The Joy of a Signature

May 23, 2014  - by 

Family history. It’s one of the things on my list of “things that I should be doing that I don’t.” It’s right up there with exercising every day, eating healthy, and writing in my journal.

‘I’m too busy. I’m too tired. It’s too hard. I’ll do it some day’. Those are my “go to” excuses for everything I don’t do that I know I should be. Well, I guess God decided it was time for me to lose that attitude — especially when it comes to doing family history.

A few months ago I started a new job. Ironically, it’s with FamilySearch. I am by no means a professional genealogist or even an expert at using all of the amazing tools available on to find our ancestors. But, I do have an interest in stories. I have a passion for people’s stories. I know that behind every face and every name is a story. And, that is why I am so excited to be at a place focused on finding those who came before us, discovering their stories, and linking their legacies to our own.

“Find your grandfathers and grandmothers and your distant cousins who have gone before you,” said LDS Church leader, Neil L. Andersen.

As a FamilySearch employee, those words hit hard. How can I tell other people to find the family members in their family tree if I don’t embark on the journey myself? So, I started. I took the challenge and began with my paternal grandfather, Thomas Westerlund.

WesterlundFamilyPictures[6]My Grandpa Westerlund died when I was only eight years old. He lived thousands of miles away on the South Pacific island of Samoa, so I never got to meet him while he was alive. When I was little, my mom occasionally shared stories of how his family was from Sweden, how he had sailed the seas as a captain, and how he often stood out in Samoa because of his blue eyes and fair skin.

I wanted to learn more about him. So, I visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. A sister missionary there sat down beside me, and helped me find a record online — a ship manifest from Sweden. On that manifest I saw a signature belonging to Thomas Anderson Westerlund and scribbled beside it the words “cabin boy”.

It’s hard for me to put into words the joy I felt from seeing this signature. In an instant he became real to me. I could not help but smile thinking that nearly 100 years ago, this man who I never met, but who is a reason I exist, signed this piece of paper. I could not help but think that perhaps this first journey as a cabin boy led to a love of the ocean and a life on the seas — a life that led him to the South Pacific and started the family legacy of which I belong.

In the weeks since I have accepted the challenge to find my grandfathers and grandmothers, I’ve felt my connection to them grow. The records, the dates, the ship manifest – they’re all proof that these people lived, worked, and loved. And, today, thanks to technology, we can find those records online and piece together their stories one search at a time.

I am still busy. I am still tired. And, at times, the work is still hard. But, the joy of seeing a simple signature is fueling me forward to find my family on FamilySearch, to upload my family photos, and to record the stories behind those snapshots of life.

There is a joy that comes in making connections. All you have to do is start.

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  1. I wish there was a way to upload stories that have already been written without having to upload them in the photos section. So you can click on stories and there they will show up. I have pages and pages of stories that my Mom has already typed about her ancestries.

  2. OMG Your story literally brought tears to my eyes:’) It really touched my heart! Thomas Anderson Westerlund is my dad’s dad! Anderson is my beloved grandfather. My dad (Thomas Westerlund) was named after him.

  3. Beautiful story. I remember my grandfather even though very young. He had the blue eyes and very fair. He was the youngest in his family. Solf Westerlund.

  4. Hi there,

    My name is Lana Westerlund and my father is Lafoga (John) Westerlund, his father is Thomas Westerlund and his father is Thomas Anderson Westerlund who was married to Litoshekafa from Niue. Please say this is them because I’ve been looking for years on information and photos of them.

    Kindest Regards,

    1. Hey my names Darren Otto, my grandmother is Rosebud Westerlund and her father is Thomas Westerlund and her mother is Kafa too. any pics around of Thomas or Kafa ?

    2. Hi Lana, I’ve been reading through these comments trying to connect who belongs where. I’ve been doing the Westerlund Fam History for 30 years and I have very little on your branch. I think a lot of the stories have become very confused. A few years ago we made the break through into Sweden and have many generations back . But, Thomas Anderson Westerlund was born in Samoa, his father was born in Sweden. Thomas or Sineva had 2 wives and over 20 children. You can straighten me out here but I thought Thomas Anderson Wsterlund’s first wife’s name was Tafa Lafonga, so when I saw that name pop up,well I was interested.please contact me, would love to fill out the tree some more.

      1. Hi Christina,

        Apologies about the latest reply (over a year later lol) but on my grandpas death certificate it said his mum and dad is Thomas Anderson Westerlund and Litoshekafa Lafoga. That’s the only evidence or piece of information I currently have on my grandpa. I’m going to the USA in the next couple months to meet my dads family and hopefully gather more information on this. 🙂