I’m happy to introduce our spotlight today, Clarissa Baxter. She and I met online when she read one of my blog posts about Margaret Ann McCleve, my husband’s 2nd great grandmother and Clarissa’s 3rd great grandmother. We had visited Margaret’s log cabin in Taylor, Arizona which is now a museum. Clarissa tells about a discovery in her family history that brought meaning to her current education goals. Thank you for sharing, Clarissa! To read more about the LDS topics Clarissa addresses, go here: Why Family History is Important in the LDS Church (Mormons)
Tell us about yourself.
Hey! I’m Clarissa Baxter. My sweet husband is a Chiropractic student and we have four children together. I am a stay at home mom doing odd jobs to try to fill the gaps in our budget. I am twenty-eight years old and I have always had a passion for nursing. As a young teenager I wanted to become a nurse and pursued the schooling starting at age fifteen. I became a Certified Nursing Assistant when I was sixteen and then applied to Arizona State University for nursing school. My plans got temporally interrupted when I met and fell in love with my now husband. We were sealed in the Mesa, Arizona Temple in September 2007 when I was eighteen years old.
About a year and a half after our marriage we had a beautiful daughter and together decided that my schooling would be put on hold. When I got married and became pregnant I realized that my passion for nursing would become more focused on birth, labor, breastfeeding and motherhood.
Four children later I was encouraged by a good friend to pursue my dream again. Together, three close friends and I enrolled in an online doula course. Luckily the course was self-paced, because I could not put the material down! I devoured ever inch of learning I could. Eight months later I finished the schooling and became a certified labor & birth doula.
After the completion of the course I was doing a lot of soul-searching. I really wanted to increase my testimony and had been studying and praying a lot. One fast Sunday I felt a huge desire to bear my testimony on education, knowledge and learning. Specifically that anyone can choose to educate him or herself. There are endless opportunity to seek education, and plenty of free ways to do so.
Over the next month I continued to have education on my mind. I am part of a birth group on Facebook and was reading a conversation between two other women who were talking about Midwife school. I looked up the school and without any thought of hesitation (but plenty of butterflies!) I pulled up the application and began the process of admittance. When my husband returned home from school that day I told him about what I did. He was as surprised as I was about it! The decision to apply didn’t really feel like a “decision” at all. Almost like it was always part of my life plans, I already made this decision long ago, even if I don’t ever remember making the choice. Now I just needed to take the steps to complete it.
How did you get started in family history? Do you remember an initial “spark” or incident that inspired you?
The application process takes several months and after I did everything I could I had to wait for three long months to hear back. During those three months I continued to read all I could about birth. In one of the books I was enjoying I read a birth story about a women who in a difficult circumstance found comfort when she learned that her ancestors had been faced with the same problems. She said she could feel their spirits lifting her up as she came to know and love them. I read in a different place that our passions, interests and talents can be passed down or inherited. I wanted to know if my desire to care for mothering women came from one of my ancestors. I am very lucky that I have pioneer ancestors on both my mother and my fathers side, so all the ordinance work has been done long ago. In addition several of my ancestors kept excellent journals and learning about their lives is very easy for me. I was a little unsure of where to start so I went to family search and printed out a six-generation fan chart.
I started with the very outer edge and right away noticed on my mother’s side that there is another “Clarissa.” I called my mom to ask her a few questions, she told me that I was not named after her or the Clarisa on my dad’s side but they had liked the name then later learned that I had an few ancestors with the same name. I still felt like it was a good place to start so I pulled up Clarissa’s file on FamilySearch and read her memories. I can’t even begin to tell you the thrill as I read: “Clarissa was an able seamstress, nurse, teacher, cook, and mother. She was tenderhearted and served as a midwife and helped the sick in the Valley of Salt Lake City, Utah many times.”
I felt overwhelming joy and excitement! I continued to read all I could about Clarissa, searching every website I could find. After I felt I had exhausted every resource of her I began to search my other ancestors. Much to my surprise I found a total of 5 midwife ancestors!!
What mentors influenced you to get started in family history and genealogy research?
Each and every story I read about my midwife ancestors I feel the spirit so strong. I love learning about them. I feel a huge connection to these sisters. I feel they have been leading and guiding me in all parts of my life, even before I knew about them.
What personality traits, hobbies, or professional pursuits have helped you in your genealogy research?
Now that I know the amazing work that the women before me have done, it inspires me. One of my ancestors delivered over 1,400 babies and served as a midwife for 40 years until her died at age 69. I want to fulfill their legacy and honor their lives by continuing the work of providing a safe place to assistant women in bringing Heavenly Father’s spirit children down to earth.
I feel a huge connection to these amazing women that I have come to know and love as I have read about their lives. I want to be a better woman because of them. We are promised that the spirit of Elijah “shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers [and mothers].” The spirit of Elijah has surly caught me! I want to continue the legacy of service and love that these women before me have left.
What is the most rewarding part of researching your family’s history?
From the beginning of making an effort to strengthen my testimony to the end of learning about my family I have felt very blessed and guided in my life. Like I mentioned about applying to midwife school, it felt so sudden but at the same time SO right. Now that I am on the other side I can see that these five amazing women were leading and guiding me to fulfill my full purpose in this life. I am first and foremost a wife and mother, but I know that being a midwife is part of my duty in this life and I thank these amazing women for guiding me to it.
What has been the most difficult part of your genealogical journey?
Gosh if only I could talk to my ancestors in person! They kept excellent records, but I want more! I guess I can very greedy in that sense. 😉 I look forward to the day that I can greet and hug them and thank them for their wonderful lives of service and testimony.
How do you preserve your family history?
Although several of my ancestors have memories and journals added on family search, there are still some that do not! My most recent deceased grandparents have no memories on their profiles. I have emailed my aunts and asked if they would be willing to share some memories to their names so that others may have the joy of getting to know them.
What is your favorite way to share genealogy and family history with others?
Through all of this amazing experience I have felt so close to my ancestors. I made this bracelet to remind of strong women in my line. It brings me so much joy to think about them. I want them to always be close to my thoughts and my heart. I know as I wear this bracelet some people will ask about it and I am excited to share my experience with them about the joy of family history.
If you had all the time in the world to spend on family history, what would you do?
No doubt about it, I WOULD TRAVEL! One of my midwife ancestors has an entire museum dedicated to her and I am just counting down the days until I can go visit it.
What’s the best discovery you’ve made about your family?
A really neat thing that has happened because of all this is that I started doing genealogy for my husband’s line. His grandparents are the first members of the church in their family, so there is plenty of ordinance work to be done! We have already found over 20 ordinances that we can do for his family and I know there is more. It has been really fun to see where he comes from. I found on his grandmother’s side four consecutive generations of the King of England, the King and Queen of Denmark and the King of Sweden! It was really exciting it was to find so much royalty in his blood! I can now say for certain that my two daughters are princesses!
Who is your most interesting ancestor?
Ha! I really am not sure. I love them all so much, I can’t possibly choose only one. But for sure I feel an overwhelming love and connection to my five midwife ancestors and I am so excited for the day when I can greet them face-to-face, give them a big hug and thank them for their incredible lives and legacy.