Matthew Cross, age 29, of Houston Texas will tell you that wishes really do come true. Matt was born with a condition called hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of water on the brain. It is usually treated by the placement of a shunt at the base of the skull that drains excess fluids off to prevent a buildup of pressure which can cause life threatening damage to the brain. In Matt’s case, the treatment was a life saving success.
Not long ago, Matt’s mother learned about a group called Hydro Angels Over America. This non-profit organization offers to make a wish come true for people who have to live with the challenges of hydrocephalus. Matt was one of three winners to win a VIP dream wish adventure of his choice.
Matt has a definite love of Beatles music so his wish was to attend a Ringo Starr concert. At the time, Ringo Starr was scheduled to perform in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and San Diego, which mean that Matt and his parents had to decide which city they would visit. In addition to Beatles music, Matt’s also has a passion for doing family history research. So, when he learned that Starr would be performing in Salt Lake City, there was no question where the Crosses would be going.
Matt and his parents were provided a 4 day and 3 night stay at the Shilo Inn and Suites in Salt Lake City with meals at 4 star restaurants throughout the city. In addition to his night at the Ringo Starr concert, he was also given VIP tours at some of Salt Lake City’s historical sites, including Temple Square; the LDS Church’s Humanitarian Center; and the Family History Library, the largest genealogy research library in the world.
Matt’s love of genealogy started when he was 14 years old. Even in grade school, he had a love of history. When he went to a family reunion, someone showed him a family history that was written about one of his family lines. He was fascinated with the stories he found in the book. The idea of following his family lines back to discover new ancestors was too much to resist. He was hooked!
Most of Matt’s research skills are self taught. Matt and his family are not members of the LDS Church, but he discovered that there was an LDS family history center near his home. He visited it to see what it had to offer and discovered some great resources as well as volunteer staff members who were happy to help him learn some useful research skills.
Now that he had access to the largest genealogy library in the world, he wanted to spend as much time as he could in the Family History Library doing all the research he could fit into his 4 days. While there, he was given one-on-one time with 3 of the library’s family history research experts: Liza McBride, Bradley Marchant, and Todd Knowles. Besides working personally with Matt to guide him with his research, these family history experts gave hours of their own time doing research to help Matt extend his line.
One example of a dead end that Matt was delighted to see resolved had to do with an ancestor with the last name of Kelly, who was said to come from Sweden. With the help of Bradley Marchant, he learned from a marriage record that his immigrant ancestor who came from Sweden originally had the last name of Knudsen. It’s believed that this ancestor married a woman of Irish descent and changed his name to Kelly to fit in better with her Irish family.
Matt’s trip to Salt Lake City was one he will not soon forget. When asked what one thing stood out as the most memorable event of his trip, he said it was the first day when he got to meet with the experts at the Family History Library. His mother said that Matt was so excited he was salivating. For Matthew Cross, this trip was, indeed, a dream come true.