I first learned what genealogy was when my grandmother gave my mom a gift. It was a large blue binder and I wondered what it could hold that might be gift-worthy. When I was told it was a binder filled with names of our ancestors, I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant—but I wanted to look through it and to understand, partly because the word “ancestor” struck some chord within me. It sounded special, important. The other part of me wanted to look because I loved learning, and binders signified learning to me since I used them in school.
I distinctly remember running my hand over the smooth plastic cover, so nice and new. Name after name rolled off my tongue, and a fire was kindled in my fourteen-year-old heart. Every blank line on a pedigree chart called to me, begging to be filled with a name. Twelve years later, my desire to find those names and learn about their lives has only increased.
Not everyone is filled with that desire upon first learning about genealogy. For some, it seems a difficult task (and therefore not an enjoyable one). Learning to do genealogy can seem like learning a new language, or, for me, like trying to understand math. But it is doable, and the satisfaction that comes from comprehension or discovery is so much greater after working hard to attain it. But we don’t have to learn it all on our own.
In an earlier post, I quoted the following scripture and I’d like to quote it again:
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, doing family history is a commandment—one that if they take up, they will have divine help in so doing. Even members not of the Church may have the blessing of divine guidance in seeking out their kindred dead. The Lord hears all prayers. And prayer should not be forgotten in carrying out, “the greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us…” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:313)
I testify to you that as you make an effort to do your genealogy, your mind will be enlightened. You will be able to understand those things which before seemed muddled. What was once something you did because you knew you should will become something you will continue doing because it will bring you joy. Heavenly Father will create miracles! Things will happen that could not possibly be coincidence. I would like to share with you a story in relation to this.
Soon after I began delving into my father’s genealogy, I found myself at a standstill. I knew the name of my great grandfather, the names of his parents, and the area in which he was born, but nothing else. I had no record of siblings to research in trying to find out more about his parents. His parents had died when he was a baby and he had been raised by friends. I could not personally go to the area to search, so I found someone who could through RAOGK. This kind volunteer visited the local historical society once a month and made time to look for further information for me. Three months into our correspondence, I received an email that filled me with joy.
He told me that on his monthly visit that morning, (which was a two-hour visit) he ran across two brothers looking through the same section as he was. He asked them about what they were looking for, and they told him they were searching for information on the same family I was. It turns out that they were my great grandfather’s nephews (though they had never known him). They were making a genealogical research trip through the area.
That was the only day and time they were in that particular historical society… And they ran into my correspondent, also during the only day and time in which he was there that month.
My correspondent gave me their email address. These brothers had a wealth of information on my great-grandfather’s family which they willingly shared, and we still keep in touch, working to find more information on our family line, hoping someday to meet.
The meeting of my correspondent and my distant relations was no coincidence. I can promise you that when you do this work, you do not do it alone.
This article was originally published on October 26th, 2007. Minor changes have been made.