For decades, Lynne Vincent Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, has pursued a quest to interest Americans in history. Lately she has turned to some unexpected allies for help: her five generations of Utah and Mormon ancestors.
She talks in speeches about how she knew their names, dates and places. But that alone was dull. As she researched their times, stories and struggles, they became vibrant and intriguing. She wants Americans to do the same with their family trees: find and tell ancestors’ stories, and learn who they really were.
“I think when children think of history as dull, they do so because it’s been taught to them as nothing more than names and dates. When you flesh out the stories and tell about the people and what they went through, it becomes fascinating,” she told the Deseret Morning News.
Many Utahns likely do not realize Cheney’s ancestral ties to Utah or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially because she was born and reared in Wyoming as a Presbyterian. She became a Methodist when she married.
But her father was born in Salt Lake City, and members of five generations of her ancestors migrated to Utah or lived in the state, including some distant ancestors who came as Mormon pioneers from Wales, England, Australia and Massachusetts.
“I started this project (of researching ancestors) as a way of giving gifts to my family,” Cheney said.
She wanted to give her daughters a hand-prepared Christmas gift a few years ago, but she doesn’t knit well and is a self-described abysmal cook. But she is a writer and historian, who headed the National Endowment for the Arts from 1986 to 1993.
So she decided to research the life of her great-great-grandmother, Katurah Vaughan, and write it as a gift for her daughters. The research was a challenge because Cheney assumes Katurah was illiterate and probably never wrote a word about herself. But Cheney found she could learn much about Katurah from the writings of others.
I am an avid student of genealogy primarily because it is history and I am fascinated with the stories of those who lived before us. I didn’t get really involved in the study of family history, however, until my son was graduating from West Point and I wanted to give him something special, handmade by me.
My husband’s parents had died within four months of each other and we had access to many boxes of family documents and albums full of old family photos. I was well equipped with information from both my maternal and paternal side of the family and my parents let me copy some of their treasured photos of family members and ancestors.
But I always do things the hard way. I bought a blank book/ journal and decorated the cover and hand wrote the entire book, illustrating many pages. This was just months before I became computer literate and I realized later that I should have illustrated each page, copied and scanned it into the computer. Then I could have made three copies, one for each of my children.
But you live and learn. The book was very military oriented which might not have been as interesting to my daughters. So I still have to do hand calligraphed books for them which I will one of these days soon.
I learned through my research and some helpful genealogies I had already been given by my grandmothers that we are related to many historical people (as are most people) but having that knowledge makes me even more interested in them and our common history as Americans.
I am going to learn about two of them in just a few minutes……John and Abigail Adams.
He had his DNA tested by Family Tree DNA, and just got the results by email. He’s a bearer of Haplotype J, the series of mutations that distinguish the Kohanim and that apparently evolved about 3,000 years ago. So are his sons and his brothers.
Only males can be tested for this particular type of DNA.
One of my Nolan cousins is involved in the Nolan DNA Project. There are probaly three or more Nolan (Nowlin) (Noland) (Nowland) lines out of Ireland. We are what he calls the Offaly - Kilkenny line which may in fact be Cork - Kilkenny or just Cork Nolan line since our ancestors moved to what is now Co. Cork some 2,500 years ago from around what is now Belgium. Our Nolan line was the first to come to the New World (America) in 1641 or 1642, and our Nolan’s were prominent land holders in the west of Ireland at least until the 19th century.