Genealogy is Awesome!

charlesArchiving and keeping records is not just important for cool artifacts, manuscripts, and books! It has many applications, and one of them is genealogy! A recent study came out stating that almost every person can trace their lineage back to Charlemagne–the fun part, however, is finding out just how you can trace that! A link to the study is here. Now we are all cousins!

This week is a special week for members of the Rexburg Married 34th Ward. Each member of the ward has been challenged to attend the Temple and bring with them one name of an ancestor. Finding new ancestors is thought to be really difficult, but modern technology makes it easy to find ancestors that have not had ordinances performed for them. Check out this website: All you need to get started is an LDS Account and a speedy internet connection.

Once your information has been entered, Puzzilla can trace back up to twelve generations in one shot! Be careful, it takes time and a lot of computing power. It is usually best to go with 4 or 5 generations at a time.

You can also click on each individual and trace back their ancestors. The best part, however, is when you click on an individual and select “show descendents.” In this view, a golden line will link all of your ancestors all the way down to you! Unfortunately, there are a lot of duplicates and lots of intermarriages, so you may have several lines of descent, or they may disappear completely, only to re-emerge a few generations later. Sorry folks, computers aren’t perfect yet.

Finally, if you wish to take your ancestors to the Temple, you can watch this tutorial. It shows you in about 10 minutes how to find ancestors who need work done, reserve their ordinances, and print them out to take to the Temple. You will need google chrome.

Whether you are just a genealogy fanatic, or a dedicated temple-going member, genealogy is great fun and brings with it a sense of inheritance! Try and find how many generations removed you are from Charlemagne (the writer is 43 generations away) or other royalty!

Typewriters and Dvorak / QWERTY

Many of us have heard (and perpetuated) the myth that the QWERTY keyboard layout was designed to slow typists on typewriters down–preventing jams and mistakes. As it turns out, this is incorrect, and the QWERTY layout was actually designed to speed typists up! Placing commonly used letters far away from one another decreased the chance of paper jams and required typists to alternate hands, which also led to increased type-speeds. The QWERTY layout started to see wide use after the Remington no. 2 typewriter became successful in 1878. It has been widely adopted as the standard latinate alphabet keyboard layout.

In 1932, August Dvorak finalized a new keyboard layout, one he believed would decrease hand and neck strain by keeping the most commonly used keys all on the home row. This decreased the amount of space the hands have to cover as they type. These claims are, however, not beyond dispute, though in the 1930s (according to unsubstantiated sources) Dvorak-trained typists took first place at the International Commercial Schools Contest for typists.

Whatever the truth behind the Dvorak – QWERTY rivalry, typewriters increased the amount of available material for archiving and recording history exponentially. Hand-written WPM (words per minute) typically reaches rates of around 30, while the average keyboard typist can reach between 60 and 70 WPM. The world record holder is Stella Pajunas, at a rate of 216 WPM in 1946 on an IBM electric (using the QWERTY keyboard, no less!). The typewriter forms a bridge between the analogue and digital worlds, and contributed greatly to the use and familiarity of the world with computers.

The Special Collections and Archives of Brigham Young University-Idaho have an old Remington typewriter, from approximately 1870-1875. Come take a look!

Vardis Fisher–Idaho’s Local Maverick Author


Vardis  Fisher was born to an LDS family near Rigby Idaho. After graduating from the University of Utah in 1920, Fisher earned a Master of Arts degree (1922) and a Ph.D. (1925) at the University of Chicago. He was married three times, first to Leona McMurtrey (m. 1917–1924), second to Margaret Trusler (m. 1928–1937), and finally to Laurel Holmes (m. 1940). Unfortunately, the first two marriages were racked with strife and disappointment, leading to his first wife’s suicide and his second wife demanding a divorce. He is well known for his fictional Testament of Man series, which tracks humankind and society from the very beginning to the modern day.

Of late, few books of his remain in print. His writings received mixed feelings—some overwhelmingly positive, and some very negative. His writing is very detailed, flowery, and highly skilled, and the pictures he paints with his words are vivid and dream-like. As a man he was very precise but had some very strange ideas about the way the world works. F. Scott Fitzgerald once claimed that Fisher was a better writer than the other American Writers of the time.

He regarded the Testament of Man series to be his most important work. Strangely, it has received the least attention. One major critic, Marilyn Grunkemeyer, who brought an anthropologists background to the table, found some of his readings “toxic.” She said that for her, one of his last works Orphans of Gethsemane (1960) was the “literary equivalent of being beaten steadily with a stick.” That said, she noted that it was a valuable reading experience and would recommend it, but that it was an endeavor to be taken with care.

