Welcome to the fifth episode of the Real Life, Real Passion podcast. Today our guest is my dear friend Kerry Peck. Our conversation today focuses on her passion for preserving family pictures and cherishing family stories. She shares how family stories can help you do hard things, and how knowing your forever family helps you feel connected to multiple generations.
Kerry Peck is a twin, she and her twin sister are the oldest of seven kids.
Kerry has an English Teaching degree from Utah State University. She met her husband Shaun when she was attending USU. This September with be Kerry and Shaun’s 30 year anniversary. They have nine children, who range in age from 7 to 28. She has been a busy stay at home mom.
She loves scrapbooking, bookmaking, keeping a family blog, journaling, and home organizing projects.
Kerry looks forward to spending lots of time with her kids and grandkids, gathering stories, and making many more books. She would love to have a children’s book collection of many family stories.
Passion for Family Stories
Kerry has always loved family stories, but it didn’t become a passion for her until she discovered some old photographs.
Kerry’s mother had boxes of her grandmother’s photographs, albums, and journals in her basement. Then the basement flooded. She rushed over and grabbed whatever she could out of the storage to save it. Kerry brought them home and began to scan them.
As Kerry began this process of scanning her grandmother’s photos, her grandmother’s story began to unfold. Kerry’s original motivation was simply to save the pictures and the stories, but as she read them she really got to know her grandmother.
Kerry ended up writing a book using her grandmother’s own words from those journals and pictures she had rescued. That project really blossomed Kerry’s passion for family stories and pictures.
Favorite Thing to Learn
Kerry’s favorite thing to learn from her ancestors is their day to day life. There are once in a lifetime events that happen which are fun to see, but she really enjoys learning what they did every day and what their routine was.
This resonates with her because its relatable. The normal routine is what makes up our lives, and it is what makes us who we are.
She often hears, “no one will want to hear my story because it’s just boring.” But when you start to look back at your relatives and people that have passed on before you, you realize that there was nothing ordinary about their life. “When you apply that to your life you realize that to future generations, your life is going to mean a lot too.”
Family History Work
Kerry first experience with family history and genealogy was not when her mother’s basement flooded and she rescued her grandmother’s history. It was before that. It all began when she started a family history wall.
She started putting up pictures of her family and grandparents. What started as a small project, ended up as a huge project; she now has six generations displayed.
As she was looking for photographs of her ancestors, the stories came with them. As she began to find the pictures and get to know their faces, she also found out more about their lives.
Kerry’s love of family stories, started with pictures. She loves being able to see what they looked like. To see into their eyes and see who they are.
Inspiration for the Family Wall
When Kerry was a young girl, maybe 8-10 years old, her mother started to hang up family pictures in the basement on their family room wall. She titled it, “Our Forever Family.” The wall showcased their family, her grandparents and her great grandparents.
Kerry remembers sitting down and just looking at the wall. A connection was made that she was part of a larger family, that extended beyond her, her siblings, and her parents. She was inspired to do the same thing for her own kids.
She started thinking that she would just put up a picture of their family, then her and Shaun’s parents, and grandparents. But it didn’t feel complete. She kept going, and now she has six generations, from her children all the way to Kerry’s second great grandparents, displayed on their dining room wall.
The dining room is a central location for their family, and the stories come out around the dinner table. The kids have a face to put with the name. They know what their ancestors looked like, and which side of the family they are from.
Importance of Personal Histories
By looking at the stories of her grandparents and great grandparents, Kerry realizes that their lives were important. And it truly was the “everyday mundane things that made them who they were and are.” The same is true for those everyday things in our lives. “Those ties that bind us to them, is what is going to bind us to our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren.”
“If we don’t write those stories down, or if we don’t share those stories in some way, we are going to be lost.”
Kerry’s grandparents and great grandparents that didn’t write their histories feel lost to her. She can find out where they were born and where they died, but she doesn’t know what they did in between those two events. Their life is missing, and she feels like there is a hole there.
Kerry writes down her stories, the stories of her parents and grandparents, and the stories of her children so that they can be passed on. So her forever family will remember them and know who they are.
A Favorite Family Story
A story that they tell often is about Kerry’s mother’s father, her grandfather Griffiths. When he was twelve years old, he was taken by his mother and his step-father from their home in Smithfield, UT up to the continental divide in Montana. Some horses had been taken from them and it was his job to bring them back. They drove there, showing him landmarks along the way, so he would know how to make it back to Smithfield. They dropped him off with the horses and said, “We will see you when you get home.”
