visit her mother in St. George.
“We decided to leave a day early,” Kathy recalls. “We went to Ephraim and Manti looking for cemetery records. In Ephraim we found some old records that had not been digitized. The night before we left, Preston found a lady online, Ann Braithwaite of Manti, who had done some work on my Braithwaite line. He called her to see if she her to see if she had some family information.
“She said, ‘When you get down here, give me a call and I will send you someone to meet you.’ So we did, and she sent a young man who was absolutely amazing. He knew every grave in that cemetery and the stories to go with them.”
Both of Kathy’s parents have family members buried there in Manti.
“On my father’s side, my third great-grandfather, Welcome Chapman, was the first stake president in the Manti area,” she says. “He's buried in that cemetery. He helped build the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. After eight years as stake president, he was called to help build the Salt Lake Temple. He never worked on the Manti Temple even though it was where he lived. He died in Manti.”
While she and Preston were there in Manti looking at cemetery records, Ann Braithwaite called back and asked if they had contacted David Mackey, who had written a book on the Mackey family. The Mackeys are related to Kathy through Welcome's second wife. The Nydeggers contacted him, and he met them at a park, bringing his book with him, so they bought a copy of it. He also referred them to another lady, Jean (they don’t remember her last name), who had done a lot of research on Chapman line.
“When we left Manti that day, I really felt like the Lord had opened
double doors on our family history,” Ann said. “We left with pictures from Jean and a CD from her that had history about Welcome Chapman; the book from David Mackey about the Mackeys and my great-grandmother, Ann Chapman; 50 photos of gravestones in Manti; plus the old records in Ephraim.”
When the Nydeggers began working on their family history, they knew the temple work had been done for their ancestors, so that was not their main concern.
“I started doing this because I was afraid the histories were going to be lost,” Kathy said. “I wanted to find histories of our ancestors and
record them for our family. People have been very generous with their
information. As I find them, I'm putting them in loose-leaf binders according to families.”
Kathy was particularly interested in finding information about Welcome Chapman, whose life intrigued her.
“And now the rest of that story,” she says. “A couple of years later, my aunt was going through an old box and she came across a really old ledger that looked like it had been singed on the edges. She couldn't figure out what it was. She asked if I could come and look at it. I opened the cover, and the name Welcome Chapman was at the top. I started to cry! We had been told that all his records had been burned in a fire at his son's home in Arizona and that there was nothing of his left. This was his journal during some of the years when he was a stake president. Somehow my grandmother ended up with it. Her grandmother was Ann Chapman, Welcome’s second wife.”
Welcome’s journal isn’t exactly full of stories, she says. “He wrote things like ‘I made shoes today,’ or ‘I went fishing and I caught 120 fish.’ He had three wives and 32 or 33 children, so they needed all those fish! He wrote about going to visit Chief Arapeen, a Ute chief in Sanpete County. They gave him a blessing one time. Welcome Chapman is very short
on words, but his story is in there. He didn’t have time to write much. He was very busy, supporting that many people in his family and going to conferences. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated that journal as much if I hadn't been working on that line so diligently. We're very grateful that we ended up with that journal.”
The Nydeggers love family history work, but they also love their living relatives. “You go to the temple and there are two mirrors, the past and the present, ancestors and descendants,” Kathy says. “Both sides are important to work on. I have a daughter and granddaughter who live with us. She's been a very special little spirit. We just feel extremely blessed. We've had so many experiences with family history that we just know that our ancestors are there, that they want that work done and are here to help us.”