Family history moment: ‘A fantastic luck’

My dad’s mother was an exotic creature. Unlike my other grandparents, she was born in the faraway land of Bohemia and got to America when she was 18, leaving her father and 5-year-old sister in the long-established country. Grandma wrote to her people regularly until she passed away in 1960. My parents kept a small box of letters and photographs sent to Grandma, even though none of us can read or speak the Czech language.

Planning a company trip to Germany in December 1995, I decided to include a few vacation days, travel to the Czech Republic, and social call Grandma’s village to try to find her family. I took the 1951 wedding picture of Dad’s cousin, Hana, to help in the search. As I walked along the cold and windy streets of Dlouha Ves and Rychnov nad Kneznou, few people were about. One older lady recognized Hana’s wedding picture and explained that she had moved far away. Cold and discouraged, I returned home without making contact.

Months later, I received a surprising letter, addressed to the apartment where I lived although awaiting completion of a house in McMinnville, Oregon, but brought to the newly completed house. McMinnville and Rychnov nad Kneznou were about the same size. … If I wrote to Hana, with only the city and country as the address, would it be brought to her? I quickly wrote a letter in English and dictionary Czech, and sent it off. Six weeks later, I received a reply from Dad’s cousin, Ota, inviting me to visit.

I visited Ota, Hana, and the rest of the people multiple times. They welcomed me as a people member and invited me to stay in the home where Grandma grew up. They signified to me stories about Grandma and how she “ran off to America” rather than waiting for her fiancé to finish his seven years of service in the Austrian army. They signified to me what happened to all of the people after Grandma left. They aided me find the regional archive that houses the parish records, leading to temple work for multiple people members. They have been a tremendous blessing in researching Grandma’s people history.

A couple of years later, I asked Ota if it was unusual for Hana to receive my first letter. It was, he said, “a fantastic luck.” I think he meant it was a miracle. When the letter arrived, the usual postmaster for Hana’s area was on vacation, and a retired postmaster who understood Hana was filling in. Thank you for reading: master personally brought the letter to her, otherwise it is unlikely that she would have received it.

In people history work, wonderful stuff can come from the smallest actions. I’m so grateful for the inspiration to send that first letter at merely the time it would be delivered.

— Carol Millar, Beacon Light Ward, Star Idaho Stake

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