by Joan Nay

Twenty years ago I was living just three blocks from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  I couldn’t get much closer to the Library, and I ran out of excuses for not working on my family history.  I asked the advice of a friend and reference librarian at the Family History Library about where to start.  He looked over my very large, folding pedigree chart and came to John Nay Jr., and his wife, Thirza Angelina Hale at the top of the third great grandparents (sixth generation) column.  To that point on the pedigree chart, every line was essentially complete, except there was no death date for Thirza.   Who was to know the quest for that date would take the better part of 20 years?  After all, she came to Utah with the pioneers.  How hard could that be? Thus began the adventure of a life time, and a demanding tutorial in the genealogy research school of hard knocks.

I had two things in my favor: my employment and my last name.  I have worked in the used and rare book departments at Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore in downtown Salt Lake City since 1974. Short of working in the Family History Library itself, this was the best place to be if one is to work on family history.  Not only did I have unlimited access to the store’s vast inventory, my unusually short last name went out on a lot of store correspondence.  Conversations ensued regarding my last name, and because of that I  became acquainted with a number of distant cousins.

What I found in 20 years of research is that Nay is not a common surname, and it is seldom seen in historical sources. In the vastness of LDS records, the Nays are rarely mentioned, though John Nay Jr. and his family were participants in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the settling of Utah.  While John himself and some of his children seemed to stay the course of the faith, not all of his family followed suit.  In some cases, it would seem some of them all but disappeared.  However, persistence and patience have produced fascinating bits and pieces that, when strung together, portray an interesting and colorful family.  To say that John Nay Jr. and his family were an interesting lot is something of an understatement.

After meeting up with Beth Breinholt and Joy Stubbs, the reality of a Nay family history started to crystalize.  We brought in more distant cousins we knew, and then for more than a year we met the first Friday of each month in Provo, Utah to report on our work, share information, and commiserate on our project.  Helped along by the wonders of Internet and  e-mail, Nay cousins appeared from many places, with a variety of backgrounds, interests, and faiths.  Any project wrought by committee is never easy, and while the goal of this committee was the history itself, a wonderful serendipity occurred because of it. As we became acquainted with each other, lasting friendships have been forged. As one cousin so eloquently put it, “Who knew at our age we would find so many more cousins to play with!”

In researching the lives of John and his family, we have come to realize how interesting and unique these people were.  Even now, five or six generations later, those interesting and unique genes are still alive and strong in John’s posterity. As evidenced in the following chapters, the voice and perspective of each author points to the conclusion that the Nays really were, and are, an interesting lot!

We, a group of John Nay’s descendants, have produced this record to ensure the Nay family name is recorded-now and for the future.  Those of us working on this history have renewed our love for our heritage and pride in this uncommon surname. We trust the readers of our effort will do likewise.

Love from your cousins,

Joy, Beth & Joan


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