Despite his LDS roots, he never claimed the religion as his own, though some of his writings have been interpreted as having LDS roots. Whatever his real feelings toward religion are, he remains one of the best writers produced by Idaho. The BYU-Idaho Special Collections department has copies of every one of his 35 books–some of which had only 200 copies printed. Come take a look! Having read several of his books, I can definitely recommend them as an interesting, thought provoking read.

“Say folks I sure had quite an experience”: Thomas Neibaur and WWI

June 28 marks 100 years since WWI began. With the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914, war spread throughout much of the world for the next four years. The war would reach rural Eastern Idaho, placing a young Thomas C. Neibaur of Sugar City, Idaho “somewhere in France.” Neibaur enlisted in the Idaho National Guard, stating in a letter to his mother on June 10, 1917,

Well dear mother I am not sorry that I joined when I did altho I am very young and have had no experience away from home but still I feel that I am serving my country and I feel as if that was the next thing to serving my God.


Medal of Honor

Neibaur was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic acts during the war.

Considering it his duty as a citizen, Neibaur enlisted and was stationed in Boise and then Sandpoint, Idaho. He routinely wrote home, encouraging his family while also sharing his love for them. On June 2, 1917, he wrote from Sandpoint,

I sure would like to be back home with you again, but still I realize that I am serving my country in time of need, and I remember the words of Sir William Wallace, ‘God armeth the patriot.’

Neibaur went from Idaho to New York then New Jersey for training. He reached France sometime early in 1918, and was transferred to an existing division made up of individuals from the South. Missing his old company, he remarked of his new comrades on April 18, 1918, “Of course they are good fellows and all that but still they have different ways that seem a bit funny to me.”

Neibaur would also mention briefly “a few pretty exciting times” in the trenches, which surely worried his family as is apparent when he wrote from “somewhere in France” on May 28, 1918:

Now dear mother do not worry because I tell you I have been to the trenches as there is not much danger the worst thing is the gas and we have good gas masks to protect us. The only thing is getting them on in time.

On October 1918, Neibaur wrote home what must have been startling news to his family. He opened the letter mentioning that he hadn’t received any recent correspondence from home, probably because the post was slow and because he had “been on the front for a long time then got wounded and am now in a hospital nursing a leg with three machine gun wounds in it.” Later in the letter, Neibaur briefly described how he got injured:

Say folks I sure had quite an experience I was captured and was in the hands of the Germans for about half an hour but I watched my chance and when they were not looking I recovered my gun and took ten of my captives prisoners after I was wounded three times.

In Còte de Châtillon, Neibaur had volunteered with two others to take out a pocket of German machine guns. After some action where his two companions were killed and he injured, Neibaur, while injured, was able to take out several Germans until his gun jammed. Upon retreating, he was eventually captured, but, as described in his letter home, found an opportunity to make his captors the captives. It was that action that brought him the Medal of Honor, presented by General Pershing himself. On January 3, 1919, after several months of recovery, and what must have followed several less-than-detailed letters home, he wrote,

I suppose you were very much surprised to hear that I received a medal for bravery but you know you never did get me excited about anything and I always had a cool head.

BYU-Idaho’s Special Collections and Archives is fortunate to hold several original letters from Neibaur to his family. The passages above are all taken from these letters. To read the letters, visit Special Collections & Archives, room 220 in the McKay Library, and ask for manuscript collection 98 (MSSI 98: Thomas Neibaur Papers). You can view the finding aid online here: Neibaur Papers

One more reason SPC is awesome!

In the Brigham Young University-Idaho Special Collections department, one of our responsibilities is to keep a record of talks, speeches, and devotionals given on our Campus. Our audio records alone go all the way back to the 1960’s! Scanning through these can reveal some absolute gems, like the following life and death experience related by Elder F. Enzio Busche, on February 3, 1981.

“We are challenged to grow to that level of understanding that we can finally say, “I know Him.”

“I must admit that I had a period in my life, for about three years where life was so tough, so unbelievable, and impossible to describe that I could only survive from one day to another. I identified myself with Stechmolv from Herman Hesse; The young man that accused the world, and accused the man, and even accused God for the unrighteousness, for the hopelessness of life and became a candidate for suicide, and could not live one day without the hope”

“Life went on; when everything’s destroyed people have a lot of work to do, and we were working hard building the society.”

“If only someone would show me a place and show me a way. But there was so little hope because I had seemed to have tested everything. At this stage, I became sick, very sick. I had a liver disease that developed in a stage, that when I was brought to the hospital– the doctors talked to my wife that I would not be able to survive; that I would die within the next days.”

