THE NAY FAMILY IN UTAH AND THE WEST
by Joy Stubbs
This book is a book that fulfills dreams. I had a dream one night that I was separated by a great distance from my immediate family members. I felt a deep longing and need to communicate with those that I loved so much. In the dream I desperately searched for a way connect with them. I tried to call, to write letters and to use the internet. I wanted to go and visit them. I awoke feeling shaky and relieved that it was only a dream. But that dream reflects the reality of the gulf that is between me and other members of my family with whom I am not so closely acquainted. Some have gone on before me, and I have forgotten my love for them. Some live great distances from me, and I do not know them. But on a deeper level, I do know them all, and I love them. As I have worked on this family history of my Nay ancestors and cousins, it has come to me that I have had the opportunity to reconnect that I longed for in my dream. I have used the telephone, letters and the internet to communicate. I have taken the opportunity to visit many people that I would not have done so otherwise. I have found things in common with others in this great family.
We sometimes say that things run in our family. After reading and listening to much Nay family history and becoming acquainted with many wonderful Nay cousins, I’ve formed some opinions about our commonalities. Of course, the general rule about generalizations is that there are many exceptions. You may not agree with my conclusions. But here they are.
Twins run in our family. So does diabetes and divorce. We tend to be hypersensitive and often suffer from anxiety or depression. Many of us carry extra “baggage.” It may be physical weight or emotional pain. We may have some kind of “family troubles” that plague us. We don’t like to talk about our troubles. We do like family. We honor our family names and repeat them generation after generation. We feel close to family members, but we don’t talk about it much. We are deeply creative, with lots of talent. It may be in music or art, cooking or caring for animals or the land. We tend to be simple folk, ranchers and miners, farmers and construction workers. We tend to love the land.
Our talents may be in old-fashioned know-how. Many of us are able to tackle just about any task with at least some success, but we don’t think we are remarkable by any means. We have very high expectations of ourselves, so we rarely measure up. Most of us are deeply spiritual. A lot of us belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but not all of us. I think we all love God in whatever form we worship Him, and we want to be good people in our own way. My experience is that we are gracious and kind to others, even strangers, but especially those we are “kin” to. It is a fulfillment of my dream to get to know us better and to feel my connection more strongly.
My sister Beth had a dream too. Her dream was to get her genealogy straight and back onto her computer. In the course of that process, she dreamed of battles about the land, of long-ago forefathers and long-forgotten histories of the old country. She dreamed of women that she knew and didn’t know. She dreamed about our grandmother, who was a Nay, and our grandmother’s dream of gathering and keeping good family history. She dreamed about the names of two women who turned out to have married the same man. She began a search to find the answers to her dreams.
In that search, she brought me along. We’re both “Nay women,” so we both pursue dreams (another commonality we have with the rest of the family). She also met another Nay woman with a dream. Joan Nay had a dream of writing a book (at least one). She has worked for many years with books and people who love books. Because she has the privilege of carrying the family name and is in a position of meeting “book” people (and many of us Nays fall into that category too), she met and remembered many of our relatives. She is very gifted in family research, and she knew the names of the women Beth sought. She knew their stories. Her dream was to tell those stories in print. When Joan, Beth and I met, we shared our information, and we began to share our dreams. We said to each other, “Let’s do it. Let’s find our relatives, living and dead, and let’s write about them.” We knew we needed help. We found it in the descendants of John, Thirza and Thankful Lucy Nay who were willing to contribute stories of each of these couple’s children.
We began to find and meet these cousins of ours and soon formed a committee of devoted and dedicated workers. (See acknowledgments page for details and well-deserved recognition.) This core group of genealogy “experts” (remember we are Nays, so we don’t think we’re as good as we really are) have met with us on a regular basis to compare notes and share family stories. Together we have prayed for each other and for the release of information, and we have seen those prayers answered bountifully. They are still being answered as we continue the work. Elder John A. Widstoe has promised: “Those who give themselves with all their might and main to this work receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whoever seeks to help those from the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life” (Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1931, p. 104).
Truly, one of the most gratifying pleasures of the task we set for ourselves has been meeting and visiting with Nay descendants from all over the country. We’ve had the opportunity to visit many at their homes, sharing in their lives first-hand, admiring and trading current family photos and stories as well as historical ones. The fellowship and love we’ve shared together with these “new-found” family members has been one of the many rewards of our work. We’ll miss those meetings, e-mails, and telephone calls.
Together, we marvel at the lives of these ancestors of ours, and we are reminded of the powerful force which propelled them westward and gave them courage to do what had to be done, that gave them vision to achieve wonderful things, and then picked them up and set them on the path again to keep on trying when they faltered and failed. John Nay and his family were moved by the powerful hope and testimony they heard in the words of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith’s testimony was about Jesus Christ and His love and redeeming power in our lives. The Nay family heritage also speaks of this power. May we, as descendants of this great family, also keep that faith alive in our hearts as we struggle to come to terms with our own personal trials and talents.
Now a word about this book. As is always the case in working with family history, it refuses to “get done.” The work keeps enlarging. Alma in the Book of Mormon talks about faith enlarging our hearts. It may start as a seed, but keeps growing. By that very growth, we know it is good. If a seed refuses to grow, it’s not of much worth. The seeds of our dreams have also grown and continue to enlarge. This is sometimes frustrating to us. One of our common family traits is our intensity. We go after something with whole-heartedness, but that intensity is wearing. Since we also tend to be perfectionists, we have a hard time with long projects that we can’t ever get totally “right.” We have taken Elder Gene R. Cook’s admonition to heart. “You are the ‘clean-up’ and ‘get it right’ generation. Leave such good genealogical tracks that anyone could easily follow” (Family History Training Seminar, March 1995). As we strive to make this book “worthy of all acceptation” (D&C 128:24), we acknowledge that we are simply continuing the work that began long ago, with all the record-keepers who have gone before, from Rev. Elijah Dunbar, who recorded John and Thirza’s marriage in his journal and John Nay, Jr. himself, who kept a detailed record of family temple work, to the cousins who go on keeping track of the marriages and new babies that continue to arrive today.
The work is never done. But we invite the reader to add to this book. Correct and update the descendants’ list as you know it. Keep researching the past and recording the present. Continue to dream your own dream and to seek after it. And give some thought to writing about it and sharing it with others. We care. We’re exceptional. We’re the Nay family.
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