His parents left, and he was on his own to make it back home. He wrote his story of how it took him ten or eleven days to get back home with the horses. He wrote of his fears, the things that he loved, and how he managed to make it home without spending a dollar because of the kind people along the way.
It’s a great story, and one they love to share. It teaches more than just who this grandfather was, it shows her family that he could do hard things, and that they can do hard things too.
One thing Kerry is really excited about is working on a children’s storybook about her grandfather’s adventures bringing the horses home.
Kerry’s grandmother has been an inspiration throughout her entire life. Her mother’s mom has been a tremendous influence in her life and just turned 99 this year. Kerry still goes out to visit her and loves listening to her stories. Kerry is in the process of scanning in all of her grandmother’s pictures and putting them onto a website so that all of the family will have access to her life stories and pictures.
Even when Kerry was very small, her grandma was teaching her and guiding her in small ways that now in hindsight are monumental. Kerry says, “When I grow up I want to be like her.”
After this last year, Kerry’s relationship with her grandmother has grown even stronger. She used to ask her grandma about when she lost two of her children, (from what we now know is Cystic Fibrosis) at the time they didn’t know why her two small children passed away. After losing a child herself, she has a lot more in common with her grandmother.
One of the reasons Kerry knew that she could make it through the heartache was because her grandmother had made it through her own experiences. Kerry knew that if her grandmother could do it, she could too.
Family stories help you know that “you can do hard things.”
Motivation to Endure
Kerry loves that Families can be together forever.
She has learned more in this past year about how close the connection really is between us and our parents, grandparents, and ancestors that have gone before us. “We are all family and you can feel that.”
All Time Favorite Book
Kerry was introduced to The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom this past year, and it has become her all-time favorite book. When thinking about why she loves it so much, it is because Corrie was “an ordinary person doing ordinary things that end up being great things.”
She was an unintentional hero. She didn’t plan on doing hard and difficult things, but ended up being extraordinary because of the choices that she made.
Those are the kind of stories that Kerry is drawn to because we can all relate to being ordinary.
A Favorite Quote from her Grandmother’s Journal
Kerry’s grandmother Swan kept a daily journal.
Kerry’s favorite entry was, “Picked berries. Made jam.”
“So, when life gets really boring to me, I always say that to myself. Picked berries. Made jam.” That was what her grandma did most days in the summer. “It is an ordinary thing that fills days and makes great people.”
Like many of us, Kerry’s biggest challenge is overcoming a feeling of inadequacy, and not feeling good enough to accomplish what she needs to do. She has to fight against negative thoughts, especially when she is struggling with hard things.
These stories, the stories of her family, of ordinary people with daily struggles doing hard things are an inspiration. They help give Kerry the courage to push on.
When she was a teenager, Kerry’s mother used to say, “get ready for the day and think about yourself all you want, but when you go out the door, don’t give yourself another thought.”
It’s common for teenagers to obsess about what other people are thinking about them. Her mother’s advice, repeated to her and her twin sister every day, helped her understand the importance of making sure she looked presentable and taking care of herself, but then to look outward for the rest of the day.
That advice means a lot more to her now that she has four daughters. Now she can tell them, “take care of yourself and get yourself ready for the day, but when you go out that door, think about other people and see what their needs are.”
When you think only about yourself your fears escalate.
When Kerry is faced with negative thoughts and those feeling of inadequacy, she thinks back to her mom’s advice. She is able then to see outside of herself and recognize that other people are having hard times, and if you just look around you can see what other people’s needs are.
Getting Started with Family History
When Kerry first tried to get into genealogy and family history research, she really struggled with it. Her interest and passion was sparked through another another avenue. It was pictures that she had a love for.
“Find what you love.”
Is it the stories? Is it listening to your Dad talk about his childhood? Having your grandmother tell stories about when she grew up? Or is it pictures and looking through albums? Scanning pictures and preserving memories for future generations? Or is it actually finding out where they lived? Seeing their name on a census?
Ask yourself what you want to know and start there.
Kerry has had the most success with Ancestry and Family Search. Although other sites like find my past are getting better and becoming more accessible. Another fun thing to try is to Google a family member name and just see what comes up. In the last few years a lot more information has become available.
Begin the journey. It’s amazing.
What Brings Joy
“When the family is together… is when I am truly happy.”
When everyone is together, sharing, being one with each other, she feels the most joy. Because she knows these relationships will last forever.
The time we invest in our family now, pays dividends forever.
- ancestry. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ancestry.com/
- Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cff.org/What-is-CF/About-Cystic-Fibrosis/
- Family Search. (2017). Retrieved from https://familysearch.org/
- find my past. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.findmypast.com/
- Google. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/
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