“The instance that I am now prompted to tell you now about is the most sacred and the most serious experience that I’ve had in my life. Three days later, after this experience when I was still in agony and despair and fear, I was put in the German hospital into the bathroom. That was the place during those times that they put the dying people because it’s easy after they’ve passed away to clean them in the bathtub. In this moment of preparing for death, the treatment was taken away from me. Nobody was visiting me on this day; people are hesitant in visiting dying people. The nurses did not show up. In this moment, there was at the left corner of the ceiling a white light, more brilliant than can be described and it shocked me. A voice speaking to my ear, loud and clear, “When you now can pray, you will recover.” I was shocked, because I did not know what experience this was; but the authority and power was more than anything I’ve experienced in life. It was more real than any other real thing I’ve ever experienced. The authority was unquestionable. “What shall I do with this?” “What can I do with this?” I didn’t know how to pray. I just knew the Lord ’s Prayer we had learned in school was not meant (by the voice he heard). As I was listening, as I was preparing myself, and it was praying out of myself I was able to speak– maybe the most beautiful prayer that a person can give. In German there are four words translated into English; “Thy will be done.”

Come on in to the SPC to get the rest of the story, and remember to keep your own records!

From Spencer W. Kimball: “From time immemorial the Lord has counseled us to be a record-keeping people. Abraham had a book of remembrance, and Adam had one…Adam spent much effort being the school teacher for his children…And they kept their books of remembrance. How else do you think Moses, many hundreds of years later, got the information? These records had been kept, and he referred to them and got the history of the world, which wasn’t in any library other than that. Can you see your responsibility?” (Dec. 1980 New Era).

Elder Busche and his Wife

This Day In History: The Teton Dam Flood

Thirty-eight years ago today, the Teton Dam collapsed, flooding much of the valley immediately below the dam. The flood resulted in lost homes, property, and even life, but resilience and service became common themes in the immediate aftermath. To record and preserve the experiences of the community, Ricks College, the Idaho State Historical Society, and Utah State University joined to interview people affected by those events. These oral histories serve as a memory of the event and aftermath, giving personal perspective and insight into that day in June, 1976.

Along with the description of our Teton Dam Collection, we recently made most of the transcripts of those oral history interviews available online. To read transcripts from those interviews, follow the link above to the collection. To see more from our Teton Dam Collection, come to Special Collections on the second floor of the McKay Library and ask to see MSSI 2: The Teton Dam Collection.

Chair left over from the flood

Chair left over from the flood

Rosetta Stone, Hieroglyphs, and the first Article of Faith!



We see a lot of students pass by our replica of the Rosetta Stone, marvel at it for a while, and pass on. Well, today we were thinking of ways to help students be able to “bring it home” a little. Above is a phonetic version of the first Article of Faith using Egyptian Hieroglyphs. The handouts located above the stone and to the left will show the following cartouches:

Because the Rosetta stone is written in Hieroglyphs, Greek, and Demotic, historians were able to translate the entirety of the stone–they knew Greek, and were able to figure the rest out. Try the link below to formulate your own phonetic hieroglyphs!


New Collection: I Can Hathez Olde Hatt

We’re pleased to announce a new collection: Animals with Hats! We’re calling it MSSI 04-01: “Ye Olde Animalz luv Hatz” Collection.

After looking through old pictures we discovered something: People have been dressing their pets for a long time. This isn’t just an Internet-era craze. Here are a couple images to give you an idea:

Horses with Top Hats

These horses are ready for a day in the city.

Dog in a Baseball Cap

This dog sports the cap of his favorite stickball team

We’re looking to add to this collection. If you discover your that your ancestors dressed up their mastodon and carved that image on a stone, we’ll take it!

The Snore Form

Part of an archivist’s work is determining value in records to see if they are worthy of long-term preservation. Only a small percentage of an organization’s records are deemed as having that value, and are typically preserved over time to allow for continued access. Archivists gauge different values—historical, administrative, legal, evidential—to determine long-term significance of records. Such value is sometimes referred to as archival, enduring, or continuing value, and is determined by examining the content in the records.

Archivists often judge the intrinsic value of records as well, meaning the record is important because of its physical form; relationship or associations to people, places, or events; or the processes that went into its creation. Think of materials like the original Declaration of Independence, where the content has been repeated many times, but the original document has intrinsic value based on its affiliations and manner of creation.

Sometimes, records have additional values that we might consider, such as oddity or hilarity. One example we located recently in our campus archives: the Confidential Statement on Snoring.

The Snore Form. Not sure how confidential it was considering people signed their names to it.

The Snore Form. Not sure how confidential it was considering people signed their names to it.

Rexburg Temple

Currently on display are building materials of the Rexburg Idaho Temple. It is so neat to watch how temples all around the world are built and the purposes of them. Here at BYU -Idaho Special Collections and Archives we have multiple items that document this wonderful occasion. From photos to correspondences to paper napkins from the refreshment tent and more.

Be sure to stop by on your way to class at our display cases in the hallway on the 2nd floor of the McKay Library and see some of the neat materials we have to share with you!



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