New Book Collects Family History Miracles
Reviewed by Carol Kostakos Petranek
One of the joys of writing this column is the opportunity to identify and reflect upon the miracles that unfold as we earnestly engage to seek our ancestors. All too often, these remain “untold miracles” as there has not been a readily accessible venue to share the faith-promoting events that bolster our testimonies and guide our research. But now — thanks to Anne Bradshaw — this has changed.
For forty-six years, Anne, a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been researching her family. “Genealogy was one of the amazing new concepts in which I took great interest. I loved the idea that everyone who ever lived could be linked into families,” she recalled. “It was much harder in the early1960s to gather and compile information on paper, not on computers. But fascinating. I’ve never stopped searching for family names.”
Anne’s love of family history and her zeal to capture the miracles has resulted in an inspiring book, True Miracles with Genealogy. “It saddened me that many genealogy stories were lost because they weren’t recorded and shared,” she said. “I loved the ‘Family History Moments’ column in the Church News and often thought how much I’d like to read books full of them. Eventually I decided it was time to compile the book that I had always wanted to read.”
Anne’s personal miracle
One of Anne’s personal miracles resulted in her finding a “lost” member of her father’s family. Here is her story:
My great-grandfather, Alfred Tozer, was born in 1844 in London, England. According to my dad, Alfred and his wife, Sarah Whall, had seven children. I found details for six but despite much searching, clues about their daughter, Lillie, did not seem to exist. I knew Sarah was born in Soho, London, in the late 1800s but not one descendant of the other six children had further information. Lillie’s name lodged in my mind, but I didn’t know where else to explore.
One Sunday evening in 1986 when we were living in England, a “true miracle” occurred. A woman named Winifred Strange had been listening to an interactive radio program, Sunday Soapbox, and called in to ask if anyone knew about her mother’s family. She had no idea who her relatives or ancestors were. She gave her mother’s maiden name as Lillie Tozer, born 1885, Soho, London, England.
At that exact moment, my distant relative, Derek Styles, was listening to the same program. Derek and I had previously corresponded about my great-great-grandmother, Emma Scarfe Whall, whose daughter, Sarah Ann, had married Alfred Tozer — Lillie’s father. When Derek heard Winifred’s request on the air, he remembered the Tozer name, called the radio host, and gave my name and number.
An excited Winifred immediately called me, and we shared information that filled gaps for both of us. Then came the fun part. Upon marriage, Winifred’s surname became Collins. She also changed her first name to June. She and her husband named one of their boys Phil, now famous around the globe for his musical talent. Another son, Clive, is also renowned for his award-winning artistic skills as a magazine and newspaper cartoonist. Their daughter, Carole, made a name for herself with her skating achievements.
Two people (one seeking and one remembering, both listening) + one radio show = Anne’s miracle. What are the odds that this was serendipity or circumstance?
Knowing the answer, Anne began collecting narratives. “I put out requests for stories on many social websites, including Facebook. Once the initial call went out, friends began telling others and the story gathering took on its own momentum,” she said. “I began compiling seriously at the beginning of 2010. The more stories I received, the more fascinating and compelling it became to keep going.”
President Henry B. Eyring
And going it is. The True Miracles blog and its companion Facebook page will continue to feed those who hunger for more. The words of President Henry B. Eyring will continue to prompt us to record and remember:
I heard in my mind — not in my own voice — these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”….Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?”.…As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
Not limited to prophets
Spiritual experiences are not limited to the pious or the prophets. People of all nations and denominations can and will recognize the hand of God in their lives when they are about His work. Surely, knowing that our ancestors live beyond the veil is part of the “good news” of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Finding them is engaging in His work.
“I have an internal fire that burns to share good news,” Anne related. “Knowing that this life isn’t the end, and that there really is a spirit world beyond the veil where ancestors know their family members, and want to be found and joined to them, is wonderful news.”
About the reviewer
Carol Kostakos Petranek is one of the Directors of the Washington DC Family History Center and a Volunteer at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
 Henry B. Erying, “O Remember, Remember,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 66 – 69